Welcome to SP!  -
Basin Mountain
Mountains & Rocks
Mountains & Rocks
Mountains & Rocks

Basin Mountain

Basin Mountain

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.29700°N / 118.658°W

Object Title: Basin Mountain

Elevation: 13240 ft / 4036 m


Page By: Misha

Created/Edited: Apr 23, 2004 / Feb 15, 2006

Object ID: 152557

Hits: 23950 

Page Score: 90.47%  - 32 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote



Basin Mountain is a huge peak that dominates the Eastern Sierra landscape above Bishop. It is clearly visible from Owens Valley, and is surrounded by such fine mountains as Mount Humphreys on the southwest, Four Gables on the west and Mount Tom on the north. It is infrequently climbed and is arguably more popular among backcountry skiers than climbers due to its enormous East Couloir that is snow covered until early summer. Not surprisingly, it was first climbed by the legendary Sierra pioneer Norman Clyde. As of today, there are two known routes to the summit:

Name Difficulty First Ascent Party and Year
North Slope Class 2 Norman Clyde, 1930
East Couloir Class 4 Dick Beach and Dave King, 1974

Getting There

The most common approach to both established routes on the mountain is from the east. Take HWY 168 west from the center of Bishop. Proceed approximately 7 1/2 miles and turn right onto Buttermilk Road. At this point, the asphalt on the road is replaced by dirt, although still passable by a 2wd low-clearance vehicle. Stay on Buttermilk Road as it takes you through beautiful Buttermilk Country and famous Buttermilk boulders. The road quality will worsen as you approach the base of the Sierra. If you intend to make it all the way to the trailhead by vehicle, you will want to bring a sturdy high-clearance 4wd. Continue on Buttermilk Road past several forks and turn-outs. When in doubt, take a more traveled right fork. At some point, you will reach the marked intersection of Buttermilk Road and the Horton Lakes trailhead road. Turn right here and follow it for another mile until it reaches a small dead tree forest. If it was challenging for your vehicle to get to this point, you may want to leave it here and hike the final half a mile to the Horton Lakes trailhead. If you are confident in your 4wd beast, continue driving on the rapidly deteriorating road for a little longer until you reach the locked gate. From here you can either walk west towards the base of East Couloir, or follow the jeep road / trail to Horton Lakes to reach the North Slope route.

If you are hoping to climb this fine peak during heavy snow months, be prepared to leave your vehicle along Buttermilk Road and hike for a couple of miles to the trailhead. The road is not plowed, and can be impassable if conditions are bad.

Red Tape

No permits are required if you climb the mountain from the east side. The Horton Lakes trail does have a quota. From davidkiene and PellucidWombat: "A wilderness permit is required for all overnight stays in the Horton Creek drainage from May 1 through November 1, and there is a quota. To find out more about getting a permit, check the Inyo National Forest website."

When To Climb

Basin Mountain can be climbed year-round. During the winter months, East Couloir would be a preferred way due to its shorter approach and wonderful skiing possibilities. During the summer months, one may opt for the non-technical and less steep North Slope route. If you choose to climb this mountain in winter conditions, watch out for the many avalanche-prone slopes and gullies.


Some basic camping is available near the Horton Lakes trailhead. If you are planning to climb the mountain over multiple days, you can either camp at Horton Lakes (North Slope) or in the abandoned mine tunnel at the base of East Couloir. The mentioned mine tunnel is a fantastic bivy spot, located at approximately 10,500'. It has enough space to fit 9-10 people with comfort, and even has a small backcountry kitchen area. If you are climbing East Couloir and planning to spend a night in the mine tunnel, leave your tent at home - it won't be needed!

Mountain Conditions

Check out the Bishop Broncos webcam for a fine view of Basin Mountain and Mount Tom!

Current Weather Conditions:

Click for Bishop, California Forecast

External Links

Additions and Corrections

[ Post an Addition or Correction ]
Viewing: 1-2 of 2    
Andy HyslopUntitled Comment

Andy Hyslop

Hasn't voted

Did a great run around these peaks in 2003. There is a free PDF topo available here. http://www.rockfax.com/publications/miniguides/item.php?id=54
Posted Nov 29, 2005 5:45 pm
beckybasin mountain from horton lakes

Hasn't voted

what a great hike! Worth it and a must do. It is a grind up from the last little lake but the flowers and views make it fabulous! a couple of snow crossings up high, but kick step through it no problem.
Posted Jul 7, 2014 3:17 pm

Viewing: 1-2 of 2    


Sierra Wave above the slopes...Mt. Humphreys and Basin Mtn. from Grouse Mtn.Sierra NevadaSierra Wave above the eastern...Mike is admiring the sunrise...Mt. Humphreys and Basin Mtn. from Buttermilk CountryBasin Mountain (left) and...
Etsuko and Samantha are on...The southeast shoulder of...North CouloirsHalf way up East Couloir of...Sam Mills is about to climb...Clearing storm, Bishop High SierraSierra from Buttermilk Hill
[ View Gallery - 103 More Images ]