Trip Advice for North Lake/Humphrey’s Basin:

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Trip Advice for North Lake/Humphrey’s Basin:

Post by Laserjet3051 » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:50 pm


I am planning a 4 day/3 night backpacking trip from north Lake through Humphrey’s Basin and points beyond for Sept 21-24, 2012 and am seeking advice on potential routes/destinations. I am a level 4 with regard to backpacking experience that encompasses ~15 years with 1-3 trips per year, primarily in the central, high and Tahoe Sierra, though I have also led backpacking trips into both Denali and the Peruvian Andes.

With regard to terrain, I am comfortable fording a moderately challenging river, have some experience traversing glaciers with only ice axe and crampon, have ascended many a high Sierra pass, and summated ~10 North American peaks (11-13K) that required, at most, unroped, Class 3 moves on rock.

My primary interests for this trip are to camp/fish at 1 high elevation lake, camp at 1 (lower) elevation forested creekside site , and to summit 1 peak. I will be traveling solo with my 5 year old Golden Retriever. There are a myriad of possible itineraries I can envision that will in all reality, change with the passing of storm cells while I am out there

Thus far one possible itinerary is:

Day 0: Drive from sea level to the private lodge on South Lake Rd (off Rt 168; >8000 ft ASL) and stay there o/n.
Day 1: Drive to North Lake, park, and set out towards Puite Pass mid morning. Camp/fish late day at Desolation Lake
Day 2: Fish Desolation Lake early am. Backpack down to and camp at Hutchinson meadow.
Day 3: Backpack up to, camp, and fish Packsaddle Lake
Day 4: Summit Matthes Peak via Packsaddle pass, return to camp, backpack to Piute Pass then to North Lake TH. End trip.

I am not wed to summiting Matthes peak but have earnestly examined all the peaks along the Glacial Divide seeking the easiest path especially since the only way my dog will negotiate a class 3 move is me hauling him over the hump. He is ok boulder hopping talus fields so long as he can find a somewhat level spot to land after each jump. He is comfortable negotiating snow, but in such a low snow year as 2012 my goal is to skirt around the glaciers of the Glacier Divide if possible. No crampons/ice axe this trip.

I do not want to pack more than 12 miles in any day (as my pack will likely be heavy), 8-10 per day is ideal. Other peaks in the area that interest me are Mt Goethe, Wahoo Peak, Four Gables, Pilot Knob. If I limit my time in Humphreys basin/summiting a peak, I have considered the possibility of either exploring French Canyon or Lower Piute Ck (turnaround at JMT/entrance to SEKI Park). Though I have heard lower Piute Creek is not very nice.

As you can see, there are several problems with the proposed itinerary, of which one is the danger in scheduling a peak summit on the last day. If weather prohibits the ascent, I will have to forgo a summit attempt, whereas scheduling a peak ascent on the 2nd day would leave me 2 additional shots at an ascent when the weather clears. From what I have told you, it is clear there are countless possibilities, but given the 2 weak points in my trip: 1)dog’s ability to negotiate rock and 2) solo trip, I am seeking an adrenaline pumped itinerary that is tempered with safety and (summit) success. As I get older I have become more risk averse; hence most of my summit attempts in recent years have yielded retreats for a variety of reasons.

Sorry for the exhaustive description, but maverick advised posters to give sufficient information. Thanks for reading!


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Re: Trip Advice for North Lake/Humphrey’s Basin:

Post by Flux » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:26 pm

You might consider Pilot Knob, It appears to be a class 2 from the Desolation side and I bet you get great views up there. We skipped it last trip, probably should have taken another day and hit it up.

It would be a quickie.

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Re: Trip Advice for North Lake/Humphrey’s Basin:

Post by quentinc » Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:43 pm

Pilot Knob is a great suggestion. Straightforward class 2, very nice views.

Hutchinson Meadow is best during wild flower season.

For me, the problem with Lower Piute Creek, below Hutchinson, is the trail, which seems to have been painstakingly designed for maximum torture. In addition to being as circuitous as possible, and staying as far away from the creek as possible, the NFS for some mysterious reason airlifted in tons of gravel to cover the trail with. I say this because there is no gravel or rubble anywhere except for on the trail, so I'm not sure how else it could have gotten there.

French Canyon is very nice. If you have extra time, you might consider going up the use trail toward Merriam Lake. It's quite lovely in there.

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