Sierra NOOB

Regional discussion and conditions reports for the Golden State. Please post partners requests and trip plans in the California Climbing Partners forum.
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Sierra NOOB

by jareds » Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:59 am

Hey just moved to SF, looking to get in a good backpacking trip in the next month or two before it gets too snowy...

-Looking to leave on a thursday night
-return sunday/monday night
-rad camping
-nothing more than class 3
-driving to lee vining is fine, just did it and it wasn't too bad

maybe something like car camp friday night, sat am pack in 6 miles and set up camp, do a peak sat afternoon, sunday do another peak, come out monday or something.

maybe a good section of the JMT.

missing being near the Wasatch mtns, need to be converted to the Sierra ASAP!



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by SpiderSavage » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:18 am

For easy milage and a good time check out Ostrander Lake and Buena Vista Peak on the south western corner of Yosemite. The high country is more exciting but this is a good starting point because you can see lots of the high country from a distance.

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by 96avs01 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:49 am

How about Ritter and/or Banner out of Mammoth Lakes?

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by Sierra Ledge Rat » Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:49 am

From SF, you're looking at one helluva drive (8+ hours) to get anywhere in the middle or southern Sierra (Palisades, Ritter range, etc.) If you're willing to do the time behind the wheel, the above suggestions by aahz and 96avs01 are TOP-NOTCH and EXCELLENT ideas.

If you're looking for something a little closer, head up into Yosemite (Half Dome) or Tuolomne Meadows like SpiderSavage suggested.

Another option is Matterhorn Peak on the Sawtooth Ridge. From SF you can travel over Donner Pass to Bridgeport. The approach is quick and easy, the scenery and glaciers and beautiful, and there's a lot of class 3 climbing.

Don't worry, in no time the Sierra Nevada will have you saying, "Wasatch? What's that?" There is NO COMPARISON.

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by RickF » Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:44 pm

Agassiz. Car camp the first night at any of the campgrounds along Bishop Creek or South Fork. Hike in to the valley and camp above Long Lake. This is some of the most beautiful, pristine landscape in the Sierra. Climb Agassiz, a good talus scramble with some short class 3 sections. There are phenominal views from the summit. All in all this would be a great intro to the Sierra. If you want a second peak you could easily add Cloudripper or Hurd.

I agree with Banner & Ritter as well, beautiful back country, classic peaks.

If you pick Middle Pal, be prepared for a mega dose of class three.

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by eboniske » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:18 pm

You can access Lyell with a 1-day approach from Tuolumne... the drive is not too bad from SF into Yosemite (4-5 hours)... OR you can drive all the way into Mammoth and do Ritter and/or Banner (take the bus from the ski area up to Red's Meadow for easy access)...

Ostrander Lake (recommended above) is great fun, but its much better in the winter and it wont really expose you to any of the high country.

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by fossana » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:57 pm

It's a bit of a haul to Lone Pine, but E Ridge of Russell is an ultra classic Class 3. IMHO, Lyell's not worth the hike.

Other options:

- Cathedral Lakes TH out of Tuolumne > camp in the Cathedral Range (easy hike in with lots of scrambling opportunities including Cathedral (note: 4th class summit block). A few pics here.

- See RickF's suggestion on Agassiz, Cloudripper or Hurd

- N Fork of Big Pine Ck > camp below Palisade Glacier and climb the E Arete of Winchell (Class 3)

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by fatdad » Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:25 pm

I've done the hike to Ostrander and it's nice and all but there are much better intros to the Sierra. I think the Ritter/Banner suggestion is good. Take the low or high trail to Thousand Island Lake (really pretty) and do Banner. Ritter from that side (N. Face) is pretty dicey class 3 though.

You could also do something out of Little Lakes Valley. Mt. Dade, Pyramid Peak, Little Lakes Peak, etc. Outstanding scenery.

Another nice option that's got some great geology is Red and White Mt. Hike in to Big or Little McGee Lake and bag Red and White via a nice class 3.

The suggestion of Middle Pal is good but I'd get make sure you're comfortable on Sierra class 3 before trying that one.

If you want some one day options with less of a drive, there's Mt. Conness, Mt. Dana and Mt. Hoffman, all within Yosemite and all beautiful peaks with great views.

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by cp0915 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:40 pm

fossana wrote:See RickF's suggestion on Agassiz, Cloudripper or Hurd

There are hundreds of quality options. All three of these above are fairly good class 2-3 scrambles. Cloudripper's west chute (thanks for posting the beta, fossana) proved to be a pretty enjoyable route. Just don't descend Vagabond's west chute! Awful!

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by JHH60 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:52 pm

A notch up from Agassiz is Mt. Winchell. There's a beautiful hike in on the N Fork, Big Pine Creek trail and the climb is solid class 3, with a great view of the Palisade crest and the Palisade and Dusy basins. When you get to the summit there's no doubt you're there.


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by ScottyP » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:23 pm

Not a major peak but a beautiful area is Granite Dome in the Emigrant Wilderness. I am heading there next week. Ten miles in, 4500' to Iceland Lake base. Great fishing (some Goldens) and Granite Dome is a fun scramble. There is also some class 5 around if you are so inclined. Easy drive from the bay and NO PEOPLE to speak of after the first 4 miles! ... index.html

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by MoapaPk » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:27 pm

fossana wrote:It's a bit of a haul to Lone Pine, but E Ridge of Russell is an ultra classic Class 3.

October is a fairly free time, but the OP might get familiar with the Sierra permit system for backcountry camping. In particular, there could be difficulty with the Pine Cr N Fork for Russell, which is part of the Whitney system. ... vail.shtml ... vail.shtml

A lot of people here will tell you just to go for a walk-in, or arrive early and bootleg.

I went up Russell once 5 years ago in Sept, and thought it was great also -- impossible-looking route that turns out OK, IF YOU KEEP ON ROUTE. The east approach seems to be a favorite for sandbags. I'm not an acrophobe, but I saw extremely varied reactions to a few "class 2" catwalk crossings.

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by rhyang » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:41 pm

I thought the standard route on Lyell was not that interesting, except maybe for that one or two fourth class move(s). IMO The east arete is much better (though still not very long) .. use the standard route for the descent :) The long hike in is probably better suited as a weekend backpack for a lot of folks, including myself.

There is some class 3 scrambling on Matterhorn if you do the East Couloir, but that's better earlier in the season - by now it's probably melted out and loose.

I did Granite Dome with a group over July 4th weekend some years ago .. it wasn't crawling with people, but there were several other parties in the area. That said, this time of year the mosquitoes will be gone and it will probably be deserted.

On that note, in the northern Sierra, peaks like Tower or Whitecliff might also be kind of fun. Long approaches, mostly class 2 scrambling with a bit of class 3, and almost nobody around.

edit: I have a couple of other peaks on my scrambling list -

Whorl - near Matterhorn. Attempted this time last year but was coming down with a cold. Permit quota season in this area is now over I believe.

Johnson, near South Lake. Sounds like a nice day hike.


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