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Sierras mountaineering recommendations late May 2017

Original Post
Marshal Hoda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Hey everyone,

So I'm finishing grad school in Northern California mid-May, at which time I'll have two weeks (the second half of May) to spend in the mountains. Then I've got to head to my new city and new job. A couple buddies are interested in joining me but are looking to me to recommend the routes and itinerary. I'm here hoping to crowdsource some wisdom!

I'm trying to figure out if there will be any classic, moderate mountaineering routes in CA that will be even possibly doable in late May this year. And when I say "moderate" I mean what a lot of you guys would call "easy." Snow travel w/ single mountaineering axe and crampons (I love a nice, clean couloir and—dare I dream of it—a mellow glissade on the way down), rock up to 5.7. But, bummer I know, I don't do ski mountaineering.

What I'm wondering is if, with the amount of snow this year, if I should just give up on the idea of doing a trip in the Sierra Nevada at all (yes I know, the "Sierra Nevada" is huge—we're really open to anything and willing to drive). Will all the roads still be closed/will approaches need to be done on skis? Do any moderate rock/mixed snow and rock routes come to anyone's mind that might be in condition? If we can get in without skis, we definitely don't mind long approaches and even multi-days.

If anything comes to mind, don't feel obliged to write a book like I did here. If you know a route that might meet the criteria I described here feel free to shout it out and I'll research it myself!

Many thanks,
Standard Dedeaux

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Should be lots of alpine routes in the Sierra do-able after mid-May.

Snowshoes can be used instead of skis for approaching the climbing. I'm guessing you can rent snowshoes in Mammoth Lakes, perhaps Bishop. Or perhaps rent them around some large city of northern California before you leave.

It's a reasonable guess that the Whitney Portal access road will be open drivable with normal-clearance non-4WD vehicle to within a mile of the summer trailhead. The road into the Palisades will likely be open drivable with normal-clearance non-4WD vehicle pretty close to the summer trailhead.

Should be enough "alpine" stuff reachable from those two trailheads to keep you busy for a couple weeks.


Marshal Hoda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Many thanks Kenr! Thats great to hear about Palisades, that was one of the areas I had foremost in mind. This kind of info is very helpful.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,837

Little Lakes Valley (Bear Creek Spire) could also be do-able, but the road might not be open past the winter closure at East Fork, in which case it's a long long gentle slog south to get in range of the climbing.

Of course the reason Palisides and Mt Whitney are likely to have road open closer to the summer trailhead is because the summer trailhead is much _lower_ than Little Lakes Valley, so it's a long approach hike even in summer.

Just so you know ...
The normal plan for a normal snow season is to try to plow the roads open to some of those high summer trailheads by the last Saturday in April for the opening day of Fishing season. But this winter is not nothing like a normal year (though I guess now the snowpack is no longer keeping up with record levels).

Of course I would assume that the Tioga Pass road will still be closed, so need to plan on longer driving time just to get out to the southern Eastside.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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