Mt. Humphreys towers over the Bishop Basin 10,000 feet higher than the valley floor. The East Ridge and Northeast Couloir routes are two of the most classic yet rarely climbed routes in this part of the range. If it were just a basketball rim higher it would be considered a 14,000 foot peak and everyone would have to climb it.
We schedule these climbs on a custom, private basis only. Click HERE to request a reservation. We recommend 1 day to climb, acclimate, and drive the long dirt road to a car camp and 1 big day to climb the peak and return to camp.
Mount Humphreys (13,992 feet)
East Ridge (III, 5.6)
Northeast Couloir (50 degrees, 5.4)
Mount Humphreys only has to rise 8 feet before it becomes the next California Fourteener. And that is not out of the question. Mount Whitney has risen over the years of surveying from 14, 494′ to the latest 14, 508′. It is certainly possible that all of those peakbaggers who thought they had it all done will have to come back to finish this one off. And that is no easy feat. Mt. Humphreys crowns the Bishop skyline with an iconic trapezoidal summit pyramid that looks like it was transported from the Alps or the Tetons. The easiest way to climb it is from the West, but that involves days of hiking and lots of loose rock. The more interesting way to do it is from the East. This involves a 4WD road and about 5400 feet of ascent, about 2300 of which are on technical terrain. We make a car camp at the end of the dirt road and climb one of 2 routes in a big day for fit and skilled climbers.
The East Ridge is the most accessible and has some exquisite sections in a great setting. First climbed by Norman Clyde in 1935. There are ways to shortcut the route if you don’t have the ability to do the entire length of the ridge.
The NE Couloir needs to be in good shape, and it is a beautiful plum to pick when it is ripe. At the col, the summit pitches are exciting classic Sierra alpine climbing.
Both routes best descend the East Ridge and down a gully to the South.
In our experience, it makes a lot of sense to car camp rather than haul big climbing packs up to camp for either route. For our 2-day itinerary we get to climb half the day before heading up to a comfortable car camp with excellent fresh food, instead of spending most of the day carrying a heavy pack and eating a backcountry meal. For the East Face, the 2400 feet of ascent up loose scree takes its toll and we prefer to go lighter for a couple hours extra hours in the morning and. We go lighter at the end of the day as well. For the NE Couloir we would have to carry full overnight alpine packs with ice axes, crampons and rock climbing equipment to near Longley Reservoir. It is easier to descend to the South at the end of the day from high on the East Ridge. Leaving camp in the North Fork of McGee Creek requires an additional climb to Peaklet Col and an often icy descent back to camp. For these reasons, Mt. Humphreys is a day trip that we offer as a big day at a 1:1 guiding ratio. It is physically demanding and makes an excellent training climb for aspirations like the Matterhorn or the Palisades Traverse. Climbers who want to do this route need to know how to move with a guide, and we don’t recommend this 1-day trip for the uninitiated. Of course, if you would like to climb the peak in a 2 or 3 day trip, or by another route with up to a 2:1 ratio we can arrange that for you.
- Recommended Itinerary
TRIP ITINERARY: Mount Humphreys DAY 1 Meet in Bishop and gear up for a half day of alpine rock climbing on Cardinal Pinnacle. This serves to help with acclimatization to technical systems, airy places, and higher altitudes. Finish packing and transport via a long 4WD road to a scenic and comfortable car camp. DAY 2 With an early alpine start: For the East Ridge - climb up through desert sage and into pine forest to the plateau beneath the south face of Peaklet. Ascend into the morning light to the start of the East Ridge. Ascend pinnacles and sharp airy ridges to the summit. Reverse the route to the fist major notch and descend to the south. Descend down scree slopes to the desert and the camp. For the NE Couloir - Hike up to Longley Reservoir. Ascend talus and snow slopes to the base of the couloir. Ascend the couloir and then the final push on rock to the summit. Descend the East Ridge the same as for the previously described route. Finish the day, likely in the dark and plan on 12-14 hours camp to camp. We recommend driving down to Bishop with a hotel there reserved for the night. (DAY 3) Drive when you are fresh in the morning after a great night sleep.
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