California's Fourteeners (updated 3/5/00)

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Below is a list of California's Fourteeners listed by elevation, followed by a brief route description for each peak. In addition to these 13 recognized 14,000 foot peaks, there are 10 other high points/sub peaks in California that are not recognized as distinct 14,000 foot peaks. Mount Whitney (Keeler Needle, Day Needle, Third Needle and Aiguille Extra) Mount Russell (East Peak), Mount Williamson (East Horn and West Horn), North Palisade (Starlight Peak and Polemonium Peak) and Mount Shasta (West Summit) have sub peaks that are well above 14,000 feet but due to their proximity to the main summit and elevation increase from the bridging saddle do not meet the criteria of a fourteener. All the California Fourteeners are in the Sierra Nevada with the exception of Mount Shasta (Cascade Range) and White Mountain Peak (White Mountain Range). For a further discussion on the definition of a peak, see the California 100, a list of the 100 highest peaks in California.

For more information on climbing routes on Mount Shasta see the Mount Shasta Book in the Backcountry Bookstore (Climbing/Mountaineering Guides). For more information on the climbing routes for the rest of the Fourteeners (except White Mountain), refer to three books in the Climbing/Mountaineering section of the Backcountry Bookstore--Climbing California's Fourteeners, The Climber's Guide to the High Sierra, and The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails. An article published in the Mountain Democrat newspaper on October 21, 1994, describes Sierra Richins' accomplishment of climbing all of the 14,000 foot peaks in California by age 13 and also provides some route information. If you have any questions about the route descriptions below or are planning a climb, please contact me and I can provide more detailed information. In addition, North America Fourteeners is a web site that lists all the fourteeners in North America with links to maps of each summit.

Wilderness permits are required on all these summits and quotas limiting the number of climbers are in force on many of the fourteeners. The Mount Whitney area is strictly patrolled and the permits enforced. For permit information see backcountry wilderness permits.

Page Index:
[California's Fourteeners listed by elevation]
Route Descriptions: [
Mount Shasta] [White Mountain Peak] [Thunderbolt Peak] [North Palisade] [Mount Sill] [Middle Palisade] [Split Mountain] [Mount Tyndall] [Mount Williamson] [Mount Russell] [Mount Whitney] [Mount Muir] [Mount Langley]

California's Fourteeners Listed by Elevation

The California Fourteener list below includes the 13 peaks in California exceeding 14,000 feet and 10 high points or sub-peaks. These 10 sub-peaks are noted on the list by a numeric and alpha designation such as 1a or 2b.

Peak

Elev.

Sub-
peak

Region

Map

Nearby Town

1.

Mount Whitney

14,491

Whitney

Mt Whitney

Lone Pine

1a. Keelers Needle

14,240+

1b. Day Needle

14,173+

1c. Third Needle

14,107+

1d. Aiguille Extra

14,042+

2.

Mount Williamson

14,370+

Whitney

Mt Williamson

Independence

2a. West Horn

14,107+

2b. East Horn

14,042+

3.

White Mountain

14,246

White Mtns

White Mtn Pk

Bishop/Big Pine

4.

North Palisade

14,242

Palisades

North Palisade

Big Pine

4a. Starlight Peak

14,180+

4b. Polemenium

14,080+

5.

Mount Shasta

14,162

Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta

Mount Shasta City

5a. West Summit

14,040+

6.

Mount Sill

14,153

Palisades

North Palisade

Big Pine

7.

Mount Russell

14,088

Whitney

Mt Whitney

Lone Pine

7a. East Summit

14,042+

8.

Split Mountain

14,042

Palisades

Split Mtn

Big Pine

9.

Mount Langley

14,022

Whitney

Mt Langley

Lone Pine

10.

Tyndall

14,019

Whitney

Mt Williamson

Independence

11.

Middle Palisade

14,012

Palisades

Split Mtn

Big Pine

12.

Mount Muir

14,012

Whitney

Mt Whitney

Lone Pine

13.

Thunderbolt

14,003

Palisades

North Palisade

Big Pine

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Route Descriptions, North to South

Each route description will include an effort factor which is an estimate of the number of hours it may take to reach the summit. I have developed a simple formula, called the "Richins’ Rule" or "Effort Factor" which incorporates both the distance to be traveled (in miles) and the elevation to be climbed (in feet) into a single formula for estimating the total amount of time (in hours) required to reach your backcountry destination. This rating system provides the climber/hiker/backcountry skier with a method of estimating approach and climbing times of a particular peak or route.

The Richins’ Rule is as follows: Time in hours = (distance hiked in miles/2 mph) + (elevation gain in feet/1,000 feet per hour).

The Richins’ Rule assumes that a hiker/skier in good shape with a 35-40 pound pack can average, over the course of a day, about 2 miles an hour on level terrain, and climb at a rate of 1,000 feet per hour. For a more complete discussion, link to Richins' Rule.

Mount Shasta--14,162 (Rank 5)

Route #1: Avalanche Gulch
Map: Mount Shasta
Trip duration: 1 or 2 days
Mileage: about 5 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: 7,302 feet
Effort factor: 9.8
Equipment: ice axe and crampons

There are more than 20 routes and route variations on Mount Shasta. Two are described below. For more information on climbing routes on Mount Shasta see the Mount Shasta Book in the climbing section of the Backcountry Bookstore. For additional information on Mount Shasta and permit requirements link to the U.S. Forest Service Shasta-Trinity web page (link can also be made from the home page, Links--Mount Shasta). For a related article on climbing Mount Shasta, see the newspaper account of Robert Webb's record six ascents of Mount Shasta in 24 hours via Avalanche Gulch.

From the town of Mount Shasta (Interstate 5), drive up the Everitt Memorial Highway for about 11 miles to Bunny Flat at 6,860 feet. The road is paved.

Follow the trail from the parking area at Bunny Flat to the Sierra Club Lodge (hut) at Horse Camp, a hike or ski of about 1.5 miles. Horse Camp is located at the tree line around 7,900 feet in Avalanche Gulch. Spring water and sanitation facilities are available at Horse Camp. The Sierra Club maintains this historic cabin built in the 1920’s. The cabin is maintained by a summer caretaker. Due to the large number of skiers and climbers through this area, overnight stays are not permissible at the hut. Avalanche Gulch is the standard route to the summit of Mount Shasta and is used by 90% of the would be summiteers.

From Horse Camp follow the climbers trail up Avalanche Gulch to Lake Helen near 10,000 feet. Above Lake Helen the route steepens. Climb up and angle slightly to the right towards Thumb Rock. Climb through one of many chutes in the Red Banks or continue up to the saddle above Thumb Rock. Follow the ridge (Misery Hill) to the Summit Ballfield and to the summit. This route is not without risks as the name implies. This route is known for avalanches and is not a safe route in the winter. In the spring, the steep sides of the of the gulch avalanche regularly. Exercise caution.

Route #2: Hotlum-Wintun Ridge
Map: Mount Shasta
Trip duration: 1-2 days
Mileage: About 6 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: Almost 7,000 feet
Effort factor: 10.0
Equipment: ice axe and crampons and a climbing rope if you plan to go out onto the Wintun or Hotlum Glaciers

From Mount Shasta City (Interstate 5), proceed east on Highway 89 to McCloud. Continue east for about 3.5 miles and turn left on a paved Pilgrims Creek Road (NF 13). Proceed 7.1 miles to Sugar Pine Butte Road (NF 19) and turn left. From this point the roads are well marked with signs indicating the direction to the Brewer Creek trailhead. Proceed along Road NF 19, turn left on road 42N02 and then make another left on road 42N10 and proceed to the Brewer Creek parking area at 7,200 feet. The roads to the parking area are passable in a sedan.

This route is no more difficult than the Avalanche Gulch Route and gets you away from the hoards of climbers on the other side of the mountain. Not only is this a good climbing route, it is simply one of the best ski descents in California. The summit can be accomplished in a single day or a base camp established after a short three hour approach. A base camp will afford the luxury of exploratory day trips as well as a trip to the summit. Nearby is the Hotlum Glacier where ice climbing and crevasse rescue techniques can be practiced.

The road to the trailhead usually opens in April, in heavy snow years, a bit later. The trail’s general direction is south southwest for the first 2+ miles and then turning due west. After signing in at the trailhead, follow the Brewer Creek trail. The trail switches back and forth up the timbered slopes gradually gaining elevation from the 7,200 foot trailhead. After about 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet elevation gain the trail fades.

There are numerous spots to camp from this point on up to 9,600 feet. The low growing trees on the rounded ridges provide a bit of protection and offer excellent campsite opportunities. Higher up, the saddle between the Wintun and the Hotlum Glaciers provide excellent views of the summit, the Hotlum’s headwall and the crevasses of the Hotlum Glacier.

The route from the end of the trail to the summit is very straight forward. Follow the rounded ridge that divides the Wintun and Holtum Glaciers. Around 11,400 feet the ridge becomes more distinctive and steepens considerably. On your right is the heavily crevassed Hotlum Glacier. On your left, is the Wintun Glacier. Be careful not to traverse out onto either of these glaciers without a climbing rope.

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White Mountain Peak--14,246 feet (Rank 3)

From the town of Big Pine on Highway 395, take Highway 168 northeast to Westgard Pass. Just before the pass turn left (north) onto the White Mountain/Ancient Brislecone Pine Forest Road. The road is long and dusty and takes you to near 12,000 feet. Along the road there are numerous awesome vistas of the Sierra Nevada to the west. The road is passable with sedan but is rough and steep in many sections. Follow the road to where it is gated and park.

Beyond the gate, the road continues to a University of California high altitude research facility. The road continues along the high ridge to the summit. It is possible to ride (and push) a mountain bike to the summit but the road steepens and deteriorates as it nears the top. Take plenty of water as there is none along the way.

No camping is allowed. This makes for a long hike as it is about 7 miles to the top.

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Thunderbolt Peak--14,003 feet (Rank 13)

Route #1: North Couloir
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 8 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 6,400 feet
Effort factor: 10.4
Rating: Class 5, summit block is 5.9
Equipment: ice axe, crampons and climbing rope

Thunderbolt is the most difficult of the Fourteeners as it requires 5.9 climbing on the summit block. One option is to lasso the summit and jumar up the rope to sign the register. There is only room for one climber at a time on the top.

From the town of Big Pine on Highway 395 (15 miles south of Bishop), turn up the Big Pine Creek Road and drive about 14 miles to the parking area just short of the Glacier Lodge. The road is paved.

Hike up the North Fork Big Pine Creek Trail to the junction of the climber's trail to Sam Mack Meadow and Sam Mack Lake. This junction is past the Third Lake near 10,400 feet. Follow this rough, unmaintained climber's trail to Sam Mack Meadow, Sam Mack Lake and up to the moraine dividing the Palisades and Thunderbolt Glaciers. Camp here at about 12,000 feet or a little lower near Sam Mack Lake.

From base camp, hike up the Thunderbolt Glacier towards the Thunderbolt-Winchell col. Three steep couloirs bisect the steep north wall of Thunderbolt Peak. The first narrow couloir, west of the prow of the great northeast buttress is the Northeast Couloir. This can be climbed to the notch between the Lightning Rod, the shorter summit to the north, and Thunderbolt, the taller summit to the south. This route entails Class 4 and some Class 5 with one 5.6 pitch. The second and widest couloir of the three, is the North Couloir. The North Couloir is guarded by a bergschrund. Cross the ‘schrund on the left and climb the large, y-shaped, 35+ degree, 1,000 foot, snow and ice couloir. Climb the left fork where the couloir divides. Follow this to the uppermost northeast buttress and gain the crest of the ridge to the north of Lightning Rod. Drop down and traverse along some ledges into the chute that leads to the notch between the lower north summit (Lightning Rod) and the higher south summit (Thunderbolt Peak). From this notch, climb up an easy short Class 5 pitch to the main summit block of Thunderbolt Peak. Or conversely, from the notch traverse east on Class 3 ledges to the southeast of Thunderbolt's summit block.

Below is a second route description for Thunderbolt Peak with an approach from the easier west side.

Route #2: Southwest Chute #1
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 9 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 5,435 feet
Effort factor: 9.9
Rating: Class 3+ with half a pitch easy Class 5 and Class 5.9 summit block
Equipment: climbing rope, jumars, a few chocks

On the west side of the Sierra Nevada crest the routes are somewhat easier than those on the east. This is the case for most of the summits in the Sierra Nevada and is true for the fourteeners in the Palisades Region--Thunderbolt Peak, North Palisade and Mount Sill.

For the west side approaches for these three peaks, drive to the town of Bishop (Highway 395) and turn west up the paved South Lake/Sabrina Lake Road (Highway 168). Drive to South Lake (about 21 miles from Bishop) and park at the Bishop Pass trailhead. Take the Bishop Pass trail along the left shore of South Lake, past a series of beautiful lakes and to the top of Bishop Pass. At this point, leave the trail and traverse to your left (southwest) cross country past the large, unnamed lake at 12,000 feet, under Mount Agassiz and Mount Winchell to the obvious notch below Thunderbolt Peak, Thunderbolt Pass (12,400 feet). This is the quickest way to get into Palisades Basin from the Bishop Pass Trail, although the traverse can be slow and tedious as you will need to maneuver over and around car-sized boulders as you approach Thunderbolt Pass.

From Thunderbolt Pass, drop down to near 12,000 feet to running water and grassy benches for a superb camp site. This, seldom visited, site makes an ideal base camp to climb Thunderbolt, North Palisade and Mount Sill.

The climb of Thunderbolt Peak from this camp site is straightforward. Climb back up to Thunderbolt Pass and ascend the Southwest Chute #1. This is the chute immediately to the right (southwest) of Thunderbolt Pass. Part way up a chockstone blocks your progress. Take a Class 3 ledge on the right that bypasses the obstacle. At the top of the Southwest Chute, Thunderbolt Peak is directly to your right. Climb up a short, half-pitch (easy Class 5) to the summit block. Exposed Class 5.9 climbing is required for the top 30 feet or lasso the summit and jumar up to the summit register. Alternatively, from the top to the southwest chute, traverse east and south on exposed Class 3 ledges, on the backside of the peak, to the crest of the ridge southeast of Thunderbolt. Climb back to the Class 5.9 summit block a short distance away.

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North Palisade--14,242 feet (Rank 4)

Route #1: U-Notch Couloir
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 8 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 6,600 feet
Effort factor: 10.6
Rating: Class 5
Equipment: ice axe, crampons and climbing rope

North Palisade is the classic mountaineers peak in the Sierra Nevada requiring both snow/ice climbing ability and rock climbing skills. It is the best summit in the Sierra Nevada. The U-Notch couloir is about 700 feet of 40 degree snow in the spring. In the fall the route turns into a serious ice climb as the freeze/melt cycle turns the snow to hard ice.

The approach to your eastside base camp is the same as for Thunderbolt Peak--North Couloir route. From basecamp climb up the Palisade Glacier. From the glacier you will see two prominent couloirs. The one on the left is the V-Notch Couloir and approaches 50 degrees. The U-Notch is on the right. Cross the 'schrund at the base of the couloir on the right and climb to the top of the U-Notch. In the spring, kicking steps in the steep, firm snow with crampons will get you to the top of the U-Notch. Not so in the fall.

From the U-Notch, climb the steep chimney leading up the northeast wall of the U-Notch for two pitches (Class 5.4). Follow the arete, then cross a large chute and gigantic boulders to the summit of North Palisade. Alternatively, from the U-Notch drop down the chute on the opposite side for 120-150 feet to a narrow ledge that leads out of the gully, around an arete and into the next gully (Class 3+/4). Climb the chute to the summit.

A second route on North Palisade, with an approach from the easier west side, is described below.

Route #2: Southwest Chute
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 3 days or more
Mileage: about 10 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 5,700 feet
Effort factor: 10.7
Rating: Class 3+/4
Equipment: climbing rope and slings

The approach to base camp is described under Thunderbolt Peak--Southwest Chute #1 route. From your basecamp below Thunderbolt Pass, traverse under North Palisade and continue to three, large white cliffs. These cliffs define the entrances of two major gullies. Ascend the talus in the right chute (between the 2nd and 3ed white cliffs). This chutes leads to the top of the U-Notch from the west. Near 13,100 feet this chute widens with slabs sprinkled with loose rubble. Near 13,700 feet look for a small ledge on the left. Climb up to your left across this narrow ledge, around an arete and into the next chute (Class 3+). Follow this wide chute to the summit of North Palisade--Class 3+ climbing.

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Mount Sill--14,153 feet (Rank 6)

Route #1: North Couloir
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 8 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 6,500 feet
Effort factor: 10.5
Rating: Class 4
Equipment: climbing helmet, ice axe, crampons and climbing rope

The approach to base camp is the same as for Thunderbolt Peak--North Couloir route. From your base camp, cross the Palisades Glacier and ascend the snow couloir leading to the notch formed by Apex Peak (small peak to the north of Mount Sill) and Mount Sill. Alternatively, climb through Glacier Notch (north of Apex Peak) and ascend the L-shaped couloir to the Apex Peak/Mount Sill notch. The classic Swiss Arete route (Class 5.5 starts to your left near 13,500 feet. From the Apex Peak notch, climb up about 100 feet from the notch and then traverse to your right across the northwest face. Climb a small rib and loose scree to the summit ridge. This route is very loose, be careful not to dislodge large boulders on the route.

A second route on Mount Sill, this time with an approach from the west, is described below.

Route #2: Glacier Creek Cirque
Map: North Palisade
Trip duration: 3 days or more
Mileage: about 12 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: 7,500 feet
Effort factor: 13.5
Rating: Class 3
Equipment: ice axe, crampons in early season

The approach to base camp is the same as described under Thunderbolt Peak--Southwest Chute #1 route. From your 12,000 foot basecamp below Thunderbolt Pass, traverse under North Palisade, the three white cliffs and the gully leading to the U-Notch and head towards Potluck Pass. Leave the Potluck Pass route about 1/2 mile short of the pass (after passing a large white cliff area) and angle left over easy terrain climbing to 13,200', to a point near where the ridge makes a sharp 90 degree turn. Crest the ridge at this point and traverse left and slightly down into the valley just below the glacier at 13,200'. From the toe of the glacier head up one of many Class 2 gullies or ribs that lead to the summit of Mount Sill.

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Middle Palisade--14,012 feet (Rank 11)

Route: Northeast Face
Map: Split Mountain
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 7 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 6,300 feet
Effort factor: 9.8
Rating: Class 3+
Equipment: climbing helmet, ice axe and crampons in early season

Generally the west side climbs of the Sierra Nevada Peaks are easier than climbs from the east. Middle Palisade is an exception to the rule as there is a Class 3 route from the east but from the west, the easiest route is up Class 4 rock. The following route description is the Class 3+ route from the east.

From the town of Big Pine on Highway 395, drive up the Glacier Lodge road for about 14 miles to the overnight parking lot just short of Glacier Lodge. The road is paved. Walk up the road past the Lodge and follow the trail up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek to Willow Lake, Brainard Lake and then cross-country to the upper end of Finger Lake. Finger Lake is an impressive lake--very narrow yet about one half mile long and very deep. This makes for a great base camp to climb Middle Palisade.

From Finger Lake, hike south and up the moraine that divides the Middle Palisade Glacier. In early season crampons and an ice axe maybe needed. Climb an obvious ledge that traverses up and to the right above the moraine. This ledge leads to a wide gully. Follow this chute to where you can traverse right into the next gully. It is marked by a patch of white or reddish brown rock. Ascend this couloir, following the left branch to the summit. This route has much loose rock so exercise extreme caution and wear a climbing helmet.

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Split Mountain--14,042 feet (Rank 8)

Route: Northeast Ridge
Map: Split Mountain
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 8 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 7,200 feet
Effort factor: 11.2
Rating: Class 2
Equipment: swimming suit

Finding the trail head in the maze of four-wheel drive roads maybe more difficult than actually climbing the peak. From Big Pine on Highway 395, take the Glacier Lodge Road for about 2.5 miles and turn left onto the McMurry Meadow Road. Take the lower McMurry Road (left fork). The upper road is very rough while the lower road is passable in a passenger car for most of the distance to the Red Lake Trailhead. Continue up the lower road for more than 6 miles to the Birch Lake Trail (right fork). Continue to the left and past the fork to Birch Lake. Make a couple of creek crossings (4-wheel drive from here). Come to road 10S01-A. Go right at the first fork, then go left on the road marked 10S01. Continue to the second fork and turn right. At the last fork, the right branch leads to Tinemaha Creek while the left fork leads to Red Lakd Trailhead. Take the left fork.

The trail to Red Lake is awful. It has not been maintained in years, is steep and very sandy making climbing difficult. It also can be extremely hot so get an early start. Also note that the trail is on the north side of the creek not on the south side as many maps indicate. Climb to Red Lake for a camp at near 10, 500 feet. The setting is very pleasant compared to the miserable hike up the trail.

From the lake, hike around the right side and up to the ridge to the north and east of the summit. This ridge is located between two very small glaciers. Gain this ridge near 12,000 feet and follow it up to the north facing ramp leading to the summit. This ridge is Class 2 with one or two easy Class 3 moves.

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Mount Tyndall--14,019 feet (Rank 10)

Route: Northwest Ridge
Map: Mount Williamson
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 10 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 9,000 feet
Effort factor: 14.0
Rating: Class 2+ with a little Class 3 on the summit ridge.

The approach for both Mount Tyndall and Mount Williamson is the same. Drive west from the town of Independence (Highway 395) on the Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass Road. After about 4.5 miles, turn left onto Foothill Road. In another 1.5 miles turn right. Continue past the stock corral for .5 mile and turn right. After another .5 mile and turn right. Continue to the end of the Symmes Creek Road and park. The dirt road is passable in a passenger vehicle.

The Shepherd Pass Trail is long and hot. It also has a discouraging 500 feet of downhill in the middle as the trail crosses a saddle and drops down into Shepherd Creek. Follow the trail to Shepherd Pass a hike of about 8 miles and 7,000 feet of elevation gain.

Camp at the large unnamed lake on the west side of the pass at 12,002 or at the higher but smaller lake just below 12,400 feet. From either camp, hike south gaining elevation as you climb towards the northwest ridge. Climb the ridge or the gullies to the right of the ridge. Follow it to the top of the false summit. Continue along the ridge to the main summit about ten minutes away. The ridge is exposed in a few areas and has a small amount of Class 3. Impressive views of Mount Williamson, Table Mountain, Milestone Mountain, Thunder Mountain and hundreds of other impressive peaks of the Sierra Nevada are afford to those who make the top.

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Mount Williamson--14,370+ feet (Rank 2)

Route: West Face (Bolton Brown Route)
Map: Mount Williamson
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 11 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 9,400 feet
Effort factor: 14.9
Rating: Class 2+ with a little Class 3 near the top of the couloir.

Mount Williamson is the second highest peak in California only exceeded by Mount Whitney and the second largest peak in total mass only exceeded by Mount Shasta. There are many routes up this massive mountain but only one is described here--the one with the easiest approach, if you can believe that 11 miles and 9,400 feet is the easiest way to the top of the peak.

For road and trail access, refer to the description provided in the Mount Tyndall description. Use the same base camp as well, either camp at Lake 12,002 or the lake just below 12,400 feet located on the west side of Shepherd Pass. From your camp, head southeast to the saddle leading to Williamson Bowl. Drop down into the bowl but stay on the ridge between a series of lakes. There will be two lakes on your left and one on your right. Head to the large lake just below Lake Helen of Troy. From this lake, head to Mount Williamson and prominent black stains on the rocks. Above these stains, follow the prominent chute that angles slightly to the left and north. Follow this chute to near the crest of the northwest buttress. Just below the crest, traverse right and up a short Class 3 crack to the summit ridge. Follow the summit ridge and plateau to the top.

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Mount Russell--14,088 feet (Rank 7)

Route: East Ridge
Map: Mount Whitney
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 7 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 5,800 feet
Effort factor: 9.3
Rating: Class 3+

From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395, drive up the Whitney Portal to the Mount Whitney Trail. The approach to Mount Russell is the same as for the Mountaineers Route on Mount Whitney. For road and trail access, refer to the description provided in the Mount Whitney, Mountaineers Route description above.

From the outlet of Upper Boy Scout Lake, traverse to the right (northeast) gaining elevation slightly. In a short distance turn northwest and climb steeply to the 13,400 foot saddle between Mount Carillon and Mount Russell. From here the route is obvious, it follows the exposed east ridge of Mount Russell. From this point, the route looks difficult and extremely exposed. Don't let the looks deter you. Once on the route there are many good handholds and ledges around difficult sections. The route is a very exposed Class 3. Bring a rope if you are uncomfortable with such exposure. Without a rope the East Ridge will take about 2 hours. The route passes over the east peak of Mount Russell and continues on to the main summit of Mount Russell, the west peak. The traverse from the east peak to the west peak will take about 15-20 minutes.

Both Mount Russell and the Mountaineers Route on Mount Whitney can be climbed from the same base camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake.

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Mount Whitney--14,491 feet (Rank 1)

Route: Mountaineers Route
Map: Mount Whitney
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 8 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 6,200 feet
Effort factor: 10.2
Rating: Class 3 in the top of the couloir.

Of course you can follow the main trail all the way to the top of Mount Whitney. This 11 mile trail is attempted by hundreds each day and climbs from Whitney Portal at 8,300 feet to the summit of Mount Whitney at 14,491. There would be many more making the attempt but the Forest Service limits the number of hikers and campers in the Mount Whitney area by issuing 150 single day trail permits and 30 overnight permits each day. The Mount Whitney Trail originates at Whitney Portal. Below I describe the more interesting and challenging Mountaineer’s Route to the summit of Mount Whitney.

The Mountaineers Route ascends the distinctive couloir on the northeast face and shoulder of Mount Whitney. It is readily seen from Highway 395 and the town of Lone Pine. In the winter and spring it is a challenging snow couloir about 30-35 degrees in steepness for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. In the summer and fall it turns into a rock climb used by hundreds of climbers each year. Often times there is snow and ice in the couloir so bring your crampons.

From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395, drive up the Whitney Portal Road to the end of the road and the start of the trail at 8,300 feet. The road is paved and is about 12 miles long.

From the Whitney Portal trailhead hike up the main Mount Whitney Trail for about 3/4 of a mile. At the second creek crossing, leave the main trail and hike up the right side of the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. Follow the well used, but unmaintained, climbers trail for about 1/4 mile where the trail crosses the creek to the south. Continue up the trail for another 1/4 mile before it crosses the stream again and climbs onto the rock ledges on the north side of the creek. These ledges are known as the Ebersbacher Ledges. Climb up the rock angling east (downstream) along a ledge until it is possible to climb up to the next level of ledges turning back up stream. The route stays on the right side to the outlet of Lower Boy Scout Lake where it crosses to the left side.

Hike up the main drainage to Clyde Meadow. At this point, cross back to the right side of the stream (north) and continue to Upper Boy Scout Lake. From Upper Boy Scout Lake, hike up towards the impressive east face of Day and Keeler Needle. Just below Iceberg Lake, climb a steep slope/rock cliff to the magnificent lake basin at the base of Mount Whitney’s sheer east face and the Mountaineer’s Route (couloir). This is truly an impressive setting. Iceberg Lake (12,600), is very exposed but a great place for a basecamp, as is Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300 feet).

From Iceberg Lake, the Mountaineer’s Route is the obvious couloir ascending the right shoulder of the east face of Mount Whitney. To the left of the route is the impressive east face of Mount Whitney with various difficult Class 5 climbing routes. Climb to the top of the couloir which ends in a notch at about 14,200 feet. The east ridge and east face of Mount Russell are impressive from the top of the couloir. Angle west, descending ever so slightly, and then turn left towards the summit climbing a gully that is very steep near the top. This gully can be filled with snow and ice. An alternative route would be to continue to the next gully and up or continue traversing west across the upper portion of the north face to the summit ridge. Snow remains on the north face late into the year. Follow the north ridge for 5-10 minutes to the summit register and rock hut built by the Smithoian Institute in 1909.

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Mount Muir--14,012 feet (Rank 12)

Route: West side, from the Mount Whitney Trail
Map: Mount Whitney
Trip duration: 1 day or more
Mileage: about 10 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 5,700 feet
Effort factor: 10.7
Rating: Class 3

From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395, drive up the Whitney Portal Road to the end and the start of the Mount Whitney Trail. The trail starts at near 8,300 feet and passes Lone Pine Lake and Mirror Lake before reaching Trail Camp near 12,000 feet. This is the last place to get water and is heavily used by the overnight climbers. Purify your drinking water and avail yourself of the very nice solar toilets.

From Trail Camp climb the 97 switchbacks up the east face to Trail Crest near 13,300 feet. From the junction with the John Muir Trail continue a short distance to about 13,780 feet on the trail to Mount Whitney. Mount Muir is only about 250 above. Leave the trail at this point and climb a narrow gully of loose scree and angle slightly to your right to the the crest of the ridge. Climb left up a short chimney, across a sloping ledge and up a crack to the summit. There is only room for a couple of climbers on top.

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Mount Langley--14,022 feet (Rank 9)

Route: South slopes from New Army Pass
Map: Mount Langley
Trip duration: 2 days or more
Mileage: about 10 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: about 4,600 feet
Effort factor: 9.6
Rating: Class 2

From the town of Lone Pine on highway 395, proceed west on the Whitney Portal Road for about 3 miles. Turn left (south) on the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Follow this paved road to its end (9,600 feet) and the start of the trail to New Army Pass.

The trail to New Army Pass is about 7 miles and passes by the Golden Trout Camp and a series of lakes--Cottonwood Lakes, Long Lake and High Lake. Camp at one of these lakes. Alternatively, there is water on the west side of New Army Pass and a place to camp but it may difficult to find the small spring which is located about 1/4 mile beyond the pass.

From the pass, climb north up loose slopes to the summit.

Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.
www.jps.net/prichins/backcountry_resource_center.htm

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