MT. HUMPHREYS (13,986') July 14-15, 1979
A fairly large group responded to this climb of one of the Sierra's hardest peaks. In addition to being nearly 14,000 feet high, it is a class 4 climb. The applicants were to be divided into two groups--one for a two day weekend, and the others to stay over Monday. I was confident of my speed and usual finesse, so I took two riders at the after work meeting place, Friday. Later, I was to see that these were some of the most obnoxious and hateful participants imaginable, but they surely were on good behavior at the ride share point.
The leaders were then without a ride. It took a full hour for them to decide who else was to drive. The three of us in my car were raring to go, but we had to wait. It is a long drive to Bishop, CA, for a standard two day weekend, and I then usually drove past midnight.
Well, the trip finally materialized, and we were on our way. We had our usual dinner on the way, then breakfast in a restaurant somewhere. With a later start, we backpacked up the trail to Piute Pass. There was a big snowbank that made for photos, and then we headed cross-country into the Humphreys Basin. Storm clouds developed, and the threat of lightning had some scurrying down to a lower lake to camp. It cleared, and we had a nice sunset, high at about 11,000 feet elevation, right below the peak.
The early morning saw the first group, the two day'ers, trudging high in the diagonal chute that angled up to the notch on the left side of the upper peak massif. We scrambled up a steep gully, and right away, encountered some precarious climbing. We all didn't need a rope, as it was easy enough, but a bit exposed. It entails a few moves with that insecure feeling when there aren't any great holds.
We gathered on a large ledge, and the route wasn't so certain here. The leader led a rope to the right, looking for a way. That was a complete waste of time. Checking another way, straight up, that was it. We all took belays as we did this short section, topping out on an exposed arete. Breathtaking! From here on, it was an easy scramble to the top, with no more rope work needed.
Finally we all were on top, and I began to record the views. I fumed at the slowness of some to flip somewhat disinterestedly through the register book. It looked to be an historic one, but we had little time. I had to skip on photographing it, maybe the intent of some, so it would go and be lost forever.
About then, the second group was coming to the class 4 climbing. Then, it was decided to start down. We all had a traffic jam, with people coming up as people were waiting to climb down. I might be photographing the register, then, but I was stuck waiting for some annoyingly slow climbers to get out of the way. Well, local chapter leadership! I thought that I could always come back, but never got the chance. I scheduled both Mt. Humphreys and Mt. Abbot for two one-day climbs for a two day weekend, but had no one sign up, or even inquire!
Gratefully, we had no accidents, and I was soon clambering down to the high notch. I accidentally set a few small rocks loose, but seeing no one below, didn't yell, "Rock." By some chance, a group was sitting below, out of sight, and had to move quickly to get out of the way. They had decided to rest in the middle of the fall line! We did have some words, and I believe that it was an SPS group, by what I apparently discovered later.
Our group descended as each pleased, with few sticking together. I made it back to camp, and packed up my things. Headed back to the trailhead in such a haphazard manner, I enjoyed using my "Sierra sneakers," a then new, low cut, lightweight boot, made largely of canvas, but rather comfortable. The others had clunky leather climbing boots, heavy and hurting.
Briskly headed down from Piute Pass, I snapped a view of the lakes to the east. I arrived at my car, way before anyone else, and motored back up to the campground where the hiking trail starts or ends. That saved my riders a quarter mile walk along the road back to the designated hiker parking lot.
We got going on the road, more quickly, then, and stopped at Hot Creek for a soak. I used to like relaxing there after another successful High Sierra climb. We had our choice of dinner stops, and got home by about midnight or 1 a.m.
Back to work, I was grateful for having a steady and fairly easy job, and guzzling plenty of coffee, I sure felt great! It was then a round after round of peak climbs, me going about every weekend, and on my vacations as well. I know what I like, and doing such a "hard" peak so easily, knew what a good, safe time I'd have on any mountain weekend.
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