Up the Meysan TrailA high school buddy and I set out one early August morning to summit Lone Pine Peak, having heard that it offers some of the most striking views of the Sierra. It was a warm, sunny day, though a bit hazy. We began from Whitney Portal campground, following the Meysan Lake trail that starts from the lower, southeast area of the campground near site #9 (which, by happy coincidence, happened to be ours). The trail climbs from the campground and hits a spur road providing access to some cabins above the campground. After going left on the road a short distance, we found the trail starting again, climbing to the right from the road (toward the southeast). The sandy, well-used trail quickly swung around the ridge that divides the Lone Pine Creek and Meysan Creek basins, switch-backing generally toward the southwest and climbing up the Meysan Creek basin. The north ridge of Lone Pine Peak rose to our east, on the other side of the Meysan Creek, though we had to hike a considerable distance up the trail before sighting the summit itself.
The Fun PartNow the fun began. The slope – which climbs at an angle of about 35 degrees – is a mix of sand, scree and rock, all of which seem determined to turn every step up into a slide back down. Some rocks offered decent handholds for stability while others simply slid down with the surrounding scree. Deciding which was which only made the climb more entertaining. After getting part-way up the slope, Brian decided to call it a day and turned back – he had already climbed 2000 feet higher than he had before.
On to the SummitAt this point, the worst was over. The guidebook had cautioned against ascending the ridge on the summit plateau, as there are several false summits before the true peak. So I headed across the plateau, neither gaining nor losing elevation, to a point that appeared to be below the summit, and turned up.
Summit ViewsLone Pine Peak indeed delivered stunning views: at least six of California’s 14ers – Langley, Muir, Whitney, Russell, Williamson, and White Mountain Peak – and possibly a seventh (Split?) were visible, as well as a good part of Owens Valley.
The Hike BackNeedless to say, going back down was a lot easier than the slog up. Hiking poles provided some stability when down-climbing the chute and slope, especially during short ski runs down the cascading scree. A few words of advice: don’t put anything valuable in your back pockets (I ended up on my tail more times than I care to admit). Gaiters would be very useful to keep rocks out of the boots. Also, some light gloves might be useful for the climb up – some rocks have sharp edges. Anyway, once at the bottom of the chute and slope, it was an easy trek back to the Meysan trail and down to the Whitney Portal campground.
A fun hike, except for the scree, with the views more than justifying it all. That said, if you are comfortable on crampons, traveling this route earlier in the season when there is still snow could make for a far more pleasant climb.