Day 2: Cottonwood Lake #4 to Old Army Pass to Mt. Langley to
Upper Soldier Lake
August 26, 2005
Back to Day 1 Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Cottonwood Lake #4
Day 3 Upper Soldier Lake to Miter Basin and Sky Blue Lake
Day 4 Miter Basin to  High Lake
Day 5 High Lake to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

Back to Backpacking
Back to Tarol's Homepage
Old Army Pass
In the morning we got an early start (but not as early as John) and up up up we went up
Old Army Pass.  I’d heard a lot of different opinions as to how hard this pass was.  It
is no longer being maintained but I think it’s in pretty good shape.  It is steep and
rocky but the trail is easy to find.  The views you get of the Cottonwood Lakes Basin on
the way up are great!

The top was announced by a sign that we were entering Sequoia National Park and the
views looking west to the Kern River Canyon and the Great Western Divide were
amazing!  I could identify several of the mountains over there as I’d seen them many
times from the west, but never from this direction.  It was windy up on the pass but not
too cold.  Immediately after the sign I found a use trail contouring north up the ridge and
I took it remembering the directions that I had to climb Mt. Langley.  We stayed to the
left of several prominent rocks on this ridgeline.  Cris climbed some of these rocks and I
took his picture.

We contoured up the ridgeline and headed towards a red sandy saddle.  The ranger I
spoke to at the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station said that this would be a good spot to drop
our packs and continue our dayhike to reach the summit of Mt. Langley.  It was a good
suggestion as there weren’t many marmots or other dangers to our packs here.  At
this point we met one guy headed down and then shortly afterwards we met John headed
down.  They were both dayhiking up from the Lakes Basin below and weren’t carrying
full packs so that’s why they were a bit quicker summiting than us!

At this point the hike gets hard.  The going is really slow as the surface you’re walking
on is very sandy.  It’s like walking uphill on a beach!  But there are many trails that all
head up in the same general direction so you just have to pick one and slog on up.  And
whenever you stop to catch your breath the view is amazing!  There are also lots of
wildflowers blooming up here - a member of the sunflower family, raspberry buckwheat,
rock fringe, lupine, and sky pilot.

At about 800 feet from the summit you reach a rock wall.  At this point it’s best to
stay to the left.  Cris started heading to the right and I followed him although I shouldâ
€™ve gone with my first instinct as the left routes looked easier.  When Cris couldn’t
go any further we then decided to just take a look off the eastern ridge into the Owenâ
€™s Valley.  I ate a snack and then we tried to decide what to do.  It was 1:00 pm which
was still early enough but I was getting tired.  We decided to head off to the left again
and just when I thought I couldn’t go on any further I just decided to push myself and
hike to the top!  I was exhausted but by sheer determination we found a route which at
this point involved some easy class 3 climbing using our hands.  We then saw a huge cairn
on the skyline and headed towards it and soon enough found ourselves on the top of Mt.
Langley!  When I reached the top I felt much better.  I was very glad I had pushed
myself!  We took a few pictures then headed down knowing we still had a long way to go
that day.

Down down down we went down the rocky then sandy slopes of Mt. Langley.  We found our
packs, had a snack, then headed down into the Upper Soldier Lakes area.  I was hoping
there was a trail to be found going that way and there was.  It was a pretty good trail,
too, even thought it's not on the map!  Along the way we saw lots of evidence of bighorn
sheep – lots of scat and tracks.  Never saw any sheep, though :(

Once we reached Upper Solder Lake we found a good campsite near the northern shore
and then I just collapsed.  I was exhausted!  I set up my tent and wasn’t very hungry
but I drank some ice tea and ate a few crackers with cheese.  Then it was early to bed
just as the last light was fading from the sky…
Gotta love finding snow at only 11,000' in late August in California!
Slogging up the sand!
Looking southwest to the Great Western Divide, the Boreal Plateau,
Siberian Outpost, and in the lower left corner is Upper Soldier Lake
where we planned on hiking to that night
Hey, that cairn is taller than you!
We made it!! 14,027'
Looking north to Mt. Whitney which is on the right
Heading down down down again
Not many people ever see this flower, Sky Pilot
Polemonium eximium.  It only grows at high elevations.  
The only other time I saw it was in Colorado at around
12,400'.  This one was growing at about 13,600'.
Heading down to Upper Soldier Lake
At the meadow above Upper Soldier Lake looking
back up at what we had just hiked down
Rock Fringe Epilobium obcordatum
Help me!  I'm falling into the Owen's Valley!
Photo courtesy Cris