Lone Pine Peak is located between the town of Lone Pine, CA and the tall ridge of the High Sierras. Because this prominent peak is almost 13,000 ft. tall and much closer to highway 395 than its taller neighbors, many people mistake this mountain for Mt. Whitney. The North Ridge is one of several long broken ridges that radiate from the blocky summit of Lone Pine Peak. I first learned about this climb when I was back in school. One day as I was browsing SummitPost.org between classes, I ran across a trip report from three San Diego climbers who had traversed the ridge in near winter conditions. Their description of the route and the exciting pictures stirred pangs of jealousy as I wished that I lived closer to the mountains. Now that I'm in Redlands and in striking distance of the southern Sierras, it was time to make an attempt on this peak and cross a long lived objective off my tick-list.
- Chris and I left Redlands a little after 5:00pm and made good time up to Lone Pine, CA and the Whitney Portal.
- At the Portal we found a great parking spot right next to the "Hiker's Camping," and we were also able to grab the last tent pad in that small campground. There was a lot of activity around us as people prepped for their next day's adventures and others relaxed after a long day on the trails. Chris and I reviewed the route beta, stowed our food, got our packs ready, and still got to sleep at a pretty decent hour.
- My "Climb Time" alarm went off at 4:30am. After a solid breakfast, double checking gear, and some last minute logistics, Chris and I drove down a few minutes to the Meysan Lakes trail head, just outside the family campground.
- We had been a little concerned about being able to find the trail, but there was a good sign next to the road and more signs that directed us through the campground and cabins and onto the trail proper that led up into Meysan Lake watershed.
Sign for the trail
- The hike up the trail was surprisingly nice. We enjoyed ideal weather on a mellow, well maintained trail that gradually made its way up the valley, running roughly parallel to the North Ridge.
My first view of the North Ridge from the trail. Long Pine Peak is glowing in the morning light.
- We continued up this trail until we got to about 9,800 ft. At that point, we turned off the trail, jumped over Meysan Creek, and made our way east toward a notch in the ridge. The cross country travel was pretty easy and we even occasionally found ourselves following an intermittent trail.
- About an hour after leaving the trail we gained the top of the North Ridge and started making our way south towards the summit. This first section was filled with enjoyable class 2-3 scrambling and easy route finding (just head towards the top).
We gained the ridge at this notch.
- For a detailed description of the ridge climbing, check out the trip report that Chris wrote up on SummitPost: North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak Car to Car in Only 21 Hours. His report is full of more pictures and entertaining writing.
The requisite picture of the huge fin. Shown here, Chris making his way up and left.
- We made the summit of Lone Pine Peak around 7:00pm, caught our breath, signed a summit log, took in the view, and then started down the descent.
The shadow of Lone Pine Peak in the east valley as the sun sets behind us.
- The descent has a reputation for being somewhat tricky to find, so I had logged the coordinates for the top of the correct gully on my GPS. Unfortunately, the batteries in my GPS had died, so we had to rely on what we could remember from the route descriptions; Chris was able to find it pretty quickly though. A large part of the descent includes dropping down a long gully filled with loose scree and talus. Any semblance of a trail quickly deteriorated just a few hundred feet down, and we just kicked, stepped, and slid down the rest of the way while "choosing our own adventure".
Chris making his way towards the descent gully.
- The sun set and the sky darkened long before we reached the bottom, and when we did reach the bottom, we found ourselves in a muddy tarn filled with large, dumpster size boulders. Frequent map checks and our efforts to revive the GPS directed us in a north easterly direction, until we finally got to a lake. At the lake we talked to a camper who gave us directions to the trail, and Chris, totally dehydrated, drank straight from the shore.
- After finding the trail, Chris and I, no longer in a hurry and confident that we would make it back to camp that night, took several breaks on our way back down. Chris called them his "Swamp Water" breaks because he didn't want to make himself sick by over-exerting himself after drinking tons of water.
- We arrived at the car and camp around 2:00am. We had been a little worried about leaving our stuff staying in the "Hiker's Overnight" campground for more than 24 hours, but everything was just how we'd left it and we were quickly asleep.
- After our long day on Saturday, we enjoyed a relaxed morning in camp, waking up mid-morning, breaking camp and then grabbing some breakfast at the Portal Store. I ordered the pancake...
Joe versus the Pancake... Joe - 0 : Pancake - 1
- After breakfast, we drove home.
I learned a lot from my experience on the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak.
- First, I learned that Peter Croft is a bit of a sandbagger: in his guide he claims that this is a good route for people feeling the altitude or hungover.
- Second, the importance of checking the settings on my GPS, with the compass utility on, a fresh set of batteries won't even last a full day.
- Third, I learned the importance of moving quickly over easy terrain and looking ahead to where you want to go/be.
- Fourth, I need to be faster in my transitions from unroped to roped climbing (I spent a lot of time gearing up that I could have shaved down).
Overall however, it was an enjoyable climb in a beautiful place with ideal weather. We successfully summited and descended without an epic. And I finally got to cross one of my long-term goals off my climbing list!