Trevor and I paid a visit to Mineral King yesterday, and as we hiked past mile after mile of richly colored rock, I have to say I kept feeling potent impulses to grab a pick axe and start digging. This was my first-ever trip up the famous Mineral King road. It absolutely exceeded its reputation—I shudder at the thought of having to drive it with any regularity.
We went after 12,343' Sawtooth Peak, a striking and quite-literally-named summit that is part of the Great Western Divide. As with all things Sierra, once again we found another facet of the range's incredible diversity. Much greener, and mineral rich, the area is reminiscent of southwest Colorado. On top we saw a wonderful view of the High Sierra crest, with a particularly good look at the Whitney crest, Langley, and Olancha Peak.
Incredibly, we were able to see Ritter-Banner to the north, as well as a relatively less hazy Central Basin. As for the climb, we went up the northwest ridge from Sawtooth Pass, and then down the south ridge/southeast face. The book calls this an easy Class 2 peak, which is ludicrous. If you want to mount the true summit, you'll be making a climbing move up and then along a fatally-exposed block.
The broader "summit" is itself fairly sticky, with lots of doomsday opportunities, and clearly at least one or two Class 3 moves required. Call it easy (and enjoyable) Class 3 with a Class 4 summit block, and there won't be any surprises. 12,467' Needham Mountain, to the west, is a suggested extension hike in my guidebook, though on this day the mile-plus traverse looked a little too rugged and deep for our taste. I'd prefer to approach Needham from upper Monarch Lake.
Overall, we had a great time. I can't say enough about the beauty and remoteness of the area. That road—Oy! that road!—but for sure I'll be back...
Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents