OverviewThe South and Southeast slopes of Birch Mountain form the wide, smooth upper aspect of the peak, which forms an impressive blanket of snow easily recognizable from the town of Big Pine. An ascent of the peak from this side requires one to travel into Tinemaha Canyon, itself a great cross country adventure. Birch mountain can be climbed all year and is a fine ski-mountaineering peak.
Getting ThereFollow the directionsto get to the trailhead to Tinemaha Creek. This requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. If you don't have either, you can park at McMurry meadows, which can be reached with a 2wd vehicle and hike the extra couple of miles into the canyon - its not that bad.
Once at the mouth of Tinemaha canyon, climb the ridge just south of the creek and follow it upstream, bypassing some willows on the south side. Continue hiking up the canyon past point 3444', which is just at the point before the canyon diverges into three separate basins to the NW-W-SW respectively. The climb starts here.
Route DescriptionAscend either the South or Southwest slopes to the summit. This is class 2, unless you consciously look for class 3 rock. The whole slope is nearly a mile long, and is about 2400' of gain, so its a considerable climb even after you reach the base of the mountain. In the winter and spring, enjoy the fun snow climb with snowshoes/crampons or skins.
Alternatively, you can ascend the couloir directly south of the summit. This is a bit steeper than the slope, but well worth it if the conditions are right. This couloir has offered me the best glissading experience I've ever had in the Sierra - 2400' of fine butt-wetting glissadin'. Be cautious of the snow conditions, however, because if hard and icy, it made not be as pleasant.
Essential GearA good pair of boots.
When snow is present, an ice-ax/crampons and snowshoes may be needed.