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.
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.
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.
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.