Posted by: The Trails Less Traveled | September 10, 2011

Mount Langley Sept 2011

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Mount Langley may be the “easiest” 14K peak in California, but don’t let the rankings fool you.  Any 14K peak has to be taken seriously…this was my first 14K peak I tackled and although I conquered Langley, it kicked my butt. The Cottonwood Lakes Trail head begins at the end of Horseshoe Meadows Road which is in itself an amazing road that zig-zags its way up the mountain just out of Lone Pine. Not too many paved roads go that high into the back country that’s for sure!

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Once the road ends at the Horseshoe Meadows Campground and you get out of your vehicle, you will immediately notice the thin air.  The trail initially takes you through stunningly beautiful yet barren sub alpine forests of pines and junipers.  Take time to rest and marvel at the twisted and mangled shapes of trees that have endured centuries of abuse from Mother Nature.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

After crossing a stream filled with golden trout and frogs the trail will start climbing gradually more and more.  The trees start to thin out and eventually lush alpine meadows appear where the five lakes are located.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

After you pass the crystal clear Cottonwood Lakes #4, the harrowing Old Army Pass comes into view, and then you start to wonder how the hell you’re supposed to climb any further.  You’ll only be able to make out some of the narrow ledges and switchbacks up the steep face of the cliff from the bottom, but fear not.  The Old Army Pass is hidden in there and still accessible.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Once you conquer the Old Army Pass the panoramic view of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley will reward you and forever be burned into your memory.  But the trip is still not done, and the elevation gain will start to take a toll on your body as you start noticing yourself slowing down and taking more frequent breaks.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Once you’re over the Old Army Pass continue towards the peak and then you realize that you’ll have to scramble up the last part of the peak.  Choose your route carefully and be prepared for some moderate climbing!

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Now the hard part is over…or so you think.  You still have a little ways to go through barren terrain to the very top…don’t stop now.  Eventually you start slowing down and exhaustion overwhelms you more and more, it is getting harder to breath and concentrate now, but stay focused and you will find yourself at the top of Mount Langley.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Enjoy the moment of success at 14,026 ft. and take lots of pictures and sign the registry…but don’t get too cocky. Just look to the north and you’ll see that there is an even bigger peak looking down at you waiting to be conquered…Mt. Whitney. Think you aren’t afraid of heights? Think again and look down the steep face of Langley if you dare!

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

For now though, stay focused and carefully descend the peak taking care not to step on precious fragile vegetation. Once the summit fever leaves you, your body will once again start telling you that it is oxygen deprived. The summit fever will have left you by now and now you’re just preoccupied with getting back to camp to replenish your starving body. Don’t take it personal when the yellow bellied marmots start chirping, telling you to get off their turf.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

Look back a couple more times and marvel at the peak that is Mount Langley and be proud that you were able to conquer this behemoth!  But watch your footing as you descend the steep Old Army Pass once again to return to more friendly terrain.

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

A big shout out to my climbing partner Tommy D. and looking forward to many more peak summits!

Cottonwood Lakes to Mount Langley

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