Mt. Davis is a relatively obscure and somewhat remote peak in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. At only 12,303' in elevation, the peak is often overlooked in favour of its higher neighbours immediately to the south, Banner Peak
and Mt. Ritter
. However, despite its relatively diminutive stature, the peak affords truly exceptional views: Banner and Ritter dominate the sights to the south, Rodgers Peak
and Mt. Lyell
are almost as prominent to the northwest, while Electra Peak
and the southern Yosemite high country present a compelling panorama to the west. Thousand Island Lake and the Rush Creek drainage are seen to the east.
Several scrambling possibilities exist on the peak. The north buttress and northeast buttress are both described as being class 4. However, by far the most common option is to climb the peak's southeast slopes from North Glacier Pass; this is a straightforward class 2 hike, with the only difficulty arising in identifying the summit amongst the competing bumps encountered along the way. (It may be recognised by the presence of a very steep west face, which contrasts with gentle talus slopes on the southeast side). A chute just south of the summit on the west slopes is loose class 2, and offers the quickest route between Mt. Davis and either the lakes at the head of the North Fork San Joaquin river or Electra Peak.
Mt. Davis is most easily approached from the east, typically via North Glacier Pass. The quickest approach to Thousand Island Lake and North Glacier Pass is likely out of Agnew Meadows via the River Trail, but trailhead access involves considerable red tape
. Another option is to hike out of Silver Lake via the Rush Creek trail and Clark Lakes; this is a bit longer, but features spectacular scenery almost the whole way, and avoids the red tape. Both options have been used for dayhikes; the Agnew Meadows approach is approximately 11.5 miles and 4300' gain one way (with 300' on the return), while an approach from Silver Lake is a bit under 13 miles and 5500' gain one way (with 400' on the return if you come back the same way). Both approaches require 3.5 miles of easy cross-country travel (tundra, slabs, and talus). Driving directions
for both trailheads are found on climber.org
As an SPS Listed
peak, Mt. Davis is quite often climbed in conjunction with some of the other nearby listed peaks, particularly Rodgers Peak and Electra Peak. In such a scenario, it may be logical to approach from the south via the North Fork San Joaquin River and Twin Island Lakes, presumably as part of a longer backpacking excursion through the area. Consult a map for options; the Forest Service's Guide to the Ansel Adams Wilderness
works well for trip planning purposes.
If camping, all the usual Ansel Adams wilderness red tape applies: permits, bear cannisters, etc. Contact the Info National Forest
for current regulations.
Day hikers are free to roam as they wish, unencumbered by such bureaucracy. The exception is those folks approaching out of Agnew Meadows; consult the Banner Peak red tape
When To Climb
Due to the relatively long approach required from any direction, Mt. Davis is most easily climbed during the summer/fall months once the snow's melted, typically June through October.
Backcountry camping options are found around Thousand Island Lake, one of the more scenic areas in the Sierra. As you might expect given the area's great beauty and easy accessibility, the lake is highly visited. If you are unwilling or unable to dayhike the peak, and feel that you must camp out here, greater solitude may be found along the North Fork San Joaquin on the peak's west side.
Outside the wilderness, assuming you're approaching the peak from the east, the June Lake loop features a bewildering array of pay campgrounds. Alternatively, a good rogue camping option is provided by the Fern Lake trailhead, which is wooded and nicely secluded from the highway.
Mountain ConditionsInyo National Forest conditions
The NWS Forecast
tends to be the most reliable source of weather information for the area.
"Named in 1894 by Lt. N. F. McClure, for Lt. Milton F. Davis, who made the first ascent on Aug. 28, 1891. Davis was chief of staff of the Army Air Service during World War I."
- Erwin Gudde, California Place Names
"Lieutenant Milton Fennimore Davis (1864-1938), with the first troops assigned to guard the newly created Yosemite National Park, in 1891, at which time he made the first ascent of the mountain. The name was applied by Lt. N. F. McClure in 1894.
'I ascended the peak on Aug. 31, 1891. I took two days for the trip. Slept out without blankets at timber-line, making a fire of the last tree. I was accompanied most of the way by a Methodist preacher, Dr. E. W. Beers, of Anamosa, Iowa. The trip nearly killed him.' (Letter, Davis to Versteeg, in Farquhar files.) 'Beers gave out and did not cross the last gorge and make the last 2,000 feet.' (SCB
12, no. 3, 1926: 305.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
"It was at this place that Major Wessels, of the Third Cavalry, was shot in the back of the head. It was a severe wound, but after having it bound up he again came to the front in command of his regiment. Among the men who were foremost was Lieutenant Milton F. Davis, of the First Cavalry. He had been joined by three men of the Seventy-first New York, who ran up, and, saluting, said, 'Lieutenant, we want to go with you, our officers won't lead us.' One of the brave fellows was soon afterward shot in the face. Lieutenant Davis's first sergeant, Clarence Gould, killed a Spanish soldier with his revolver, just as the Spaniard was aiming at one of my Rough Riders. At about the same time I also shot one."
- Theodore Roosevelt, The Rough Riders (online)