Perhaps you are a hiker wishing to expand your skills to get out onto more challenging peaks, across those steeper snow slopes or up more technical rock sections. Or maybe you have done some rock climbing but wish to expand your skills to include mountaineering. If so, this three day program will give you the basics upon which to build a solid climbing future. If you have additional days available we suggest looking at our Extended Mountain Camp, where we spend more time practicing and applying the skills on the peaks of the Palisade range.
No prior climbing experience is necessary but prior backpacking and wilderness travel is helpful. We will base ourselves between Bishop and Mammoth in Rock Creek Canyon, which offers aesthetic peak ascents in one of the Sierra’s most beautiful canyon. We often do this program with a ratio of 6:1 maximum for the skills instruction and then reduce the ratio to 2:1 for the peak ascent to ensure that you get maximum individual attention with a high level of safety on the more technical terrain.
High Sierra Climbing Guidebooks include Secor’s “The High Sierra; Peaks, Passes and Trails”, and “Sierra Classics” by Moynier and Fiddler.
Since camp on the overnight is around 11,000’ we highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000’) just prior to the trip. Any of the campgrounds in Rock Creek Canyon would be beneficial. While a night spent at Mosquito Flats on night one of the trip aids acclimatization, we still recommend that you spend at least another night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000’) just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground in Rock Creek Canyon would do the trick. You could also stay at Rock Creek Lodge. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.
After meeting we head to Rock Creek Canyon’s Iris Slab to cover the basics of rock climbing. We will do some of the climbing in rock shoes but we’ll also use mountain boots to get accustomed to climbing in them on rock.
Rock skills on day one include:
Equipment selection and use
For the night you have two choices. At Mosquito Flats there is a walk in campground for hikers and at 10,000 feet this makes a good place to spend the night and acclimatize to the elevation; we recommend this. You can either bring your own food and plan on cooking for dinner and breakfast at the campground, or you can go back to Toms Place. But Mosquito Flats can be well named in early summer and there is also the option of a soft bed and a restaurant at Toms Place just back down the road.
We leave the 10,000’ Mosquito Flats trailhead and follow an easy trail for three to four hours, passing beautiful Ruby Lake on our way to basecamp near Mills Lake at 11,700’. This is a secluded part of the canyon, high in the mountains and surrounded by dramatic peaks.
For the rest of the day we will work on the basics of snow and ice travel including:
Moving on snow
Ice axe use
Self arrest, snow anchors
Belaying on snow
French crampon technique.
Distance: 3.1 miles, 1600 feet of gain, 200 feet of loss
Now that you have learned the basics we put it all together with an ascent of 13,600 foot Mount Dade, the high point of the drainage. Mount Mills (13,468’) and the spectacular spire of the Petit Griffon (with its tabletop sized summit) are two other possible options depending upon conditions and inclination. The program finishes late on day three with the hike out to Mosquito Flats.
No prior climbing experience is necessary but prior backpacking and wilderness travel is helpful. Prior experience hiking and climbing at altitudes above 10,000’ can also be helpful.
Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, and meals from lunch on Day 2 to lunch on Day 3 (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items for the overnight, as well as your own food for other days). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.