Mount Langley

We all have to start our mountaineering somewhere and often we do not yet have the skills for technical climbing. Perhaps you do not want to acquire the skills for technical climbs or perhaps you just want to get out and experience the high mountains and climb a 14,000 foot peak. If so then an ascent of Mt. Langley is a great place to start.

Mount Langley, at 14,042 feet, is the southern most of the California fourteen thousand foot peaks and the last major summit as one heads south in the Sierra Nevada. The ascent from the Cottonwood Lakes Basin is straightforward and a lot of elevation is gained via a trail before a talus scramble to the summit.

Langley has had a checkered history and the peak’s close proximity to Mt. Whitney led to much confusion amongst early ascensionists. The redoubtable Clarence King made what was probably the second ascent in 1871 in clouds and poor visibility, believing that he had made the first ascent of Mt. Whitney. He left the area and returned to the east coast before his mistake was discovered. Frantically returning west, King was too late and found that a group of local Lone Pine fishermen had beaten him to the highest point in the lower 48.

We assure you that we will not be making similar mistakes!

Here’s our video description of what it is like to climb Mt Langley.

Return to Sierra Backpacking & Hiking

The ascent of Mt. Langley is not technically difficult and does not require ropes or technical climbing equipment. However the elevation is a major concern and it is easy to get high on the peak without allowing sufficient time for the body to acclimatize to the elevation.

So we recommend a careful timing of the ascent to avoid altitude related illness and if possible spending the night before camped at the trailhead.

The Horseshoe Meadows Road allows us to drive to over 10,000 feet making this one of the higher trailheads in the Sierra Nevada. From the trailhead the trail climbs steadily, but not steeply, to our basecamp in the Cottonwood Basin and it’s stunning high alpine scenery and meadows.

The area makes up for the unimaginative naming with stunning high alpine scenery and meadows. We leave early in the morning on the second day crossing either Old Army Pass or New Army Pass depending upon the presence, or absence, of snow on the trail. Once atop the crest our route is cross-country across a high alpine plateau with sparse vegetation amidst rocky tors without any maintained trail, but with easy travel. The final five hundred feet involve Class two scrambling (you will use your hands for balance and be moving over large rock blocks) to the summit plateau from where we get spectacular views of Mt. Whitney, Lone Pine Peak and north into the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

We return via the same route, spending the night along the shores of the lake at camp. After a leisurely breakfast and enjoying the sunrise we pick up camp and plan upon returning to the trailhead in the early afternoon of Day Three.

Trailhead to camp: 5.5 miles, 1350’ of gain, 300’ of descent.
Camp to summit: 4.0 miles, 3100’ of gain, 207’ of descent.
Camp to trailhead: 5.5 miles, 300’ of gain, 1350’ of descent.


Program Prerequisites:

You do not need to have prior climbing experience. Good physical condition and the will to climb is the main thing. Early season might have snow but we will work with you to gain the skills to cross this safely.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Mount Langley Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.