Army Ridge

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Spring, Winter
Time Required:
Most of a day
F, 40 deg

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Army Ridge
Created On: Jun 8, 2010
Last Edited On: May 4, 2012


"Army Ridge" is the unofficial name I've invented for the 12000+ ft peninsula of rock that extends eastward between the New Army and Old Army passes in the Cottonwood Lakes area south of Mount Langley.

When cornices and icy conditions prevent ascent of Langley via either of the Army Pass routes or the Winter Pass route, the army ridge route offers a moderately technical alternative means of reaching the high plateau which leads to Langley from the Cottonwood lakes area. This route has been done in spring conditions and should be suitable for winter conditions as well. In the drier seasons, loose rock would probably be an issue.

Getting There

Take the 395 highway to Lone Pine, CA. Turn west at the stop light in town on Whitney Portal road. A few miles later, turn left onto Horseshoe meadows road and follow it for ~40 minutes to the Horseshoe meadows campground (~10000 ft). Follow the well-worn trail about 5 miles to the south end of Cottonwood Lake #3.

Route Description

From the south end of Cottonwood Lake #3, identify the ridge to the west that leads up to Army Pass Point (Figure 1). [img:628800:aligncenter:medium:Figure 1: Topo map of the Army Ridge route]

Cross the drainage stream moving west and ascend rocks or snow field (your choice) to the southeast ridge of Army Pass Point (Figure 2). Follow the ridge upward in a northwesterly direction, biasing somewhat to the west. There is a sparse collection of stunted trees on the west side of the ridge - direct yourself to cut through the northern extent of the "forest" as you ascend. You may cross some snowfields and weave between talus.
[img:627775:aligncenter:medium:Figure 2: View of the southeast ridge of Army Pass Point from the east. New Army pass is to the left and Old Army pass is to the right]

As you get closer to the top of the ridge, north-south oriented rock fins will become apparent extending from the northern wall of the basin containing Long lake and New Army Pass. You should aim to make a leftward traverse under the second fin to the left of the apparent high point of the ridge (Figure 3). Note that this point can also be reached via direct ascent from the Long Lake vicinity. You may see a cornice at the ridge top and/or a promising leftward snowy traverse to the plateau in this vicinity.
[img:627772:aligncenter:medium:Figure 3: The snow slope portion of the Army Ridge route]

After traversing under the second fin, begin a zig-zagging ascent towards the upper plateau. This section contains snow slopes up to 40 degrees and should be easy to follow. The eventual exit onto the high plateau is to the right and is quite gentle (Figure 4). This will place you immediately to the east of Army Pass Point.
[img:627759:aligncenter:medium:Figure 4: Exiting the Army Ridge route onto the high plateau]

From here, walk (Class 1) down towards Army Pass, then proceed to the north to Mount Langley.

Required Permits

A permit is required for overnight backcountry stays in the Cottonwood Lakes area (part of the John Muir Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest). Permits can be obtained from the Eastern Sierra Inter-Agency Visitor Center in Lone Pine free of charge.

Essential Gear

In Winter and Spring, crampons and ice axe are required. No additional technical gear is needed if comfortable with snow slopes up to 40 degrees.