Mount Morgan (S)
August 29, 2020
11.9 miles, +4,400’
For our last full day in Mammoth after hiking the Southern Sierra High Route, Shannon and I hoped for a relatively smoke-free climb of Mount Morgan (the south one). At 13,748’ this is the highest peak in the Rock Creek area, and the 31st highest peak in California. Mount Morgan is one of the Sierra peaks that holds the distinction of there being no higher peak to its north. The easiest route, from Francis Lake, is class 1, so the only real challenge is the talus and altitude.
The trailhead is a little bit hard to find, it’s in a campground at Rock Creek Lake between two campsites, and parked cars can obscure the sign. But you’ll find it if you keep looking.
We hiked up and past Francis Lake before climbing onto the huge talus field that continued 2,500 vertical feet to the summit. We tried to choose a reasonable line from below, but stuck too far climbers-left and emerged on the wrong side of the undulating moraine that’s visible on the USGS quads between 11,600’ and 12,000’. So, we were forced to cross that mess to the bench just southeast of Point 12352. Above here, the climbing was more obvious from below. There are many broad chutes that gain the summit slope, the climbers-rightmost one is the most inviting and recommended by Secor. There was a bit of wobbly rock in here, but nothing too bad.
Atop the chute, we gained the north ridge of the mountain and had a nice view across the Little Lakes Valley of Mount Mills, Mount Abbot, and Mount Dade.
Not too long after this, we were on the summit.
Looking across the little lakes of the Little Lakes Valley at Mount Mills, Mount Abbot, and Mount Dade.
To the south there was a detached, flat-topped pinnacle and an expansive view of the central and southern Sierra, including the Palisades, Mount Humphreys, Mount Darwin and the Glacier Divide, and Mount Goddard.
The little lakes, 3,000’ below.
Bear Creek Spire with Feather Peak, Royce Peak, and Merriam Peak behind. Even one of the Royce Lakes is visible in the gap of Croft Col.
After 30 minutes or so of reading the very busy summit register, taking pictures, and snacking, we headed back down. We chose a better descent line and even found a use trail through the lower stretches of the talus field on climbers right.
Late afternoon light shining into the valley where Francis Lake sits.
Mount Morgan high above Francis Lake. Note the vaguely defined chute at right, which is the easiest route to the top.
Abbot, Dade, and Mills again from lower on the trail. We made it back to the car without incident and headed back north after another enjoyable outing. Little did we know this would be our last for a little while as California’s wildfire season was about to kick into overdrive.