Lone Pine Peak
Elevation: 12,944 feet
Route: Northeast Ridge (5.6, 3 miles)
Drive: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Towering 9,000 feet above the town of Lone Pine, this peak is often mistaken for its taller and more famous neighbor, Mt. Whitney. Three massive ridges yawn out to the desert floor, and two hold classic mountaineering routes. The under-the-radar Northeast Ridge is the longer, more challenging, and less traveled of the two, gaining nearly 7,000 vertical feet. Soloists will find at least 10 hours’ worth of granite on the ridge, and parties who choose to rope up for the entire route will make this into a two-day climb. Climb it during high summer for maximum daylight; a handful of winter ascents have been recorded.
CLIMB IT: Follow the line of least resistance up the ridge, staying to the north of the first gendarme, where even soloists may want gear and a rope for a rappel. Pass the second gendarme on the south side, and keep moving up steps 5.6 or easier to a final headwall, where you traverse easy rock to your right, below the headwall, to find a gully up to the summit plateau. Allow another 3.5 to 6 hours for the unmarked descent, staying just south of the east ridge to avoid cliffs on the south face, until you can descend toward the road and walk 3 miles back to your car.
BACKPACKER RECOMMENDS: See Mt. Whitney and many of California’s other 14ers without the crowds of the Whitney Trail on the 12-mile round-trip hike up Lone Pine via the Meysan Lakes Trail and the northwest slope.
GET THERE: From Los Angeles, take US-395 to the town of Lone Pine. Turn west onto Whitney Portal Road. At 5.6 miles, turn south onto Olivas Ranch Road. Take the first right and the next immediate right to a parking area. Follow a faint trail to a stream crossing and walk up sandy terrain to the start of the rock ridge.
BETA:The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, by R.J. Secor; mountainproject.com
PERMIT: None for day use; fs.usda.gov/inyonationalforest-home for overnights