Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: Ray Van Aken & Art Lembeck, 1952
Page Views: 30,134 total · 232/month
Shared By: M. Morley on May 25, 2008 with updates from fossana
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


It's been quite some time since I climbed this route, so hopefully others will add details...

Mostly 4th class climbing with a couple sections of up to 5.4. A fun, easy, and accessible peak for the aspiring alpinist.

Descend to the SW down loose talus.

Some people have had difficulty finding the correct descent gully - the GPS coordinates for the top of gully are:

36.555613˚ -118.234256˚

See also comments below.


From Whitney Portal (7,900'), follow the Meysan Lakes drainage (marked trail) SSW towards Little/Lower Meysan Lake (~10,000'). Lone Pine Peak will be visible to the SE.


Alpine rack.


PumpkinEater   Sacramento
It doesn't seem necessary to add to the vast route beta available in guide books but I will say that there is no more than 1 pitch of 5th class that starts out of a large notch 2/3 up the route. The crux is a brief two or three move layback corner before the climbing eases off to 3rd-4th class. The scenery is stunning. May 21, 2009
Cory Harelson
Boise, ID
Cory Harelson   Boise, ID
Did this route today. Very fun climb, although it's mostly class 3/4. I love ridge climbs, the location you are in when climbing them is just so cool!

From other people's beta it seems there are 3 fifth class sections, but I could see how you would say only one, as they are all very easy. The first section of 5th class is right after the initial notch (down and left) and consists of a fairly low angle crack in a corner that is very secure (Some might call this 4th, felt low/mid fifth to me though). The "crux" is a short lieback crack, and it's no more than 5.5. There are numerous positive knobs on the face, which makes the lieback moves pretty easy. Just after the lieback there is an offwidth to the right that is described as 5.7 in the Secor book. I usually take the Dolphine at JTree as a benchmark for 5.7 OW and this was nowhere near as difficult as that. I think it was more like 5.3, as it was short, there were numerous features, and you could reach deep to get a solid handjam. Also, there are lots of variations possible, so it may be possible to make this climb harder or easier. There were definitely ways to avoid the offwidth.

On the descent make sure you pick the right gully. I picked the wrong one (I believe I descended too soon) and it started out as scree hell and then cliffed out. I spent a bunch of time figuring out a way to downclimb the cliffouts past other people's rap anchors since I didn't have a rope. The whole time storm clouds were building which made for an exciting end to the day! Supposedly if you go the right way it's just class 2 scree (no cliffs) the whole way down. Jul 24, 2010
Tom Fralich
Fort Collins, CO
Tom Fralich   Fort Collins, CO
This route is presented by Croft as something to do when "the altitude is bugging you or you're too tired or hung over..." I completely disagree. We stayed almost entirely on the crest and there were many sections of 5th class climbing. The descent is also not straightforward. We met another party on their way out who had to bivy at 2AM due to problems finding the descent. This route is a big day, even if you short-cut around some of the towers. Aug 24, 2011
Chris D
the couch
Chris D   the couch
21 hours on the move. This is a complex ridge, and much of the fun and adventure is not being able to see what's around the next corner and not really knowing where the hell you are. The going is reasonably easy if you're smart about your route choices. You can pretty easily keep it interesting and under 5.6 for pretty much the entire route if you're careful. Still, there's plenty of trip reports out there from people with experience who ended up having an epic on this ridge. YMMV.

I have posted a trip report with some decent info on finding the correct descent here, though you should definitely accept that there is no beta out there for this route that will serve you as well as (or substitute for) good judgement. Jul 31, 2012
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
mark felber   Wheat Ridge, CO
I followed cairns and a faint user trail down to the SW gully from the true summit, no route finding issues. If you start straight down after finishing the 5th class stuff then things might be different. May 3, 2013
Anouk Erni
Portland, OR
Anouk Erni   Portland, OR
We read up on the beta so we wouldn't have route finding issues, and it worked. Started on the trail at 6am. We did the common start traversing from the trail at about 8600 ft and climbing the loose rock to gain the ridge at 8:45am. Mostly 3rd and 4th class (like others have said, you can make it easy or hard pretty much the entire ridge). We stuck to the east of the ridge at the 3rd tower to avoid a rappel or crazy down climb. When we got to the headwall we had a difficult time finding the start of the climb. There's a really exposed area to the west of the ridge and so we stuck to the east side, and started climb very close to the notch itself. It was probably a 5.9 move at the start - definitely not on route! But as soon as we got past that move it all became easy 5th to the summit. Last half pitch before the summit is super fun, winding up past boulders and blocks. Got to the summit at 4pm. It was crazy windy so we signed the register and got the hell off the mountain. Going down the loose talus/moraine sucked and probably was the worst I've experienced to date. It started snowing on us as soon as we got back on the trail. Got down to the car at 8pm. 14 hour day, not too bad considering it was my first day ascent of a sierra peak. Oct 11, 2013
Ryan Bracci
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Ryan Bracci   San Juan Capistrano, CA
Please be careful when descending down the southwest chute. There is something sizeable melting out on the upper sections of the right side of the chute (when looking up from below-or on the left when coming down) near the top of the plateau. Stay right and be aware of falling rock. I've heard reports of from others that this has been going on for weeks. We were there as of 7/12/14 and saw several small rockfalls on the descent along with one large one when we exiting the chute. Jul 14, 2014
Phil Esra  
Because of the altitude, I did this route with a hangover-equivalent (headache and eventual nausea). I can definitively say that Croft is incorrect about it being a fun thing to do with a hangover. Instead I suggest staying in bed and nursing a beer. Play it by ear--maybe go outside and play fetch with your dog in the afternoon if you're feeling up to it by that point.

This ended up feeling like a pretty serious undertaking. My wife and I took 18 hours car to car, with some routefinding snafus that ate up time. (As a reference point, Steck-Salathe took us 25 hours, and I've done Half Dome in a day.) I'm pretty sure it was the FA for the exact path we took, but I can't recommend it.

Based on the topographic map in the Croft book and on the signs of travel, I *believe* we started the descent in the right place (if not, there is a key cairn near the top that is EVIL). Following what appeared to be the most traveled path, we ended up in a nasty scree chute with a cliff at the bottom. Dunno, it's a mystery.

There's a huge amount of ground to cover--up and down, and the length of the ridge too. If you're not really comfortable soloing exposed 4th class (which generally means anything under 5.4), you're going to have a long day and/or get pretty sketched out.

A type-II fun day that I'd like to try again some time with more acclimation and maybe a partner who knows the descent.

EDIT: I am quoting from Chris D's linked TR above--this quote mirrors my experience exactly (I started calling every move, every feature, a 5.5 lieback):

'We saw a stuck nut and an old hex, but nary a piton, nor any sort of "lieback" section, though we did a couple of unnecessary liebacks and mantles just for good measure. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure we missed a good bit of what would be the "regular" route up the ridge, but we never got far below it. Also, don't be frustrated by references to "The Notch" as this refers to any one of a dozen or so notches and you'll rarely be sure of which one is being discussed anyway.'

Also quoted from the same TR, a description of the descent we used: 'One of these has a lot of foot-traffic going down it, but it's a sucker chute.' Sep 22, 2014
Flava Flav
Kirkland, Washington
Flava Flav   Kirkland, Washington
Attempted this weekend, snow remains in big flake tunnel thing. eventually we bailed against my better judgement to finish the route as a safer alternative. Ended at a pinnacle before the third tower after the big "flakes" on the left. We went right instead, traversing into a stiff short right leaning corner then easier ground. We made it down with a single 60m. 15 rappels starting with a low angle slab and down a varnished dihedral. Lots of scrambling, a nice reminder of the commitment of ridge climbing. Jun 22, 2016
Eduardo Ribeiro
Los Gatos, California
Eduardo Ribeiro   Los Gatos, California
I used super topo beta and had a good experience route finding.I parked at the overflow parking a little bit higher from the campground. It took me 9 hours car to car solo: 2hr approach, 3.5hr route and 3.5hr descent.

Leaving the main trail and crossing the stream was the hardest trail finding bit. I left the meysan lakes trail around 9400ft and followed a social trail backcountry. I bushwhacked a bit before the creek. Continued towards a tree ramp and went lower and around the green rock to reach the approach gully. I wonder if there is a more direct way through the green rock.

After getting to the main gully it was all straightforward, trying to stay on the ridge as much as possible.

I thought the most technical bits were after notch C towards the summit, where I choose to go straight up. I assume you could go around, but I just wanted to get to the summit at that point. Super topo said it was 3 pitches from Notch C to the summit, but I think there are more than that... who knows, maybe I was tired.

The descent gully had a ton of cairns. I dropped to the north side of the ridge a little earlier but cairns took me to the right descent spot. It's pretty obvious once you see. The scree surf was painful, as usual. Sep 6, 2016
Mike Esparza
Westminster, CA
Mike Esparza   Westminster, CA
We did this car to car in 20 friggin hours on 7/4/2017. It was a long exhausting day! The climbing is mellow and fun. We definitely go off route in some 5.8 territory but good gear everywhere. The climbing is easy... It is just a long endurance day. Be prepared to go all day if you are the average human. Jul 24, 2017
Los Osos, CA
richcobb   Los Osos, CA
Soloed this 8-26-2017. A great adventure climb. We also got off route into much harder than 5.5 territory. This happened because we were trying to follow the Supertopo beta more than just trusting our instincts. Supertopo isn't *wrong* here, but the same thing happened to a party we passed and we found lots of sign that others before us had made the same mistake.

RE beta for this route -- in our experience -- I would encourage you to trust your instincts. If it looks hard (steep, sustained, & >5.6) then it probably is, you're looking at a harder variation, and you're a little mixed up as to where you are relative to the supertopo description Sep 3, 2017
sean o
Northern, NM
sean o   Northern, NM
The Meysan Lakes drainage is *not* within the Mount Whitney Zone, so it is incorrect to say that access is limited on this route. Only the normal Inyo NF rules apply. Jan 12, 2018
On the net there are several sets of route descriptions, good pictures of 3 obvious towers, distinctive descriptions and landmarks for the important routefinding and technical challenges, a "giant flake", and a gully marked by a piton with a ring in it.
———> On our climb up, we never positively identified any landmark, not one. We could not find our way and aborted. On the way down, we saw dozens of examples of everything in pictures and guides (obvious summit erratic, crown-like decorations circling the tops of towers, distinctive notches, etc.) so such features are useless. Below we offer what we learned.

Our Climb and Issues:
We read that people started out from little Maysan Lake.
———> Later we were to find that little Maysan lake is more than a mile too far.

From camp below lake, we went straight to the cliff, found a system of ledges that matched the route description, and gained the ridge.
——> Because we were so far above where we should have been, we missed the approach notch. In fact, the cut from trail in toward the ridge to find the correct approach is marked by a GIGANTIC light green “throne-like” boulder, about 3 stories high. There is a faint trail from there that goes to the correct route up to ledges that ends up in a distinctive notch between the cliff and a fin of rock.
We didn't find this———> MISTAKE! Had we had any concern for an escape route back this way, we would have realized that from here there are SEVERAL RIDGES leading down from the main one, it's very easy to get lost trying to go back down if you don't know what the approach notch looks like.

We followed the route directions of when to go on the east and when to go on the west side of the ridge, it went OK, but had very little confidence we identified the correct tower, i.e. that we knew which was tower #1, #2, etc. The climbing was very easy, almost all traverse, so we simul-climbed.

We went down into a notch where the route description says there is a real 5th class pitch. This led up to the most distinctive landmark, by far, anywhere on the route or in vicinity. A very large rock fin parallel to a fin-like ridge top that made a fairly large corridor or slot between the two fins. There are numerous pictures of this on the web.
————> NOWHERE have I found a caption of the picture of this that tells you which F-*(&#@)$(*@)#(&-ing tower this is! The picture is even in supertopo, but again, not referenced to a tower number. Please, please message me if you know what tower this is on. I think a lot of people call this a "gigantic flake", which I just find confusing. summitpost.org/through-the-…? We did go below it, making our way down and around to the next notch. Here, the route description (Alois Smrz's) says take the lie-back 50 feet from the notch. The notch is very small, like 8 feet wide, so you cannot mistake distances from here. I found one mini-gully (Lieback???) located seven Paces from the notch, and another at a distance of 17 paces. We took the latter gully, found ONE piton with gray webbing on it. The route looked very unlikely, harder than 5.7 and unprotectable for some distance. It was late, we had no idea where we were, so we bailed and tried to reverse our route.
———> A number of people have gotten lost at this same point. I have to conclude that either we were completely on the wrong tower, or otherwise lost.

So, we turned around and got very lost coming off the ridge, now knowing you have to traverse a bit of a plateau between ridges, and you have to keep going down until you find the “approach notch”.

  • On the way up, confirm you find the giant green “throne-rock” well below the lake, and find approach notch. Note it's appearance and how to get back to it carefully. maybe a compass heading as you gain the ridge?
  • It would be great if someone would email me and tell me which tower the slot/corridor is on.
  • Anyone who could further explain how to get to the two pitons would really do a big service. How far is it from the notch, really, in 5'9" male paces?
  • We had studied the descent from the summit extensively, because we read so many horror stories. You should too, but just remember you may not get that far. Look at the picture on the net that says, “desperate wanderings”.

Thanks all, -Pirate. Jun 21, 2018
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Since I've received a few questions regarding the location of the crux:
From the apex of the notch between the first and second towers, head up fractured (but not chossy) rock angling up and right to reach the crux lie-back with pitons. The first tower is defined as the tower you bypass on the left after climbing through the giant leaning flake (mountainproject.com/photo/1…) then downclimbing. After this lieback step right to reach a spacious ledge. There's another lieback crack above the ledge (welded cam in it as of July 2018), but the wider (not 5.7) crack to the right is more secure especially if you're soloing.

Adding links to a few old photos I dug up showing the path up the second tower:
mountainproject.com/photo/1… Jun 22, 2018
Trad Princess
Not That Into Climbing
Trad Princess   Not That Into Climbing
Fossana, thanks for posting those pictures. It looks like he's actually maybe 20 feet this side of the start I always used for that pitch. You can see it in the lower right corner of the 2nd picture. It's likely the two paths converge before the fixed pin and the 2nd fixed .3 C4 lieback/OW options, because I remember the 2nd lieback clearly. Didn't have the thought to look farther right for something easier, though. That OW sounds much more friendly. Sep 11, 2018
Kyle McCrohan
Brier, WA
Kyle McCrohan   Brier, WA
We did this route 15 hrs car-to-car in early July with basically no beta other than that there were 3 towers to navigate. On the approach, I think we took a much lower route to the ridge on a nice sandy trail, ending up about 500 feet below the actual notch where the route starts, but easy scrambling took us up the ridge.

I've been confused which tower is actually the first tower, but looking back, I now believe that the first tower takes you up and then through the wide notch next to the massive 50 ft flake on your left. The second tower provides the crux, with some 5.7 layback protected by pins, but there's probably an easier way around. We went up the left side of the summit tower, which was easy.

Used a light 30 m rope, 3 cams, tricams, and nuts and this was the perfect rack for simuling and short pitches. Definitely an incredible route and super fun if you're into moving fast. If you pitch out everything, expect a long time. Sep 13, 2018