Suffering and Euphoria on Mount Agassiz
Mount Agassiz has been on my to-do list for a few years. Last month, I finally talked my son Wes into going with me on this one. We drove up on a Friday and met at Lone Pine where we grabbed a burger before heading in.
We were going to spend a couple of days camped at Long Lake near Bishop Pass. I had hoped to summit Agassiz and a couple of other smaller, but more challenging mountains (Aperture Peak and Picture Puzzle). Leaving the trailhead, the weather was beautiful, but about a mile into the hike a trillion mosquitos descended on us. It was so bad I changed out of my hiking shorts into long pants right on the trail. We sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent, but it did little good. It looked like paradise but felt like hell.
Mount Agassiz Quick Facts
No permit required for day hikes, permit required for overnight
Allow 12 hours
Hard – Class 2 and Class 3 Terrain + off-trail navigation
Mount Agassiz elevation 13,898′
4,130 elevation gain
10 miles up and back
We decided to camp just past Long Lake. We had hours before sundown to fight mosquitos. When we finally went to sleep, we didn’t. Wes and I both had splitting headaches from going from sea level to 11,000 feet – and not drinking enough water. I had some really funky dreams that were more like hallucinations. When the sun came up the next morning, we were both thankful. We also both felt like crap.
I went to light the stove and realized I didn’t turn it off the night before. “I’m a *&%! idiot,” I said out loud as I came to the realization that we could not cook any hot meals. Most importantly, we could not make coffee! Ahhhhhh! Demoralized but determined, Wes and I grabbed a couple of protein bars and ate them as we started up the trail to Mount Agassiz.
In less than an hour, we were at Bishop Pass staring at the west slope of Agassiz. As we ate lunch I studied the mountain to determine our route. There are a number of chutes that all lead to a ramp near the summit. We picked the one that looked the easiest and had a backup plan to move to the shoot to the left of us if it got too exposed.
I went to light the stove and realized I didn’t turn it off the night before. “I’m a *&%! idiot,” I said out loud as I came to the realization that we could not cook any hot meals. Most importantly, we could not make coffee! Ahhhhhh!
We stowed our trekking poles and started up the mountain. We both still felt terrible, but about 30 minutes later, we both started feeling fine. Not just fine, but great! We couldn’t explain it, but it buoyed our spirits and we climbed strong for the next two and a half hours. It was mostly class 2, with some occasional easy class 3 terrain, but very steep. We would climb in 100-200 foot bursts, then cling to a rock painting. We’d recover in about a minute, then repeat the process. Eventually, the shoot we were climbing got excessively steep and exposed, so we moved to a parallel shoot to the left of us where a creek ran down the middle.
At 1pm we reached the summit. The views were stunning and there were hundreds of monarch butterflies that gave it a magical feel. We were staring at the Palisade Crest – all of the tallest 14ers strung together on a knife-edge ridge.
The weather was perfect. We must’ve spent maybe 10-15 minutes at the summit just taking in the views, and then we headed back. The descent to Bishop Pass took 2 hours. At that point, we decided that we didn’t want to deal with another night of mosquitoes and cold dehydrated meals. We were both done. The summit of Agassiz had been worth the whole trip and we were content to head home.
At 1pm we reached the summit. The views were stunning and there were hundreds of monarch butterflies that gave it a magical feel.
We both ate celebratory, big greasy burgers and got a good night’s sleep in a cheap Bishop hotel before heading home. As I made the drive home I couldn’t help but think how blessed I was to be able to have adventures like this with my son. Before I made it home I found myself scheming of a new adventure – maybe a little more difficult this time. 🙂
Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center
No permits are needed for day hikes. You can apply for an overnight permit on Recreation.gov. On your way to the trailhead, you will need to pick up your physical permit at the visitor center in Lone Pine. From there, you are ready to get on the trail.