Mt Humphreys

Notes by piero scaruffi | Travel resources | Other California destinations | California hikes
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Mt Humphreys (4265m, N37.27060 / W118.6728) is a very visible mountain from whichever side one approaches it. Its summit is one of the toughest of all major mountains in the Sierra

From North Lake

This is the route favored by the majority of safe hikers. The most annoying part is the very beginning: you are not allowed to park at the North Lake trailhead, and therefore you have to walk an extra 20 minutes from the hikers' parking lot to the trailhead. At the trailhead make sure that you take the Piute Pass trail and not the Lamarck Lakes trail. The Piute Pass trail from the North Lake trailhead (2,800m) takes to Piute Pass in about 3 hours. Mt Humphreys is very visible from the pass:

Leave the trail at the pass and head north towards Humphreys. This is an easy walk through friendly terrain:

Eventually you get to the highest of the Humphrey Lakes (3,700m). The general strategy to climb Mt Humphreys:

When you see the loose slope, aim to the left of the little monolith:

and then for this double entrance to the chute (you can go either to the right or to the left of the boulder):

This chute is more easily managed by staying on the left ridge, which is solid rock. Make mental note of the various "junctions". There is a place where the chute narrows significantly and meets a much larger chute coming from the left. There is another place that looks like a four-way junction. These will prove tricky on the way down as you will be tempted to go right into the better chutes (that, alas, dead end on massive drops). (I left cairns but this is an avalanche route and most likely they will be wiped out by the time you read this). Going up just follow the relatively easy slope of the diagonal towards the very visible notch. Coming down it won't be as intuitive where to go. The end of the chute is a notch that affords great views of Mt Tom and Buttermilk Country. The final climb, however, looks deadly:

The right-hand side ridge, however, is not as difficult as it looks. There is always very good handhold and you can find ways to climb safely. This is by far the most difficult part of the climb. Expect one hour for this last section (you are just 60 meters below the summit).

  • Hiker's parking lot
  • North Lake trailhead (2,800m): 15'
  • First lake: 2h
  • Piute Pass (3481m): 3h15'
  • Last Humphrey lake (3,700m): 5h15'
  • Southwest chute: 5h45'
  • Notch: 7h
  • Summit: 8h

From McGee trailhead

The fastest (cross-country) route starts from the McGee Creek trailhead. From Bishop take 168 east. Turn west into the unpaved Buttermilk Rd. After a few minutes, at the wilderness permit kiosk, turn left into road 7S15 for about 10 minutes and then turn right into road 7S01. Bear left at every junction and in about 15 minutes you should get to the parking lot. This trailhead is at 2,630m of altitude. As the condor flies, you are just 5 kms from the summit.

The trail follows the McGee Creek and takes you to Langley Lake. Mt Humphreys is the highest mountain, located southwest of the lake. Head south for a saddle that lets you get on the eastern ridge of the mountain. Follow the ridge to the summit. Alas, the summit block is class-4.

However, a more direct way from the McGee Creek trailhead is to leave the trail right at the beginning when it intersects two creeks coming down from the west. Stay to the left of the first one and you'll be heading west towards the southern side of the ridge.

Pictures of this hike
Sierra mountains
Weather forecast for Mt Humphreys