A few additional comments. Regarding Humphreys Basin and Pilot Knob. Pilot Knob is indeed a handsome peak with a great view. Here's a little climbing note. It is class 2 as listed, but only if you drop down a bit from the ridgecrest on its south side (I presume this by what I saw--I just followed the ridge) on the final summit approach where necessary to avoid some short knife edge sections. The summit ridge itself is low (easy) class 3 in a few places and moderately exposed, in my estimation. One of my two companions (a death march hiking veteran who doesn't like class 3 too much) was a bit put off by the exposure on the ridge. In contrast, my wife, who likes air, thought it was the most enjoyable part of the hike. Upon descending we ran into the peak climbing fiend Pete Yamagata, who was leading a Sierra Club peak climbing trip there. I recall him being very interested in my take on whether the route was class 3, given that by trip rules he wasn't allowed to take his group on anything above class 2. Anyhow, if any of your friends doesn't like air, this is something to keep in mind. Four Gables is easy class 2 and is an alternative peak from Humphreys Basin.Aviprk wrote:Decisions, decisions.....
Seems #3, #4, #5, and #8 would be the most "easily doable" of my picks. I've also considered Ansel Adams wilderness and the Thousand island, Garnet lake area but hear it's too crowded unless I go to the x-c lakes such as Catherine.
Regarding Thousand Is. lake and environs, I happen to think the Ritter Range (Ritter, Banner, Minarets) is the most picturesque group of peaks in the entire range along with the Palisades (the Bishop Pass-Dusy Basin option gives you an up close look at the latter). It is true that a lot of folks visit the 1000 Is area, but you also should weigh the fact that lakes such as Thousand Island and Garnet have an enormous perimeter and it is not that hard to get yourself away from the crowds if that is your wish. Banner and Ritter can be ascended by class 2 routes if you dayhike around to the back side (long day hike)--rather tricky route finding is necessary, particularly on Ritter, in order to keep things at the advertised class 2, however.
Another visually stunning area is Convict Canyon. Not only is it visually gorgeous, but, last I checked, it was not a quota'd trailhead (Convict L.) so if you don't get under the quota at another choice, it's a good one to remember as a fall back. This would be an in and out rather than a loop, but it is very beautiful with the rich reds and grays of folded metamorphic rocks contrasting with the green of the trees, blue of the lakes and the multicolored wildflowers. The lakes are overpopulated with brookies which is nice if you'd like your friends to be guaranteed to catch a fish (if they're so inclined), but not so good if you'd like to catch something big. Mts. Morrison and Baldwin can be climbed by class 2 routes, as can Bloody Mtn.