Mount Muir aka Mount Whitney's Much Cooler Neighbor

  • Updated: August 15, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 15th, 2019
Mount Muir (14,012')

I have been occasionally observed to not be the biggest fan of Mount Whitney. I love almost every aspect of the Sierra Nevada and after over a decade  backpacking and climbing my way across it it does make me a bit sad that the thing people are most familiar with is the highly trampled wag bag strewn mess that is the Mount Whitney Trail.

Don't get me wrong marching yourself up the well groomed trail is a physical challenge due to the altitude. And the views of the High Sierra are always impressive. And yes it is technically the highest point in the continental US. And what do you get at the top?

Big flat area. With a building. And it looks down on civilization (assuming you agree Lone Pine qualifies as civilization).

There are more adventurous routes like the excitingly named yet surprisingly simple Mountaineers Route or the technical east face routes but they all end somewhat anticlimactically on said plateau.

If you love it more power to you I just wish I could take you up something like Seven Gables, Mount Winchell, Spanish Mountain, or any of about 50 others in various spots in the Sierra that would absolutely knock your socks off.

Seven Gables: Cooler Than Mount Whitney
Now, lest I start sounding like some bitter climbing hipster the point of this post is actually to point out the far less visited yet far more interesting Mount Muir located a short distance of the trail just after leaving Trail Crest.

Named after the famous Sierra pioneer John Muir I always found it was a bit odd that they gave him such a minor peak but hey, the guy does have one of the more well known thru hiking trails and a wilderness area named after him.

Muir is most commonly done with Mount Whitney since it's a small detour along the way and Jen and I visited while wrapping up our 11 day southbound jaunt of the John Muir Trail. We'd come in from Guitar Lake to the west which for my money is a much nicer approach to Whitney than the Portal.

I will admit a part of me was a bit reluctant to exit the nice easy trail when we were looking at our last 10 miles before finally getting some well deserved real food but I rallied. For the trip report!

Mount Muir is easy to pick out from a distance since it's the most interesting feature along the ridge between Trail Crest and Whitney.

The most straightforward route is to leave the trail pretty much directly to the west of the peak.

There were ducks and a few visible use trails but you can basically pick your route. You just want to aim for the rocks on the right side of the face in the picture above.

Once you are at the base packs can be dropped as long but I'd make sure not to leave any food in any outside pockets as there are rather invasive marmots lurking around.  The route from here is a fairly straightforward diagonal involving a bit of 3rd class with some exposure.

The moves are not difficult at all but due to the exposure involved some people would classify it as 4th. I always felt like I had a good solid handhold and the downclimb didn't feel particularly awkward.

Once up top you get your summit view reward which includes those poor souls over on Whitney trying to convince themselves how awesome it is.

And as an added bonus you are close enough to the Whitney Trail to hear exclamations from hikers who see you from below.

So is Mount Muir worth doing on it's own? Not really since Whitney is so close but it makes for a great pairing and if you're anything like me it'll be the standout summit of the two!

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