Get Familiar! --- Overview
Montgomery is a prominent desert peak situated at the northern end of California's White Mountains. Its neighbor, Boundary Peak
, sees plenty of visitors due to its status as Nevada's state high point, but rarely is an extra effort made to get to taller Montgomery. In fact, the latter is often mistaken for Boundary by tourists when viewed from distant locations, as Boundary is essentially a point on the ridge leading from Fish Lake Valley to Montgomery's summit. As a result of all this, there is plenty of room in the spacious register...
Climbing Montgomery is a relatively straightforward task during dry seasons, but those looking for early-winter ascents will find that this desert peak does not give up easily. A combination of steep, loose 3rd class and high snow accumulations will disappoint hikers expecting an easy bonus 13'er along with Boundary.
Along the way, the hiker will likely run across spectacular desert vistas easily exceeding 100 miles, feral horses, ancient pine forests, no water sources, and plenty of wind. As a side note, climbers will pass over the NV-CA state line at the saddle between the two peaks. The summit of Montgomery is actually quite exposed for a desert peak, with a vertical drop on the west side of a hundred feet or more, and steep 3rd class terrain on the east.
Most of the time this mountain is approached from the west, via US Hwy 395. Depending on point of origin and time of year, several shortcuts to the trailhead exist: Hwy 120 East from Lee Vining, the Benton Crossing Road (paved) East from US 395 just south of the Mammoth Airport; or Hwy 6 North from Bishop. Consult a map for the best route given your situation.
As alluded to above, this summit sees most of its traffic from hikers climbing Nevada's state high point, Boundary Peak. By far the easiest route up the peak is simply to take an established route up Boundary and continue via a 0.75 mile traverse to Montgomery. This is no easy ridgeline, however; loose rock and gendarme clusters abound.
The most popular trailheads are: 1) Trail Canyon
on the east; and 2) Queen Canyon
on the northeast. Both are accessible during the summertime via 2WD high-clearance vehicle (Subaru-approved), and allow hikers to start at 9000'. The Queen Canyon start point can be extended to 9700' with careful driving as long as snow & ice do not cover the switchbacking mining road. Mileage is slightly shorter if the Trail Canyon route is used, along with a potentially easier hike.
Get Legal! --- Red Tape
There is no "Red Tape" to speak of on this hike. There are sign-in/trip report sheets at the two trailheads that may need restocking upon your visit. If you decide to cut any 1000+ year-old wood for a campfire, please save me a section...
Remember the late-fall big-game hunting seasons: don't dress like a deer, and expect to see people if you go during this time.
Get Scheduled! --- When To Climb
The "easiest" time to climb this peak is likely during the late spring-early fall period when snow is either highly compacted or non-existent. Unfortunately, depending on route choice, the hike up Boundary can be a long, loose, steep slog. The traverse to Montgomery is similar, just fairly short. If early-season trips are taken, expect to be hindered by deep drifts of unconsolidated snow filling the spaces between talus & gendarmes. Due to their location on the very end of the White Mountain range, the winds around Boundary, and to a lesser extent Montgomery, are frequent and furious if the regional weather is at all unstable.
Get Sleep, Goodies, & Gas!
Camping is allowed anywhere on public land. There are few sources of water, so bring plenty along. If any springs are utilized, treat it first, as cattle, "wild" horses, and deer have their way with it...
Commercial lodging is no longer available at Montgomery Pass, so the closest spots will be Bishop, Mammoth, or Lee Vining, CA (all roughly 1.5-2 hours from the trailheads). There is a convenience store/market available at Benton (near the state line on Hwy 6), with unknown hours.
Get Lucky! --- Mountain Conditions
Just like any other desert peak, the conditions on Montgomery are difficult to determine. Many times lesser storms are trapped by the Sierra and fail to make it to the Whites, but use your head. This extreme northern end of the Whites is often beset with ferocious wind conditions, especially in the saddle and ridgeline areas. The nearest towns for web weather checks would include Bishop & Mammoth, CA, along with the modern ghost town of Montgomery Pass, NV.