Hiking to Mt Barnard from Whitney Portal

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

Mt Barnard (4264m) can be reached from Independence (the George Creek route) but also from Lone Pine's Whitney Portal. It is debatable which one is longer/harder.

The route from Whitney Portal is much more beautiful: it goes through Lake Tulainyo (the highest named lake in North America), Wales Lake (3573m) and Wallace Lake (3497m). These are rarely visited lakes.

You start from Whitney Portal and follow the route to the base of Mt Morgenson. Mountains along the way include: Mt Tunnabora (4135m), which lies to the right of Tulainyo Lake, Mt Russell (4294m), which lies to your left, Mt Morgenson (4245m), a little further down from Mt Russell, and Mt Barnard (4264m) further down to the right of Morgenson.

Circle Tulainyo Lake to the left, staying higher so as to take a short cut around the base of Mt Russell. This leads you to a vast plateau that descends gently towards Wales Lake. Stay to the left for best terrain then follow the creek that dives into Lake Wallace. Before the drop, coast Wallace Lake towards Wales Lake. Most likely you will end into the only decent chute that descends to Wales Lake (on the way back, you'll recognize it because it will be just to the right of the black staircases). Here you have an impressive view of Mt Hale. You don't need to get to Wales Lake. At the bottom of the chute, head slightly right and descend the vast slope to Wallace, staying to the left of the lake. There are actually three lakes, Wallace being the first one. After Wallace, you can cross the outlet and you'll be right under the long north side of Mt Barnard. Find a place that is not too sandy and climb to the ridge (laborious but easy class 2), then follow the ridge to the top. While climbing the ridge of Mt Barnard, you'll probably stumble on the Inka-like "citadel" of Mt Barnard (which a geologist told me was nature-made, but you judge for yourself when you get there).

The price you pay for entering this remote region is the Carillon-Cleaver pass (3980m) and bouldering down Lake Tulainyo (3908m).

The citadel is one of the most amazing sights of the Eastern Sierra, whether man-made or nature-made:

  • Whitney Portal
  • First lake 1h30'
  • Small plateau 2h30'
  • Big plateau 3h30'
  • Chute 4h30'
  • Pass (4000m) 5h15'
  • Lake Tulainyo (3908m) 5h30'
  • Lake Tulainyo's western end 6h30'
  • Descent towards Lake Wallace 7h30'
  • Coasting Lake Wallace (3573m) 8h
  • Southwest slope of Mt Barnard 9h
  • Citadel 10h
  • Summit 11h
Coming back you can either climb the same pass or climb the Russell-Carillon pass and connect with the Whitney Mountaineering route:

Mt Barnard, Mt Versteeg and Mt Tyndall from Whitney Portal

Once you discover this route from Whitney Portal into the Wales-Wallace plateau, it is hard to resist going even further.

  • Pictures of this hike
  • Weather forecast
  • View from the top of Mt Morgenson (video)
  • Lake Tulainyo (video)
    Be aware of several dangers...
    • The approach is via Whitney's North Fork route, which involves the Ebersbacher Ledges
    • Going up from the first Boyscout lake to the Carillon-Cleaver Pass is pretty straightforward, but coming down you might end up on the steep deadly granite slopes. Try and stay near the creek.
    • The chimney to the Carillon-Cleaver Pass is, at most, easy class 3, but it is easy to take the wrong direction and get into slippery sandy steep sections (in 2016 someone built huge cairns that are useful to identify the chimney but in my opinion they are on the wrong side, the most difficult side).
    • The rocky walls of Tulainyo Lake look like one gigantic moraine that is just waiting to collapse. As you downclimb or climb back up make sure to dislodge as few rocks as possible lest you start an avalanche that will bury you forever.
    • This not touristy Mt Whitney: there is virtually nobody around in the region past Tulainyo, so don't count on help if you get injured or lost.

    Note: as of 2008 the unelected officials who run the unelected officials of the Inyo National Forest (paid with your tax money) have extended the "Whitney Zone" to the entire Whitney mountaineering route above the Lower Boyscout lake. Hiking to Lake Tulainyo requires a Mt Whitney permit (yes, even for a day hike). The route that i described here does enter the Whitney Zone briefly. Please petition your Congress representative to dissolve the Inyo National Forest and return the wilderness to wilderness lovers.