Mount Pickering

Mount Pickering rises to 13,485 feet and offers fine views over the Sierra. While not tall enough to be called a 14er, this 13er offers great views of two of those exclusive peaks, Mount Whitney and Mount Langley, as well as several other high peaks. This remote mountain is located west of the Sierra Crest in the Whitney Region of Sequoia National Park. The backpackers trek to the summit provides stunning scenery and plenty of privacy.

A few routes can be taken to ascend Mount Pickering. This report will concentrate on the northeast approach from Sky Blue Lake. Consult the Sierra Nevada hiker’s bible, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails by R. J. Secor, or for information on other approaches.

Mount Pickering Sequoia
Looking up at Mount Pickering

Mount Pickering is a two-mile class two climb from Sky Blue Lake at the top of Miter Basin. The hike to Sky Blue Lake is an amazing 26-mile round trip adventure of its own, starting from Horseshoe Meadow. Most backpackers will make camp somewhere around Lower Soldier Lake and reach Sky Blue Lake and Mount Pickering on day two.

While a partial path leads up to Sky Blue Lake, at 11,550 feet, the trail is completely yours to create to the summit. In fact, based on the register, only a handful of hikers reach the top of the mountain each year.

Mount Pickering Sequoia
Looking down on Sky Blue Lake

To climb Pickering, follow the creek flowing into the back of Sky Blue Lake up to a depression between Mount Pickering and Mount Newcomb. Circumnavigate one last lake and make your way to the base of the slope beneath Pickering. Select your route and start toward the saddle to the left of the summit. Be careful crossing the loose gravel and lingering slips of snow. Seek out stable rocks and climb a thousand feet to the saddle. There are very few large boulders, making the climb fairly straight forward.

From the saddle, swing around to the south and take in the sight of Mount Langley, Primrose Lake, and Joe Devel Peak. Catch the view, catch your breath, and push on up the final five hundred vertical feet to the summit.

Large boulders toward the top make summiting Pickering more tiring than it would first appear. Boulder your way around the larger rocks and patches of snow. A cairn marks the highest point on the west end of the mountain. Just past the cairn, and down on the next large rock, is the peak register. Enjoying the vast view across the Sierra before returning the way you came.

Mount Pickering Sequoia
A view of Mount Whitney from Mount Pickering

As a variation, serious hikers may continue on to the adjacent Joe Devel Peak. Others will be tempted to descend the ridge to the southeast toward Primrose Lake. While this is a shortcut back, think twice. The Primrose Lake approach is called a class 2 in the annals of R. J. Secor (and it may be in late summer when the snow has melted), this path proved to be a tough class three (with a bit of class four mixed in) in July of 2009. After a strong winter, the long snowfield probably took up the easiest terrain. Unless you are a skilled mountain climber, you will be better off descending the way you came.

To get to Mount Pickering: Starting from Horseshoe Meadow, take either Cottonwood Lakes Trail or Cottonwood Pass Trail to Rock Creek at Lower Soldier Lake. Trek up Miter Basin to Sky Blue Lake and carry on from there.

Trailhead address: Horseshoe Meadows Road, Inyo National Forest, Lone Pine, CA 93545
Trailhead coordinates: 36.44834, -118.17065 (36° 26′ 54″N 118° 10′ 14.3″W)

Elevation Profile
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These photos were taken in July of 2009. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Sky Blue Lake Sky Blue Lake
This hike extends beyond Lower Soldier Lake up Miter Basin to a deep blue lake surrounded by towering peaks.
Sequoia primrose lake Primrose Lake
This sidetrek visits a lake between Miter Basin and Mount Pickering en route to Sky Blue Lake.
sierra lake Lower Soldier Lake
This 19.2-mile loop crosses Cottonwood Pass and New Army Pass to visit a beautiful lake that is an ideal camping spot for backpackers heading higher and deeper into the Sierra.
sierra hiking trail Cottonwood Pass
This 7-mile round trip trail ascends 1,200 feet to an 11,200-foot pass and a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, with access to Golden Trout Wilderness and Sequoia National Park.
sierra hiking trail Cottonwood Lakes
This scenic trail through a lake-filled basin provides a 10-mile round trip day hike to Long Lake and a 7.5-miles one-way trek to New Army Pass on the border of Sequoia National Park near Mount Langley.
sierra hiking trail Old Cottonwood Creek Trail
This 8 to 9-mile day hike follows a secluded trail through mountain meadows to the South Fork Lakes and Cirque Lake.
sierra hiking trail Mount Langley
This 22-mile trek travels past Cottonwood Lakes Trail over New Army Pass to a 14,042-foot summit with towering views of the Sierra.
sierra hiking trail Old Cottonwood Creek Trail
This 8 to 9-mile day hike follows a secluded trail through mountain meadows to the South Fork Lakes and Cirque Lake.
hiking trails sequoia More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Explore other destinations in Sequoia National Park and the rest of the range.
sierra hiking trail Horseshoe Meadow Campgrounds
This pair of campgrounds offer 40 sites and serve as a great base for the Cottonwood Pass and Cottonwood Lakes trails.
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Tagged with · Backpacking · Lone Pine · National Parks · Off Trail · Summits
Distance: 30 miles · Elevation change: 3500 feet

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3 Comments on Mount Pickering in Sequoia National Park

  1. Jim dom wrote:

    Nice post and mount views. I love to them and wanna go their if i can. Thanks

  2. samuel.goffinet wrote:

    anyone know what the weather is like throughout the year in this particular area and elevation?