Mount Humphreys


By: John T. Dodds

Wednesday August 30, 1995: I left Sacramento after work bound for North Lake; what a drive: Echo, Luther and Monitor passes, Devils Gate, Conway, Deadman and Sherwin Summits, followed by the climb from Bishop to North Lake, about 24,000 feet of climb in 300 miles. My permit was in the box at the kiosk as it was supposed to be. Somewhere below Aspendell, I saw a gray object moving around on the road at the limit of my headlights. I thought "hmm rolling rocks on this tame stretch of road?" As I approached, the 'rock' took flight, I had startled evidently a Great Horned Owl out of its evening meal. I understand numbers of them nest in the aspen along Bishop Creek. I arrived at North Lake around ll:00pm and slept in the parking lot right in front of the Jeep. An extra sleeping pad softens the macadam.

Up early Thursday morning bound for Piute Pass, Lower Desolation Lake and Mt. Humphreys. The rest of the group was set to come in on Friday, but with my knee problem, I wanted to take an extra day to hike in. I looked over at Mt. Humphreys shrouded in cloud and thought "I'm climbing THAT?" It took all day to peg my way in; used so many new muscles protecting my knee I was exhausted and out like a light by sunset.

I laid around all day Friday while the rest of the group hiked in to meet me. They arrived at 200 pm, right in the middle of my nap. Then it was Hearts in Eddie's tent until Terry wore out his welcome...

Saturday morning, Peak Day: Hiking at 800 am with a mixed sense of elation and anxiety; this would be SPS Emblem Peak #10 for me and also a pretty 'airy peak. And more clouds. I take pride in being in excellent physical condition, maybe in the top 10% of men my age. Problem is I hike with people in the top 1% or 2%, including at least one world class athlete. I hack and caff, crying to keep the pace...

No problems as we passed the upper Humphreys Lake, with a couple of scuffles in the couloir through the black band. I looked up at the last few hundred feet from the Northwest saddle and it looked like a blank wall, with thin clouds swirling around it. I almost balked. Then I said loudly: "~#&*)($%, I can do this!!" Off I went. I guess the adrenaline was pumping, I caught up with the group in the cul de sac, reading route descriptions. We set out to the right to the west arete with me bringing up the rear. It was a little slow ahead of me on the vertical pitch, so I was looking around at the view and made the mistake of looking down. I should know better. It was a little awkward at the top of the pitch and narrow with the 800 foot west face on one side and I couldn't see bottom on the other. I was the only wimp in the crowd to ask for a belay, then no further problems to the peak.

I proudly stood on top of Mt. Humphreys thinking: "I got my emblem!" "on Mt. Humphreys!" then: "how do I get down from here?" I didn't look much at the view, I was very concerned that Mt. Darwin to the south was socked in with a storm that was rapidly approaching. (bs, I was too scared to look!! sign the register and outta here!!). Tim took the summit group picture from the east shoulder close by, using my camera.

We down climbed the arete with me stepping on Richard's fingers all the way and he in turn stepping on Terry's fingers (the correct term is: 'pointing'). Part way down it started to hail intermittently. We rappelled two pitches and I got a great shot of Eddie rappelling the pitch in the black band. We got back to our base overlooking Lower Desolation Lake at around 5:00 when the sky fell in. About a one hour deluge of mostly fair sized hail.

The storm lifted prior to sundown and we enjoyed a few laughs, a hot dinner, some hot chocolate, and otherwise celebrated our climb of a most spectacular peak one I once thought I would never climb.

Celebrants: Terry Flood. Mark Adrian. Eddie Sudol, Carol Jean, Gerhard Japp, Suzanne Fletcher. Tim Fletcher, Mark Bender, Richard Cary and me.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section