OverviewFirst climbed by Norman Clyde in 1925, North Guard is an impressive, remote peak located half a mile north of Mt. Brewer in Kings Canyon National Park. The peak has the misfortune of being a couple of hundred feet lower than Mt. Brewer, but it's a worthy objective in its own right, with some fine scrambling: By its easiest route, the peak is class 3 with careful route-finding. Brewer is by far the more popular peak, but North Guard is the better climb, and must not be missed if you're in the area! As superb as the scrambling is, the summit block is particularly noteworthy: a 10-foot granite fin that protudes over the sheer east face.
The usual route climbs the south side of the peak; this is class 3 or 4 depending on the exact route chosen. The NE side of the peak is rated class 4.
Getting ThereNorth Guard is most easily reached out of Cedar Grove via the Avalanche Pass trail and Sphinx Col, a popular cross-country route. Driving directions to Cedar Grove are found on climber.org. The hike to Sphinx Col is the same approach as used for Mt. Brewer's NW Slopes (and both peaks are typically climbed together in the same trip), so please consult that page for more detailed directions.
Red TapeAll the usual Sequoia-Kings Canyon red tape applies; see the NPS pages for details. A wilderness permit is required for overnight camping; this may be obtained from the ranger cabin at the Roads End trailhead. Bear cannisters are required for food storage for those camping.
Entry to the parks costs $20; the fee is good for seven days. The usual NPS yearly park passes are also accepted ($30 for Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP only, $50 to cover all national parks).
When To ClimbBecause of difficulty of access during winter months (Highway 180 to Cedar Grove is closed from the first snowfall in November until typically mid-April), the peak is generally climbed only during the summer months (July-Oct).
CampingBackcountry camping is found along Sphinx Creek; several lakes along the way are popular campsites. Camping is also possible in Brewer Basin by the small tarn below Sphinx Col.
For those wishing to camp at the trailhead, be advised that rogue camping in Kings Canyon is somewhat problematic compared to Yosemite and other places in the Sierra. There are few good spots where one can camp without attracting unwanted attention, much traffic throughout the evening, and my only attempt at this ended in my being rousted and written up by an unfriendly ranger. Better, free camping is found along Highway 180 outside the park on USFS land. A particularly good option is found at Cherry Gap, a short way north of McGee Vista Point; head west along a good dirt road for a little under a mile to some sandy, shaded spots. Steve Eckert's directions on climber.org are helpful for locating this spot.
Mountain ConditionsThe park can be contacted at (559) 565 3341, although the usefulness of any beta from rangers on conditions is suspect at best. (That's being polite; a number of them appear to never venture far from their cars).
For weather information, the NWS Forecast tends to be the most reliable source for the Sierra.
Etymology"'North Guard' and 'South Guard' were named by Lt. Milton F. Davis; they are on his map of 1896. (LeConte, Alpina, 10.) The mountain and creek are named on the first Mt. Whitney 30' map, 1907. The lake was named in 1956 by J. Hoganson, a field-man for the USGS."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada