It’s been a couple of years since any of us had been on a 14er and so it was time to get up there again. We chose Langley (14026 ft / 4275 m) since most in the group had not been up there, it’s the closest to home, and it’s easy to get to the top as California 14ers go.
We drove to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead and started hiking towards the lakes around 2 pm. It was about 5.5 miles with 1,000 ft elevation gain to our campsite where we arrived just in time to set up camp and prepare dinner. As it got dark we all went into our tents to get a good rest for the ascent of Langley the next morning.
Hike: 5.5 miles ~1,000 ft gain
We got up around the time the first rays of sun hit our camp and started our ascent around 7 am. We had chosen the New Army Pass route since recent reports had mentioned big rock falls and general deterioration of Old Army Pass. The latter has not been maintained in quite a few years, though it was in reasonable shape when Srisuda and I took it 7 years earlier. We made good progress and after about 1h 45m arrived on the top of the pass. After a short rest, we went down some 300 ft to Old Army Pass and then took the trail up towards the peak. Here we were at 12,000 ft.
Army Pass was a route originally used by sheepmen. The trail was built in 1892, at a time when the U.S. Army was patrolling Sequoia National Park, by black soldiers from Georgia – Troop K of the Fourth Cavalry. The name first appeared on the 1907 Olancha 30′ map.
New Army Pass was constructed in 1955 because the original east-facing Old Army Pass was usually snow-clogged until late summer. The two passes are only about 1/4 mile apart.
The trail was in good shape even though it became sandy around 12,500 ft. At 13,200 ft it appears as if the trail dead-ends in a rock wall. There is a huge cairn at the bottom and several equally huge cairns can be seen on top of the rock wall. Unfortunately, people have created use trails and even cairns leading in the wrong direction. Following these routes leads hikers into rougher terrain. The correct route is to do the easy scramble up the rock wall. It’s just 15-20 ft up before reaching a nice trail again. From here on it’s a sandy slog up the remaining 800 ft to the peak. The route is marked by more huge cairns.
On the summit we enjoyed great views. There was some wind, but we were able to find shelter behind some boulders to take a nice break before heading back down. Just before reaching Old Army pass we got a special treat. 5 Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep showed up close to the trail. They were not bothered by hikers and we got a great look. There are only about 600 of these in all of the Sierra.
Once back at New Army Pass Klaus and Srisuda continued back to camp while Jack, John, and I took a 3 mile / 800 ft gain detour over to Cirque Peak for some more peakbagging. We all met up at camp and enjoyed our dinners. Tired from the long day we went to bed shortly after sunset.
Hike: 16.7 (13.7) miles / 4,400 ft (3,600 ft) gain
After breakfast we broke down camp, packed up, and headed back out. With fresh mountain water available Srisuda and I filled up our 5 gal water canister for drinking water at home. The long drive home with the usual traffic issues in Riverside followed.
Hike: 5.5 miles / ~1,000 ft loss
It was a great trip with very comfortable conditions. Nighttime temperatures appeared to be in the 50th. Besides the bighorn, we saw a lot of marmots and on the way out we saw a number of deer.
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