OverviewThe attraction of Columbine Peak lies in the outstanding view of the Western aspect of the Palisades which its summit commands. Indeed, Columbine Peak lies just to the West of Mount Winchell, Thunderbolt Peak, Starlight Peak, and North Palisade, and the summits of each of these peaks is visible from the summit. Climbing Columbine is relatively easy, although it would require outstanding routefinding skills to avoid class 3 rock. This peak being relatively inconspicuous and the approach being somewhat lengthy, it does not seem to be climbed very often. There is no summit logbook. The summit block, while trivial to climb, is an impressive overhanging outcropping of rock with big air on three sides.
Another interesting bit of information was provided to me by SSSdave: "I believe the peak is the only named one west of the crest in the southern Eastern Sierra from Owens Valley areas that can be seen from US395. Otherwise all other peaks are hidden behind the crest. Columbine Peak is visible near the top of the northbound lanes as one is driving up the volcanic tablelands on the Sherwin Grade. At the point the highway turns westward there is a signed dirt spur road off to the right that provides access to Owen River Gorge. Where it first rises up from the highway cut is a good place to take out binoculars and check this out. The reason Columbine is visible is that from that point it is directly in line with lower Bishop Pass. Once can work out the trigonometry from that point on the map to prove it does indeed poke up.
I've climbed the peak myself with a group via the erete from Knapsack. On that same afternoon in 1986 after the descent, I took the image that is the summitpost title page image for Isosceles Peak."
See David's photo of Columbine and his great photo of nearby Isosceles Peak here.
In response to SSSdave, there is another opinion from rmac10: "Junction Peak 13,888 ft. is visible from Hwy 395... a peak west of the Sierra Crest, on the Kings-Kern Divide."
Getting ThereDrive to Bishop (CA) and then to South Lake; hike over Bishop Pass and into Dusy Basin. Descend for 200 feet below Bishop pass and turn left cross-country, skirting Mount Agassiz and Mount Winchell (pay attention not to stay too high, to avoid talus). Cross Thunderbolt Pass into the Palisade Basin, where you can set up a base camp. Skirt Peak 12,548 and head for the pass separating Isosceles Peak from Columbine Peak. This is the Northeast ridge of Columbine, a pleasant, class 2-3 climb over stable talus and boulders.
Red TapeOvernight wilderness permits are required at all times, and both both Bishop Pass and the North Fork of Big Pine Creek have use quotas in effect from May 1 to November 1. Permits can be obtained from the ranger stations in Lee Vining, Bishop or Lone Pine. If under quotas, make reservations is advance. More information can be found at the Inyo National Forest Visitor Center.
Fires are not allowed in the area.
When To ClimbColumbine Peak can be climbed at any time of year, but summer is, as always, easier.
CampingCamping is allowed in the wilderness - but with a permit. There are outstanding spots for camps close to Columbine in the Palisade Basin. See the red tape section above.
Mountain ConditionsCheck www.395.com for current conditions, or call the Inyo National Forest Rangers at (760) 873-2400 for conditions. Daily report are available at the ranger station.
Another nice source for weather data is Howard Sheckter's webpage out of Mammoth Lakes.
- Romain Wacziarg's Columbine Peak Page
Photos of a Columbine Peak ascent, September 2001.
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