Mount Agassiz
July 1, 2020
12.5 miles, +4,400’
This was the fourth day of my week off for hiking around the Mammoth Lakes area. For this outing, I set my sights on another relatively easy SPS-listed peak: 13,893’ Mount Agassiz at the north end of the Palisades. Despite falling just short of the fourteen-thousand foot mark, this peak is quite popular. In Secor’s words, “This is the easiest major peak of the Palisades, and the ascent from Bishop Pass is very popular. There is a splendid view of the peaks surrounding the Palisade Glacier from the summit.” I climbed the West Slope, which has a rather vague route description in Secor. The SummitPost description of this route is a bit more helpful, noting that any of the chutes to the summit will go, but those closer to Bishop Pass are easier.
The North Face of Mount Goode high above Long Lake. If I climbed quickly and the weather permitted, I planned to climb this peak as well via the Southeast Slope.
After a few miles, Mount Agassiz comes into view, high above the Bishop Pass trail.
The view northeast from Bishop Pass.
From Bishop Pass, I picked one of the chutes to ascend - the chute that rose most directly from the north side of the tarn atop Bishop Pass. More careful research afterwards indicates that the next (broader) chute north is a bit easier, but it didn’t slow me down much, and the climbing was more fun as well.
Views of the Black Divide and Mount Goddard from the slopes of Mount Agassiz.
About halfway up the ascent, the chute I was climbing dead-ended at a headwall. Here, I had to climb about fifty feet of class 3 rock over to the broader chute to my left. When I got there, I found the wider chute still had some snow in it, so I continued up the rib on climber’s right for a couple hundred feet on solid class 3 terrain before hitting the summit slope.
Wider shot of the Dusy Basin, Black Divide, Mount Goddard, and even a few peaks of the White Divide behind. The area to the west and south of this peak, across LeConte Canyon, is the most remote in the Sierra. Tunemah Peak, along the White Divide, is almost 13 miles from a road in any direction.
View of the Palisades from the summit of Mount Agassiz. The two highest peaks are Mount Sill (rounded, left), and North Palisade (pointier, right), and below them is the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada, the Palisade Glacier.
It really was quite an impressive view.
To the south was a great view of the Cirque Crest and Monarch Divide, the Great Western Divide south of that, and even Mount Williamson and Whitney at left.
To the north, the southern part of the Evolution Range dominated the foreground, but some higher peaks were visible beyond, like Mount Humphreys (pointy, right), the peaks of the Little Lakes Valley area, and even Banner Peak way in the distance. In all, I could see peaks almost 50 miles in both directions!
I looked through the summit register a bit before heading down, confirming the popularity of this peak. While there was much boasting about the time people had taken to ascend, there were no familiar names.
On the way down, I followed the broader chute the whole way down, skirting the snowfields on the side. It was easier than the route I had ascended, though there was the occasional class 3 move. I would guess that without snow, the center of the chute would go at sustained class 2.
At the bottom, I came across another hiker standing at the “oh-shit” angle - the view from the bottom of a route that always makes it look more difficult than it is. He seemed to be a bit unsure of himself, so I assured him it was easier than it looked and provided a bit of beta.
The view of Mount Agassiz from Bishop Pass. The slanting, snow-filled chute that ends on the summit slope is the easier one that I descended. On my way up, I climbed the next chute right, which ends at a headwall of dark rock about halfway up.
The lakes below Bishop Pass on the way down.
Mount Agassiz from the Bishop Pass trail. I decided to pass on Mount Goode, having had a good adventure already.
I was back in Mammoth in the late afternoon and researching a reasonable objective for the next day. All in all this was a really good climb, one of the more enjoyable peaks I’ve done in the Sierra. I’d highly recommend it.
That evening, Shannon and I went out for a sunset stroll atop Mammoth Crest. I got a couple of nice photos as well.
Sunset after another great day in the High Sierra.