Located along the Kings-Kern Divide in the Kings Canyon National Park backcountry, Mt. Stanford is one of the highest peaks in California, and frequently cited as one of the best scrambles in the Sierra. Norman Clyde's description is fitting: "Along the Kings-Kern Divide, slightly to the south of Mt. Brewer, are numbers of lofty peaks, the finest of which is Mt. Stanford. It has twin peaks of almost equal height, the northern one being perhaps a few feet the higher. The most southerly of these can be readily scaled from the upper Kern, but few care to traverse the ragged knife-edge that connects it to the more northerly one."
The peak's south ridge (the "ragged knife-edge" described by Clyde) was the route of first ascent in 1896 by Bolton Brown, and is a short but enjoyable class 3 scramble from Gregory's Monument, the lower south summit. The east face offers a more sustained class 3 scramble, and is an excellent climb from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the vicinity of Center Basin. The west face (descended by Bolton Brown after his climb of the south ridge) and north ridge (first climbed by Brower and Clyde in 1939) are also both rated class 3.
Secor comments in The High Sierra
that Mt. Stanford is one of the shyest major peaks in the Sierra, visible from only a few spots. This is only partially true; in fact, the peak is fairly easily seen from the summits of many of the high peaks throughout Kings Canyon, but it is not readily recognizable unless one's actively looking for it.
Mt. Stanford is most easily reached out of Onion Valley, although the exact approach will vary depending on the desired route. See the Eastern Sierra logistical page
for details on reaching this trailhead.
The shortest approach to the peak is to hike over University Pass (ice axe/crampons required in early season) to Center Basin, then follow the PCT south to the basin northeast of the peak. Talus and snow leads up to the base of the east face
. (If backpacking, a longer but easier approach is to follow the Kearsarge Pass trail to Vidette Meadow, and then follow the PCT south to the same basin.)
The south ridge
is most efficiently reached from the same approach, via Andy's Foot Pass. The south ridge can also be climbed from Harrison Pass. This pass is a difficult cross-country hike from the Lake Reflection trail or Deerhorn Saddle (talus and steep snow/ice), or an easier hike from the vicinity of Lake South America in the upper Kern River Basin.
The north ridge is climbed from Deerhorn Saddle. This is reached by hiking over Kearsarge Pass, and hiking cross-country south along Vidette Creek, the same approach as for Deerhorn Mountain
For more details, see the individual route pages.
Red Tape, Conditions, Etc.
Mt. Stanford is located in the Kings Canyon National Park backcountry, and is subject to the usual wilderness red tape. Permits are required for overnight stays.
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra logistical page
for contact information, current conditions, etc.
When To Climb
Mt. Stanford is most easily climbed during the summer months, typically July through September.
External Linksclimber.org trip reports
SPS trip reports
"The university was established in 1885 by Leland Stanford (1824-93), railroad builder, governor of California, and U. S. senator; it was named Leland Stanford Junior University in memory of Stanford's son, who had died the preceding year. Prof. Bolton C. Brown, who made the first ascent in Aug. 1896, named the peak Mount Stanford for the university. He suggested as an alternate name Stanford University Peak, if the name Mount Stanford should be declared ineligible because of another peak so named in Placer Co. However, the original Mount Stanford, which had been named by the Whitney Survey, was renamed as Castle Peak. Later, when the USGS mapped the Pioneer Basin region in 1907-09, its chief geographer, R. B. Marshall, named the four peaks of hte divide in memory of the "Big Four" magnates of hte Central Pacific Railroad: Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Leland Stanford. So now there are, after all, two Mount Stanfords in the state."
- Erwin Gudde, California Place Names
"Not many college presidents have stood on the summit of a high mountain named for their institution. On August 16, 1899, President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford University, did exactly that. 'I have never seen a more magnificent mountain panorama!' he exclaimed. Dr. Jordan was well qualified to speak of mountain panoramas; some years before he had climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The Stanford party, which included Mrs. Jordan and several of the University's professors, spent many pleasant days at the head of Bubb's Creek, where Dr. Jordan gave names to a number of features, including 'Ouzel Basin,' suggested by Muir's description in The Mountains of California
- Francis Farquhar, History of the Sierra Nevada