Hiking Mt Morgenson in California

Notes by piero scaruffi | Other California destinations | California hikes | The Sierra mountains

Mt Morgenson (4245m) is not named on any of the official maps as of 2015, but hikers have named it that way after the disappearance of Randy Morgenson (see Eric Blehm's book). The mountain also has a regular register (metal cylinder) at the top. However, there is no USGS marker. It is located just west of Mt Russell and north of Mt Whitney in the Eastern Sierra.

Number of people who signed the register in 2013: 1
Number of people who signed the register in 2014: 0
Number of people who signed the register in 2015: 2

Nonetheless, it has probably the best view of the high Sierra.

First you need to get to Lake Tulainyo (the highest named lake in the USA). One option is to follow the sandy southern route to Russell's east peak, i.e. the Russell-Carillon pass. The other option is much better although way less popular. Take the Whitney mountaineering route just like going to Mt Russell. Then leave the trail before the first lake and hike straight north, parallel to the creek that you passed on the way up. This route is shady, foresty, it has water and it is class 2; much better than the steep sandy slope to the Russell-Carillon pass. Eventually you will converge towards the creek and you will realize that you have been hiking towards a massive mountain, which is actually one of the lower subpeaks of the Cleaver. The creek drainage winds its way upstream into a gulley: first the drainage bends left, then right.

Entering the gulley between Carillon and Cleaver:

To avoid brutal bouldering the right side becomes more appealing as the soft grass disappears. Avoid the steep granite sections. The mountain to your left is Mt Carillon. The gulley between Carillon and Cleaver gets narrower but never narrow enough to call it a "chute". It is obvious that it dead ends against the real southern face of the Cleaver. Before the dead end, there is a climbable "cliff" and a chute next to it. You can either climb the cliff (with quite a bit of exposure) or enter the chute (class 2, lots of scree, but safer). Once into the chute take the first sensible chimney to your left (marked with a giant cairn in 2016) that will take you to the top of the "cliff".

The route up the gulley (cliff or chute):

The chimney to the left of the chute that takes you the top of the cliff:

Here you realize it is not a cliff but simply the bottom of a broad class-2 face. Ascend this face and you'll get to the ridge that separates this part of the world from the Lake Tulainyo part of the world. The crossing is obvious (not the lowest point but just south of it).

The location of the Cleaver-Carillon pass if you are coming from Lake Tulainyo:

The Cleaver-Carillon pass if you are coming from Lake Tulainyo (note the vertical stripes of Carillon):

The descent towards Lake Tulainyo is relatively easy despite the bouldering. Most people prefer to walk around the lake using the southern and western shores, but both directions (clockwise and counterclockwise) are possible. You need to reach the northwestern corner and then bypass Russell's north ridge. Then Mt Morgenson rises straight in front (west) of you.

Morgenson is the mountain all the way to the right:

The slope is class 2 most of the way. Just avoid the steep granite slabs. The very top (visible all the time) requires some class-3 moves but nothing that compares to the scary class-3 routes on Mt Russell.

  • Whitney Portal
  • First lake 1h30'
  • Small plateau 2h30'
  • Big plateau 3h30'
  • Chute 4h30'
  • Pass (4000m) 5h15'
  • Lake Tulainyo (3908m) 5h30'
  • Base of Mt Morgenson 6h30'
  • Summit 7h45'
Coming back you can either climb the same pass or climb the Russell-Carillon pass and connect with the Whitney Mountaineering route:

  • Pictures of this hike
  • Weather forecast
  • View from the top of Mt Morgenson (video)
  • Lake Tulainyo (video)
    Note: as of 2008 the unelected officials who run the Inyo National Forest (with your tax money) have extended the "Whitney Zone" to the entire Whitney mountaineering route above the Lower Boyscout lake. Hiking beyond the first lake requires a Mt Whitney permit (no, this is not a joke). The route that i described here may or may not lie entirely outside the Whitney Zone. If it enters the Whitney Zone (as defined in 2015), it does so only when you coast the western shores of Lake Tulainyo, where it is unlikely that an Inyo National Forest ranger will arrest you for the heinous crime of hiking in the wilderness. Petition your Congress representative to dissolve the Inyo National Forest and return the wilderness to wilderness lovers.