Black Mountain(South) is located in the Bighorn Sheep region of Baxter Pass. Due to its location it recieves fewer visitors than many other major peaks, since the climbing season is only open from December 15th-July 1st(subject to change). The Bighorns that once roamed the area were decimated by the introduction of domestic sheep in the 19th century, and are slowly making a comeback. Thus legal climbing season on this peak is limited, and the restrictions should be respected.
Black Mountain can be approached from many different sides. There are class 2 routes from Parker Lakes(South), Ray Lakes(South and West), Diamond Peak(North), and Mt Mary Austin(Northeast). Many variations may be followed, also during the open climbing season, many of these routes are long snow climbs with changing difficulty depending on conditions.
The mountain may be approached from several sides, the most direct route is from the Baxter Pass Trailhead just North of Independence. To reach this trailhead take 395 to a few miles North of the town of Independence. Turn off onto Oak Creek Road, bare left at the first split in the road, and head toward the Oak Creek Campground. At the campground you will turn off onto a dirt road(that is usually well maintained) and follow this until you reach the trailhead. From the trailhead, the trail climbs up the canyon very steadily, crossing the creek several times, and finally bringing you to the basin below Baxter Pass(approx 6miles). From here the North and Northeast climbs of Black Mountain begin.
The mountain may also be reached from the Rae Lakes Basin and the Parker Lakes Basin(both usually reached from Onion Valley).
Permits to dayhike the area during the normal climbing season are not required. Overnight permits can be obtained(usually very easily) from any of the Inyo National Forest Stations, in Lone Pine and Bishop. The mountain is closed to climbing from July 16th to November 30th due to the Bighorn Sheep regulations.
Mt. Whitney Ranger Station
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
White Mountain Ranger Station
798 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Inyo National Forest
When To Climb
The mountain is most often climbed between April and July, when snow is present at higher elevations, but does not impede the approach as much. Earlier in the season longer approaches in winter conditions would be required, and climbing is illegal out of season(between July 2nd and December 14th).
During most of the legal climbing season much snow remains on and around the mountain. Ice axe and crampons are required most of the time, and during heavier snow times, snowshoes may be required on the approach. Trekking poles and pants are recommended for the approach up Baxter Pass Trail(which is a bushwack with several fast stream crossings).
The Oak Creek Campground(below the TH) has running water and toilets, but there is a fee per campsite, per night. Camping is also permitted at the Baxter Pass Trailhead, which has a pit toilet and several small shaded sites. Water is accessed via Oak Creek(no clean running water) and there are NO bear boxes at the trailhead. There is no fee for camping at the trailhead, and camping is allowed anywhere on the mountain, as long as it is within the forest service rules.