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Mount Pinchot

 
Mount Pinchot

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 36.94730°N / 118.4054°W

Object Title: Mount Pinchot

Elevation: 13495 ft / 4113 m

 

Page By: marmoting

Created/Edited: Jun 29, 2005 / Jun 30, 2005

Object ID: 154288

Hits: 10383 

Page Score: 82.48%  - 15 Votes 

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Overview


Mt. Pinchot is a relatively remote Sierra Nevada peak, lying less than a mile northeast of Pinchot Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail, and about a mile west of the Sierra Crest. Its distance from major trailheads ensures that climbers will enjoy solitude on its summit. Pinchot’s main attraction for most climbers is its inclusion on the Peaks List of the Sierra Club’s Sierra Peaks Section. In light of that, most climbers on Mt Pinchot also try to bag Mt Wynne since that peak lies only 2/3 of a mile to the south.

Pinchot would still be a worthwhile objective even if it weren’t on the SPS list. The three possible approach hikes are all quite scenic. The peak has quite interesting class 3 climbing on its ridges. It is the highest peak for a nearly 20 mile stretch of the Sierras from University Peak on the south to Split Mt on the north. It also has outstanding views from its summit.

The mountain itself is an interesting mixture of rock types, resulting in a colorful blend of whites, grays, reds, yellows and browns. The mountain has four main ridges approximately aligned with the four cardinal directions. The north ridge ties into the Sierra Crest and is probably little used by peak baggers. The south ridge connects Pinchot with Mt Wynne and provides a class 3 route for climbers hoping to bag both summits. The west ridge provides a class 3 route for climbers approaching from Taboose Pass. The east ridge provides a class 2 route for climbers approaching from Armstrong Canyon or Sawmill Pass, and is probably the easiest way up the mountain. The faces in between the ridges can also be climbed, but their slopes all exceed 40 degrees. A chute on the southwest face is a commonly used alternate to the west ridge.

Getting There


There are 3 routes that can be used to approach Mt Pinchot from Owens Valley: Armstrong Canyon, Taboose Pass, and Sawmill Pass.

Armstrong Canyon - 9 miles round trip with 5000 ft total climb

Although the Armstrong Canyon hike to Pinchot is by far the shortest, it is probably the least used because its trailhead is little known and has a reputation for being difficult to reach. In reality, the road to the trailhead is not bad at all by mining road standards. A competent and confident driver could probably drive it in a normal passenger car that had reasonable clearance, though the drive would be less stressful in a high clearance 4WD. The most negative aspect of the road is its almost unrelenting narrowness. The driver should keep track of all points where it is possible to turn around and constantly scan for opposing traffic. The thought of having to back up a long way on a narrow track with steep drop-offs is what makes this road mentally stressful.

As of May 2005 the Armstrong Canyon road was blocked by rockfall ¾ mile from its end. It is unknown when, if ever, the road will be cleared. Unless you have knowledge that the road has been cleared, it is best to park at the 4-way junction 1.1 miles from the end. Having to back up 1/3 mile from the rockfall is just not worth the hiking it saves you. Motorcycles, and possibly, narrow wheelbase vehicles can be maneuvered through the rockfall, however.

Driving directions:

On Hwy 395, drive 8.5 miles north from Independence, or 18 miles south from Big Pine to the intersection of Black Rock Spring Road and turn west. All of the following mileages are with respect to this intersection. Allow about 1 hour to drive from Hwy 395 to the trailhead.
  • At 0.8 miles turn right on Tinemaha Road.

  • At 2.0 miles turn left onto Division Creek Road.

  • At 5.5 miles turn right at junction.

  • At 6.2 miles pass by campsites at Scotty Spring. If you are unsure of your car’s ability to handle the mining road, park here. Add 10 miles round trip to the hiking distance and 3000 feet to the total climb if you start here.

  • At 10.0 miles you come to a 3-way split. Take the middle track if you are on a motorcycle or know for sure the rockfall has been cleared from the road 1/3 mile ahead. Take the rightmost track and park otherwise. Add 2 miles round trip to the hiking distance and 500 feet to the total climb if you start here.

  • At 10.7 miles turn left at junction.

  • At 11.1 miles arrive at trailhead at 8600 ft.
Hiking directions:

This hike is entirely cross country and is described in the Pinchot East Ridge route description.

Taboose Pass - 26 miles round trip with 9500 ft total climb

The road to the Taboose Pass trailhead is rather rocky towards its end, but most cars with reasonable clearance should be able to make it if driven carefully.

Driving directions:

On Hwy 395, drive 14 miles north from Independence, or 12 miles south from Big Pine to the intersection of Taboose Creek Road and turn west. All of the following mileages are with respect to this intersection.
  • At 1.7 miles turn right at junction. Drive straight through all junctions passed up to this point.

  • At 3.7 miles keep right at junction. Also, keep right at any junctions passed since the junction at 1.7 miles.

  • At 5.6 miles arrive at trailhead at 5400 ft.
Hiking directions:

Grind your way 8 miles up the merciless trail to Taboose Pass at 6000 feet above the trailhead. Descend about a mile on the other side of the pass to a split in the trail. Take the left trail down another 1.5 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. You will have lost 700 feet in getting to this point that you will have to make up on both the inbound and outbound portions of the hike.

Hike 1.5 miles south on the PCT until just past Lake Marjorie. Head up the drainage toward Pinchot here if the West Ridge route is your goal. Continue another 1.5 miles on the PCT to Pinchot Pass if Mt Wynne and Pinchot’s South Ridge route are your goals.

Sawmill Pass - 35 miles round trip with 11000 ft total climb

The Sawmill Pass trailhead is the easiest one to reach, but you pay for that ease of access with a very low starting point and a very long hike.

Driving directions:

On Hwy 395, drive 8.5 miles north from Independence, or 18 miles south from Big Pine to the intersection of Black Rock Spring Road and turn west. All of the following mileages are with respect to this intersection.
  • At 0.8 miles turn right on Tinemaha Road.

  • At 2.0 miles turn left onto Division Creek Road.

  • At 4.0 miles park at trailhead on left side of road at 4600 ft.
Hiking directions:

Climb 10 miles up the trail to Sawmill Pass at 6700 feet above the trailhead. Descend 1000 feet in 3.5 miles on the other side of the pass to the PCT. Head north on the PCT for a little over 2 miles until reaching a stream descending from a valley to the east of Mt Wynne. Ascend this valley if Pinchot’s East Ridge route is your goal. Continue up the PCT another 2 miles to Pinchot Pass if Mt Wynne’s west ridge and Pinchot’s south ridge are your goals.

Red Tape


All the normal wilderness regulations apply to all three approach hikes, meaning you’ll need a permit for any overnight trip.

The Sawmill Pass trail has additional restrictions since it passes through the California Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area. Cross-country travel south of the trail is restricted by absolutely Byzantine rules. If you want to climb something to the south of the trail on your way to Pinchot, contact the Mt. Whitney or White Mountain Ranger Stations to find out if it is allowed at the time you want to do it. In addition, the rules state you must leave your dogs and goats at home (but you can bring your horses and monkeys). Also, you’ll need an officially sanctioned bear-proof food canister to camp between Sawmill Pass and the PCT from about Memorial Day weekend until Oct. 31.

The regulations get more convoluted and restrictive every year, so check with the ranger stations to find out what new hoops you’ll have to jump through.

When To Climb


Due to its remoteness, the mountain is usually climbed when snow is not too great an obstacle, generally from May until October.

Camping


There is no trailhead quota for Armstrong Canyon, so there should be no problem getting a backcountry permit. The stream in the canyon is seasonal, so you may have to carry in all of your water if you plan to camp there very long after all of the snow has melted. This possibility tends to persuade most climbers to either dayhike or climb early in the season.

The Taboose Pass trail has a quota of 10 people/day from May 1 to Nov. 1, with 6 slots reservable and 4 held back for walk-ins. The days when all the reservable slots have been filled are shown here. The trail traverses steep, rocky, desolate terrain over much of its climb to the pass, so it is best to try to camp at the pass or on the west side if possible. The route travels through pretty meadows and past scenic lakes on the other side of the pass.

The Sawmill Pass trail also has a quota of 10 people/day from May 1 to Nov. 1, with 6 slots reservable and 4 held back for walk-ins. The days when all the reservable slots have been filled are shown here. The route passes a number of scenic lakes on the way to Pinchot, starting with Mule and Sawmill Lakes on the east side of the pass. The lakes in the upper Woods Creek drainage are very scenic, but you’ll need to bring a bear canister to camp there. The basin below Mt Wynne is also lake-filled and scenic.

Mountain Conditions


Current temperature and snow depth at 11,200 ft near Bishop Pass, 14 miles northwest of Mt Pinchot.

National Weather Service forecast for Mt Pinchot.

Contact the Mt. Whitney or White Mountain Ranger Stations for info on trail conditions.

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