I had been looking at Mt.Humphreys for years now on running and backpacking trips in the area admiring its profile from both the east and the west. When I had first considered climbing it I researched the level of difficulty and routes and found it to be beyond what I had previously experienced (Class III). If you are one of the seasoned veterans reading this report you won't find much that you don't already know. If you are a novice climber, as I am, I hope you can gather some advice from this report.
I decided that since I didn't know any climbers with Class 4/5 experience I had better get in touch with someone who did if I really wanted to achieve the summit of this mountain. I contacted Kurt Wedberg of Sierra Mountaineering International in Bishop and ultimately I hooked up with guide Neil Satterfield of June Lake. I described my goal and figured the best route would be up the Class 3/4 NW face/SW slope route. I let him know that I was in good condition from ultra running and was up for a long day trip and although I had little experience I was comfortable with heights, exposure, and so on. A day or two later he contacted me and suggested that we do a point to point route ascending the East Arete - III 5.5 described by Peter Croft in "The Good, the Great, and the Awesome", descend via the NW face/SW slope route, and connect to the trail down to North Lake. I bought in to this plan and ultimately I was glad I did.
We met at the North Lake trail head at 5 AM on 7/7/03, checked our gear, and began the one hour drive through the Buttermilks over to the start of our route at about 9400'. We started the approach at 6:30 AM under a hard blue sky. It had been over 100 degrees in Bishop the day before and was shaping up for a repeat. We made it to the East Arete at its beginning (11,700') by about 8:15 AM. Be sure to see Peter Croft's description for the approach and climb. It is quite accurate. The driving routes are well described on the SummitPost page for this mountain. I had previewed the route up to just beyond this point a few weeks before just to avoid wasting time with route finding on the big day.
We stayed true to the arete going over Peak 13,151 with Neil leading the way. It was, as he described, an "experiential" learning experience for me along the way but his attention to safety and patient teaching inspired respect and confidence. Just after noon we stood on top enjoying it all to ourselves. We had met only two other climbers on the mountain that day. After taking some time to enjoy the excellent views and grab a snack we began down the NW face/SW slope and at the base we headed south over easy xc terrain to Piute Lake where we picked up the trail down to North Lake. We reached my truck at 5:30 PM, eleven hours after we had started. After something cold to drink we headed out to retrieve Neil's truck from our start point. After another 1.5 hours on dirt roads we came out on to Hwy. 168 satisfied with our achievement. For me the thrill was reminiscent of winning my first ultra. I was glad I had hired a guide (and teacher) for the trip and was glad he had suggested such a quality route to the top. It left me with a desire to learn more and to aim for the route offering the best the mountain has to offer within my abilities.
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