Mount Starr

Elevation: 12,835
Location: Sierra Nevada Range, California

Mount Starr is probably one of the best easy climbs of a high peak in the Sierra Nevada range. I hiked the peak in a half-day while in California in September of 2000 from Mosquito Flat via Mono Pass and some easy off-trail bouldering.

Beautiful Little Lakes Valley, Bear Creek Spire The drive up to Mosquito Flat was very pretty as the colors were changing at this time of year. The parking lot was large, and about half-filled on this day. I was getting somewhat of a late start, but since the hike was relatively short I wasn't too worried about afternoon storms, besides there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I followed the trail up into the beautiful Little Lakes Valley. Every couple of minutes was a view that seemed worthy of taking a picture. Rugged Bear Creek Spire sat at the back of the canyon, still with some large snowfields (glaciers?). Numerous small lakes filled the valley. A number of hikers were on their way down, but few of us were going up.

At a branch, I took the right track towards Mono Pass where the trail increases in steepness as it switchbacks up before heading west again. The south face of Mount Starr is quite rugged, and it's obvious that routes are best to approach from somewhere else. The trail bends and turns northeast again and between some rugged cliffs you can finally see Mono Pass. I felt more fatigued than I should have been on this easy hike. Arriving at Mono Pass revealed it to be maybe the largest pass I've ever seen in terms of "area"'s huge! And most of it is sandy, gravely fine rock. Tiny patches of snow lingered here. I walked along the pass and found what seemed like a trail of sorts leading up towards Mount Starr, some 800 feet above.

From Mono Pass looking back towards Mt. Abbot? The first 300 feet were easy walking up the sandy incline, but then it became more rock and boulders, which for me was almost better as I wasn't getting so many tiny rocks in my shoes. The peak was easily attained slightly to the east. While the view was good, it wasn't all that different from the walk up the valley. Towering Mount Morgan sat directly to the south, while Bear Creek Spire and Mount Abbot (all over 13,700 feet) were prominent to the west. A lake, no idea of what it's name is, was nearby to the north. I was the only one on the summit, but that's probably because of my climb being later in the day. Even late into a hot and dry summer, the Sierra peaks seemed to hold a lot of snow.

The hike down was equally scenic to the hike up. I wished I had more time to maybe hike further up the main trail and get closer to the higher peaks. The total distance for the hike was somewhere in the range of five miles climbing 2,100 feet to the peak. The total time was about four hours. Many hikers in the parking lot appeared to be hauling packs in for multi-day trips. While my second peak climbed in the Sierra was nowhere near as memorable as the first (Whitney), it was still a rewarding, quick ascent of a high mountain in an outstanding mountain range.

The Sierras are a long day's drive from Salt Lake City, and I hope to return to the east side for many hikes in the future. Lone Pine and Bishop are both outstanding small communities that I enjoy being in. In the future I hope to climb nearby White Mountain (14,246) and Mount Dana (Yosemite National Park), as well as to hike up to Palisade Glacier and Kearsarge Pass.