Towering above one of the most beautiful areas in all the Sierra Nevada, Mt. Crocker is located in the John Muir Wilderness, northwest of the Pioneer Basin, and just south of Golden Lake and the McGee Lakes region. The big beautiful meadows, rolling streams, and little alpine lakes on the McGee side (north). While a contrast to the South and the barren but beautiful Pioneer Basin.
Mt. Crocker is distinct with its two large triangular shaped summits, seen from the McGee Pass Trail and Big McGee Lake. At 12,458ft it is not so high on a peakbagger's list for elevation and popularity, but upon the first sight in such a beautiful setting that it lies, it becomes a beautiful backcountry peak.
-Take US395 to the well-marked McGee Creek exit, heading southwest. This exit is about 20 miles south of Highway 203 and the town of Mammoth Lakes. Take the road up to the trailhead, about three miles, the last part unpaved but easily negotiable by passenger vehicles.
The beautiful and rugged McGee Creek and Pass Trail offers a great transition from desert to high above treeline. This area is quite busy in the summertime. There is a pack station at the trailhead that offers pack and saddle options for those who may want horses. The trail itself is a great one that gradually climbs up 3,250ft+ and nine miles from the trailhead to Big McGee Lake. The trail continues up past Big and Little McGee Lakes for another five miles, winding up to McGee Pass and the Mono/Fresno county line. This trail continues back down into the opposite valley where Fish Creek and Tully Hole lie. This area with its tall peaks with vibrant coloration of red and white and black along with ample lakes, ponds, and streams make the McGee area one of the most beautiful hidden gems of the eastern sierra.
As for most Wilderness areas, visitors must pick up a wilderness permit before entering the John Muir Wilderness. Go to the ranger station in Mammoth Lakes for your permit. You can visit the Inyo National forest website for additional information on regulations and area quotas.
Everything you need to know about conditions, permits and regulations can be found on the Eastern Sierra - Logisitcal Center
Permits are required for all entrys into the John Muir Wilderness. There are many great places to camp along the way from the McGee Trail. Depending on your party's idea of a beautiful setting, you can have the high-alpine setting along one of the many higher elevation lakes such as Crocker Lake, Golden Lake, and Big McGee Lake. Or the picture perfect forest setting near Steelhead lake or McGee Creek.
When to Climb
Depending on your party's idea of 'Fun', Mt. Crocker can be accessed from the North as late in the year as middle November. Avalanche danger on the McGee approach through winter is high and not recommended. Approaching from the South would be wise for a winter ascent. The area is best climbed in late spring to October. Always study the weather patterns well in advance for any trip and be prepared, this is The High Sierra!
Leave no trace!
Please help to keep this beautiful area looking good for others that visit it later on. Please be advised that there are no fires allowed above 10,000ft. Stoves are ok, and each party must check with the ranger station for other specific regulations.
Depending on the time of year and route you climb, you should always have the essentials of water, food, clothing, shelter, and navigation. Check the weather and have a good idea on what to expect. Be aware that weather in any large mountain range, especially the Sierra Nevada can change rapidly for the better or worse. Know before you go to avoid unpleasent moments. Depending on the route up the mountain as well as weather, your gear will vary.
For the South Slopes
not much is needed as it is a simple hike and scramble leading up to a class 3 summit block.
The Northwest Chute
is a wide snow/neve ice couloir maxing out near 60* Degrees with rockfall danger. Pro is very difficult to find and set. Depending on Ice conditions you can get away with just ice axe and crampons, some pro and a rappel rope. Or full on Ice regalia may be needed.
The West Ridge
is a nice scramble over and around very large talus boulders and is mainly class 2-3 with a few exposed and harder moves here and there. Not much needed here but some classic Sierra talus hopping skills!
The East Ridge
is a fine class 2-3 scramble from the saddle between Crocker and nearby Mt. Stanford. There is one difficult class 3 step about 2/3 of the way up. It can be bypassed on the north side, but snow often lingers here until mid-summer.