“Ed Lane Peak” is a California Thirteener about 1 mile west of Birch Mountain, lying on the Sierra Crest between Mt. Bolton Brown and The Thumb.
Ed Lane was a rock climber and mountaineer who put up over 10 new Sierra routes during the early sixties on peaks including Split Mountain, Temple Crag and the Clyde Spires. He knew Norman Clyde well, a frequent dinner guest who apparently enjoyed the New England cooking of Ed’s sister. Sadly, Ed Lane fell 400 feet to his death on a warm up climb in Alaska during the 1967 Southern California expedition to Mt. McKinley (Denali). In addition to “Ed Lane Peak”, it has been proposed that the pass 0.6 miles NE of Bolton Brown be named “Lane Pass” in his honor. Gary Lewis (his nephew and frequent climbing partner) recalled Ed Lane’s climbing career in a 2008 article.
The class 3 NW Ridge can be accessed from the saddle south of The Thumb (easily climbed on the same day). Most parties probably climb to the saddle from Birch Lake, which also provides easy access to Birch Mountain and Peak 3994m.
Please see the approach information (Getting There section) for Birch Mountain. I would add the following points once you head up the Birch Lake Trail itself:
1) You will likely be tempted to head west too early; the trail continues north for some time before heading up the ridge north of Birch Creek.
2) Cows often graze througout the area surrounding Birch Lake Trail, burying it beneath their muddy footprints in several key locations and then building many parallel use trails to confuse you. Count on losing and re-finding the trail several times on both your way up and then back down.
3) Willows choke the final half mile to Birch Lake. I recommend diving directly through them, stitching together the shortest sections possible. Climbing above them instead will eventually lead to some cliffs, though TDS Galphershore suggests climbing above the cliffs as well, and then descending to the lake via a buttress.
The NW Ridge is a fairly typical class 3 climb. Traversing the south side of the lake avoids the tedious ups and downs necessary to the north. Gaining the saddle plateau may require a few tricky moves to cross from the high angle slope onto the rocks to the left of a small cliff. Most of the NW Ridge is easy talus along its west side, but you then have to traverse around a series of gullies and buttresses near the top.
I highly recommend R. J. Secor’s The High Sierra, Peaks Passes & Trails (now in its third edition). This is the definitive climbing guide to the Sierra and was the source for many of the details on my SummitPost pages.
Like most places in the Sierra, you need a Wilderness Permit for overnight camping in the summer. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to get a permit for the Birch Lake Trail, even given its small quota of eight hikers per day. (This may have something to do with the cows and willows.)
Detailed information on permits, regulations and trailhead access can be found on Matthew Holliman’s excellent Eastern Sierra logistics page.
You probably won’t be sharing Birch Lake with other groups. There is a comfortable and well-developed spot north of and about 50 feet above the lake outlet. There is room here for two tents, with a few small sandy spots nearby to supplement the space. Few other good sites are available anywhere near the lake.