Mount Warren Via Lake Canyon And Lake Oneida WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: July 23, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

July 22nd & 23rd, 2017
Mount Warren (12,327')
Warren Fin (12,160')
Day 1: 3.9 miles and 1,950'
Day 2: 10.06 miles and 3,000'

After last weekend's mosquito fest of an attempt on Stanford North was turned back by snow I was just a bit concerned for this weekend's trip to Warren.   But not enough to do something drastic like not go to the mountains of course.

Mount Warren seems to be done more popularly as a dayhike from Tioga but there's a route up from Lundy that climbs Lakes Canyon past a really nice lake called Oneida.  Even better the trailhead is non quota and you're allowed to have campfires.  Mileage was extremely reasonably making it seem like an ideal candidate to make a two day WTC Experience Trip.

Once again this trip was primarily aimed at people who had taken the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course though once they are given priority anyone with the appropriate skills are welcome to join.

WTC is a 10 week course staffed by enthusiastic volunteers which runs every year from January to April and covers everything from hiking and backpacking basics to rock scrambling and even snow travel and camping all for a low low price!

Once the 10 week course and four weekend outings are over there's a requirement to complete two overnight backpacking trips with significant cross country travel throughout the summer in order to graduate from the program earning a certificate and an awesome patch. Since we typically have 250 ish students pass through the program every year you'll see me lead a fair amount over the next few months to try and meet demand. More WTC related content written by me can be found here and the official website with registration information can be found at

The trailhead is near Lundy Lake up past Lee Vining so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us.  So we met at 7 pm at a local park and ride and did our best to fit 4 people plus gear into the Party Jeep.

Not a problem!

We drove until about 1:30 am and spent the night at the normal bivy spot behind the Sherwin Summit sign north of Bishop.  Despite my best efforts we ended up at the exact same spot as last week we just
tried to sleep away from all the deer poop.

In the morning it was about an hour to the trailhead.  others in our group had grabbed a campsite nearby and when we arrived Paul was already starting up his famous pre hike breakfast burritos.

It made for a pleasant way to get ready.

The trailhead was the next dirt road past the campground and though it was marked as closed to flooding it was bone dry getting to the parking lot.  You could see where two channels were cut across the road but a low clearance vehicle would have been able to get past them with care.

The Lake Canyon trailhead starts at the eastern side of Lundy Lake.  It's notable as one of the few remaining non quota trailheads which means the forest service doesn't limit the number of people who enter per day except to keep groups to 15 people or less.  A permit is required but you can get it night dropped if you call in day of before 4 pm.

We trail climbs steadily past the lake before turning south into Lake Canyon.

The trail looked to be an old road which would have made for quick hiking except a good chunk of it was covered in fast flowing water.  You could generally step on rocks or gingerly make your way around the edges but keeping boots dry took work.

At one point in the canyon the trail was completely swamped and ducks led around to the side requiring us to hop over some small rocks.

We arrived at Crystal Lake and started making Friday the 13th references that sadly went over the head of most of the group.  Then we saw this...


We took the trail down towards Crystal Lake hoping to see the ruins and then reconnect with the other trail.

Unlike certain isolated warning signs about uranium in the water in Golden Trout someone had done a thorough job of spreading signs all around the lake so it would be hard to accidentally poison yourself.

We didn't check out all the ruins at Crystal since the runoff made it difficult to get back to the mill sites but what we did see was pretty limited.  A few rock walls and some remains of machinery.

We gave up and ended up shortcutting back up to the other trail which involved a little snow and a bit of vegetation.


There's the remains of a large adit just off the trail which has collapsed but there were pipes coming out of it that were spewing water.

We arrived at Lake Oneida and found a small group occupying the only sizable spot on the north western shore.  So we had to cross the drainage below the dam to find a site on the eastern side.

The dam was too rickety to walk across and the rocks below had just enough water to require getting boots wet.

On the far side we appeared to have the area to ourselves and soon found a site with plenty of tent spots and two fire pits for us to pick between.  Also the lake was passably pretty...

We had a good six and a half hours until sunset and we spent the time between talking, napping, and attempting to swim.

I say attempting because while the water was noticeably warmer than the frigid Hilton Lake we swam in last week it was still cold enough to be a bit uncomfortable.  Combined with the mixed cloud cover only about 4 of us went in.

A few of us might have been slightly wimpy about the final plunge but Hayley was hardcore and once she decided to go marched right in.  Afterwards those of us that had gone in all agreed it felt great.  Once you were out.

After a grueling 4 hours of hiking and several more of napping it was eventually time to eat.

We enjoyed multiple varieties of wine, canned beer which Victor hiked in and chilled in a snow bank, along with whiskey and scotch.  Oh and there was food as well.

Making BBQ chicken pizza as my happy hour contribution

We eventually got the fire going.  There were plenty of downed limbs for fuel but we couldn't find much that was big enough to make decent coals.  So we had to feed the fire quite often.

That did keep us occupied balancing the fire between going out and having to run back lest the newly pine needle fed fire burn off our eyebrows.

Most everyone went to bed fairly early since we would be getting up at 4 am the following morning.

Mercifully the mosquitos were present but not bad which made the early morning a lot nicer.  As usual we woke everyone up at 4 and got them hiking by 5:30 am.

There is an unmarked trail that leads to the pass which actually went straight through our camp though we didn't notice that that until we were coming back.  Instead we did a short cross country section down by the lake before seeing a trail above and climbing up to it.

The trail leads all the way up the pass once again life was made a little more difficult by the record snow levels this year.  We soon hit a patch that was steep enough I didn't want to take the group up it without ice axes and went straight up the rocks.

To get around the main snow patch we went to the left and climbed a small chute.  This was still second class except for a single move but took a fair amount of time to get 15 people through safely.

After that we were at the pass and could look down on Warren Fork.

Looking down at Warren Fork
And then the rough part started.

We only had about 3/4 of a mile of this terrain but the rock was steep and loose and our pace slowed to a crawl.  In addition someone wasn't feeling good due to altitude and he elected to wait for us here while we continued on to the peak.

I briefly evaluated swinging north past the two small lakes but that looked like it would require more sustained gain to reach the peak.  So we stayed the course.

By the time we could see Warren it was apparent that at our current speed we were going to have an issue.  So we split the group and those who felt they could rally and do the next 1500 ft or so in an hour and a half set off for the summit while the rest waited and enjoyed the view.

The climb to the peak was steep and the drop between Warren Fin and Mount Warren felt bigger than it appeared on the map but the terrain was less prone to sliding which was a relief after what we'd crossed below.

We reached the summit and found a register dating back to 2014 and a solar radio installation.

Mono Lake looked incredible from here and as we've seen elsewhere there is still a large amount of snow in the Sierra high country.

We didn't have much time to dawdle with the rest of the group waiting for us below so we quickly snapped a few pictures then headed down.

It took about 4 hours from the time we left the group to when we got back to them.  And even longer to retrace back to the pass.

On the plus side we did find an easier route down the pass by hugging the side of the snow field.

And then of course it was back to loose rocks.

But we had motivation to get down.  We could see crystal clear blue pool of water waiting for us at the bottom.  And considering we were all low on water it was pretty much the best thing we'd seen all day.

We stopped and drank our fill waiting for everyone to get down.  (And for a trip where everyone worked as hard as they did I sure did get a large number of pictures of people napping...)

Unfortunately by the time we got back to camp packed up and headed it was almost 6 pm.  And even with only 3.3 miles to go the trail took us about two and a half hours to get down.

Which meant it was after 9 by the time the last of us reached the cars.

And we were at Lundy which means we had a good 6 hours of driving to get home.  *sigh*

Since it was so late we skipped the post trip group dinner.  Our vehicle ended up at the Bishop Jack In The Box on account of it was one of the few things open and it was a very short stop.

We made it back to the Irvine park and ride at 4:28 am Monday morning.  Which meant for those of us gainfully employed peakbaggers Monday was a very rough day.

In hindsight the trip was a bit harder than it looked on paper.  The time we lost due to having to climb around the snow and due to the slow pace across the rocks above the pass turned this from a solid day into a slightly rough epic.  Less snow, a smaller faster group, or expanding the plan to three days all would have made this trip a lot more pleasant and it really does have a nice place to camp.

Next week it's back to the west side for yet another WTC Experience Trip this time to climb Vandever Mountain in Mineral King!

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