Mount Langley — Cottonwood Lakes Loop

Up The East-Southeast Ridge and Down Army Pass

Mount Langley's South Face

MOUNT LANGLEY, CALIFORNIA — Looking for a spectacular high-altitude day hike in the Southern Sierra? Mount Langley via Horseshoe Meadows is an excellent choice.

The paved Horseshoe Meadows road winds its way up the sheer east side of the Sierra from Lone Pine and Owens Valley to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead, nearly 10,000 feet in elevation. Such a high starting point is a rare and welcome feature in a Southern Sierra climb, making this a terrific access point to Mount Langley's south-facing hiking routes, as well as the peak's dramatic south face.

Golden Trout Wilderness Sign Creek & Log Bridge

Remote, high meadows, scattered jewel-blue lakes, and cool pines are among the many fine features in this part of the Sierra. I had been here a year earlier, wanting to climb Langley via its Class 3 east-southeast ridge.

On that hike, I'd climbed up the ridge too soon and gotten hung up atop Peak 12,819, a giant shark-tooth whose sheer north face made getting back on route impossible.

A year later I am back at the trailhead, eager to correct my mistake—and also eager to revisit Peak 12,819. Is it really as steep as I remember?

It's just before dawn. For creature comforts, I spent the night in Lone Pine, California. Now, the sky is just beginning to lighten as I arrive at the Horseshoe Meadows parking lot. The air is chilly when I step out of my car. The rich scent of fresh pine surrounds me. Despite the chill and the early hour, I'm happy to be back on the trail, hiking once again toward the summit of a California fourteener.

The first four miles of the Cottonwood Lakes trail cross a long, gentle bowl, following a creek past forests and meadows. Given how flat the terrain is these first few miles, they could have easily extended the road farther. Of course, keeping the road short keeps the people out, making the Cottonwood Lakes region quiet and remote. But when you're eager to start climbing at 6 a.m. and there are miles of flat, dusty trail ahead, it's hard not to get impatient.

next: Cottonwood Lakes

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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