On June 24th, a strong 5.8R earthquake struck near the foot of everyone’s favorite California 14er, causing massive rock falls and naturally, road and trail closures. Even without road and trail closures, getting permits by lottery to climb Whitney is difficult. Sometimes Whitney… just isn’t an option.
SMC wants to know: are you heart-broken because you were set on climbing Mount Whitney? Can we help?
There are several nearby 14,000 foot peaks whose gorgeous hearts are also broken because person after person somehow overlooks them. Could we play matchmaker and possibly pair you up? Could we form a broken hearts peakbagging club together?
We want to know: wouldn’t you like to be able to boast you climbed a lesser known, but less-trampled High Sierra peak — one with a less promiscuous reputation? To say you got there first before all your friends? To say you had the summit to yourself, instead of being surrounded by throngs of shouting Instagrammers? Maybe even collect several of them and be able to stun your peak bagging friends with your eclectic tastes and local knowledge? Our guides can help you with these conquests!
We suggest several peakbagging trips, in order of their ease of approach:
White Mountain, 14,252′, a mere 253 feet shorter than Whitney, involves an approach by road and a 12-mile round trip one-foot-in-front-of-the-other walk to the summit. If you are at all curious about a bird’s eye view of the geography of the Owens Valley, the aloof serrated crest of the High Sierra, or the enigmatic reaches of Death Valley, this hike gives you plenty of time to soak them all in. Our guides are all very familiar with the White Mountain range and would love to help ease your heartache by sharing this beauty, either as a day hike or a longer walk.
Mount Langley, 14026′ is the southernmost 14er in the High Sierra and has a really lovely, ambling alpine approach from Horseshoe Meadows. Some might say this mountain is a “gimme,” but it WILL STILL ROCK YOU. Towards the summit the “trail” gets really threaded — we recommend you bring a guide to help you keep to the trail and keep this mountain looking handsome. Langley (and Williamson, further down this list) are closest to Whitney and your Lone Pine basecamp.
Love Half Dome? Then by proxy you also love Mount Sill, 14,154′. Sill is lovingly called “Neenameeshee” (guardian of the Valley) by the Paiute Indians and is a sacred “other half” of Half Dome. This is a very special summit with breathtaking views of the Valley, the High Sierra to the north and south, and several endangered glaciers. We suggest you get up there and honor them before they’re gone. Bonus: if you are a rock climber, there are extra summits to visit while up in the Palisades.
Mount Tyndall and/or Mount Williamson
Seeking an ass-kicking hiking approach deserving of some serious bragging rights? Head up the rated-difficult Shepherd Pass trail to summit TWO 14ers: Mount Tyndall (14,026′) and Mount Williamson (14,379′). This can be done as a 3+ day trip, and is your best way to get a well-rounded experience in the front country of the High Sierra, complete with big sky views of Whitney which somehow make it seem… small. (You’ll forget about her soon enough.) You don’t have to summit both Tyndall and Williamson, but they sure are located close together…
Lone Pine Peak
Having lived in Lone Pine, I can attest that many people who drive into town immediately mis-identify the peak in the foreground as the lower 48’s tallest mountain. The hulking Lone Pine pyramid is definitely attention-fetching, and can easily eclipse the much-taller peaks in the background despite being “only” 12,949′ tall. Opticals aside, this peak deserves attention for the fact that it has numerous routes to the summit with staggeringly different degrees of difficulty, gorgeous granite faces to explore, and one of the best views of both the South Sierra and Mount Whitney, and the Owens Valley. Forget Whitney. Just climb Lone Pine Peak and proudly say you climbed Lone Pine Peak. Not even most residents of Lone Pine can say that. Oh, and, on the way up, keep your eyes peeled for bristlecone pines, bighorn sheep, gushing springs in verdant hanging valleys of wildflowers, and a lonely summit register.
If you had a Whitney trip planned and are bumming out, please don’t. Carry on, stay strong, and know there are other 14ers in the sea of High Sierra peaks. Any one of these alternative summit trips will be equally indulgent, stunning, and wholly rewarding for you. Sierra Mountain Center’s local guides will take you out and make sure you have a good time, handily putting Whitney in your rear-view mirror. In case the few listed here didn’t excite you, there are even more California 14ers to look at, and a list of Sierra Mountain Center’s peakbagging trips.
Remember: Whitney will always be there (but she won’t always love you). Climb something else — anything else — while you have young legs and the time.