OK, so it wasn't exactly the most brilliant idea, but then again I would be a much duller person if I always took the conservative route. Yesterday Jascha and I set off on my F650GS for the Mount Humphreys trailhead with plans for climbing the E Arete. I had traded in my Toyota Tacoma before I left Boulder for a Mini, which is amazingly fun to drive but has almost no clearance. That left the option of borrowing someone else's vehicle or riding my enduro, not exactly the best offroad machine for me given my far from Dakar racer skill level (650cc , ~430 lbs wet; I am 5'6" and weigh ~135 lbs).
Things went OK for the first 7 or so miles off-road. Having the extra 200+ lbs on the back of my bike made the bike a bit more stable in the sand, and with the plethora of rocks I finally put the engine guards to the test. Then I started getting tired, likely from overgripping due to my fear of dumping the bike with Jascha on it. We stopped at the McGee Creek crossing, which is followed by a short steep curved uphill. In my head I saw myself dumping my bike in the water just like the countless photos on advrider. Then I thought about riding out after climbing all day (possibly in the dark) and decided to cut the epic short and head back. The way out was a test of patience. Riding uphill over technical ground was not so bad; on the contrary I dumped my bike at least five times on the way out. Fortunately I made Jascha dismount on the more technical sections (the extra weight pushing forward didn't help my stability on the steeper downhill sections), so it was only me on the ground. I was also thankful to have an extra person to help me pick up my bike out of the sand. More nerve wracking, however, was knowing that we might not be climbing a peak that day after Jascha had driven all the way out from L.A. and purchased a new BD Raven axe at Wilson's. Another day at the Gorge didn't sound appealing.
Then I thought of the W Face of Cloudripper, which I knew we could easily do in a half day. We dropped off my motorcycle, picked up a Bishop Pass topo, and headed up to S Lake. On the way up the trail Jascha asked about the peak to our SW, which looked quite enticing with its multiple potential routes on solid looking granite. After a brief discussion we detoured down the Treasure Lakes trail toward Hurd. On the approach we weighed our various route options and finally decided on the NE face (aiming for the NE ridge) as being the most fun of the more direct routes. The route did not disappoint. We encountered everything from straight forward Class 3 to thought provoking icy, lichen-laden Class 5 hand cracks. It took us a few pinnacle ascents to find the true summit, but the sweeping views of the Inconsolables, Agassiz and Mt Goode made it worth it the extra effort.
After giving Jascha a brief seminar on self arresting we headed down one of the steep snowfields to the E. Once the angle eased up we glissaded to the base and contoured NW toward S Lake and the Bishop Pass trail. We were back in Bishop in time for sweet potato fries at Whiskey Creek.