OverviewA fine peak on the Sierra Crest, above the city of Independence. Class 2. Routes are closed seasonaly due to Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep.
According to Place Names of the High Sierra (1926)
by Francis P. Farquhar Mt. Baxter was named "Probably for John Baxter, a rancher in Owens Valley. First ascent by George R. Davis, U.S.G.S., 1905."
Good News! According to Debbie Bulger's trip report on the easiest route, the southwest slope from Baxter Lake - "The route is closed only from July 1 to December 15 and not year-round as formerly was the case."
Getting ThereFor the approach from the South-East (Baxter Pass Trailhead) go about 2.3 miles North of Independence on US 395, and turn East towards the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. Go up about 1.3 miles just past the hatchery,and take the right (north) fork of the road , along the North Fork of Oak Creek, about another 3.6 miles to Baxter Pass Trailhead. See driving directions at
http://www.climber.org/DrivingDirections/BaxterPass.html. The trailhead is at almost 6000 ft. altitude.
For the approach from the north (Sawmill Pass) see driving directions at http://www.climber.org/DrivingDirections/sawmill.html
and a trip report at http://www.climber.org/TripReports/1998/385.html The route up the North Ridge from Sawmill pass can be class 2 if you know the way, class 3 if you don't, with a lot of loose rock (see the picture on the right). There are other routes on the north slopes from Sawmill Lake or Stocking Lake.
You can also approach Baxter Pass or Sawmill pass from the John Muir Trail.
Red TapeWilderness permit required. Climbing Mt. Baxter is only allowed from Dec. 15 to July 1(?) Due to the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. Info on permits is given at
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/wild/otheravail.shtml. Trail quota is 8 per day at the Baxter Pass Trail, or 10 per day at Sawmill Pass Trail, see JOHN MUIR WILDERNESS at the Trailhead Quotas page.
When To ClimbMay or June. Prohibited July through mid-December due to the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. Snow could make it difficult.
CampingBaxter Pass Trailhead - Sleep on the ground at the parking area. There's an outhouse there, amongst the trees. Oak Creek (Forest Service) campgound is a couple of miles down the road from the trailhead. See http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/campgrounds.shtml
Mountain ConditionsFor trail conditions, try the rangers in Lone Pine or Bishop - see http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/conditions/south_report.html
Mt. Whitney Ranger Station
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
Open year-round, but only staffed spring through fall
Highway 395 at the south end of Lone Pine
White Mountain Ranger Station
798 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Open all year, Monday-Friday in winter
InterAgency Visitor Center--Lone Pine
Lone Pine, CA 93545
Intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 136
Open all year
See Experimental Gridpoint Forecast for Mt. Baxter Coordinates
www.esavalanche.org - Eastern Sierra Avalanche Conditions - see Advisories, Incidents, and Observations.
Daily synopsis of Eastern Sierra/Owens Valley weather is posted at highsierratopix Sierra Nevada Weather Headquarters.
Calif. Dept. of Water:
Current Snow Pack data for Owens Valley Drainages
Misc. LinksSee more pictures at
See the SPS archive of Baxter trip reports at
http://angeles.sierraclub.org/sps/archives/spsa0001.htm#B and more trip reports on climber.org
The Kearsarge Peak 7.5 Minute Quadrangle is available as a 15.38 Megabyte tiff file at http://gis.ca.gov/casil/gis.ca.gov/drg/7.5_minute_series_albers_nad27_untrimmed/36118/o36118g3.tif
This map show Mt. Baxter as an unlabeled 4000m+ peak about 0.9 km east of Acrodectes Peak. Baxter is westernmost of the two 4000m+ summits on a small summit plateau.
To approach from Sawmill pass, you would also want the Aberdeen quad at http://gis.ca.gov/casil/gis.ca.gov/drg/7.5_minute_series_albers_nad27_untrimmed/36118/o36118h3.tif
"Enhanced" versions of both the above maps are available at http://langenbacher.org/Maps/
An artificial aerial view of Mt. Baxter, looking east is at http://geogdata.csun.edu/sierraweb/sierra_nevada-Pages/Image83.html
Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep"The wild sheep ranks highest among the animal mountaineers... Their feeding grounds are among the most beautiful of the wild gardens, bright with wild daisies and gentians and mats of purple bryanthus.… Here they feast all summer, the happy wanderers, perhaps relishing the beauty as well as the taste of the lovely flora on which they feed."
John Muir "The Wild Sheep" 1881
Mt. Baxter is one of the more important habitats for the endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. Baxter is in a "California Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area", as shown here. The eastern slopes are closed from July 1st through December 15th, each year. The western slopes (and Acrodectes Pk.) used to be closed all year, but more recently has closing dates to match the eastern slopes, 7/1 - 12/15.
I have read that "Sierra Nevada Bighorn are rarer than the Florida Panther, and rarer than the California Condor. They are clearly one of the most endangered mammals of North America."
You can read something about them at http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/1999/3/sierrabighornsheep.cfm , http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ocal/archives/bighorn_sheep_jf04.pdf, or at http://www.sierrabighorn.org/ .
The US Fish and Wildlife Service "Final Recovery Plan for the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep" of Feb. 13, 2008, is here. They do consider the Bighorns to be seriously endangered, but they make these statements which would be of interest to mountain climbers:
Actions to ameliorate the effects of human/recreational use were not given high priority in this plan because we do not currently consider recreational use, including the activities of dogs, a significant threat to Sierra Nevada bighorn. If information indicating recreational use is having an effect on recovery becomes available, appropriate actions will be recommended.
Although we recognize the potential of recreation to impact bighorn sheep, these impacts seem to be minor. However, the recovery plan calls for continued monitoring of the compatibility between recreational use of bighorn sheep habitat and bighorn sheep recovery.