Gray Peak lies in the middle of Yosemite's Clark Range, in between its more famous neighbours, the more distinctive Mt. Clark
to the north and the higher Red Peak and Merced Peak
to the south. While the peak is often overlooked in favour of these other more prominent objectives, it is well worth visiting in its own right. Besides the fact that the peak appears on the SPS List--reason enough for many Sierra peakbaggers to head out here--the west ridge is a short but excellent scramble, and views from the summit are outstanding, taking in much of the Yosemite high country: Mt. Florence and the Lyell
complex to the northeast and east, and Mt. Starr King
, Half Dome
, and the Cathedral Range to the north.
The peak is easily climbed by the northwest or southwest slopes, both class 2 over scree, talus, and slabs. A more enjoyable option is the west ridge
, which is class 3.
Gray Peak shares the same approach as Mt. Starr King
, and is reached by continuing east on the Ottoway Lakes trail past that peak; consult that page for trailhead details. During summer and fall, Gray Peak is most easily approached out of the Mono Meadow trailhead along Glacier Point road (approximately 22 miles, 5300' gain roundtrip); in winter and early spring, when Glacier Point Road is still closed, the peak can be climbed out of Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley (roughly 30 miles, 8000' gain roundtrip).
Red Tape, Conditions, etc.
All the usual Yosemite red tape applies: There is a $20 fee to enter the park, good for seven days, and wilderness permits and bear cannisters are required for backcountry camping. See the Yosemite Valley - Logistical Center
page for details on red tape and conditions.
When To Climb
The peak is most easily climbed from April through October, with the majority of folks visiting from June onwards when Glacier Point Road is open and most of the snow has melted. An early season climb (April-May) is a reasonable proposition out of Happy Isles even when most of the high country is snowbound; almost the entire trail portion of the approach is relatively low elevation, exposed to the sun, and melts off very early. It makes a wonderful spring dayhike from the Valley before Glacier Point Road opens. Note: An approach from the Mono Meadow trailhead involves a significant crossing of Illilouette Creek. In spring, this often requires a 1-2 mile cross-country detour to find a suitable log crossing in order to negotiate the raging creek.
Backcountry camping is popular around Grayling Lake, which provides a base for climbing Red, Gray, and Clark. Gray Peak is also commonly climbed in conjunction with Mt. Starr King, in which case a popular option is to camp around the latter peak.