Molo Mountain sits at the center of an alpine cirque of red and black volcanic cliffs that surround Soda Canyon. To the north of Molo lies Kennedy Peak, and to the west the ridge winds towards Relief Peak. The dramatic NW face of Molo Mountain towers 2,500' above Soda Canyon. Climbing routes are primarily from the east or south, as the loose volcanic rock makes a rock climb from Soda Canyon prohibitive.
With other more notable peaks in the area, Molo Mountain does not appear to get a lot of attention from climbers. However, it's an easy class II/III climb and the summit offers impressive views of the Emigrant Wilderness Area and northern Yosimite. In addition, there are 5 other peaks (Kennedy Peak, Relief Peak, Leavitt Peak, Grizzly Peak , and Big Sam) in close proximity to Molo Mtn which can make for a great weekend of peak bagging.
What was formerly the Emigrant Basin was designated as the Emigrant Wilderness Area (EWA) on January 4, 1975. The 113,000 acre EWA is about 25 miles in length and up to 15 miles in width. It is bordered by Yosemite National Park on the south, the Hoover Wilderness Area on the east, and State Highway 108 and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area on the north.
The EWA does not have the dramatic scenary of Yosemite Valley, however it also does not have the crowds that Yosemite has during the summer. The glaciated lanscape is consistent with that found in the backcountry of beautiful northern Yosemite. The northeastern third of the Wilderness is dominated by volcanic ridges and peaks; the remaining areas consist of many sparsely vegetated, granitic ridges interspersed with numerous lakes and meadows. There are over 100 lakes and 22 named peaks within the EWA. Elevations range from below 5000 feet near Cherry Reservoir to 11,570 feet at Leavitt Peak, but the elevation range of most of the popular high use areas is 7500 to 9000 feet. Precipitation averages 50 inches annually, 80 percent of it in the form of snow. Snowpacks typically linger into June, sometimes later following very wet winters. Summers are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers occur periodically and nighttime temperatures could dip below freezing anytime.
Molo Mountain is located in the western region of the Emigrant Wilderness Area. The closest trailhead is the Kennedy Meadows trailhead, located off of CA Highway 108, just west of the Sonora Pass. Directions are available on the Kennedy Meadows Resort web site.
The trailhead is located at the end of the parking area for the Kennedy Meadows Resort. Overnight parking at the resort lot is $5/night and can be paid at the resort lobby. Alternatively, free parking is available at the signed forest service "trailhead" parking lot, which is located about 3/4 mile from the trailhead.
Kennedy Meadows also operates a pack (horse) station. They will let you park overnight for free (and shower for free upon return) if you pack in with them one-way. They also have rental cabins, a supply store, small restaurant and saloon.
Free wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the Emigrant Wilderness Area. Call the Summit ranger station at (209) 965-3434 near Pinecrest ahead of time and they will prepare a permit for you in advance.
The climbing season varys each year depending on how much snow the area receives during the winter months. Hwy 108 closes during the winter, making winter access more difficult. So typically the most popular time to climb the mountain is from June through October.
There is very poor camping at Lost Lake, but that hasn't prevented me from camping there. There are no established camp sites there, and campfires are not allowed above 9,000 ft. In addition, the terrain is basically all rock scree. However, there are excellent sunset views from the ridges above the lake, and also excellent views down canyon to the northwest towards Kennedy Lake. Lost Lake also has an abundance of self-sustaining Eastern Brook Trout which will bite just about anything you throw at them.
Alternatively, there is good camping and fishing at Emigrant Meadow Lake 2.5 miles to the south.
The name "Molo" is reported to be an Indian term meaning "high place or very high place."