Deerhorn Mountain is an impressive twin-peaked summit located above the headwaters of Vidette Creek in Kings Canyon National Park, California. The peak is rarely climbed--typically only a handful of times a year--but the reason for this presumably doesn't lie in the quality of its climbing, which is excellent: By its easiest route, it is class 3, and R. J. Secor comments that "this fine-looking peak has some classic routes, none of which are trivial." As with so many Sierra peaks, the first ascent was claimed by none other than Norman Clyde, who described Deerhorn as "one of the finest 'crag' mountains in the Sierra." In addition to the fine climbing, the peak has some outstanding views of nearby Mt. Stanford, Mt. Ericsson, as well as the peaks of the Great Western Divide.
The southeast summit is the highpoint. Most parties climb the class 3 NE Buttress
to the lower northwest peak and traverse from there to the southeast summit. A variety of other options include the class 3-4 NE Ridge, which leads directly to the southeast summit, the class 3 NE Couloir (extraordinarily loose, and recommended only as a snow climb), the class 4 SW Chute, the class 3-4 SW Face, and the class 3 West Ridge.
Deerhorn Mountain is usually approached out of Onion Valley (driving directions
for this trailhead are found on climber.org
). Follow the Kearsarge Pass and Bullfrog Lake trails to the John Muir Trail. Leave the trail in Vidette Meadow and hike cross-country up the Vidette Creek drainage to the base of the peak. Round trip stats from the Onion Valley trailhead are approximately 27 miles and 8,500 feet of gain.
The southern and western routes on the peak are approached via the East Lake and Harrison Pass "trail." (In actuality, the trail has not been maintained for many years, and is essentially a cross-country route beyond East Lake). This can be reached quickly out of Cedar Grove, or more scenically out of Onion Valley.
All 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 Inyo National Forest
office in Bishop or Lone Pine. Bear cannisters are required for food storage for those camping.
When To Climb
Because of its remote location, like most peaks in this area, Deerhorn is typically climbed only during summer months (June-Oct).
Vidette Meadow is a popular campsite, making a good base for climbs of Deerhorn as well as several surrounding peaks (West Vidette, East Vidette, and Mt. Bago). Another option is provided by the beautiful Vidette Lakes, which have the advantages of being closer to the peak and of offering greater solitude.
Contact Inyo National Forest
for a random uneducated guess about conditions.
For weather information, the NWS Forecast
tends to be the most reliable source.
"Named in 1895 by J. N. LeConte because of the resemblance of its double summit to two horns. (Farquhar: LeConte.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada