Month: July 2020

Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge

High on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge

Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge is a fun and exhilarating way to climb this classic Sierra peak. Once considered a CA 14er, its current accepted elevation is 13986’/4263m. Nevertheless it is a lofty summit with outstanding views. The route features high quality granite with enough challenging and exposed moves to offer a thrilling sense of accomplishment.

Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge – The Approach

Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge is accessed from the North Lake trailhead at 9400’/2865m. The journey begins with a scenic 4.2 mile hike to Paiute Pass. This lovely hike ascends glacier carved granite benches past Loch Leven, Paiute, and several smaller alpine lakes to 11423’/3482m. Offering magnificent views it also gives access to Humphreys Basin. Leaving the trail the route ascends north over cross-country terrain to the base of Mt. Humphreys.

Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge

Longtime friend of SMI Ben Novak was Kurt Wedberg’s guest for this 1-day car to car ascent. Ben is a long distance ultra runner who has been climbing Sierra peaks with SMI for 10+ years. He’s also a veteran of our international destinations to Mexico’s Volcanoes and Aconcagua.

Doing the entire approach by headlamp the two opted to climb the massive south face of Mt. Humphreys to a notch that meets up with the North Couloir. From here the upper section of Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge is reached. On this day it offered spectacular climbing as the sun rose over the Sierra.

Upper NW Ridge of Mt. Humphreys
Looking at the upper Northwest Ridge of Mt. Humphreys from the top of the North Couloir.
3rd class gully on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge
Ben climbing the 3rd class gully on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge.

Roping up at the notch, the team ascended a 3rd class gully requiring the use of hands and feet that ended at a vertical wall. Careful route finding up the right side of the wall is the first of a handful of short class 4 pitches. The route climbs onto a spectacular ridgeline offering solid holds and spots of exciting exposure. This leads to the backbone of Mt. Humphreys Northwest Ridge. With the terrain dropping abruptly on either side the route looks improbable at first, but nevertheless a path opens up as one progresses higher.

Beginning the 4th class on the NW Ridge
Ben starting up the 4th class to gain the backbone of the NW Ridge of Mt. Humphreys.
Gaining the backbone of the NW Ridge of Mt. Humphreys
Ben gaining the backbone of the NW Ridge of Mt. Humphreys.
High on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge
Ben enjoying the high quality granite climbing high on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge. This route offers outstanding views of Humphreys Basin and the western landscape of the Sierra Nevada.
Thrilling climbing Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge
Ben enjoying the thrilling climbing on Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge.

The Summit and Descent

The summit of Mt. Humphreys is small enough to offer a dramatic 360 degree view because of its perch on a small point barely large enough for one climbing party. With clear calm weather there was enough time to refuel while soaking in the magnificent Sierra landscape before descending the NW Face to the SW slope. From here the descent through Humphreys Basin to Paiute Pass offered a leisurely and scenic way to wind down from this classic climb.

Topping out Mt. Humphreys NW Ridge
Ben climbing the final moves below the summit of Mt. Humphreys (13986’/4263m).
Ben Novak Mt. Humphreys summit
Ben Novak arriving at the summit of Mt. Humphreys (13986’/4263m) after a successful climb of the Northwest Ridge.
Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Mt. Humphreys
Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Mt. Humphreys (13986’/4263m) after guiding a successful climb of the Northwest Ridge.
Paiute & Loch Leven Lakes
Paiute and Loch Leven Lakes from the Pauite Pass trail just below the pass.
Lupine
Lupine’s in full bloom above Loch Leven Lake on the Paiute Pass trail.
Sierra Lily
Sierra Lily
Meadow Paintbrush
Meadow Paintbrush in bloom near Loch Leven Lake on the Paiute Pass trail.

View a photo gallery with more pictures from this climb here.

Contact SMI for climb Mt. Humphreys

Contact SMI to learn about guided climbs up Mt. Humphreys and the multitude of classic alpine climbs offered in the beautiful Sierra Nevada.

North Ridge of Mt. Conness

Stunning views high on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!

Alpine rock climbing at its finest!

We experienced a picture perfect day on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness to kick off the alpine rock climbing season in the High Sierra! With summertime now upon us the high alpine climbs of the Sierra Nevada are at their finest. Longtime friend of SMI Michelle Kemmer joined us for a climb of the ultra classic North Ridge of Mt. Conness on July 9. Consisting of 6 pitches of moderate 5th class climbing plus an exciting rappel in the middle of the route this peak is pure alpine bliss. From steller granite to magnificent views of the alpine lakes, meadows, and granite spires in Tuolumne Meadows the North Ridge of Mt. Conness never disappoints!

The breathtaking approach!

The approach begins at Saddlebag Lake, which is a short distance off the Tioga Pass Road. The hike takes us past alpine lakes on a trail decorated with native wildflowers as it ascends to the base of the North Ridge.

Stunning morning scenery ascending above alpine lakes en route to the start of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!

The beginning pitches and rappel of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness

We then roped up where the terrain narrows and becomes more exposed. A few short pitches in the difficulty range of 3rd to low 5th class led us to the first tower where two rappels lead to the upper end of the route.

Stellar granite and exhilarating views at the start of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!
Rappelling off the tower on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness.

The top half of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!

After short rappels the route presents four pitches of fun 5th class climbing on high quality granite with excellent hand and foot holds. Each belay station on the ascent reveals more exhilarating views en route to the 12590’/3829m summit!

Breathtaking backdrop approaching a belay station on the upper section of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!
Stunning views below are the reward nearing the top of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!
Hundreds of snowy peaks in the High Sierra provide the dramatic backdrop for a summit photo after a successful climb of Mt. Conness!
SMI founder Kurt Wedberg enjoying the picture perfect day after a successful climb of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!

A complete photo gallery from this day can be viewed here. SMI arranges climbs of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness on any day between June 1 and October 15. Visit our website to learn about Mt. Conness and other classic Sierra Nevada alpine rock climbs. Reserve your spot today for a memorable adventure with our expert staff.

SMI Guides are back in action!

Mt. Whitney Summit!

SMI guides are ecstatic to be back guiding trips in the Sierra! We have spent this spring during the pandemic staying in shape, keeping sharp with our skills, and honing our craft. With things starting to open up again we are ecstatic to be once again outside sharing adventures in the Sierra Nevada with our guests.

The Sierra Nevada is our home, our back yard, and our favorite mountain range in the world. The possibilities for adventure and solitude are endless. Try ticking off some of our California 14ers on our Palisades trips, or the exhilaration from one of our classic alpine rock climbs. Learn to transfer your indoor climbing skills to the outdoor realm on one of our rock climbing programs, or discover pristine destinations in the Sierra Nevada through one of our customized backpacking trips! Whatever your desire the Sierra Nevada has it all!

During the month of July join any SMI trip in 2020 and receive a free custom SMI UPF 50+ Buff!