Whether the weather will let us have nice day on Humphreys.....?
I climbed the classic East Ridge of Mt Humphreys (rated 5.5) with Tony, Jim and with the blessings of the weather gods. We pretty much followed Croft’s route description up and used the alternate descent route on the way back down to the lake at 10,960’.
On Sat evening, I only got lost once on the long and bumpy drive up the Buttermilk road to McGee Creek TH. After scouting out the beginning of the McGee Creek trail that heads up to Longley Lake, I hit the sack for my usual poor sleep at trailheads.
On Sunday, I got up at 4:45am and hit the trail by 5am. I hiked up the McGee Creek trail for about ½ miles and then headed SW cross country through the sage and scrub pine slopes that lead up to the no-name lake at 10,960’. I crested the shoulder several hundred feet above the lake, which was actually a good thing because it lines up better with the alpine slope that leads up to the saddle where East Ridge route begins. Tony and Jim had camped at the 10,960’ lake and started up to the ridge around 6am.
I got to the saddle at 7am and soon after rendezvous with Tony and Jim at the knife-edge ridge for several terrific Kodak moments. We continued scrambling up the ridge and would head left (south or SE side of the ridge) anytime the obstacles looked too difficult.
The whole time climbing up the ridge we were watching the weather with a suspicious eye as it looked like it could start raining at anytime.
We changed into rock shoes at around 13K’and at this point Jim was feeling crummy and decided to save it for another day. So Tony and I continued up the main tower with the supposed 5.2 crack, across the sandy plateau, reached Married Man Point, traversed over to the final summit block, climbed the last class 5 obstacle and scrambled the last bit of talus to summit at 11am for half of a WoHoo! (cuz we still had to get back down before it rained and made things really difficult). The summit of Humphreys offers some of the most spectacular views in the Sierra, just incredible.
After about 20 minutes on top, we retraced our path as best we could. Not only is there significant route finding on the way up the ridge, but we also spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the best way back down (things look very different, going or coming).
Although Croft rates this route as 5.5, I don’t think we climbed up or down anything harder than low class 5 (maybe 5.2). That said, the long ridge and tricky route finding could easily lead to much harder terrain. To be on the safe side we carried a short rope (8mm x 30M), a small alpine rack, harnesses, etc., all the way to the summit and back but never used any of it.
We got back down to Jim and changed back into approach shoes and then continued down the ridge until we could descend a SE gully (Croft describes as the alternate descent route) with sandy ledges and scree slopes that lead all the way down to the lake at 10,960’. Heading down to the lake we got a just little hail and some rain, but overall the weather gods were nice to us.
We got back to the 10,960’ lake and their camp site around 2:45 (and let out the other half of the WoHoo!). The 10,960’ lake and accompanying meadow and stream are really pretty and one of the nicest alpine camp sites I’ve seen (although I don’t really camp, this camp site looked very nice to me). After hanging out with Tony and Jim for a while, I got back to the car at 4pm or in a matter of minutes or so it seemed (car-2-car in 11 hours). Just as I was loading stuff into the car it started to rain pretty hard and once back down in Bishop I could see that the cloud deck had enveloped Mt Humphreys and neighboring peaks. The Pine Creek area looked like it was getting heavy rain & lightening. We never heard any thunder while on Humphreys. Yep, the weather gods were pretty nice to us.
Another great day on a Sierra emblem peak and historic route with great company.
Here’s a link to some photos with captions
Humphreys East Ridge photos