A Peak a Day Keeps the Mind at Bay
(Langley, Pickering and Cirque)

22-26 Jun 2003 - by Will Mollandsimms

On Sunday June 22, my mother, Judy Molland, my stepfather, Joe Baker, and I headed up to the High Sierras for a five day trip. After having brunch in Los Angeles we drove up the 395 to Lone Pine and then up Horseshoe Meadow Rd. to the New Army Trailhead in the early afternoon. We were ready to go by about 4. We headed up the New Army Pass trail for a few miles and camped at Long Lake for the night.

The next morning we were up and ready to go by about 7:30. We hiked up the trail with a rather cold and steady 10-15 mile per hour wind blowing at us. The trail to the pass was clear of snow all the way until about the fifty feet before the summit and even the last fifty feet was very manageable. Upon reaching the pass we decided to climb Mt. Langley, which didn't appear to have much snow. We wandered down to Old Army Pass and dropped our packs behind a large rock. We then hiked towards Mt. Langley following one of many use trails to the peak. The wind was a constant issue, as it seemed to grow fiercer the higher up we went. For the most part it is just a walk from New Army pass until you reach the steeper, rockier slopes on the southern side of mountain. Once you reach this steeper section is easy class 2 rock for about 500 feet until you reach the summit plateau. Once you get to here it is an east walk to the top. We reached the summit in the early afternoon after a few cold, but manageable hours of walking through sand and talus. The view at the top is truly magnificent with a pristine view many of the areas most prominent peaks. Many of them still had some snow on them. Unfortunately we did not stay long as the winds on the summit were bitterly cold and probably blowing between 30-40 mph. In fact I found myself losing my balance after I was struck by a gust of wind on more than one occasion. We scrambled back the way we came after our summit stint. It took us only half the time to go down as it did going up and we were soon back at the packs and ready to continue down the trail. We hopped back onto the New Army Pass trail and after a few more miles of hiking made camp at lower Soldier Lake for the night. After a delicious dinner we were asleep as the sun disappeared behind the horizon.

The next day we got up very late and at about 9:30 we headed up for this days objective, which was Pickering and Joe Devel peak. We followed a very vague use trail up the west side of the lake to the top of a ridge that had a good view of Pickering and Joe Devel Peak. We scoped out our route and then went down the small canyon in front of us and after a tricky steam crossing went back up to the base of Pickering. We followed the Erin creek drainage up large slabs until it hit a small plateau and slightly changed direction. From here we went up the ridge to the right. At first, the route was composed mostly of loose sand and scree. After a while though it turned into more stable rocks and boulders farther up. We continued up this ridge until about 600 feet below the summit where there is a large open area before the final section of the mountain. From here we avoided the large snow patches and went up more sand and scree until the last 200 feet of stable 2nd class rock. Because the altitude was affecting a few members of our small group we did not make it to the summit until about 1:30 in the afternoon. In light of this although our objective was to do the traverse to Joe Devel, we opted not to do that and instead return to camp. We could have easily done it if we didn't get such a late start, but alas we were lazy on this day. We spent an hour or so on the summit reading the register and admiring the fine views. The large ridge that contains the dramatic Mt. LeConte and Corcoran is very prominent and very awe-inspiring form here. After our time on the summit we went back down Pickering. Instead of going back the way we came, we went down a very loose and rocky chute the leads to Erin Lake. We went onto the western side of the stream drainage and went down stable scree that way. The slabs would be much harder going down than going up, so that is why we changed out course. From here we recrossed the stream and went back up the other side of the canyon and back down to Soldier Lake by early evening.

The next day we packed up our stuff and headed towards Chicken Spring Lake via the PCT. When we got there we dropped our packs and backtracked up the PCT to do Cirque Peak. We hopped off the trail and followed more sand, scree and boulders to the top of the ridge. We traversed around the false summit and up the easy class 1 scree and boulders to the summit. The views from here are amazing as you can not only see back into the sierras, but also down into the cottonwood lakes area. We spent an hour on top of Cirque and then traversed back down to the PCT and back to Chicken Spring Lake. That night, much like the second day, was very windy and not much sleep was had. The next day we got up at 7 or so and packed out after a very nice trip. The weather was perfect besides the wind and we only ran into people on the first and last day. It was nice to climb a peak every full day we were out there as it is not only hard work but it keeps your mind focused and lets nothing else get in your way. Overall it was a very nice trip and I would definitely recommend this area to anyone interesting in the Sierras.

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