Every time I drive south down highway 395 between June Lake and Mammoth, I am struck by the imposing face of Mount Morrison. A steep pyramid, it rises from the crest and dominates the view of someone driving into the Mammoth area from points north. It is sharp and steep and looks unclimbable (to me, at least!) I had assumed the routes were beyond my skills, and occasionally I’d stumble across a trip report that would confirm the fact.
Still, after climbing Mt Baldwin two years ago and getting a closer look, I wanted to find a way up that peak. I had so much fun on Baldwin and wanted to experience more of that terrain, so I started studying Morrison a little closer.
What did I find? There is indeed a climbable route (again, by my standards) up the East face. Some reports are now out there in internet-land, and most place the route around class 2 or 3. That’s in my wheelhouse, so finally, armed with good beta in August 0f 2014, we set out to bag this beautiful beast!
Our climb began shortly after sunrise from the parking lot on the southeast shore of Convict Lake. Immediately, we took off through the bush to the south, attempting to gain the ridge of Tobacco Flat. Initially we followed an old dry creek, but we were eventually overwhelmed with undergrowth and had to bushwhack the rest of the way up the ridge.
Upon reaching Tobacco Flat, we found a rough dirt road that dead ended shortly beyond where we met it. We probably could have driven up here and saved ourselves the bushwhack trouble, but without good beta on the road conditions we just started down below.
From the end of the road we angled south and followed a wide wash for almost two miles. We were aiming for a point just above a small pond on the topo map, at the base of a wide slope. We took a break here and studied the route ahead.
Our route would take us up the slope ahead – much steeper than it looked at first!
It was a trudge and kept going. But this was the easy part! We continued along the use trail up into the bushes ahead. It was time for another break as we discussed the route. So far, use trail had led the way, but we were now at the base of the steep face. We continued beyond the bushes and managed to follow the use trail a bit farther until it petered out at the point pictured below.
From here, there were a few rough looking use trails but they didn’t go much of anywhere. So we started to seek out cairns and features in the rock that made the best scrambling routes.
What we found was actually a very enjoyable scramble! Here is the view looking down on our slope and the steep East Face. Notice the climbers below.
Eventually, cairns and rudimentary use trails led us into the main chute heading towards the summit. Now we were on loose terrain but it wasn’t quite as steep.
At the top of the chute we continued along steep and loose use trails to the summit. Typical steep Sierra scrambling.
This is one of my favorite places in the Sierra to climb peaks since the rock is so colorful and unique. I’ve climbed many other peaks in the area and on the top of each one I couldn’t help but stare at Morrison longingly. I never thought I’d get up this one, yet here I was, summiting after a really fun scrambly class 2 route that I had no idea even existed a month before.
We descended the same route, taking careful note to follow the cairns we followed on the way up so as not to get stuck in a rougher chute than intended. This was a fantastic climb and I really enjoyed the day. For additional beta and pictures on the route, please see my photo album below.
In and Out dayhike off trail. This route requires bushwhacking, route finding, and class 2-3 scrambling on loose rocky slopes. See the blog post linked below for a detailed route description.
7 miles round trip from Convict Lake
+/- 4700 ft
Trailhead and Permit Notes:
No permits are required for dayhiking Mount Morrison, nor is a fee required for parking at Convict Lake. This route can be shortened by driving into Tobacco Flat if you have a 4WD vehicle.
Convict Lake can get busy particularly on summer weekends. Furthermore, this hike is hot and exposed to the sun so I recommend getting an early start.
The closest campground is at Convict Lake, and it takes reservations. For a more private dispersed camping experience, explore the public lands on the east side of the 395 corridor for several options.