| Mount Gould and the Eastern Sierra
Mt Gould (13,011ft) is a Thirteener in the Eastern Sierra, California not too-well known and off the beaten path a bit to those not from the area, but I would highly recommend this mountain for anyone heading out that way.
We climbed this back in May, but I got sidetracked to put up a report with some photos.
Nonetheless, I think it was a fantastic climb up a worthy mountain with a little bit of everything including great scenery that I think many folks here would love to do if out in the area!
Good friend and colleague Geoffroy and I climbed this on a short trip out to California. This would be his first Sierra peak and a warm up for his inaugural Fourteener climbs he would do this month in Colorado (trip report to follow).
Rough roundtrip mileage was 11 miles with ~+4,000ft gain.
We took the route via Kearsarge Pass from the Onion Valley trailhead (9,200ft) which is west of the small town of Independence off of R395. The grand Sierras did not disappoint; pine scented forests give way to higher alpine tundra surrounded by snow capped granite peaks.
All along this hike and approach, you are treated to spectacular panoramic views of the John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest and the Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness.
The approach was beautiful, filled with classic high sierra views. Since we had been at sea level the day before, we started out slowly, not hitting it too fast. I'd be using this as an acclimatizing hike for Whitney later in the week and Crestone Peak later in that month.
Most of the route is along a well-defined Class 1 trail through alpine meadows, with the route becoming Class 2 at Kearsarge Pass (11,800ft), then turning into Class 3 and then a bit of Class 4 right at the very top summit blocks.
Other noteworthy mountains in the area nearby are University Peak, Independence Peak, Dragon Peak, and Kearsarge Peak all accessible via this trailhead.
Ancient pines dot the stunning landscape as the trail switchbacked up the hillside.
You pass several lakes along the way, though most above 10,000ft were frozen.
I think "Little Pothole lake" was one of the only lakes unfrozen. Although not a super long hike/climb (~11 miles) we carried all our water, though we could have either gotten some from the lower lake or melted snow higher up, but no need to do either on this trip.
The Eastern Sierra lies in front of you sweeping across Kearsarge Pass.
Once you reach Kearsarge Pass, you are greated with awesome views deep into the Sierra Nevada Range and Kings Canyon National Park. The only thing missing this morning was a Golden Eagle soaring overhead.
Geoffroy (left) and I on the Pass before heading up to the summit.
Looking back on the route towards the east:
Snow coverage was still very solid on most slopes, especially on north and west faces of the surrounding peaks. Lakes as you can see in the images were mostly frozen with some melting starting around the edges for those lakes lower down.
After the Pass, the route now makes a 90 degree turn north and climbs up rocks and boulders interspersed with some scree.
A few minor Class 3 moves might be required if you are trying to avoid snow. Not much snow was left here as it was a South facing slope with most of it melted off.
A look at the summit and the rougher terrain after turning north from the Pass:
There was a decent amount of snow, however, higher up on the eastern/southeastern flanks once above the rocky south face. I was glad to have brought my axe and it was a bit steeper higher up and snow was still pretty firm early on. There were some boulder/snow traps here to one had to take care not to step in them or close to the rocks.
While there are boulders punching through the snow, it was easier, and I think safer to just
climb on the snow off to the right.
The views were awesome though around the snowfield looking south and west.
A shot where the route gets rougher and more unforvgiving. There are a few ways up at this point.
At around 12,800-12,900ft, the terrain becomes much steeper and vertical in spots requiring solid class 3 and class 4 moves to get up. Some of these moves involves chimney scrambling/climbing, which was a bit interesting.
This last portion is pretty steep and requires some thought as to where to head up. It also presents some interesting ways to get down once you get up. Time to be creative.
Geoffroy taking it all in
All in all, this was a great dayhike and would also make a nice camping trip (do you research on whatever permit you might need).
From the summit, the backside (North and Northeast) is pretty exposed with long, steep dropoffs into cliffs and snow filled couloirs into the basin on the other side of the mountain. Don't fall here.
This route can also be a way to get up Mount Whitney further to the south, albeit with a much longer alternative approach.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):