Iron Mountain From Devil's Postpile For Laurent's Sierra Club I Provisional

  • Updated: July 22, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

July 20th to 21st, 2013
Iron Mountain (11,148')

After last weekends somewhat more relaxed three day weekend it was time for another Sierra Club provisional outing.  This time we were headed to the east side for the I provisional of the one the only the mightily bearded Laurent Hoffman.  Two days, a long drive out to Devil's Postpile aiming to grab Iron Mountain, and as an added bonus we were in the middle of mosquito season and in an area I've come to associate with relentless blood sucking hoards.  Fun fun!

As usual I flew back from BoiseFriday morning landing in Orange County around noon.  Since we were in for a long haul up past Mammoth Lakes we planned to leave a little early in the hopes of sneaking out before traffic and maybe getting to the trailhead before 3 am.

Sadly despite the effort to get early the 91 freeway insisted on being like the 91 freeway on Friday and we had a good long drive before we could even pick up Bill Payne in Riverside and get over Cajon Pass and on to 395.

Many hours, miles, and one dinner stop (at the always awesome Domingos in Boron) later we pulled into the dirt lot below Mineret Vista around 1:30 am which wasn't too bad as far as your average Matt trip trailhead arrivals go.  We  found Laurent bivy'd by his Element with another participant.  He had arrived before sunset and in addition to late afternoon thunderstorms (wohoo!) he said the mosquitos were rather bad.

Not a good sign but I'd kind of expected it since the last time I'd been out here this time of year I'd bivy'd at Agnew Meadows listening to mosquitos buzzing outside the bivy the entire night.

Still I didn't feel like pulling out the bivy buried in my pack and so settled for sleeping out and just bundling up inside the bag as well as I could.

I slept surprisingly well considering the thermos and a half of coffee it'd taken me to get there and a few hours later I had no problem popping up and getting moving at 5 am.

The mosquitos were still present but not to the levels they'd apparently reached the night before.

After a quick visit to enjoy the sunrise view at the vista we were past the gate that blocks access to Red Meadows.  They road is somewhat narrow so they try to encourage everyone to use the provided shuttles whenever possible but we were pretty sure we'd be back to late to catch one coming back out.

Laurent had gotten the permit the day before and since we weren't meeting at the trailhead until 9 am we decided to go explore the cafe at Red Meadow and see about getting some coffee.

I knew Red Meadow was one of the major stop pover points along the JMT but I'd never been there.  We followed the signs and found a resort complete with bathrooms with running water, a cafe, and a general store.

It wasn't quite open when we got there so we waited outside an open window being subjected to the aroma of cooked bacon all the while being subjected to the cruelest sign I'd encountered in quite some time.

I mean, come on!  How is someone suppose to resist that?

We chatted with the increasing crowd of JMT hikers and random civil war reenacters...(?)

Big knife.  No one messes with his bathroom...

At long last the cafe opened and we joined the disheveled mass of trail folk shuffling through the door.

The menu was limited but populated with enough pig chunks and fried chicken fetuses we had no complaints.

Miles hiked: 0  Restaurants eaten at: 2
We slurped down as much coffee and we could and after availing ourselves of the now unguarded restrooms before heading back for the trailhead.

As it turned out the other two vehicles worth of participants had had the same idea and eaten at the cafe as well though we hadn't recognized each other.

Back at the trailhead parking we found the long term hiker lot is actually a bit up the road from the ranger station where the trail starts.  It was an easy stroll going in but a few people were heard to explain it grew exponentially on the way out.

We packed up quickly hurried along somewhat by the rather docile mushroom eating deer that kept munching and staring at us in a disconcerting fashion.

At the ranger station Laurent did the usual Sierra Club trailhead talk and we were off.

The trails were all thoroughly marked since where we were starting also services the Devil's Postpile monument.

After years of seeing the signs for Devil's Postpile while passing through Mammoth it was nice to actually see it even if we were across the river from it.  (It's basically just a really odd rock formation.)

After that we entered the wilderness proper and soon passed through an old burn area.  There were signs at all the trailheads about the fire back in 1992 so I assume this was part of that.

We gained our altitude gently and before too long arrived at Fern Lake.

There were at least two other groups at the lake including some idiots who had set up right in the middle of a meadow across the lake from us.  On the plus side it appeared they were in danger of getting hit by rock fall so it was almost a self correcting problem.  Sadly they weren't the only ones with really bad campsites we would see that weekend.

Camping is somewhat limited at Fern (ignoring the meadows) and there was a father and son in the main campsite just above the water.  We also found a stock camp at the eastern side of the lake but it was right on the trail and a little too public for our tastes.  Laurent went off to scout and found us some rather nice tent sites a bit further up the hillside which we declared to be home sweet home.  We set up quickly and headed down to take advantage of the lake.

After an early season full of bad weather, cold weather, and no swimming I'd managed two weekends of lake swims in a row.  Not bad!  Granted a few of us were a bit gunshy as we were still sporting severe sunburns from last weeks extended expedition to the rock out in the middle of Devil's Bathtub.

As it turned out our timing was spot on as no sooner had we dried off and ventured back to camp but rain and thunder started up.

A few of us retreated into tents but most of us just rode out the relatively minor amount of rain.  We had some decent thunder coming from over by Ritter but could only see the occasional flash of lightning peaking over the ridge behind us.

Being just 5 or so miles in several of us had brought in decent food so we enjoyed wine, bacon quesidillas, pasta, and several other treats.

Well fed (again) we pulled out a set of totally family friendly* Cards Against Humanity and proceeded to amuse ourselves for a good hour or two.

The tagline "A game for horrible people" is rather accurate but none the less much fun was had.

Unfortunately as the evening proceeded the mosquitos grew from a nuisance on to a moderate plague and on to an unbridled bloodthirsty hoard attempting to suck us all dry.  Eventually we decided to call it and dove for our bedrolls to conserve what blood we still had left.

I fell asleep safely ensconced behind the netting of my bivy listening the to endless drone of the blood sucking hoards hovering about outside.  Brings back memories!

Since this was just a two day trip we had a bit of an ordeal ahead of us for Sunday.  We were going to need to get the peak, return to camp, hike out 5 miles, and then drive all the way back to Orange County.  And then some of us had to catch a plane.

So we were up early.  Wakeup came at 3:45 am with camp departure happening at 5:00 am sharp just as it was light enough to see.  On the plus side morning constitutional runs could be made without getting eaten alive by mosquitos which is always nice.

The map shows a trail above Fern but it's little more than a vaguely ducked use trail which quickly petered out.

The sun came up as we started our climb proper.  Laurent was taking us across the face of the bowl south of Anona Lake (as opposed to the ridge which I'd actually be tempted to try next time I'm back out this way)  We angled across aiming for the prominent saddle to the right of the high point in the picture below.

Traversing across the occasionally steep and loose ledges we skirted above a band of cliffs and finally had a clear shot at the ridge.

Crossing was trivial and once on the western side we could see our peak.

Iron was slightly unassuming from this angle but the views up top were awesome.

The rapidly forming clouds and the schedule for the rest of the day meant we didn't get a whole lot of time up top before Laurent drove us back down the way we'd come.  And it turned out to be none too soon as it was soon apparently we were in for weather yet again!

We dropped a little lower coming back but roughly stuck to the same route.  We got a little drizzle coming back but most of us didn't even both with the rain gear and it had mostly stopped by the time we got back to camp and started packing.

We had several tired folks so the 5 miles out was a bit on the slow side and the last bit from the ranger station to the backpacker was not overly appreciated.

Sadly we made it out before dark so no headlamp hiking this trip sadly.

We were out early enough that post trip food was an option so most of us headed for Basecamp down in Mammoth for a burger.  That left us leaving Mammoth at 9 pm or so and arriving back in Orange County sometime a little before 4 am.  Again.  Bleh.

We did have one high point going home as there was an incredible electrical storm lighting up the entire crest as we passed through Lone Pine.  As it turned out this was part of a larger weather pattern that would start flooding out roads a few days later.

Monday it was back to Boise only to fly back on Thursday and head in for Split Mountain, Tinemaha, and as many other peaks as we could get amid three of some of the worst weather days of the far...

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  1. Looking for Matt Greene who was last seen in Mammoth Lakes on 7/16 and had a day hike planned for 7/17. Was there a summit register at the summit of Iron Mountain? By any chance did you or a member of your group take a photograph of it? Please reply to

  2. Missing hiker in that area at that time. Youy might want to contact them.

  3. We chatted but there wasn't much help we could provide unfortunately. We didn't notice his name, photograph the register, ect.