Diamond Peak (13,126 ft) is best approached via the Baxter Pass trailhead. Baxter Pass (12,330 ft) is one the high passes on the Sierra crest providing access to the Kings Canyon National Park backcountry from the Owens Valley. From the Baxter Pass trailhead (6035 ft) to the summit, it's approximately 14 to 15 miles roundtrip with 7091 total feet of gain.
The trail ascends gradually and enters the canyon of North Fork of Oak Creek, following a tributary of Oak Creek on the north (right) side. Then, the trail crosses this small tributary at approx 6430 ft to the left (south side). It continues to the 2nd crossing (which is actually the 1st crossing of North Fork of Oak Creek) where the trail crosses south (left) again at 6760 ft. You will follow the creek on the south side 'til the last creek crossing at 8400 ft. Now, you'll be on the north (right) side of the creek and ascend a flat ground choked with brush. First campground area near Summit Meadow is at 10,000 ft. Further up there is a moraine at 10,820 ft.
1) Southeast Slope: can be climbed by leaving the trail just before it veers north toward Baxter Pass. Enter the bowl (Elev: 11,800 ft) between Diamond Peak and Black Mountain (13,289 ft) and ascend the Class 2 southeast slope to Diamond Peak. The Southeast slope of Diamond Peak is a nice snow climb in the spring.
2) East Couloir: Class 3. This is the obvious broad couloir that you first see. It's about 35-40 degrees. After topping out, you still have a bit of hike to get to the summit. The NE couloir is further to the right (north).
3) NE Couloir: Class 3. This is narrower and steeper couloir than the East Couloir. It is located about 1/4 mile further north on the Baxter Pass cirque. This is a classic early season snow climb.
Baxter Pass Trailhead Approach: Coming from the South, take US 395 north to the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery turnoff (a few miles north of Independence, CA). Turn left (West) on a paved road to the Oak Creek campground. Past the campground, follow the dirt road (3-4 miles) to the "Baxter Pass" trailhead at the end of the road.
Overnight trips require a wilderness permit. Permits can be obtained at the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station in Lone Pine, CA (Phone: 760/876-6200). Ask for the "Baxter Pass" permit. Also, because of the restricted access due to Bighorn Sheep habitat, Diamond Peak can only be climbed from December 15 to July 1.
When To Climb
From December 15 to July 1 due to Bighorn Sheep conservation. Winter climbs prepare for winter conditions (snowshoes, ice axe, crampons, shovel, avalanche beacon, very warm clothing, etc). The numerous rocks at the bottom of the Northeast Couloir (Class 3) indicate rockfall hazard, which means it's prudent to go in early season when the couloir is filled with snow.
Camping is allowed in the area and the mountain. You can car camp a few miles
below from the trailhead at the Oak Creek campground (there is a fee; Elev: 5000') or simply spent the night right at the Baxter Pass trailhead (Elev: 6035'). There is a open-air pit toilet at the Baxter Pass trailhead.
Camping on the mountain: there is a small but nice camping area close to the trail at 10,000 ft near Summit Meadow area.
Contact the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station in Lone, California at (760) 876-6200.