Peak 3,244m is the small reddish ridge just left of the white ridge, in front of colorful Mt. Morrison. Cloverleaf Lake in foreground
Peak 3,244m is the small peak on the far left of Laurel Mtn. and Convict Lake
One of my strategies for Sierra photography was to ascend the often unnamed piles of rocks that neighbor larger more famous and dramatic peaks. Many times this paid off with good photos of peaks from rarely seen angles. Before each trip I always previewed the larger and smaller peaks in an area to determine accessibility and photographic potential.. That is how I found Peak 3,244m in the middle of Convict Creek Basin. I'm surprised that a topo map even recognizes this relatively insignificant peak by labeling it with its elevation. There's no summit register, and bagging it won't score you any "Sierra Challenge" points. The ascent via the easiest route can hardly be considered technically or physically challenging, but if outstanding scenery is the category, this small colorful pile of rocks gets my nomination for the best of the Sierra. On my two trips to Convict Basin, I've probably been up on this ridge 5 or 6 times at various times of day to get the best light in different directions.
Lake Mildred and Red Slate Peak from Peak 3,244m.
Lake Dorothy and Red Slate Peak from just sw of Peak 3,244m.
More than 500 million years ago, before any of the Sierra was formed, the area that would become what many call "the most beautiful mountains in the world" was under the Pacific Ocean accumulating sediments that eroded off of the western edge of the North American continent. Perhaps shifting ocean currents caused alternating red and white layers in the sediments. Then suddenly (on the geologic time scale) a new rift zone, the East Pacific Rise, opened west of this area. The compression generated on the east side of this ridge caused the plate to split in two, with the Farallon Plate subducting under the western edge of the North American Plate. As typically happens in these subduction zones, the molten rock from the subducted plate rises through the upper plate and, if it reaches the surface, forms volcanos or lava flows,(as in most of the northern Sierra) or, if it doesn't, as in is the case in most of the southern Sierra, cools and forms granitic plutons beneath and within the sediments of the upper layer. On the way up, heat from the molten rock liquefies and incorporates the closest surrounding rock, but other nearby rocks are just plasticized (metamorphosed) by the heat and pushed around by the magma. In the highest Sierra most of these metamorphosed sediments have eroded away revealing the granite plutons, but in some places, such as Convict Creek Basin, there are very colorful metamorphic remnants.
Looking up Convict Canyon to Mildred Lake and Red Slate Mtn. from the east buttress of Peak 3,244m. Note the Convict Creek Trail traversing low in the canyon.
When viewed from the west or when standing on the ridge itself, the rocks the tan to reddish color that is common throughout the basin. But when viewed from the east on the west flank of Mt. Morrison, the steep and colorful eastern face of Peak 3244m, revealed by the glacier that once scoured Convict Canyon, becomes apparent.
Lake Genevieve and Bloody Mtn. from Peak 3,244m.
Route Map up Peak 3,224m
I'm sure there are technical climbing routes on the east side of this peak but the metamorphic rocks in this area are typically loose. The north and west slopes are class 2. I took the easy route that follows trail most of the way. As with many Sierra hikes, and thanks to the corrupt policy regulating pack animals, the beginning of the hike starting at the Convict Lake Trail Head (elev 7,600 ft) is a quite unpleasant hike on an eroded trail strewn with horse feces and urine. Fortunately the scenery, featuring Convict Lake, Laurel Mtn., and Mt. Morrison's dramatic north face, is spectacular and the trail hazards get less frequent the further you go. At the south end of Convict Lake the trail climbs with a few switchbacks and enters Convict Canyon between Mt . Morrison and the Sevenhah Cliffs on Laurel Mtn. For the next five miles the trail rises 2,000 feet in the canyon that cuts through bizarrely twisted layers of metamorphic rocks colored red, orange, white, brown, and even some green and yellow. There is one stream crossing that can be difficult in early season when the stream is high. At Mildred Lake (9,700 ft) just below treeline, the canyon opens into a basin of scenic glacial lakes including : Bright Dot, Dorothy, Genevieve, Edith, Mildred and Cloverleaf. Use trails and easy cross-country routes interconnect the lakes. The basin is surrounded by colorfully named peaks including White Fang, Red Slate Mtn., and Bloody Mtn.
At Mildred Lake the main trail goes counterclockwise around the lake (a clockwise trail also exists) and then makes a diagonal ascent of a scree slope up to Lake Dorothy. From here the trail turns north and heads over a small rise before descending to Lake Genevieve. A small flat, with open woodland, marks the highpoint. Departing from the trail at this pass and heading northeast about 300 yards brings you to the base of the 300 yd long ridge that runs NW to SE. A quick scramble, with a 250 ft gain, up the scree and the views in all directions open up.
Twisted sediments on Mt. Morrison's west flank from Peak 3,224m
To the east is the colorful west flank of Mt. Morrison including one set of incredibly contorted metamorphic hornfels sediments. To the south are Mildred Lake and Lake Dorothy with Red Slate Peak as a backdrop. To the east is Bloody Mtn. with beautiful Lake Genevieve in the foreground.
Camping, Red Tape, Logistics
Because it is one of the few north-south canyons in the Sierra, it is often quite windy in this area, so finding a secluded camping spot among the trees is important. There are decent camping spots in pine groves north of Mildred Lake and East of Lake Dorothy, but the most scenic spot is in a pine grove on the edge of Lake Genevieve. There are also numerous camping spots around Cloverleaf Lake.