The tallest peak in Yosemite National Park is Mount Lyell at 13,120 feet. Coming in a close second, is Mount Dana at 13,061 feet. Like Mount Hoffmann in the geographic center of the park, there is no “trail” to the summit of Mount Dana that is maintained by the National Park Service. Having said that, for those that are willing to route find, brave substantial elevation gain, and risk venturing off the three mile one way distance in minor ways, the payoff is a summit with great three hundred and sixty degree views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the high country of Yosemite, and Mono Lake to the east.
San Jacinto Peak is the highest peak in the San Jacinto mountain range at 10,834 feet of elevation; and the second tallest mountain in Southern California. It is also the sixth most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous United States.In the past, San Jacinto was known to the Cahuilla Native Americans as Aya Kaich, meaning an area with smooth cliffs. To them, the mountain was the home to Dakush, the meteor and legendary founder of their tribe. Today, San Jacinto is known to hikers and mountaineers as one of the “Three Saints”, a term that refers to the three tallest mountain ranges in Southern California – the San Jacinto Range, the San Gabriel Range, and the San Bernadino Range. The other mountain members of the Three Saints are Mount San Antonio, and Mount San Gorgonio. The mountain has also been popular with modern explorers and conservationists, including John Muir, who stated, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth”. The mountain is also a popular destination due to its proximity to Southern California, and has multiple points of access on both its Eastern flank (Palm Springs) and its Western Side (Idyllwild).
While Mount Ellinor is not the highest mountain on the Olympic Peninsula (Mount Olympus is, at 7,979 feet), nor the site with the most accessible high alpine views (Hurricane Ridge, in Olympic National Park is), it is one of the most popular hikes in the region, along with Sol Duc Falls and the Hall of Mosses. As well, on a clear day, Mount Ellinor has some of the best views of Olympic National Park and the peninsula as a whole from its 5,954 foot summit. Mount Ellinor also is one of the best places to see mountain goats in the entirety of Washington. While all of these items are positive - great views - ability to view wildlife - what is bad about the Mount Ellinor hike is the vertical gain. While there are many ways to climb Mount Ellinor - Upper Trail; Lower Trail; Winter route - all of these ascents feature a fair amount of vertical gain in a short distance. But for those willing to accept the pain, they will find that despite its popularity, Mount Ellinor’s summit is worth the potential suffering.
Unbeknownst to most people, California was the place where glaciers were “discovered” in the United States, atop Mount Shasta. And while the words “California” and “glacier” will never be synonymous, the state still has twenty glaciers (seven located on Mount Shasta, and thirteen are located in the Sierra Nevada). While each of California’s remaining glaciers offer their own individual logistical challenges, the Palisade Glacier is one of the easiest to visit from May to mid-October. In this case, easy is a relative term, as visitors to the Palisade Glacier will have to traverse ten miles of trail to the end of the glacier, and gain 4,000 feet of elevation, before returning back to the trailhead. From mid-October through May, the ascent to the Palisade Glacier becomes substantially more difficult, as it is over snow and ice, and requires proper preparation and navigation. However, for those willing to make the trek, the Palisade Glacier is a spectacular sight to behold; and is a relic from a long lost past that is disappearing in the modern age.
On the Eastern border of California, and near the Western border of Nevada, is an area that is full of mystery, wilderness, and desert solitude. This area is Death Valley National Park. The name alone “Death Valley” transcends time and space, and for hundreds of years has been a beacon to prospectors, explorers, adventurers, and today, casual visitors. While Death Valley is, as its name suggests – a fundamentally hostile environment, with temperatures regularly soaring over 100 degrees from April through October, it is more than a flat wasteland. In reality, Death Valley is one of the most geologically diverse environments on the planet, where the remains of glacial Lake Manly are laid bare, and the effects of active volcanism and erosion are easily visible. Within the confines of Death Valley, one can find tall, uplifted mountains, year-round waterfalls, volcanic craters, sand dunes, eroded canyons, and the lowest spot in North America.
Whether one is a casual mountaineer or climber, or a veteran outdoor enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard of Ueli Steck, or as he is generally known, “the Swiss Machine”. With two Piolet d’Or Awards, innumerable fastest known ascent times, and the recent accolade from National Geographic in 2015 as one of their “Adventurers of the Year”, Ueli Steck has a list of honors and accomplishments that most people can only dream of. Recently, in an interval between climbing trips, Ueli was touring the United States in connection with the American Alpine Club’s 2016 National Athlete Tour. During the tour’s stop in San Diego, I was fortunate to sit down for a few minutes with Ueli during his day and quickly learned that being a professional alpinist calls for busy days both in the backcountry and in urban settings. Prior to chatting with me, Ueli had arrived in San Diego late the prior night before from his previous tour destination, and had spent the day climbing, getting his hair cut, eating tacos at San Diego’s well-known Lucha Libre, and of course preparing for his nightly presentation and the next stop on the tour. Despite his hectic schedule, we were able to have a relaxed conversation about mountaineering and travel, and where he sees the sport going over the next couple of years.
The Route/Conditions: As I mentioned above, I chose Rogers Peak for my snow survey of Telescope because it was an “easy” way to get the information. While access to Rogers Peak is through a fire road, it is worth noting that in winter, nothing is “easy” as it seems. Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Rogers Peak is a 9,994 foot mountain, and like most things in life, “easy” is a subjective term that can mean many things to many people. Finally, for people that are not familiar with the area, Rogers Peak is one of three mountains in the Panamint Range of Death Valley that are generally climbed together – a sort of “three peaks in one day” challenge. The other two are, respectively Telescope Peak (the highest point in Death Valley at 11,043 feet), and Bennett Peak (9,980 feet). While Rogers can be climbed as part of the three Panamint Peak trifecta from the main Telescope Peak trail, it can also be climbed separately as a stand-alone mountain via the fire access road.