Morris Brown and his son are the kind of people who can reconnect in zero-degree temperatures, under weighty packs, over death-trap crevasses and high up on icy mountain peaks.
They find solace, it seems, in one another’s suffering.
A recent trip up Mount Humphreys in Flagstaff was no exception.
The men spent two days snowshoeing up frigid slopes, camping in weather so cold they had to warm frozen food in their mouths and wear something known as ‘expedition underwear.’
“It was two days of misery, quite honestly,” Morris, 72, said recounting the trip.
Morris and his son Kevin, 47, have tackled several adventures together, including hiking in the Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon, the Smokey Mountains and the highest peak in Mexico, Pico de Orizaba.
The ordeals offer a way for the men to bridge the distance that normally separates them, since they each live on opposite ends of the country.
They spend months talking about their upcoming trip over the phone and through e-mails, proposing routes and gear they should take. Then for months and years after, they recount how they nearly tumbled down Mount Rainier, fell into an icy blue crevasse and into a jet black pit or struggled with altitude sickness.
They delight in their near- deaths and close calls, but mostly in the time they spent together — filling their memory books.
On Feb. 27 and 28, Morris and Kevin, of Rock Hill, S.C., trudged through several feet of snow to reach the summit of Humphrey’s Peak and add a few new snapshots along the way.
“Ascending to the highest point in Arizona in the cold of winter and deep snow is an extreme challenge and an experience you won’t soon forget,” Morris said.
Morris had taken the cross-county route in the winter of 2012 with fellow Tonto Rim Search and Rescue member Gary Morris. Gary, an experienced mountaineer, had climbed Humphrey’s Peak in the winter more than 30 times.
When Morris told his son about the trip, he said he would love to give it a go.
After obtaining a backcountry permit, they began their ascent, each weighed down by 50-pound packs. Six hours after tramping through the trees, they arrived at 11,400 feet where they spent hours shoveling out a tent platform and setting up camp on a steep slope.
Just below their camp, the men took time to explore the wreckage of a B-24 that crashed into the hillside in September 1944 on its way from Bakersfield, Calif. to Kirkland Field, N.M. Eight airmen on board died.
Several sections of the plane wreckage protruded from the snow, including part of the nose. The men examined several sections and found bearings. Kevin, a bearing designer in South Carolina, was especially impressed by the find, Morris said.
Later, the men went to bed, but found sleep difficult.
“Outside, it was below zero during the night and the temperature inside the tent was 15 degrees,” he said. “We kept our water bottles inside the sleeping bags to prevent freezing.”
Morris said he was either too hot or too cold. His sleeping bag liner, sleeping bag and heavy-duty long johns worked too well.
In the morning, they found the food they had left out frozen solid.
“Our candy bars were like rocks,” he said. “We had to warm them in our mouths before we could bite down.”
They strapped on their iced-up snowshoes, made their way up a steep ridge, past the tree line and arrived at the 12,630-ft. summit after three hours.
“Views from Humphrey’s Peak are spectacular,” Morris said.
To the south lay Flagstaff and miles of ponderosa forests; to the west they saw Kendrick Peak and Bill Williams Mountain; to the north they could see the rim of the Grand Canyon as well as the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument to the northeast; Due east they could make out Sunset Crater and the Painted Desert.
“He was thrilled,” Morris said of Kevin’s reaction on making it to the top.
Arriving back at their camp in mid-afternoon, they packed up the gear and descended to the trailhead, arriving after dark.
The next day, Morris gave his legs a welcome respite while Kevin hit the slopes at Snowbowl.
Morris said it feels good to notch out one more accomplishment, instead of living out his retirement in front of the television.
“You set goals and it takes years to work up to them,” he said. “But your fitness level sets the tone for your life. People say I am in competition with myself and I am.”