Caltech Peak

Notes by piero scaruffi | Travel resources | Other California destinations | Other California trails
Pictures of the hikes

Caltech Peak (4207m) is a 56 km roundtrip hike from the nearest trailhead, the Symmes Creek trailhead in Independece. This is the infamous Shepherd Pass trail that i described here. For most people just getting to Shepherd Pass is a monumental day hike. From the pass leave the trail (that coasts Mt Tyndall and heads slightly south towards the John Muir trail losing a lot of elevation) and head east contouring the Diamond Mesa to your right. This involves some bouldering, especially near the lake (that you might or might not see, depending how high you stay). When you reach the southeast chute of the Diamond Mesa, turn right around it (lots of bouldering if you don't want to lose elevation) and you should reach another lake, that i call Corner Lake. Coast the lake to the right and start ascending in the general northwest direction, trying to minimize the downhill sections. Caltech Peak now appears to the north. Just head towards it. Eventually you will hit the John Muir trail (impossible to miss it). At some point the John Muir trail crosses a little creek (one meter wide). That's a good point to leave the trail and head straight up towards the southeastern slopes of Caltech Peak. Stay to the right of the prominent waterfall. Above it you will find another lake. Walk to the lake and, just before the lake, start climbing the slope. If you go too far to the right you will see some cliffs above your head. Avoid those. Best is to climb slightly to the left of them until you reach another plateau. You might have mistaken it for the summit from down below. Move decisely to the right, still gaining elevation as you head for the next visible summit (also a false summit). At this point you can move as much as you like to the right. Most likely you'll have to do so in order to avoid the snow. Just keep gaining elevation as you do so. The real summit is behind to the right, so you are actually heading in the right direction (the direction of Forrester Pass, if you know where it is). Eventually it becomes obvious which is the real summit and it's an easy scramble towards it.

Caltech Peak from Corner Lake:

The waterfall:

Easiest is to climb to the LEFT of the obvious (albeit deadly) chute:

The view is highly educational. To the north you see Mt Stanford. To the east is Junction Peak. To the south you clearly see Mt Williamson and Mt Tyndall, and, behind and above the latter, Mt Whitney. Best is the view from southwest to northwest: the Great Western Divide in all its glory.

Distances (and 2010 time):

  • Trailhead (1920 m)
  • Fourth creek crossing: 30'
  • Saddle (2770m, 5 kms): 2 hrs 15'
  • Water (2620m, 7 kms): 3 hrs 15'
  • Anvil Camp (3130m): 5h
  • Shepherd Pass (3672m, 17 kms): 6h45'
  • Lake of Diamond Mesa: 7h30'
  • Corner Lake: 8h
  • Creek crossing of John Muir trail: 9h30'
  • Summit: 11h15'
  • Corner Lake: 12h30'
  • Shepherd Pass: 14h
  • Water: 16h
  • Saddle: 17h
  • Fourth creek crossing: 18h
  • Trailhead: 18h30'