Mt. Humphreys, South Pillar of Southeast Face
California, Sierra Nevada
On December 30, Jay Jensen and I made a one-day new route up this 1500-foot pillar. At five A.M. we left the valley floor in unusually mild winter conditions, using four-wheel drive to reach a roadhead at 9000 feet. By the time we began technical climbing at over 12,000 feet, a cold front had moved in rapidly, causing a 25° mid-day temperature drop in nearby cities. In the valley, 70 mph winds blew down trees and power lines. At nearly 14,000 feet on Mount Humphreys, even stronger winds threatened to blow us off our stances. On difficult climbing we could only remove our hands from gloves for a few moves before wind chill dictated thrusting them under our belts. We climbed unroped up to F7 and belayed only three pitches. Although ledges and low angle areas were snowbound, we found the steeper rock surprisingly free of snow. Urged on by the cold and the fine high-country granite, we reached the 13,986-foot summit at two P.M., traversing the mountain via a descent of the F4 northeast ridge. We reached our vehicle just at dark as snowflakes began to fall. The round trip took eleven hours and the pillar itself is rated NCCS III, F8.
Galen A. Rowell