Mt. Gabb is the second highest peak in the Bear Creek Spire/Little Lakes Valley region, standing a mere 7 feet shorter than Mt. Morgan (S), and the highest point along the Mono Divide. Because of its location west of the Sierra Crest, it lies unseen to the vast majority of visitors to the region. Backcountry visitors to the Mono Recesses and Lake Italy regions can't help but notice this peak rising higher than all others within view, and climbers reaching the summits of nearby peaks on the Sierra Crest are often surprised to find a yet higher peak suddenly present itself once they reach the crest. The peak is highly visible from as far south as the Palisades and as far north as Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak, though from a distance is often mistaken for nearby Mt. Abbot or Bear Creek Spire, its more popular, but less visible neighbors.
The peak was first climbed 1917 by H. H. Bliss and A. L. Jordan, then President of Stanford University. The California Alpine Club placed a register in 1934 that is still at the summit today, some 70 years later. It is surely one of the oldest in existence left in the Sierra.
The most commonly used route to the summit follows the South Slope and Southwest Ridge, class 2-3 from the vicinity of Lake Italy. The easiest route, named the Glacier Route and rated class 2, starts from Upper Mills Creek Lake at the headwaters of the Second Recess, crosses the glacier on Mt. Gabb's north side, and climbs talus and large blocks on the Northwest Ridge. The Northeast Ridge from Gabbot Pass is rated class 3 by Secor, but we found this to exceed class 4 unless one drops down onto the class 3 Southeast Face. It's best to be very comfortable on class 3 terrain before tackling this peak.
Mt. Gabb can be approached from a variety of directions, all of them long. The shortest approach (~7miles, one way) starts from Little Lakes Valley, ascends to Cox Col just north of Bear Creek Spire, then crosses the upper part of the canyon that Lake Italy lies in towards Gabbot Pass.
Alternatively, Mt. Gabb can be approached from Mono Creek via the Second Recess, coming up from Lake Thomas Edison to the west or from the east via Mono Pass.
Thirdly, the peak may be approached from the west via Bear Creek. A good use trail heads east up the Hilgard Branch to Lake Italy.
Red Tape & Mountain Conditions
Mt. Gabb and the surrounding area lies in the John Muir Wilderness. Backcountry permits are required for overnight visits to the area. Permits are free if you pick them up in person at the Ranger Station, or for a small fee you can get them through the Inyo National Forest Reservation System. There are no fees for parking, but you must use the overnight lots and not the day use ones if staying overnight.
Mt. Gabb is normally climbed June-Oct when access roads to Rock Creek (in the east) and Lake Thomas Edison (in the west) are open.
Mt. Gabb and the surrounding area lies in the John Muir Wilderness. Overnight camping is permitted throughout the region with backcountry permits. There are fine sites available along Lake Italy, in the Second Recess, and in Little Lakes Valley. The nearest sites in Little Lakes Valley can be found at Dade Lake, Treasure Lakes, and Gem Lakes. On the west side of the crest, there are fine sites in the upper part of the canyon just south of Gabbot Pass with water available at least through late August.
"Name given to a peak by the Whitney Survey, after a William More Gabb (1839-78), paleontologist of the party. It is uncertain whether this peak is the Mount Gabb shown on LeConte's map of 1907 and on the later Mount Goddard atlas sheet. - Erwin Gudde, California Place Names
"Tuesday last, April 22 , I sent on the party to go into camp here, near Martinez, and I followed the next day. Our party consists of: Averill, who goes as mule driver, clerk, etc.; Hoffmann, topographer; Schmidt, our new cook, who promises well; Gabb, our paleontologist, young, grassy green, but decidedly smart and well posted in his department -- he will
develop well with the hard knocks of camp; Remond, a young Frenchman, who will be with us for about two weeks. We commenced by drinking a bottle of champagne presented by a young lady of San Francisco." - William Brewer, Up and Down California