Mt. Langley is a California fourteener: it had to be climbed.
The Tuttle Creek route up Mt. Langley seemed more interesting than the standard way, and suitable for a dayhike. So I got my trail permit, negotiated the brushy and occasionally dicey drive to the trailhead, and got started at a leisurely 6 am.
I had climbed Russell three days before, and on one rest day I was still tired. Plus, arthritis has fused my left femur to my pelvis, so uphill walking takes extra energy.
The hike starts very pleasantly on a jeep road, and instead of turning up the creek before reaching the ashram, I went all the way to the ashram and had to decide whether to go back to find the trail, or just head up from where I was. After a little internal debate, I took use/game trails up the hill behind the house, leading me to the steep slope with the waterfall. From there I bushwhacked left up the slope and made my way across the stream above the waterfall. Then it was hiking up steep forested slopes to reach the huge avalanche path that would be my fate for the next several hours.
I'm sure my tiredness factored in, but the next three thousand feet of deep sand and scree did not provide the pleasant footing promised in the route description on this site. I was soul-crushingly slow as I made my way up the steep deep nightmare, constantly haunted by thoughts that not only would I not make the summit, I would know how bad it was going to be if I ever came back.
It took me hours to sink and plod, sink and plod, until I had rounded the right-hand dogleg and reached the foxtail pines. Getting into the grove, the footing became blessedly firm, and the vicious part of this hike was over.
Once I reached the foxtail pines, the next step of the climb was a nice solid ridge leading up to a plateau. As tired as I was, I couldn't help but enjoy the newfound pleasure of traveling on stable ground. The boulders gave way to larger rock formations as I ascended, and then it was fun 3rd class climbing for a few hundred feet to the crest of the plateau. The "4th class" section was not a challenge, and I don't see how it could be more than 3rd class. First, it's 8' high, so a fall is way shorter than the falls on many bouldering problems. And second, there's a crack that easily eats your feet for solid baby steps the whole eight feet up. Old-timey mountaineers could get over the whole thing with a shoulder-stand.
Once on the plateau, I started seeing footprints, and it was a casual jaunt over to the rocky summit of the mountain.
The last part of the climb was a very well-cairned 2nd or 3rd class scramble that corkscrewed around the summit block from the east to the south, and then you continue the spiral and circle back around to the summit.
The me that had toiled up the horrendous scree slopes of the avalanche basin couldn't believe the me that had strolled the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. It was 4 o'clock, a pathetically-slow 10 hours from the time I started, but still in the bright sunshine of a clear afternoon. Plus, I never had to go up that horrible slope again!
From the top of the mountain, magnificent views of Whitney and Russell, and looking back down Tuttle Creek I could see the gleam of my rental car at the trailhead.
Now, the question was getting back to the car before dark. As it turned out, no problem! First, the stroll across the plateau was lickety-split. Finding the turnoff to the ridge below the plateau was a no-brainer. Then, as is so often the case, the scree slope that had nearly killed me on the way up was a total amusement park on the way down. I was taking ten foot bounds and sinking in three feet on every one: four and a half hours up, twenty-five minutes down. Routefinding back to the ashram was trivial, since the landscape had indelibly etched itself on my memory during my snail's paced ascent. Even with an extended water break when I reached a likely stream, I still got to the ashram by 7 o'clock, and was back at the car before 7:30.
This is a truly schizoid route. The top was fun the whole way, but you pay for it with one of the worst scree slogs I've encountered in my thirty-nine years of climbing fourteeners.
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