Pyramid Peak

Sun, Jul 3, 2005
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

The Sherwins are a prominent ridge rising up to the south of the town of Mammoth Lakes. They make a picturesque backdrop for the town, with million-dollar homes vying for the best spots in town from which to view them. The ridge is some four miles in length, starting from Lake Mary Road and rising slowly as it continues southeast, eventually connecting with the Sierra Crest at Duck Pass. The ridge contains a wide mix of rock types, granitic, volcanic, and splashes of interesting quartz features. The northwest end is the site of the old Mammoth Mine on which the town was founded in the late nineteenth century. Elsewhere on the southwest flanks of the ridge are the dilapidated remains of the Monte Cristo, Mammoth Consolidated, and other mines as well. There are no officially named summits along the ridge, though several are in local use and sometimes conflicting. The ridge is very popular for backcountry skiers with popular runs such as Rock Chute and Parachute (see map for locations) lining its northeast slopes. The highpoint is near the southeast end, unofficially called, well, it doesn't seem to have even an unofficial name. Northwest of this is is a double-summit peak referred to as Pyramid Peak, the twin summits separated by the only sharp gap to be found along the ridge. Most of the ridge is an easy class 1 hike, though not without a great deal of talus to keep one from moving too quickly.

As a last minute idea, I decided to head out along the ridge to see if I could reach the highpoint, or possibly traverse the ridge all the way to Duck Pass. I didn't get started until 5p, so it seemed likely I would be racing darkness before I got back. I parked the van off Lake Mary Road and headed up the hillside more or less directly. I ran across a use trail that made travel through the loose talus considerably easier, and I would find this trail or vestiges of it from time to time along the ridge. The trail mostly went up to the site of the Mammoth Mine. A few deep shafts have been covered somewhat haphazardly with chain link fencing. In other locations, horizontal shafts still have railway tracks coming out, ending abruptly after some 20 feet or so.

I continued up the hillside, past some snow patches and other interesting rock features before reaching the more gentle inclines of the ridgetop. The views here are quite nice, Mammoth Lakes to the southwest, Mammoth Mtn and the Ritter Range to the west, the town to the north. To the southeast over Duck Pass rose the snowy peaks of the Mono Recesses, McGee Creek, and the Silver Divide. There were some wildflowers to found along the ridge, mostly varieties with small flowers and meager folliage. The porous soil means water doesn't stay around for long once the snow melts, and the flora seems to suffer accordingly. The hike was longer than I anticipated as the ridge seems to go on an on, one minor peak after another. I figured I had about 4hrs in all, 2.5hr up and 1.5hr down. I used up all of that 2.5hrs in reaching the twin summits of Pryamid Peak. The northwest summit in comprised of a light gray granite and from the top it is difficult to determine which of the two is higher. I was right up against the edge of my turn around time, but decided to go visit the other summit just in case it happened to be higher. I dropped down into the gap separating the two, then up the other side. The darker southeast summit is volcanic in origin, and from the top it appears that the northwest summit is higher. Perhaps it is an illusion, because I found a register on the southeast summit, a nice reward after a long hike. Its contents dated back to 1974, and there weren't more than a few dozen entries. The last entry was in 2003, almost 2 years earlier. The register named the summit as Sherwin Peak, but current local references seem to name it as Pyramid Peak. The ridge continues to the southeast, with a higher point located along a bumpy ridge in that direction (which I have labeled "Sherwin Peak" on my map), but I had no time to continue on. Duck Lake and the Silver Divide were plainly visible to the southeast, and a fine view of Bloody Mtn was had to the east.

It was 7:30p at the summit and I had less than an hour before sunset. I decided to head off the ridge to the south, thinking it might be quicker to find the Duck Pass Trail and take that back. After taking most of an hour to negotiate over 1,000ft of loose talus, I watched the sun set over Mammoth Pass as I reached the floor of the narrow valley. There was more snow here than I had expected - the trees did a good job hiding it from view while on the summit above. The snow was soft and heavily suncupped where exposed to the sun, making navigation a pain. I had to admit I had not taken the quickest route. I found the trail but it was under water in many places, getting lost under snow and generally difficult to follow. Past Arrow Lake things got better, and I started jogging where I could to try to make up some time. The family was expecting me back in town by 9p and the less overage on that return time that I could manage would mean less worrying. When I reached the campground at Lake Mary I started thumbing for a ride, knowing I still had a few miles to go. Someone took pity on me after the first mile of jogging/walking in the dark and gave me a ride for the last mile, getting me back to the car just a minute before 9p. I would have to come back some time in the future to complete the traverse, tagging the highpoint along the way next time.

Continued...


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