Raymond Peak is the third highest peak in the Mokelumne Wilderness which straddles the Pacific Crest between SR4 (Ebbetts Pass) and SR88 (Carson Pass). The 105,165 acre Wilderness takes in portions of the Toiyabe, Stanislaus, and El Dorado National Forests, and lies in the mid-Sierra region between Lake Tahoe to the north and the High Sierra to the south. The peak lies just east of the Sierra Crest, about six miles north of Ebbetts Pass. The views offered from the summit go north to Freel Peak and Desolation Wilderness, west to Mokelumne Peak (and to the Coast Range on unusual clear days), south to the peaks of Emigrant Wilderness and northern Yosemite, and sweeping east into the Great Basin of Nevada.
Like most of the peaks in the region, Raymond Peak is composed of dark volcanic rock. Volcanic activity from 20-4 million years ago covered much of the region in layers of lava, ash, and mudfloes. Over time, erosion and glacial activity removed much of the covering layers from all but the more prominent peaks and ridges. Raymond Peak is the remains of one of these active composite volcanoes. Magnetic anomalies exist in the area as a result of the rock composition, so be wary of compass readings.
The resulting geology left some impressive peaks, most of which have poor rock-climbing qualities. Because of the poor adhesion in the metamorphosed rocks, protection is difficult and generally unsafe - as such there is little rock climbing in the region.
Raymond Peak can be climbed from many different sides, all in the class 2-3 range. The easiest sides to climb are the west and north faces, and these have the shortest approaches. It is climbed quite often, perhaps a hundred times a year, almost always from the west during the summer from the Wet Meadows Reservoir TH.
The shortest approach (with the longest drive) is from the north via SR88. 6.5mi east of Carson Pass, take the Blue Lakes Road south (about half of this road is paved, the rest is graded dirt). At the 11mi mark you'll find a major junction, take the left fork towards Wet Meadows Reservoir (the right fork goes to Blue Lakes). Continue past Tamarack Lake towards the peak, driving as far as you can or until you come to where the PCT crosses the road. Park on either side of the road. This provides access to the west and north slopes.
If coming from the south on SR4, park at the PCT trail junction turnout on the north side of the road about a quarter mile east of Ebbetts Pass. Take the PCT for 6 miles until you come to the crossing of Pennsylvania Creek. This is the starting point for climbing the Southeast Face.
For those needing more detailed driving and climbing instructions, see Pete Yamagata's web site. If you still get lost with these instructions, consider taking up another hobby or leave the driving to someone else.
No permits or fees are required for day hikes in the Mokelumne Wilderness or for parking at the trailheads. A Wilderness Visitor's Permit is required for overnight visits to Mokelumne Wilderness. Only one permit is required for trips which are continuous and pass through more than one Wilderness. Group size is limited to 12 people for day use and 8 people for overnight use, with the exception of specially permitted groups traveling the Pacific Crest Trail.
Climbing is generally done June through October. Blue Lakes Road and SR4 are not plowed in the winter, and close after the first significant snowfall, reopening around Memorial Day. Winter climbs are possible from the vicinity of Lake Alpine on SR4 where the road is plowed, but be warned it is a 12mi trip to Ebbetts Pass, and then 6mi to Raymond Peak. An easier winter approach would be from Markleeville to the northeast on SR89. It is about 8mi one way from town up through Pleasant Valley.
There are developed campgrounds on SR4, SR88, and along Blue Lakes Road. Fees range from free to $14.50/night. The USFS site lists all the amenities at each location along with contact information for reservations.
Backcountry camping is also allowed, following these restrictions:
Camp at least 100 feet from water and trails. Camping on previously used sites creates far less impact than camping on pristine sites. Camp on mineral soil, never in meadows or soft grassy areas that compact easily. Pick a place where you won't have to clear vegetation or level a tent site. Wilderness permits (see above) are required for camping within the Mokelumne Wilderness, and a fire permit (good for a year) is needed if you intend to have stoves or campfires anywhere within the National Forest.
For those interested in pack and saddle stock: