Ski Mountaineering

Humphreys Basin Base Camp
April 12-15, 1997

Leaders: Tom Marsh, Keith Martin

This four day adventure into Humphreys Basin had a little bit of everything. There were nine of us: Gene Serabyn, Lawrence Pallant, Denise Huibregtse, Felix Betschart, Scott Meek, Mike Bratkowski, Matt Doody, Keith Martin and myself. We started at 9:00 pm at the road closure to North Lake, which happened to be at the town of Aspendell. We walked the approximate three miles to North Lake. We were finally able to put on our skis a 1/2 mile beyond North Lake. Felix was most relieved to get his Randonneé gear off his back.

We had a sunny and warm break at North Lake campground before beginning the trek up to Piute Pass. We had intermittent snow in trees for a mile before reaching the first steep part of the climb. We were all in need of a lunch break at this spot under sunny skies. As we continued, the clouds started to appear. Matt made the comment that it was snowing. This seemed contrary to the weather projection. We reached Piute Pass at 4:00 pm under a driving snow storm. Suffice to say, we did not stay long admiring the view. We quickly set out to our base camp of Muriel Lake. After 10 miles and 3,000 feet of gain, we were all ready to camp.

The next day dawned with cool, sunny crisp air, At about10:00 am, we set out for our 1st day tour under a pleasantly warm sun. We skied up to the crest of the Mt. Humphreys divide (13,000 feet) and peered over the other side. The day was warm, but the snow at the top was not quite consolidated. As we lunched right below Mt. Humphreys, we enjoyed a spectacular view of the basin. We caught glimpses of Mt. Darwin, Mt. Humphreys, Four Gables, etc... It was a very pleasant day. After lunch, we enjoyed much better corn snow conditions as we descended 1,000 feet to our base camp.

That evening, Lawrence, Gene, Felix and I were admiring a crooked south-facing peak on the extreme north of the basin, It was called simply "12,225" on the map. It was not on the Sierra Peaks list, but looked to provide some good corn snow conditions. Therefore, the next day, the group set out for the top of this peak. The firm snow provided a good base for this long distance day tour. Again, we enjoyed a warm sunny morning with spectacular view all around. We made good time to the outlet of Desolation Lake. At that point, the real climbing began. We started up the ridge to the left of peak 12,225. We quickly make it to the top within an hour. Gene led the last section to the top. The views were much better than the day before. We enjoyed a sunny warm lunch with view of Alpine Col, Bear Creek Spire, Four Gables, etc... After lunch, we enjoy a great ski down the peak and then down to Mesa Lake. We arrived back at camp at around 5:00 pm.

The last day, we broke camp at about 10:00 am. We arrived at Piute Pass to find good corn snow conditions. We skied effortlessly to the next steep section. We encountered one exposed section in a narrow gully, but everyone did well skiing this section. Gene decided to take a more adventurous route on the left side. After that, we skied through a maze of trees. Denise likened it to working on a puzzle. After one interesting creek crossing, we made it back to the campground at North Lake for lunch. This day, contrary to the previous two days, was cool and cloudy. Therefore, it did not take much convincing to end our trip soaking at Keough Hot Spring.

Much thanks to Keith Martin for co-leading and to John Moynier for advice on conditions. John has a wonderful web site at ",bulletins."

Tom Marsh

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