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A Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra (1954), edited by Hervey H. Voge


Mammoth Pass to Piute Pass

Mount Humphreys Region

George Bloom, Hervey Voge, and Ray Van Aken

THE PIUTE PASS TRAIL provides the easiest access to the Humphreys group from the east inasmuch as the North Lake roadhead is 2,000 feet higher than the Pine Creek roadhead. Off-trail approaches from the east, such as via McGee Creek, are apt to be arduous. Various knapsack routes lead to the region from the Evolution Region (which see). Golden Trout Lake is the highest comfortable campsite west of the crest for Humphreys itself; upper French Canyon timber grows at higher elevations and provides good camping for the northern peaks of the group.

Peak 12,888 (12,480+n; 1.4 E of Pine Creek Pass)

Four Gables (12,759; 12,801; 12,760+n)

Climbed in 1931 by Norman Clyde.

Mount Humphreys (13,972; 13,986n)

The first ascent was made July 18, 1904, by E. C. Hutchinson and J. S. Hutchinson, who used Route 1 (SCB, 1905, 153). This route and others from the west side are indicated on Sketch 12. The easiest way of ascent is probably Route 2. Routes 1, 2, and 3 are easy class 4.

Sketch 12. Mount Humphreys from the west. From left to right: Route 2 (variation), Route 2, Route 6, Route 1, Route 4, and Southeast Pinnacle Route.
[click to enlarge]
Sketch 12. Mount Humphreys from the west. From left to right: Route 2 (variation), Route 2, Route 6, Route 1, Route 4, and Southeast Pinnacle Route.

Route 1. South couloir and southeast face. Class 4. From Humphreys Basin southwest of the peak proceed up a gully leading toward the very deep notch south of Humphreys, or the next gully north. In either case turn left (N) and enter the deep couloir that comes down southward from the summit. This couloir leads to the southeast, secondary summit named “Married Men’s Point” by those in the party of the first ascent who saw no point in going farther. Steep snow or ice may be encountered in the couloir. From the head of the couloir the steep southeastern face is climbed up a ladder-like series of small ledges.

Route 2. West slope and northwest face. Class 4. First ascent August 3, 1919, by G. R. Bunn and two others (SCB, 1920, 56). Follow the rocky shoulder between the two lakes nearest the west base of the mountain to the first scree-covered ledge leading upward to the left (N). Follow the ledge to the second broad gully, which ends to the north of the notch immediately north of the final pinnacle. Near the top of this gully cross over to the right (S) to the gully leading to the notch north of the pinnacle. From the notch follow a ledge to the steep trough to the right (S), and climb the trough toward the summit. When a vertical wall is encountered climb out to the right (W) and upward on the right side of the arÍte over good holds to the final summit ridge, which is followed eastward to the summit.

There are a number of variations of Route 2, but in all of them the final peak is climbed by the northwest face. The notch from which this final climb is made can be reached by several routes up the western slope, including one that leads up from Desolation Lake to the ridge about one mile north of the summit. The more or less flat ridge is then followed southward to the notch.

Route 3. East slope and northwest face. Class 4. First ascent July 18, 1920, by C. H. Rhudy, L. C. Bogue, and J. L. Findlay (SCB, 1921, 203). From McGee Creek go half-way around the upper McGee Lake shown on the map and then proceed westward, skirting to the south and west of a prominent ridge which projects eastward from the main range. Climb the ridge to a wide flat about one mile north of the summit, follow the north ridge to the notch north of the peak, and follow Route 2 to the top.

Route 4. Southeast buttress. Class 4. First ascent July 7, 1933, by Hervey Voge. From the west climb to the deep notch about 0.3 mile southeast of the summit. Ascend the northwest wall of the notch directly toward the peak, and then gradually work to the right (E) until the easy top of the southeast ridge is reached. Proceed along the ridge and to the summit as in Route 1.

Route S. East arÍte. Class 4. First ascent June 29, 1935, by Norman Clyde (SCB, 1936, 49). From the head of the south fork of McGee Creek enter the cirque southeast of Mount Humphreys, and climb to a notch in the crest of the cleaver-like arÍte to the north. This is the east arÍte of Humphreys; farther west it is joined by the northeast arÍte, and the combined ridge joins the main ridge at Married Men’s Point. Follow the arÍte westward, passing a precipitous wall by means of a ledge at the left (S) and cracks which lead back to the top of the arÍte. Follow the arÍte to the main ridge and climb to the summit as in Route 1.

Route 6. Southwest face. Class 5. From a prominent pointed spire at the west base of the mountain, climb the face diagonally upward to the left (N) to the summit. Five pitons. Climbed July 28, 1938, by Jack Riegelhuth, Dick Cahill, George Wilkins, Bill Leovy, Bruce Meyer.

Route 7. Northeast glacier. Class 4. From the northeast glacier ascend difficult ice chutes, or rocks on the right (N) of the ice, to the notch just north of the topmost spire, and climb to the summit as in Route 2.

Route 8. Southeast cirque and south couloir. Class 4. Descended June 29, 1935, by Norman Clyde. He followed Route 1 from the summit to the deep notch south of the prominent southeast buttress, then descended the headwall and a steep gully to the cirque southeast of the peak.

Southeast pinnacle. The sharp pinnacle about 0.4 mile southeast of the summit of Humphreys was climbed for the first time by Jules Eichorn and Marjory Bridge on July 20, 1933. They ascended the west face and descended the northwest ridge (SCB, 1934, 15).

Photographs of Mount Humphreys: SCB, 1905, 1; 1920, 56 (N face); 1921, 204 (from NW); 1930, 10 (routes on W face); 1934, 16 (routes on W face).

References: SCB, 1905, 153; 1920, 56; 1921, 203; 1931, 104; 1932, 119; 1934, 15; 1936, 49.

Peak 13,176 (13,112n; 1.2 SE of Mount Humphreys)

First ascent July 7, 1926, by Norman Clyde.

Pilot Knob (12,237; 12,245n)

First ascent by unknown persons. Class 2 by the east slope from Piute Creek or Humphreys Basin.

Peak 12,274 (12,280n; 0.7 SE of Pine Lake)

Peak 12,388 (12,360+n; 2 SE of Pine Lake)

This peak is just east of Peak 12,575n. It was ascended in 1912 by W. L. Huber and C. S. Brothers.

Mount Tom (13,649; 13,6526)

First ascent may have been made about 1860 by Thomas Clark. Class 2 from Gable Creek northwest of the peak. Start up Gable Creek on the west side and follow the tramway of an old mine; then cross over the creek and follow a good trail up the west slope to mines just below the summit. From there it is easy going to the summit.

Basin Mountain (13,229; 13,240n)

Climbed by Norman Clyde September 15, 1937. Class 2 from Horton Lake by the north slope of the mountain or the north ridge.

Peak 13,216 (13,200+n; 1.3 N of Mount Humphreys)

Peak 12,222 (12,228n; 1.2 E of Mount Humphreys)

Mount Emerson (13,226; 13,225n)

The north face was climbed by Norman Clyde, July 3, 1926.

Piute Crags

The Piute Crags comprise the ridge that extends eastward from Mount Emerson. They may be identified on the Mount Goddard Quadrangle as the series of summits between Mount Emerson (13,226) and Peak 10,666 which is north of North Lake. Since the crags are close to a road, and a trail parallels their base, they offer easy access. At the end of the North Lake road (9,400) is a public campground from which climbs of the crags may be made. There are several other campsites along the trail leading to Piute Pass.

There is much loose rock on the crags so caution must be observed. Loose rock was sent down from Crags i and 2 by blasting from a mine at 1 i,800 in 1953. Ice equipment will not be needed during the summer months, although ice may be found in the couloirs in the spring. Otherwise the couloirs to the various notches from which the climbs are made are about class 3. Sketch 13 identifies the crags. See also SCB, 1951, 156.

Crag 1

Class 5. First ascent September 2, 1950, by Charles Wilts and George Harr. Ascend the couloir between Crags 1 and 2, that passes to the west of the White Tower, to the notch. Approach the crag from the northeast and traverse diagonally upwards across the 700 north face on ladder-like holds to the summit ridge. Traverse to the summit.

Crag 2

Route 1. Class 5. First ascent August 27, 1949, by Ray Van Aken, George Harr, and Ray Osoling. From the notch between Crags i and 2 ascend (class 4) the west face to a belay point at the junction of the west face and the west arÍte. The route goes diagonally upwards and to the right on the smooth slab (class 5, 4 pitons). At the end of this pitch gain the west arÍte and follow it to the summit.

Sketch 13. The Piute Crags from the south.
[click to enlarge]
Sketch 13. The Piute Crags from the south.

Route 2. Class 5. First ascent September 3, 1950, by George Harr and Charles Wilts. From slightly below the Crag 1-2 notch traverse onto the south face and ascend a series of interesting pitches to the summit.

Route 3. Class 4. First descent September 3, 1950, by George Harr and Charles Wilts. From the Crag 2-3 notch climb over loose, high angle rock up the east-northeast side.

Crag 3

Route 1. Class 4. First descent July 7, 1951, by Ray Van Aken, Wallace Hayes, and Lou Hayes. From the Crag 2-3 notch ascend the arÍte to the summit.

Route 2. Class 4. First ascent July 7, 1951, by Ray Van Aken, Wallace Hayes, and Lou Hayes. From the Crag 3-3' notch ascend over loose rock (class 3) to the base of the east face. Traverse around the corner to the north and ascend upwards and traverse onto the north face (class 4). Scramble to the ridge and follow it to the summit.

Crag 3'

A minor summit between Crags 3 and 4'. Class 3. Traversed July 7, 1951, by Ray Van Aken, Wallace Hayes, and Lou Hayes.

Crag 4'

Class 5. First ascent September 1949 by George Harr, Charles Wilts and Ellen Wilts. May be climbed from the Crag 3'-4' notch.

Crag 4

Class 5. First ascent September 1949 by Charles and Ellen Wilts, and George Harr. From the Crag 4'-4 notch traverse across the steep north face to a platform. A delicate pitch leads straight up to the east ridge from which an easy pitch-and-a-half brings one to the summit.

Crag 5

Class 3. First ascent by Norman Clyde, 1927. Traverse from the Crag 5-6 notch onto the south ridge and follow it to the summit. There is a minor but sharp summit between Crags 5 and 6; this is class 4, and was ascended June 17, 1950, by George Harr and Ray Van Aken. It may be traversed west-east or vice-versa.

Crag 6

Route 1. Class 4. First ascent June 17, 1950, by George Harr and Ray Van Aken. Ascend diagonally upwards and to the right from the Crag 5-6 notch.

Route 2. Class 2. First descent June 17, 1950, by George Harr and Ray Van Aken. Ascend talus and ledges to the summit from the Crag 6-7 notch.

Crag 8

This is a prominent red pinnacle on the south face of Crag 7. Class 3. First ascent July 21, 1951, by Ray Van Aken, George Harr, and Charles and Ellen Wilts. Ascend the couloir to the east of Crag 7 and branch from this to the notch behind the crag. Climb over sound rock up the northeast face to the ridge from which the summit is easily reached. There are some excellent long climbing routes on the south face of this crag.

Crag 9

The higher of two pinnacles to the east of Crag 8.

Route 1. Class 5. First ascent July 21, 1951, by Charles and Ellen Wilts, George Harr, and Ray Van Aken. From the notch between Crags 10 and 11 climb the south ridge (2 pitons) over sound rock.

Route 2. Class 3. First descent July 21, 1951, by Charles and Ellen Wilts, George Harr, and Ray Van Aken. From the broad couloir to the east of Crag 9 gain the notch on the uphill side of the crag. Ascend the ridge to the summit.

Crag 10

The lower of two pinnacles to the east of Crag 8. Class 3. First ascent July 21, 1951, by George Harr, Charles and Ellen Wilts, and Ray Van Aken. Ascend the gully between the two crags and climb the north face over loose rock to the summit.

The White Tower

A prominent point of white rock as seen from the trail. Class 1. First ascent August 27, 1949, by Ray Osoling, George Harr, and Ray Van Aken. Scramble to the top over loose rock from the talus on the west side.

No recorded ascents have been made of Crags 7, 11, and two towers on the northeast side of Mount Emerson.



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