July 1, 2014

Kearsarge Peak Panorama

Great Views But Beware the Mining Trail!

Great views but beware the mining trail! Kearsarge is described in Jay Anderson's Climbing California's Mountains as "possibly the quickest-to-reach significant summit on the entire eastern side of the Sierra." With that kind of billing, who could resist? In keeping with my loop-or-bust tradition, I decided to ascend from the west, via Lilly Pass, with a planned return via that wiggly line on my USGS topo—an old mining trail on the peak's east face.

First, the views: superb. Kearsarge sits well east of the Sierra crest, creating that wonderful juxtaposition of space over Owens Valley. As for the crest, you get an impressive span of High Sierra notables, including a dramatic view of Williamson, a close-up of University Peak, good looks at Brewer and Black Mountain, and much, much more.

Going up went mostly as planned. I started from Onion Valley on the mostly-apparent Golden Trout Lakes Trail, which provides reasonably quick access to Lilly Pass. The ground here was not unbearably loose, but the descent down the east side was another story: an epic scree slog. Given the heat, sand, loose rock, and at-best ghost of a trail, this could rank among the worst 3000' you'll ever climb. I was glad to be going down rather than up, and thank goodness I'd packed scree gaiters.

As route alternatives, you can crunch directly up the south face starting right from the trailhead. Things look more difficult than they actually are; pick a chute and expect at most a bit of Class 3 rock to gain the summit ridge. You can also find very easy ground coming up from the north via the old mining road through Sardine Canyon.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow



  1. Joseph says:

    ALRIGHT!! Getting some Sierra Time!

  2. Dan Conger says:

    Great view!

  3. brad brown says:

    Every time I get zoned on the city stuff you come up with some awesome TR or vid and I am admonished “..go rethink your live..” (extra credit for that movie quote. Ive been over Kearsarge Pass, pretty amazing country. Wife was real sick (now recovering) so mostly I’m training for things in August at this point. Thanks for the inspiration/motivation. Genius strategy after a slow winter to hit the lesser peaks as training for bigger (fingers crossed) adventures. You have best day job in the country!

  4. Andy says:

    Thanks Brad, I agree! I just wish I could get to ‘work’ a little more often… :)

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