Thompson Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.52330°N / 118.238°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Sign the Climber's Log



This route is named for the Mt. Whitney Portal Store's Doug Thompson, who described it to me.  It is an interesting alternative to New Army Pass and Army Pass, the routes most commonly used by hikers seeking the summit of Mt. Langley.  The route involves cross-country travel, but never exceeds Class 2. The advantages of this route include beautiful Sierra Nevada scenery (gnarly ancient trees, lush meadows, abundant wildflowers, etc.) and the availability of plentiful water.  It makes for a fine descent route as well.


Getting There

See the main page for driving directions to the Cottonwood Lakes/New Army Pass trail head.

Route Description

From the New Army Pass/Cottonwood Lakes trail head, follow signs as if you are headed for the Cottonwood Lakes.  Eventually there is a fork in the trail where you choose between the Cottonwood Lakes and Muir Lake.  Turn right, as if you are heading for Muir Lake.  However, when you near the south shore of the lake, simply head cross-country to the northwest. 


Cross-country terrain en route to the northernmost lakeA pleasant alternative to the popular trails



Hike past the numbered Cottonwood Lakes, staying to the right (east) of them, until you reach the unnamed last (northernmost) lake.  The Fin is a prominent feature above and northeast of this small lake.


The Northernmost of the Cottonwood Lakes  Looking toward the north end of the lake, where the route up the canyon begins



If you proceed to the north side of the lake, you’ll discover a canyon on your left.  Head west up this canyon.  There is abundant running water here, with lush meadows.  The hiking is very pleasant most of the way. 


Entering the CanyonLooking back toward the lake from the beginning of the canyon




No Water ShortageThe Thompson Route rewards hikers with plentiful water


Passing the FinThe Fin and twin chutes just to its northwest are easily visible from the route



The terrain does become steeper and looser as you approach the western end of the canyon.  You might be tempted to scramble up the north side of Peak 3915, which forms the south wall of the canyon.  Don’t.  It is beyond the typical hiker's comfort level to gain the plateau by scrambling up the north side of Peak 3915 and then continuing west by way of the summit of said peak.  



Back of the CanyonSteepest part of the route - not as steep as it looks from here, though



Eventually, slog up the final steep portion at the western end of the canyon and emerge onto the vast sandy plateau south of Mt. Langley. Just turn right (north) and continue to your very obvious destination, now less than an hour away. 


South Slopes of Mt. LangleyMt. Langley looms to the north once the plateau is gained



Essential Gear

No special gear is required in a typical summer.  However, in heavy snow years like 2017, steep snow might be encountered in the back of the canyon, thwarting those without appropriate snow gear.

The Back of the Canyon - August 2017In a heavy snow year, steep snow can persist in the canyon in summer


External Links

See the main page for external links related to Mt. Langley.



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.