Mt. Huntington to Mt Stanford N Grade III class III
This was an amazing girls weekend with two good friends in July. We headed in for a couple of nights at Hilton Lakes out of Rock Creek (Sierra NV). We had our eyes on Mt. Huntington with an option to add Mt. Stanford. There was limited details on the route except what was listed above and a vague description of a few access options (mostly from pioneer basin on the west). Ultimately it ended up being a bit of a bigger day than we had anticipated but also more awesome than expected.
Section 1- The NE Ridge of Mt. Huntington to Summit. Listed as class III.
Section 2- The ridge between these two peaks is listed as class III but felt more like class IV.
Climbing Mt Huntington is very accessible from the upper Hilton lakes. The toe of the NE ridge comes all the way to the backside of the upper lake. From here you can cross country to the north side edge of the toe. It is important to hike away from the base and get a full view of the terrain before deciding on a route. Most of this prominence looked 5th class. We found a narrow chute with only a small bit of exposed climbing to gain the ridge. Once on the initial ridge, we had to gain quite a bit of elevation before getting to the top. Most of this section gave ample route options to stick to 3rd class or choose the more exposed harder route (ridge proper).
The gendarmes along the ridge were exceptionally large. They made for interesting structures but slower traversing. In total this was a mile of ridge traverse – which is no joke given the terrain. Those looking for a shorter summit should explore other more direct routes.
The Ridge between Mt. Huntington and Mt. Stanford is where it got interesting. The initial descent between these two peaks wasn’t overly hard climbing but it was very loose. This made for tense slow movements. We almost lost all steam to go on.
Thankfully after this section, we were able to move onto the west side of the ridge and make much better time through 2nd class terrain. It was great while it lasted. By about midway the terrain began to go back to 3rd class and navigation became more tricky. Eventually, we found ourselves back on the ridge proper.
The ridge became much more exposed and engaging 3rd to 4th class. Most of this I would classify as just darn FUN. However, the final stretch to gain Mt Stanford was hard to navigate. I never really found a 3rd class option. I climbed myself into 5th class terrain and also had do downclimb back out of areas that would have needed a rappel. Ultimately we stayed a bit on the east side to navigate this section of the ridge.
Mt. Stanford is a more popular day trip from the lakes and the decent was reasonably tracked out. It is important to stick to skiers left as you drop towards the lake to avoid the waterfall.
We did not bring any climbing gear. Everyone had a strong climbing background and was able to move through the terrain. People with less climbing background and/or exposure experience should consider a rope and small rack for rigging a rappel. It would mostly just stay in your pack but give options. With a rope it would be easier to have bail options off the ridge. I would also bring helmets in this case.
Approach style shoes with sticky rubber are a must. We opted out of helmets since the traverse kept us horizontal and out of human-generated rockfall and we did not have gear to rappel.
You want to access this from Rock Creek and Hilton Lakes. Another option is from Crowley Lake but you will have to do more elevation gain.
For most people, I would recommend making it overnight or two. Especially because of its BEAUTIFUL back there. It seems possible for the well-trained mountain athlete to do this whole thing car to car in a day. The hike in is ~6 miles with 3 miles of ridge traverse and then your return hike. So it would be a 15+ mile day.
Anyone who does this traverse needs to be well versed in reading terrain, and confident in their ability to downclimb. Never hesitate to turn around and backtrack instead of tackling an obstacle that commits you into unknown terrain.
I don’t recommend this as a beginner peak-bagging objective. Mt. Stanford N would be a great option for those still learning to navigate backcountry travel.