Mt. Humphreys is the dominant peak in its region. For a couple of years now we had seen it on the horizon. We saw it at breakfast at the Western Kitchen in Bishop. We had seen it from Four Gables, Pilot Knob, Merriam Peak, Royce Peak, Julius Caesar, Mt. Emerson and on and on.
The easiest route to the top is low fifth class. Its East Arete is in Peter Croft's book The Good, the Great, and the Awesome.
Our goal was a little more modest: the Southwest Slope and Northwest face. Mary Jo and I arrived in Bishop to rendezvous with Patty Friday the 13th, August 2004. Much to our pleasure, we discovered that Patty had somehow talked Judy Rittenhouse into coming along, even though she had been up Humphreys several times before. Judy's alpine experience was very welcome on this trip.
Friday night was spent weighing packs, Judy and Patty flirting with 20 pounds, Mary Jo and I hitting over 30 pounds. Ugh!
The weatherman had been forecasting afternoon thunderstorms for Saturday. The latest report had moved that up to include Sunday, our projected summit day. That was problematic. We decided to hike in, even if it meant spending lots of tent time. Maybe we'd get lucky and catch a break with the weather.
We all met Saturday morning at the North Lake backpacker parking lot. After the usual shuttle maneuver, we were off. Our goal was the highest unnamed tarn at the base of Humphreys, just above Marmot Lake. We made steady progress, and made Marmot Lake in time for a little afternoon activity.
We arose the next morning, leaving nice and early. We followed Judy's suggestion and hiked up to a prominent triangular shaped boulder on the scree slope above camp. From there we climbed obvious chutes and ramps to the notch northwest of the summit. It had taken us only two hours to reach this point. We briefly considered the clouds to the west but felt we had plenty of time before the afternoon storm. We ignored the view eastward.
Mary Jo and I scrambled to the summit, reaching it at 10:40 AM.
Meanwhile, Judy belays Patty up the final moves.
Judy did a great job, being first at each rappel. What seemed an eternity soon had us back down at the notch. Here the storm abated.
We had something to eat and drink, and headed to camp, wondering what all the fuss had been about.
Our plan had worked perfectly. We did make the summit and back to camp before the afternoon storm. It was that MORNING storm...