OverviewEvery now and again, one can peruse a map and have one's imagination stirred by a place name.
Located along the Silver Divide in the central/western Sierra, two miles southeast of the divide's namesake peak (the SPS Listed but far more boring Silver Peak), Graveyard Peak--along with its namesake lakes to the east--is just such a place. Needless to say, simply having a cool name isn't necessarily the best reason to visit a peak. But what does make a good reason is the thoroughly enjoyable scrambling to be found here.
The peak consists of a ridge running north to south; the 7.5' places the benchmark at the southern end (11,494'), but the northern end is noticeably higher (11,520'+). Separating the two summits is an excellent and at times airy knife edge.
The named point is an easy climb from Graveyard Lakes or Devils Bathtub, no more than class 2, but the high point is a third class scramble by its easiest route. The traverse along the summit ridge between the two summits is exposed class 3 with a couple of class 4 sections, all on superb rock, and is highly recommended. A climb of the northeast ridge is also interesting third class, and makes for an enjoyable descent after traversing the summit ridge. (Please consult the route page for details on these climbs from Graveyard Lakes). The summit block is an amazingly airy pinnacle, literally no more than 1' by 1' on top--just room enough for one climber to perch (nervously, perhaps) up there at a time! It is most easily climbed via a subsidiary block and steep flakes on its south side. At one time, there was reportedly a register up here, but this seemed to be long gone in October 2005.
A traverse between Silver Peak and Graveyard Peak along the crest of the Silver Divide also looks interesting and doable, but it would be time-consuming. I've found no information on this traverse. Much of the ridge is an exposed knife edge, and several towers and gendarmes appear to block progress when viewed from Graveyard Peak. It might be wise to bring along a rope if/when attempting this project.
The peak is most easily reached out of Lake Thomas Edison. Follow the driving directions on climber.org to the Mono Creek trailhead. In short, take SR168 east through Shaver Lake to its end at Lake Huntington. Turn right here on the paved, winding Kaiser Pass road, and follow the signs to Lake Edison. The trailhead is located past the Vermilion Resort, at the west end of the lake.
From the Mono Creek trailhead, follow the Goodale Pass trail to Upper Graveyard Meadow. A signed junction at the meadow leads up to the lowest of the Graveyard Lakes, from where a good use trail continues to the largest lake in the basin. Cross-country travel is easy from here to the small lakes east of the peak.
The peak can also be approached by following the popular Devils Bathtub trail. This is shorter and presumably quicker, but misses out on the scenic Graveyard Lakes.
Red TapeThe peak lies in the John Muir Wilderness, and is consequently subject to the usual wilderness red tape. A permit is required for overnight stays, camping is prohibited within 100ft of water, and campfires are prohibited above 10,000ft. Contact the Sierra National Forest for further information and to obtain permits.
During the summer months, in addition to the ranger station along SR168 in Prather, permits can also be picked up from the High Sierra Visitor Center along Kaiser Pass Road.
When To ClimbThe peak is most easily--and quite likely only ever--climbed when Kaiser Pass Road is open to Lake Thomas Edison, typically June through October in most years. In principle, a winter approach is possible from the east out of Mammoth Lakes via Duck Pass, but it would be abominably long.
The approach via Graveyard Lakes crosses Cold Creek in several places. One of these uses a good log crossing, but the others require boulder hopping that could be difficult--if not downright unpleasant--in early season.
Camping and LodgingGraveyard Lakes are a popular backcountry camping spot.
Car camping is available at the Vermilion campground, adjacent to the trailhead. Rustic lodging is also available at the Vermilion Valley Resort (559-259-4000). Rooms have beds, showers, refrigerators, and microwaves--although the resort's generator is turned off overnight! Reservations are likely needed well in advance on weekends; the resort has only four rooms, and they tend to be booked solid during the busy summer months. There is also a restaurant and store at the resort, but selections are limited (one or two choices on the menu each night) and expensive.
Mountain ConditionsNWS Forecast.
Sierra National Forest Recreation Report - High Sierra Ranger District Recreation Report.
Etymology"'Some Portugese sheepmen operated like a gypsy outfit, refusing to recognize the agreed-upon boundaries of the various sheep ranges. The other sheepherders tried to drive them out, but without success. They [the Portugese] were shot in the back while cooking their supper in camp.' (Leo Porterfield, taped interview, INF archives.) Only 'Graveyard Meadows' was on the Mt. Goddard 30' map, 1912. The peak, lakes and meadows were on the 15-minute map. On the Graveyard Peak quad the meadows become singular."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
- climber.org trip reports
- Photo - Graveyard Peak summit ridge
- Photo - Graveyard Peak from Graveyard Lakes