Cloudripper: Dreamy Weather and Amazing Views at 13,525′

Ihad been wanting to do Cloudripper for a while, so last year I took the family to make an attempt on the summit. My son Wes and I made it to what I thought was the summit of Cloudripper, only to discover from our GPS tracks that we had summitted the wrong mountain! We summited Vagabond Peak, not realizing that we came about 1000 yards short of Cloudripper.

Cloudripper Quick Facts

  • Permit required for overnight trips

  • Crampons and snow protection needed in winter

  • Strenuous + off-trail navigation

  • Cloudripper elevation 13,525′

  • 6,100′ of elevation gain

  • ~18 miles out and back

  • Access from Big Pine Trailhead

Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to do it again. But instead of going through Bishop Pass, I wanted to come up via the Big Pine Trailhead. Ian, one of my colleagues at NCF, agreed to come with me on this last trip of the season before winter arrived.

We met up at the trailhead, Ian coming from Santa Barbara and me from LA, late Friday morning and hiked up into Big Pine. It was a beautiful, perfectly cool, sunny day with fall colors everywhere from the aspens.

We hiked what seemed like about 8 miles in to our campsite at Lake 4. Just as we got to camp, the temperature dropped really quickly and within an hour, sporadic snow started to fall. Just before dark, the snow flurry passed and we caught an incredible sunset looking toward Two Eagle Peak.

We had heard reports of strong winds the day before that were expected to continue at the summit, so when we turned in for the night we weren’t sure if the conditions would allow us to summit. There was a lot of wind that night, but by morning it was perfectly still, clear, and 45 degrees – so we headed up.

There was a lot of wind that night, but by morning it was perfectly still, clear, and 45 degrees – so we headed up.

The trail quickly disappeared and we followed the terrain toward Lakes 5 and 6, moving over large talus fields that forced us to rock hop for a half mile. Then we scrambled up a steep ramp until we reached the ridge between Cloudripper and Skyhaven. This was the hardest terrain of the trip. It was super steep, loose, and seemed to go on forever.

The trail quickly disappeared and we followed the terrain toward Lakes 5 and 6, moving over large talus fields that forced us to rock hop for a half mile.

Once we got to the ridge we slowly ascended to the summit, passing the last remaining snow fields of the season. The summit itself took some moderate scrambling, but there was not exposure to worry about on this route.

We stayed on the summit and enjoyed the amazing views and perfect weather for 20 minutes, then mustered our strength to make the long slog back to the cars. We tried to avoid the long rock hop through the talus fields, but it was no use. After making the painful talus crossing one more time, we finally got back to our campsite, packed up, and then headed off the mountain.

Ian and I were both pretty wrecked by the time we got to our cars. It was just a lot of miles in a long day. We parted ways and I got a Red Bull and snacks at the gas station to keep myself awake on the 4+ hour drive home. I got home just before midnight and was asleep two minutes after my head hit the pillow.

Cloudripper had lived up to my anticipation of being a worthy adventure.

I got up the next day a little sad that winter was coming and it would be a while before I’d get out into the big mountains. I guess I am just going to have to be patient.

Trail Map

Elevation Profile

 

Weather Forecasts