Hiking Mt. Langley

Date: 8/1/2015

Type: Hiking, Rock Scrambling

Who went - Brian, Dan, Eric, Joe, Rishi, Mike, Jared, and Me (Jim)

So, it is claimed that of all of California's 14ers, Mt. Langley is the second easiest to hike. And while that may be true, it is still a hike that should not be taken too lightly. For several years now, when asked how Langley compares to Whitney, I would say that I thought Langley was a lot more scenic, and this hike really seemed to reinforce my opinion.

Our hike started at the Cottonwood Lakes trail head at 6:45 a.m. The forecast called for 1.3 inches of rain for the day, but the morning was just perfect. The first part of our hike is in a wooded (but not to dense) forest and ascends at a fairly comfortable level along the Cottonwood Creek for about 4.5 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain. Here is where we reached a fork in the trail, go left and you hike up New Army Pass, or go right and hike up Old Army Pass. We chose Old Army Pass, and I highly recommend it. This takes you along the Cottonwood Lakes, which are pristine and beautiful. 

Word of note - Old Army Pass is a very steep ascent (750' in about 3/4 of a mile) which may not be enjoyable for those who don't enjoy steep hikes.

At the top of this steep ascent, we reconnected with the New Army Pass, and the rest of the hike is easy, according to Eric (which he had to answer for by the time we reached the summit). Not many in our party agreed. The push from here is a climb through ever-deepening scree which just zaps the energy from you, all while gaining altitude.

After climbing through the steepest part of this scree field, we reached a ridge and had to decide between going left and hiking through hundreds of feet of the same scree to the summit, or going right and doing a class 2/3 rock scramble to the top. We chose the rock scramble. 

If you have any experience in rock climbing, then this is definitely the way to go. There is nothing that is very difficult, and it is all pretty protected (no falls more than 15 feet).
While we were climbing the rocks, we were keeping an eye on the dark heavy clouds that had been lingering above the peak and were noticing that they seemed to be moving in. By the time we reached the summit plateau we were beginning to get some hail, and upon reaching the peak, we were in a full-blown hail storm.

Luckily, the storm only lasted 20 minutes, and the images of the surrounding mountains that it gave us was well worth the adversity!

Funny side note - Dan, and for some reason only Dan, was becoming electrically charged and feeling the energy in his head. Part of me wanted to grab his arm and feel the energy and the other part wanted to stay the heck away from him. Sadly, I went for the latter.


Tips and Tricks
  • Try my High-Altitude Cocktail (Caffeine, Advil, Sugar, and Electrolytes)
  • The last place to fill up on water before the main ascent is at Cottonwood Lakes #4.
    • If you are ever debating whether to filter your water, see note below.
  • There is no cell coverage up here, so if you are meeting people up here, have a communication plan ahead of time.
  • Horseshoe Meadows (No Reserve, Walk-in, Location, and Info) - This is a mostly walk in campground which is first come first serve. If you get in late and are hiking early in the morning and just need a few hours of sleep, I recommend boondocking it. As long as you can find a parking place, there is plenty of space to just plop down a cot or sleeping bag and crash. Or sleep in the car for that matter.
  • Alabama Hills - Under a tree or by the creek.
  • Lone Pine Campground () - Not recommended since the drive from this campground would probably take about 45 minutes to an hour.
Lodging in Lone Pine:
  • Pizza Factory
  • Alabama Hills Cafe (Incredible Breakfast)- 111 West Post Street, Lone Pine (760) 876-4675
"Should I Filter?"

So, before this hike, I have been really pushing the envelope when it comes to filtering my water from various sources. When we reached Cottonwood Lake #4 (the last source of water), I filled up from a moving water source which seemed safe (and may have been), but what I was not investigating is where this moving water source was coming from. Well, it was coming directly from the stagnant, yet pristine looking, lake itself. My guess is that this water was a bit tainted. Now, I am not sure if it was the water or a little altitude sickness, but I was feeling pretty destroyed on the hike back down. Upon getting home, I was pretty much laid out and semi-bedridden for 2 weeks. My advice - Filter, filter, filter!

Life is an adventure, now get out and live it!


This posting is a living document provided by The Adventure Life Project and may change throughout its life.