Mount Langley From Little Cottonwood Creek Because Why Not

  • Updated: August 10, 2014
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 9th & 10th, 2014
Mount Langley (14,026')

(aka A Cold Damn Birthday for Blondie)

Mount Langley is one of the 11 California peaks above 14,000 ft and so highly desired by many.  It's also one of the easier ones along with Mount Whitney owing to the trail that leads up to the very summit.

Personally this makes the peak somewhat less appealing to me than your average nondescript bump somewhere in the Sierra backcountry and as a result I've walked past it numerous times without bagging it.  It always seemed like a good one to save for an easier two day weekend when nothing else was going on.

And that turns out to be this weekend.  I wanted to get out but since I was looking at a brutal drive next weekend for a two day Mineral King trip a reasonable drive and days sounded pretty damn good.  So off Kristen, Jen and I went.

I managed to make things a little more interesting by finding a trailhead I didn't know about and which I couldn't find much information on.  So we'd leave from Little Cottonwood Creek, camp at the lakes, and then bag Langley on Sunday before leaving possibly early enough to make post trip mexican in Boron.

Oh, and it was also Blondie's birthday on Sunday so we planned to have a nicer camp wherever we ended up complete with homemade lasagna cooked in camp thanks to Kristen.

As far as the trailhead Little Cottonwood Creek starts near the top of the switchbacks heading to Horseshoe Meadows.  There's a small parking area there but I couldn't really find anything about it other than a mention on Steve's extensive trailhead driving directions as  But it looked like it would make things a little more interesting than just strolling in the standard Cottonwood Lakes trailhead.

We slept and left the car at the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead so we'd have an easier time at the end of the trip.

Since Little Cottonwood Creek was a ways down the road this meant we had to do a fair distance of road hiking.  4 miles to be precise.  But we only went about a third of the way before someone offered to give us a ride down the road.

Little Cottonwood Trailhead

The trail seems like it's been all but abandoned and we did a fair amount of bushwhacking as we fought our way up the canyon trying to stay on the trail such that there was.

There's a trail here somewhere...
It was fun to see new trail but the route honestly doesn't have a whole lot to recommend it in light of the extra hassle involved.

Eventually we hit a meadow near Golden Trout Camp on the topo and rejoined the normal high use trail back towards Cottonwood Lakes.

Langley in the distance

The weather was a little iffy and we had plenty of time to grab the peak the next day so the overriding priority became to find a camp that wasn't overrun with a large number of people.  That isn't always easy back there.

We headed for Hidden Lake aptly named since there's no trails leading to it.  After a brief scramble over a ridge we had it to ourselves.  We set up camp and went about cooking dinner.

At which point we learned a very important lesson.

It's one of the well known rules of backpacking that adding more people adds complexity far beyond the gain you get from having an extra set of hands.  So while it might be easier to carry the gear having more hands involved can lead to misplacing things under the assumption they were in someone else's pack.  Or two someone else's packs.  Something like say the sole fuel canister we'd brought to cook our lasagna and make our coffee which all three of us remember handing at the trailhead before it was apparently set aside and left behind.

We discovered this after setting up out while quite hungry and talking about the lasagna Kristen had packed in.

So cold lasagna is was.  Happy birthday Blondie!

The lake was quite alive with critters and I was had I broke my usual inclination not to bring a filter.

Lack of a fuel cannister also meant that breakfast was cold.

No coffee, no eggs, and no melted cheese.  It's one thing when you're expecting to scrounge but the fact we'd been trying to have a nice weekend food wise made it a sad situation.

We got moving and headed for a trail junction to stash all of our camping gear while we ran up to the summit.  Along the way we took a shortcut between two trails (the map gets a little fuzzy there) and ran into llamas.

It took me a few seconds to realize what I was seeing when a fuzzy head poked up over a bush.  There were a number of them presumably being used by a packer somewhere but we never saw the owner.

We found a spot to hide our bear cans, sleeping bags, ect and headed for Old Army Pass.  Our general plan was to head up that and maybe down New Army to make things more interesting.

This is looking straight at Old Army Pass.  From a distance it doesn't look like there's a trail but it's actually a rather nice once once you get up there.  There was only a single instance where we had to hop over a few small boulders blocking the way.

Once up top we had our view of the deeper Sierra.  It made me really wish we were heading in for some of the bumps around Pickering.  But we were here for Langley.

We picked up the trail and started up.  And bloody hell is it a slog.  It's soft sand which slows you down and we all felt the altitude those last 2000 ft or so.

Kristen provided for scale right at the moment a gust of wind just about sent her hat flying.

There are huge ducks marking the trail but it's also indistinct in places due to the large amount of footprints going in every direction.  We did our best to stick to the approved trail the forest service is trying to make stick.

The summit is somewhat non descript not unlike it's northern neighbor Whitney but it does have one hell of a nice view.

Whitney is the peak in the background behind and to the left of the shaded peak.  Whitney isn't the most impressive summit outside a few locations but this was one that really showed it off well.

We dallied on the summit enjoying the views longer than we should have and then headed down.

Typical Sierra marmot.  If you have any good recipes please send them along

Since it was getting late we decided to just go down Old Army Pass again.

Grabbing our gear and hiking out was largely uneventful except for the section right before the cars where we took a cross country shortcut that was anything but.

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