Mt. Versteeg is a little-known peak in the well-known Mt. Williamson area of the High Sierra. It lies along the Sierra Crest near the center of two 14ers, Mts. Williamson
, and two near-14ers, Mt. Barnard
and Trojan Peak
. The summit offers a unique vantage point from which to view the high peaks that surround it, as well as Williamson Bowl to the north and the Wright Lakes area to the south. The summit is a serrated section of the crest comprising four or five pinnacles, depending on who's doing the counting. The highpoint is the pinnacle furthest to the east.
The peak was named in 1964 for Chester Versteeg by the BGN after lobbying from the Sierra Club. Versteeg was an officer of the Sierra Club and an avid climber, with first ascents in the Sierra Nevada surpassed only by Norman Clyde. Versteeg did much original research into place names of the Sierra Nevada. More than 250 of his suggestions for names of peaks, passes, lakes, and meadows have found their way onto the USGS maps. An alumni of the University of Southern California, Versteeg was responsible for the naming of nearby Trojan Peak and Lake Helen of Troy.
Getting to the peak is no easy feat due to its somewhat remote location. The easiest approach is from the Shepherd Pass TH. Hike 11 miles to Shepherd Pass, then head southeast for two additional miles up the broad plateau to the Sierra crest, down into Williamson Bowl and over to the highest of the lakes found in the bowl. This will bring you to the base of the North Slope.
Alternatively, one can approach Mt. Versteeg from George Creek, though this is a far more arduous undertaking. Climb to the Barnard-Trojan Saddle then traverse the west side of Trojan Peak to the Versteeg-Trojan Saddle.
From the PCT/JMT, leave the trail in the vicinity of Wright Creek, then follow the drainage northeast up to the base of Versteeg's Southwest Slope for four and a half miles.
- Class 2-3. From the highest of the lakes in Williamson Bowl, climb the easy north slope directly to the summit. There are no route-finding challenges on this route.
- Class 3. From the highest of the lakes in Williamson Bowl, climb southwest to the lowpoint along the ridge informally known as Tyndall Col. Follow the ridge to the summit, passing pinnacles on the north side.
- Class 2-3. From Lake 3,643m south of Mt. Tyndall, head northeast up much sandy talus towards the ridge south of the peak. Secor describes a sandy chute with several chockstones heading to the crest north of the peak that starts 300ft below the ridge (it sure wasn't obvious to me). Alternatively, climb the ridge to a high col a few hundred yards southeast of the summit. Follow the ridge up until blocked by class 4-5 rock, then traverse around the east and north sides of the summit to easier climbing leading directly to the summit.
- Class 3. From the outlet of Lake Helen of Troy, climb the ridge to the summit.
Mt. Versteeg lies on the boundary between Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP
and the John Muir Wilderness
. The usual Wilderness regulations apply - overnight visitors most obtain free permits from either the NPS or the USFS, no fires above 10,000ft.
In addtion, Mt. Versteeg lies along the edge of the Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area. This means that approaches via Williamson Bowl are restricted to those days between December 15 and July 15. The George Creek approach is restricted even further and is open only for two short windows: Dec 15 - Jan 1, and April 15 - May 15. The approach from the southwest is unrestricted year-round.
For additional information, see the Red Tape
section of the Eastern Sierra Logistical Center
When To Climb
Considering the Bighorn Sheep closures outlined in the Red Tape Section, it is best to climb the peak before the July 15 closure of Williamson Bowl. If approaching via Wright Lakes, one can climb any time of year, though realistically only during the summer months July through October. Winter ascents via Shepherd Pass are arduous and not to be taken likely. The few hardy souls that venture that way in the wintertime are usually headed for the higher surrounding peaks.
Camping is allowed in all areas surrounding Mt. Versteeg within the restricted dates outlined in the Red Tape section. Camping in Williamson Bowl is stark - there are primitive sandy tent sites that have been cleared near the shores of the lakes there, but there is no shade and little vegetation amidst endless piles of rubble.
Wright Lakes to the south offers the best camping near the peak in a high alpine setting. Meadows here are wet and swampy early in the season. Water is obtainable throughout the summer.
Check out the Eastern Sierra Logistics page for Mountain Conditions
and Contact Information
Chester Versteeg (1887-1963), lawyer, businessman, lecturer, and author, who devoted much of his life to furthering interest in the Sierra Nevada.
"Chester Versteeg had spent 30 summers of climbing vacations in the Sierra Nevada. During that time he made many first ascent climbs of Sierra peaks, second only in number to the famous Norman Clyde. He named more than 250 Sierra Nevada peaks, passes, lakes and meadows. Then in June of 1941 he turned his attention to the desert mountains, the Inyos, which parallel the Sierra across Owens Valley. On June 1, 1941 Chester, together with Angeles Chapter climbers Virgil Sisson & Larry Jeffries, made an exploratory trip into the Inyos. They scouted a route and climbed New York Butte, a 10,668 foot peak across the Owens Valley from Mt Whitney. Versteeg was enthralled. He wrote, "New York Butte presents one of the grandest alpine views on the entire continent, the Sierra Crest from Olancha clear to Mt Tom! You may also see the vast salt deposits in Saline Valley, over 9,000 feet below to the east"
Louise Werner, who knew Chester in 1941 and who still is a member of the DPS (1991), states: "If there was any one quality that especially characterized Chester, it was enthusiasm. Chester's flame all but died under the soggy indifference he encountered every time he brought up desert climbing. It took a great deal of fanning before it caught a few individuals, mainly because Chester was such a persistent salesman. We can see him yet, before a crowd of Friday-nighters at Boos Brothers Cafeteria, trying to warm us up to the idea."
Shortly afterwards, Chester proposed the formation of the Desert Peaks Section of the Southern California Chapter, as the Angeles Chapter was then known, of the Sierra Club. Thus the DPS, as it is familiarly called, was born and it is now the oldest hiking and climbing section in our Chapter. Its first outing, on November 15-16, 1941, was the above scheduled trip to officially climb New York Butte. Ten Chapter members made this initial climb successfully: Niles Werner, Braeme Gigas, Harry Paley, Pat Carmical, Katherine Smith, Freda Walbrecht, Bill Crookston, Carl Durrell, James Tow and Harry Greenhood.
Today the Desert Peaks Section is the oldest peak climbing section in the largest Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Section was informally organized in 1941 and was formally organized in October 1945."
- from the History of the DPS