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Routes in Mt Carl Heller and Tulainyo Tower

East Arete - Mt. Carl Heller T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Tulainyo Tower T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
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Elevation: 13,211 ft
GPS: 36.611, -118.302 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 4,997 total · 96/month
Shared By: Viren Perumal on Aug 10, 2014
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
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Access Issue: Certain Peaks: Access limited from May to October every year Details
Access Issue: No Longer Restricted Access (Bighorn Sheep Zoological Restrictions lifted 2010) Details


Sunrise panorama from the camping below Mt. Carl Heller

East facing alpine granite cirque with beutiful camping at an alpine tarn. This area has a remote alpine feel and is guarded by a 6000' approach with a rugged approach trail that is not maintained. The rock formations that have documented climbing include Climbing on Mt. Carl Heller (East Arete, and 2 different West Rib Routes), as well as a rock climbing route on Tulainyo Tower.

These Routes are included in the Fiddler "Sierra Classics" book as well as in the Secor book.

Wilderness Permits are required for overnight use - (!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9>>>

Great Camping at the lake

There is limited cell service from the camp at the lake as well as good cell service from the top of the route and pretty much anywhere you have a clear line of sight of Independence or Lone Pine.

Inyo County SAR is responsible for rescues in this area though it is a difficult to access area. The nearest Medical Facility is Norther Inyo Hospital in Bishop, CA

Getting There

As of 8/2014 the driving directions are different than others found online due to recent flooding events and road washouts. From US 395 the turnoff is unmarked but can be seen on topo maps as the point where 395 goes over the LA aqueduct between the towns of Independence and Lone Pine. From the north the turnoff is 7.5 miles from the post office in Independence, and from the south it is 8.1 miles from the Carls Jr. in Lone Pine. The turnoff is on a paved turnout on the west side of 395 and there is a crossing at the median for northbound traffic. Zero out your odometer when leaving 395. you will be on pavement for a short while and cross a cattle gate as the road veers south and parallels 395. At 0.1 miles turn right, and stay straight at any forks. At 0.7 miles turn left and cross a bridge (across George Creek) and then make an immediate right turn (0.8 miles on odo). Continue straight on this dirt road while it parallels the south side of the creek. At 1.9 miles on the odometer turn right and cross the creek - (the crossing is cemented though at times of high runoff or rain - high clearance may be needed). At 2.0 miles (and right after the creek crossing) stay left at the fork...and continue on a well travelled road. At 3.0 Miles on odo turn left ( you will see a USFS sign 3S04) and continue to stay straight passing a few forks in the road but stay on the most well travelled road going straight west. (this is where the road gets a little rough in places but a subaru with a bold driver or a higher clearance stock vehicle will be fine...leave that prius at home) at 8.2 miles on the Odo you will come to a "T" intersection and will turn left on the final mile of road to the unmarked trailhead. Drive as far as your vehicle allows... there are several pulloffs along the last mile and the road progressively deteriorates as you get further.

Diving in towards the george creek trailhead on LADWP and USFS maintained roads

Once you park your trailhead elevation is ~6350'... and it is a long uphill climb to your camp (a day trip would be burly)

The following approach description uses topographical lines in Meters since that is what the maps for the area use...

(beta complied by Jediah Porter)
Between 1940m (trailhead) and 2015m. Follow pretty good trail (occasionally in creek bed) along north side of creek.

At 2015m. Cross to south side.

Between 2015m and 2150m follow pretty good trail along south side. You will skirt cliffs sometimes from below and above others. Little to no brush. Some duck and dodge.

At 2150m. George creek goes over a waterfall. (you will run into a cave on the south side of the creek). Progress along south bank is blocked. Cross twice, in quick succession. Or make 5th class climbing moves to stay on south side.

Between 2150 meters and 2220. Stay on south side of creek. Above brush and below cliffs and through trees. The majority of the time you'll be on side-hill gravelly "trail". But you'll never go above a cliff or into truly heinous brush. Don't settle for no sign of traffic for more than a hundred yards or so. There's also sign of a trail on the north. Reports vary. The south side is scouted.

At 2220m. George creek comes up against a cliff on the south side. Sometimes a series of logs allows hikers to skirt the cliff. Other times two crossings, in quick succession, must be made. Or you can scramble along ledges up above the creek.

George Creek isn't all "bushwhacking"

Between 2220 meters and Carl heller creek (2700m). Stay on south side of creek. Above brush and below cliffs. The majority of the time you'll be on side-hill gravelly "trail". Occasionally you'll follow cairns through talus or walk along logs. But you'll never go above a cliff or into truly heinous brush more than waist high. Don't settle for no sign of traffic for more than a hundred yards or so.

As you get to the drainage of Carl Heller Creek stay high above the creek as you enter a forested area. continue to move uphill about 2-300 ft above creek level until you leave the treelike. you will continue across talus and see a small canyon where you can follow at river level or stay well to the south until you reach the bench of the alpine tarn and the good camping spots.

Alternatively you can access this tarn from the "whitney zone" and traveling cross country over the russell Carrillion Pass. We linked a trip to this area with a climb of Mt. Carl Heller and Tulainyo Tower and crossed over Vacation Pass and up and over the top of the east peak of Mt. Barnard prior to descending down talus and sandy slopes to that camp.

Some people also climb Mt. Carl Heller or possibly Tulainyo Tower in a day from a camp at Wallace Lake on the west side of the crest

Sunrise on Tulainyo Tower and Mt. Carl Heller

2 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Mt Carl Heller and Tulainyo Tower

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
East Arete - Mt. Carl Heller
Trad, Alpine
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
East Arete - Mt. Carl Heller
4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b Trad, Alpine
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leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Nice pages, Viren. From the pics it looked like you and Jed had a great trip. Aug 11, 2014
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Thanks for posting this is what MP is all about. Jan 13, 2016
Kyle Queener
Bishop, California
Kyle Queener   Bishop, California
Great beta, Viren and Jed. Majority of this approach is best done on the south side for sure, with a few scrambles around the aforementioned obstacles. Creek crossings can be burly if you don't nail it. I spent a small portion of my time bushwhacking seeking a crossing over the high water. Alternatively, to Viren and Jed's beta, when you enter the George Creek drainage, it makes an obvious course change and now the water flows more north-east, cut across at this juncture, still in the forested area, and make your way towards some slabs that really speed things up by forgoing the talus on the east side. You'll stay high here and make you're way up in the beautiful alpine tarn above.

I loved the ruggedness of this approach, it was all time and really scrubs in the 'forested scent'. Take your fishing pole! Jun 19, 2018

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