MT LYELL (13,114 ft.)

Named by Whitney Survey in 1863

Also Canyon, Fork, Glacier

"Named on July 2, 1863, by William H. Brewer and Charles F. Hoffmann of the California Geological Survey.

'Mount Lyell, for Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), whose admirable geological works have been well known to students of this branch of science, in this country, for the past thirty years.' (Whitney, Yosemite Guide-Book, 1870, 100.)

Mount Lyell is the highest peak in Yosemite National Park. The first ascent was by John Boies Tileston of Boston, on August 29, 1871. 'I was up early the next morning, toasted some bacon, boiled my tea, and was off at six. I climbed the mountain, and reached the top of the highest pinnacle ("inaccessible," acording to the State Geological Survey), before eight. I came down the mountain, and reached camp before one, pretty tired.' (SCB 12, no. 3, 1926: 305.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada

"July 2 we are up early. First, a hasty and substantial breakfast, then we prepare to climb the highest peak back. The frost lies heavy on the grass, and we are some distance before the sun peeps over the hill. Over rocks and snow, the last trees are passed, we get on bravely, and think to be up by eleven o'clock. We cross great slopes all polished like glass by former glaciers. Striking the last great slope of snow, we have only one thousand feet more to climb. In places the snow is soft and we sink two or three feet in it. We toil on for hours; it seems at times as if our breath refuses to strengthen us, we puff and blow so in the thin air.

After over seven hours of hard climbing we struck the last pinnacle of rock that rises through the snow and forms the summit -- only to find it inaccessible, at least from that side. We had to stop at 125 or 150 feet below the top, being something over 13,000 feet above the sea, the baromter standing 18.7 inches. As we had named the other mountain Mount Dana, after the most eminent of American geologists, we named this Mount Lyell, after the most eminent of English geologists.
- William Brewer, Up and Down California

The route chosen by Brewer and Hoffmann appears to be the standard route up the Lyell glacier on the peaks north side, a straightforward class 2-3 climb, so it remains unclear why they found the route "inaccessible".

About Charles Lyell:

  • Angus, England Homepages
  • Strange Science
    Other Emblem Peaks named by Whitney Survey:
  • Mt. Abbot
  • Mt. Brewer
  • Mt. Clarence King
  • Mt. Goddard
  • Mt. Humphreys
  • North Palisade
  • Mt. Ritter
  • Mt. Whitney
  • Mt. Williamson