High Point: 14,023'
Elevation Gain: ~4,287' via New Army Pass, ~3,987' via Army Pass
Distance: 21 Miles Round Trip
Maps: Cirque Peak and Mt. Langley 7.5 Min Quads.
First off, there are two basic routes to Mt. Langley, via either New Army or Army Passes, Army is regularly misidentified as Old Army Pass. These passes opposite of one another on the same rock, New Army on its south face and Army on its north. Our understanding is New Army Pass was put in to open up this area earlier in the year because of its orientation to the south. Army Pass hasn't been maintained for 30 years and because it is north facing will not open to non-technical traffic until August in most years. As of September 2006, Army pass was a class one pass with one minor class 3 move near the top. However, this can change with one rock fall or avalanche.
The Backpacking Trip
The Cottonwood Lakes and New Army Pass Trailhead are one in the same. If you are going via New Army Pass you have an option of utilizing a short cut, which will cut off about 2 miles round trip but requires a bit of cross country travel around the South Fork Lakes. About 180' past the S.F. of Cottonwood Creek...the first stream crossing there is a trail which junctions with main trail, it is very easy to walk by if you don't know it is there. This is our preferred trail to New Army Pass, it gradually climbs until the last climb to South Fork Lakes whereas the main route is an up and down and round about affair, the remnants of pack traffic is non-existent and the trail is less sandy. If you don't like being alone on a trail not on any map continue up the CL/NAP Trail. At ~3.1 miles you will enter the John Muir Wilderness and cross Cottonwood Creek but about .6 miles further up the trail the New Army/Army Pass travelers part ways. Those utilizing New Army Pass will recross Cottonwood Creek while those using Army Pass will continue up the trail.
At ~6.5 miles from the trailhead those taking NAP will come to Long Lake. The best camping is at the west end of the lake. There are not many campsites available at High Lake, ~3/4 miles further up the trail.
Those going over AP the best camping is found on the north end of Cottonwood Lake #3...the current Cirque Peak Map has the lake incorrectly numbered so, look at the message board at the trailhead for the correct numbering scheme. There are very few campsites at lakes 4 and 5.
New Army Pass is about as easy as it gets going over the Sierra Crest. The pass is well engineered and is in great shape. The only problem is tops out 12,300', which means unless there is mild winter you will be not be able to cross this pass until mid to late July. The earliest we have crossed it was July 6, 2002. Its disadvantage when doing Mt. Langley is the 300' climb back to the pass after a slog up to Langley.
Army Pass hasn't seen maintenance in 30 odd years but it is still in fair shape. However, there are a couple of minor class 3 moves around a few boulders across the trail. This is most direct path to Langley, once you come down from the peak there is no mo' climbing. Its disadvantage is geography, that is, it is on the north face of a wall, which will hold snow much later than New Army.
Pick your poison.
From the Top of Either Pass
The basic route it very simple...get the southwest corner of the mountain. There is a trail but by the time you reach 12,500' there are a ton of trails, everyone seems to have an their own idea how to get to this corner. Our way is to take the most direct route, damn the steepness to a point.
As they say, all roads lead to Rome, eventually, this is true at Mt. Langley. There is a cut up to the mountain that most hikers are going to take. Once climb to a small plateau you will have another choice to make. Go around to the west side and work your way up the scree or take the minor class 3 short cut. Once through this all that is required is 40 minute walk up the scree to the summit. My guess is this saves upwards to 20 minutes.
The summit is flat, broad and offers wonderful views of the Sierra.
Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Cottonwood Lake #3: 3:00
Cottonwood Lake #3 to Mt. Langley: 4:00
Summit Stay: :45
Mt. Langley to Cottonwood Lake #3: 2:00
Cottonwood Lake #3 to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead: 2:28
We had 25 to 30 pound packs for the way in
and utilized our main packs as summit packs.
This trip is a great trip to test your
sensitivity to elevation. Most in SoCal will get to 11,500' prior to going to
Mt. Whitney. In some cases, this in not enough to make a determination because of
the short duration most will have at that elevation. Your camping location for
Mt. Langley is ~11,000' and most will be there for a couple of nights...this
makes it a good test. It is better to find out here if you are sensitive to
higher elevations so, you can take the necessary steps to assure a good Mt.
Whitney trip for one and all...either drugs and/or extended acclimatization.
Mt. Whitney Backpacking Page
Home | The Main Mt. Whitney Trail | Spring on Mt. Whitney | New Army Pass to Whitney Portal
Cottonwood Pass to Whitney Portal | Onion Valley to Whitney Portal | Main Trail Alternative | The Mountaineering Route | Gear
The Light Way | Food | Backpacking FAQ | SoCal Training Trips | Planning | Permit Strategies
Gear & Trail Tips
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike Page
Home | The Whitney Experience | Mt. Langley | White Mountain | Planning | Gear, Food and Clothing | The Light Way | Day Hiking FAQ | SoCal Training Ideas
| Trail Map |
Books | Basic Information |
Travel on Snow and Ice | Trail Dangers | Finding A Wilderness Experience | Permit 2008 | The Blog
E-Mail any questions or comments
Date of Last Change: 11/1/06