Mt. Humphreys via the East Arête

While all routes to the summit of 13,986 foot Mt. Humphreys are difficult, the most challenging ascent is surely the wonderful East Ridge. The first ascent by this route in 1935 was by the legendary Norman Clyde, who considered the route a classic mountaineering challenge. There are a number of route options: our favorite is to basecamp at a small tarn and then to gain the East Ridge. Blocks, towers, and exposed traverses characterize this route, which has been referred to as the “Exum Ridge” of the Sierra. This is a great one for a winter ascent (four days, two on the route).


high-sierra-climbing-super-topo good-great-awesomeThe best guidebooks are Supertopo’s “High Sierra Climbing” by Chris McNamara. and Peter Croft’s “The Good, The Great, and the Awesome”.

Get them from Maximus Press.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground in Rock Creek Canyon would do the trick. You could also stay at Rock Creek Lodge. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.

Return to Classic Alpine Rock Climbs

Day One:

From Bishop we travel west to Buttermilk Country, first on paved road and then onto a good dirt road. Once past the Peabody Boulders things change and we shift into four wheel drive (yes, it is obligatory for this approach) and 45 minutes of rough bouncy driving takes us to the end of the road.
Over the years we have taken a number of different approaches and descents. We have found the best to be from the trailhead to a small un-named lake on the south side of the lower East Ridge. This is a short 2-3 hour hike over trail-less terrain to a great sandy camp amidst the last whitebark pines.

Day Two:

As always, we have the obligatory alpine start early the next morning. The climbing starts off easy but before long we have some tricky sandy ledges to deal with before gaining the ridge proper.
Now it gets good! The ridge crest is narrow and exposed. The bold can walk the very crest. The rest of us can scramble across traversing below the crest. We descend some around a tricky tower and then back up and into the final notch. The ridge steepens here and we avoid one steep section by a traverse onto the south face. Above here the rock quality becomes a little grainier but eases off in angle as we near the place known as Married Men’s Point. On the first ascent of Mt Humphreys in 1904 some of the party members decided to remain behind here while others went on, citing the fact that the difficulties ahead appeared to be too difficult for those with married responsibilities. Although the final 200 feet to the summit indeed does look daunting, we are up for it and as we get closer it appears a lot more reasonable. 150 feet of roped climbing and we are scrambling the last few feet to the very small summit.
We descend via our ascent route with a short rappel until we get into the last notch. From here we head south and down the McGee Creek drainage back to camp. After a quick rest and packing up our gear, we hike back to the car. This can be a long but rewarding day.

Program Prerequisites:

You should be in good physical condition, have some backpacking experience and have the ability to traverse broken uneven slopes with a moderate pack. Prior experience at altitudes above 10,000’ is recommended. You need to be able to follow at the 5.4 level and have experience on multi pitch routes.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Humphreys map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.