The North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak

A superb classic ridge climb. If you have never done a multi-day route with an en-route bivouac this is an ideal start. The ridge is only rated 5.6 in difficulty, but carrying a pack makes all the difference. This ridge involves continuously interesting climbing on impeccable Sierra granite with exhilarating exposure and fantastic views of the Whitney region. It can be done with a low bivvy or a high, en-route one. The en-route bivouac is worth the trip in itself: from the sleeping bag at night one can gaze the length of Highway 395, all the way past Bishop, 60 miles to the north.


The Low Bivvy Option – Here we camp in the Meysan drainage and do the ridge in a day, pick up camp and hike to the roadhead. This is a very long day, but involves less pack carrying over technical ground.

The High Bivvy Option – This splits the climb over two days and gives one the opportunity for an incredible high bivvy. But then you have to carry that pack!

Both options are great and we will talk with you to decide which one will be your best option


good-great-awesomeThe best guidebook is Peter Croft’s “The Good, The Great, and the Awesome”.
Get it from Maximus Press.

You can also get our very detailed unpublished SMC Guide to Lone Pine Peak here.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Sites can be reserved at the Whitney Portal Campground (8,400′) through the National Forest Reservation System (800) 280 2267. Nearby Cottonwood Lakes offers a walk-in campground at almost 10,000′. Reservations are not necessary here. Ideally, two days would be spent in the Cottonwood Lakes area immediately prior to starting your climb. It is a 45-minute drive from Cottonwood to the Portal. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.

Bears are also a major problem at the Portal Trailhead. Do not leave any food, scented items (deodorant, soap etc.) in your vehicle. Clean up all trash and put extra food in a locker at the trailhead. Failure to take precautions can cause the vehicle to be ripped apart by a bear and the added insult of a fine from the Forest Service.

Return to Classic Alpine Rock Climbs

The approach is via the Meysan Lake Trailhead, just down the road from the Mt. Whitney Trailhead (The Whitney trail sees hundreds of people a day and we’ll be lucky to see another group on this trip). We leave the trail around 10,000’, several hours after leaving the cars. If we are making the climb with the low bivvy this is where we camp.

Gaining the Northeast Ridge proper takes several more hours and is via steep second and third class terrain. Early season ascents will encounter significant snow on the approach, which can make for tough going. Eventually the terrain becomes predominantly third and fourth class and we rope up, usually where we join the main ridge. The un-roping point is the summit. The difficulties are generally towers that must be either climbed and descended, or traversed around. Some of these offer short sections of easy fifth class.

Shortly before the high bivvy two solid fifth class pitches are encountered. One often wonders just what guidebook authors are thinking when they rate these as 5.4; we’ve always been happy to call both pitches solid 5.6, especially with the weight of an overnight pack. The first pitch is more difficult with a tough layback and the second has several hard crack moves. If spending the night here the bivvy is the reward for climbing these pitches though and one of the highlights of the day is watching the afternoon shadow of the Sierra creep across the Owens Valley. The bivvy has room for three people and is small enough that we usually remain tied into the rope for safety. Snow is our water source on early season trips (before mid July) and on mid or late season trips we carry all our water up the route.

From here the ridge continues on around more towers and pinnacles. There are a couple of hard moves out of the final notch and then the last ridge section is five pitches long and we pop up over the final block and the summit register is about ten feet away. We’ll be happy to be off the rope for the first time in a while. Then we descend into the Meysan Creek drainage and back to the trailhead.

Program Prerequisites:

You should be in good physical condition, have some backpacking experience and have the ability to traverse broken uneven slopes with a moderate pack. Prior experience at altitudes above 10,000’ is recommended. You need to be able to follow at the 5.7 level and have experience on multi pitch routes.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, 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:

Lone Pine Peak map

Rental Equipment:

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