Mammoth Rock CS

Jul 2, 2003
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

Mammoth Rock is a notable feature of the Mammoth area, prominently visible on the northwest end of the Sherwins Range, viewable from almost anywhere in town. I had seen the rocky plug on may occasions in the past, but until recently had viewed it as unclimbable, beyond my abilities. I noted on one trip that there might be an easy enough route on the side where it connects to the main ridge, and decided to give it a try when I had a few free hours. The approach is very short and easy, so it certainly wouldn't take even half a day, but until now I had never wanted to "waste" a free climbing day when I had so many other harder challenges available.

My opportunity came when on a week-long roadtrip with my 6yr-old son. We spent a few days in Tuolumne Meadows fishing before heading down to Mammoth Lakes to spend a few days with friends who were "condo-camping" for most of a week around the 4th of July holiday. It's very unusual for me to spend so much time in the Sierra without actually hiking or climbing, so after three or four days I was really getting the itch. I was able to steal away a few hours early one morning while my friends watched Ryan. I had no beta (and hadn't even tried to find any) so I was very unsure of the outcome - but a good excuse to get some exercise.

I parked my car at the trailhead for the pack trail that traverses across the north side of the Sherwins. I walked a short ways along the trail, maybe a quarter mile, before I was right in front of the monolith, shining white and towering above me. I headed up the slopes on its north side, aiming for the saddle from this same side. On the way I came across an interesting diversion, an abandoned mine shaft. Without a flashlight I was only able to walk in a short distance before darkness overcame my sense of adventure to travel further. I would have to come back and explore it better in the future, but I suspect it doesn't go in too far, the end result of some miner's misfortune.

I resumed my hike to the saddle, reaching it soon enough. This side of Mammoth Rock is indeed the easiest, but by no means is it a walk in the park. I studied it only a few minutes before picking out a route on the left side, a short but fun class 3 scramble with exposure. Happily it brought me to the summit area without running into a dead end. There's plenty of room to walk about on top, and the views of Mammoth Mtn and the town are some of the best to be had.

On the way down I took a different route, the deep chimney carved in the same side but about 40 yards further right. This turned out to be an easier way, though still class 3 due to a short section requiring some easy stemming. I followed a sandy use trail I found back down, this took me past the Mill City prospecting site shown on the map. Aside from an old stamp mill (in and of itself interesting, but no more than 40 or so years old) there wasn't much else. But it did have a 4wd road leading to it that I followed back down to Old Mammoth Road where I'd parked my car. Had I known this was the more direct route I probably would have taken it on the way up, but I probably would have missed out on the mine shaft since there is little to indicate it's presence off the main use trail. The whole excursion from car to car took less than an hour and a half, but it was an interesting diversion, well worth the time spent.

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