A Harrowing, Hilarious Hike Up Tempe Butte, Or “A” Mountain
Standing at the base of the mountain, I look up toward the black asphalt path that lies in front of me. It seems smooth with a slight incline. Heat is rising off the asphalt up into the sky as the sun repeatedly bakes and pounds the pavement with unrelenting heat. Wary that my competitors are quickly approaching, I must make this hike fast. I begin my ascent to the peak of the mountain, appreciating all of the native foliage that surrounds me: small shrubs lining the main hiking path, with small cacti sprinkled across the dirt terrain.
I’ve barely made it around the first corner to reach my destination, and I’m already out of breath. As I make the slight turn that will lead me up to the finish line, wood stairs appear in front of me, each one carved deep into the earth. I begin to climb the stairs but get tired quickly due to the heat. I barely make it halfway up the stairs when I begin to panic because I’m already exhausted; my heart is beating dangerously fast, and I’ve brought no water with me on my journey. Small beads of sweat begin to collect on my forehead, while streams begin to run down my back. I can’t make it up this hike. It is just much too difficult for me, despite the fact that I’ve only been exercising for about 10 minutes.
Now, I realize that it may seem like I just described hiking up Camelback Mountain — a large summit that rises 2,700 feet high to a peak that can take some up to two hours to reach — located just behind Camelback Rd. and 44th St. But before you make fun of me for hardly making it up “A” Mountain, the iconic hill that lies directly north of the ASU Tempe campus, let me give you some back story on why this adventure was so dramatic.
It was last August 2011, and I had just been hired to be a Community Assistant (CA) in the residence hall of ASU’s downtown campus. The 24 of us that had been hired were required to undergo a two-week training course, and at the end of this training, we had to engage in a team bonding activity. So, one of the veteran CAs decided that it would be fun to do a scavenger hunt from Phoenix to Tempe, and we were split up into groups of four or five. Each group was given a list of clues that represented a place, and we had to solve each puzzle, head to the location and take a picture in front of it. When it was time to solve the final clue, it was soon determined that the location was “A” Mountain. However, what the teams didn’t expect is that we had to hike up to the top in order to win the competition. And, to boot, we had to do it in 116-degree heat!
Because none of us carried water to share, all 24 of us were exhausted fast. Some of the team barely made it halfway up the hill and turned around to get water, while the rest was randomly scattered on the hiking path. Two people from the team were suffering mild symptoms of heat exhaustion, and, thankfully, we were able to get them water from a restaurant nearby.
I know that this adventure seems like a horror story and some of you may not be feeling up to a hike anytime soon, but there are ways to avoid having an experience like the one I had. First and foremost, do not go for a hike when it is 5 p.m. and 116 degrees. It is probably best to do it early in the morning while it is cool or later at night. Secondly, drink water before you decide to do any sort of physical activity. In fact, according to WebMD, you should also drink water every 15 to 20 minutes during your exercise activity, as well as after you are finished, to avoid being dehydrated. Be sure to wear proper athletic attire (and not black jeans paired with black Toms like I did) so that you are more comfortable and have better foot support.
My colleagues and I have learned from our mistakes and have hiked up “A” Mountain many times since. With proper preparation, hiking can be quite an enjoyable experience.
The best part? When you reach the top of, you’re exposed to expansive views of Tempe, Phoenix and the whole Valley — all while enjoying the fresh air and the serene, quiet oasis that exists only high above the city lights.