California is well known for a sunny climate and fantastic rock climbing but less well known for its alpine ice climbing. Come late summer and fall the snows of the past winter have melted off, and repeated freeze and thaw cycles have transformed the snow to firm neve and water ice. This provides straightforward ways to the summits of many Sierra peaks. North Peak is another one of the great introductory ice routes in the High Sierra. It has the added benefit of a short approach and return, making for a reasonable day car-to-car. The climb includes six pitches of snow and/or ice up to about 50º, followed by a short rock scramble to the summit and an easy descent.
Guidebooks include Secor’s “The High Sierra; Peaks, Passes and Trails”, and “Sierra Classics” by Moynier and Fiddler. The best of course is “Eastern Sierra Ice” by SP Parker. Also check out our unpublished guide to North Peak here.
We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth would do the trick or better yet, camped at an even higher trailhead, such as the Sawmill Campground near our early morning meeting location. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.