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A Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra (1954), edited by Hervey H. Voge


Mammoth Pass to Piute Pass

THE NORTH-CENTRAL section of the High Sierra, from Mammoth Pass to Piute Pass, is a colorful area containing many beautiful lakes and fine peaks. The climbing is not quite so challenging as in certain other areas, but there is still much to satisfy the mountaineer. The northern portion, near Mammoth Lakes and Convict Lake, contains dark volcanic rock and reddish metamorphic rock, and hence is a region where the colors of the landscape contrast markedly with those seen in most other parts of the Sierra.

Mount Humphreys, near Piute Pass, is the outstanding peak in this section; it stands tall and isolated on the crest of the Sierra, with distinctive terra-cotta-colored rocks forming its summit. Mount Humphreys is one of the more difficult peaks of the Sierra. Nearby the Piute Crags offer fine rock climbing. Another good climbing region is that around Mount Abbot, where there are sixteen peaks over 13,000 feet within a circle of 4.5 miles radius. In the area near Convict Lake challenging rock climbs may be made from camps at the roadhead.

Approaches and Campsites

The most convenient approaches are from the east side. A fine road leads to the Mammoth Lakes, close to Duck Pass, which may be crossed to reach the Muir Trail. Another road leads to Convict Lake, under the slopes of Laurel Mountain and Mount Morrison. A trail goes from the McGee Creek road barrier (3 miles from U.S. 395) over McGee Creek Pass just south of Red Slate Mountain. Little Lakes Valley is reached by a road up Rock Creek which ends at 10,000, and is a good place from which to climb Mount Morgan, Mount Abbot, or Bear Creek Spire. Another road goes up Pine Creek (to 7,000) from Round Valley and may be used to approach Pine Creek Pass or Granite Park. A private upper section of this road, not open to the public, leads beyond a tungsten mine on Morgan Creek and actually crosses over Morgan Pass (about 11,000) into Little Lakes Valley. Finally, there is a road up Bishop Creek to North Lake (9,300) where the trail to Piute Pass starts.

From the west the only practicable approach to the peaks of the Mammoth-Piute section is by way of the road from Huntington Lake over Kaiser Pass, which may be followed to Florence Lake or to Mono Hot Springs. From Florence Lake (boat service) a trail leads up the South Fork of the San Joaquin to Selden Pass or on to Piute Creek and Humphreys Basin or French Canyon. From Mono Hot Springs one may travel to Bear Creek, the Mono Recesses, or Silver Pass via Vermilion Valley (reservoir under construction).

In this part of the Sierra trees adequate to supply firewood and shelter for camping grow up to an elevation beyond 11,000 feet (there is an albicaulis pine at 12,700 feet on Mount Stanford). There are hundreds of attractive places where knapsackers can camp, and an abundance of places suitable for those with stock. Some rocky canyons or uplands at about 11,000 feet are devoid of timber, however. For example, the environs of Lake Italy (11,154n) are barren, and those desiring a fire will do well to camp below the lake about half a mile.

There are many possible mountaineering and knapsack passes in this region. A few of the more useful ones are noted under the individual areas. With the aid of the new topographic maps and some experience, climbers should be able to pick out other passes to suit their needs.

Subdivision into Areas

The section from Mammoth Pass to Piute Pass is divided into the following areas:

Mammoth Pass to Mono Pass. This includes the peaks near Red Slate Mountain, those around Convict Lake, the Silver Divide, and the peaks around Pioneer Basin.

Mono Pass to Pine Creek Pass. This includes Mills, Abbot, and Bear Creek Spire on the Sierra Crest, the Mono Divide, peaks of the Bear Creek drainage, and the Mount Morgan (south) peaks east of Rock Creek.

Mount Humphreys Region. This is the area from Pine Creek Pass to Piute Pass.

The arrangement of peaks within an area is first from north to south along the main ridge, and then roughly from north to south, first on the west side of the ridge and then on the east side. In all the areas there are peaks for which no information is available; some of these are listed without further comment, while others, of seemingly lesser importance, are not mentioned at all.



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