I was thinking about your hike as I drove home [from Williams, just outside Flagstaff] and it kept nagging at me to suggest that you take some time to acclimate before trying to do a lot of hiking, esp something like Mt Humphreys. Even if you just spend two days getting used to the altitude, it's a lot safer, and taking more time would be even beetter! I'm encouraged by your posting that safety is important to you so good for you!
But keep in mind that Mt Humphreys is over 12k ft in elevation, which is more than our bodies can safely adjust in 'one step' - in fact, it is considered VERY HIGH ELEVATION, which puts it into a somewhat different category than climbing even a couple of thousand feet lower. Most 'real' mountain climbers use the rule '2 nights for every 3k ft elevation increase' over their usual level. I realize that isn't always possible and in your case, that would mean spend a week in Flagstaff before trying to summit.
It's possible that if you're really young and in great shape, your heart may be able to handle it easily....but keep in mind that anything above 10,000 ft elevation involves a significantly lower air pressure level and above 12,000 ft can actually be dangerous for people who don't acclimate. I've heard from people who work as medical support for high elvation rescue [to let know they do have some expertise] that launching into 'vigorous exercise' at an elevation 8k to 10k higher than you usually exercise can trigger heart attacks, brain swelling and/or stroke, even in very fit young people, because of the change in air pressure. Think of how it affects plastic water bottles or similar items when you go above 5k and then what happens when you come back down - they will first swell, then collapse - all because of the change in air pressure! The higher you go, the more pronounced the effect.
Anyway, I don't want to sound like a worry wart but when I wrote my first reply lat night, I wasn't really thinking about the elevation of Mt Humphreys but more like the elevation of Flagstaff. Quite a difference! Please think about taking a little more time before trying to hike in 'very high elevation' ;-)
Lynda in Orange County, So Calif
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