Trip Report
FA South Face of Mt. Langley
Wednesday April 15, 2009 1:32pm
Maybe since I'm on my way to go skiing I'll post this TR first. That way, anyone has a problem with our style I don't have to hear about it.

Mt. Langley (14,042'). FA of the peak was a Clarence King goof in 1871 (he thought it was going to be Mt. Whitney). All through the last century it was the peak-bagger's Fourteener, with no route over third class. Must be nothin there.

Yet it's pretty obvious, even from the dusty shoulder of Hwy 395 south of Lone Pine, that the North Face is steep. Hard to get to, though. Roadhead is that strange stone Ashram under the South Face of Lone Pine Peak, and thousands of feet up a canyon of talus is enough to make you think skis.

Just under the wire of the Millenium, though, Alois Smrz and Miguel Carmona spent two days in September 1999 putting up "Rest and Be Thankful" (IV+ or V, 5.9 or 5.10, 15 pitches) on the North Arete, which clocks in at about 2000 feet. Yep, nothing to see here, move right along folks. They did a planned bivi high on the route, and here is one of their shots of some pretty excellent-looking rock near the summit. They called this pitch the crux, and likened it (how appropriate is this today?) to Tax Man at Josh.

Michael Thomas and I got intrigued with that and started digging around the Internet for photos of the 600-foot tower they skipped at the bottom of their arete, dreaming of a direct start. Also noticing other potential ridge lines on that rather big wall. We liked the idea of approaching on skis, too, only it was September.

We took the easy way, driving the Horseshoe Meadows Road to the second highest trailhead (10,041') in the Sierra that goes toward Cottonwood Lakes and New Army Pass. For an Eastside trail, the approach is casual. Five miles and only a thousand feet up brings you to the rim of Cottonwood Basin, famous for Golden Trout. But what caught our eye, of course, was the mile-wide, 1200' high South Face of Langley. Completely untouched. Notice the summit of Langley, right above the tallest part of the wall in the center. It's actually a ways behind the top of the wall, like half a mile.

Right then and there we forgot all about hiking around to the North Face. Found ourselves a gorgeous sandy campsite a little ways from the lakes and went to look at the wall. It's pretty nice wandering around that basin

Getting off the ground, though, was harder than it looked. Starting to probe the wall I immediately ran into roundy and insecure 5.10 climbing. Runout too. Not what we had in mind. Rap off. That was the only thing we left behind on the whole wall, a tiny rap sling. I will say, though, that the potential for more direct crack lines is pretty striking (the good stuff is just around the corner out of sight in this shot).

Toward the end of the day we hiked left up a big talus fan, and right on the edge of a deep chimney found a 5.9 start to get traction on the wall. Anyone who wants to carp about our style, here's your chance: we fixed two pitches and went back to camp.
Here's the route:

We named the line S-Wall, for obvious reasons and in honor of one of the classic lines at Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma (why not?). Here we are about five pitches up, still on the lower leg of the S. Clean, blocky High Sierra climbing, occasionally 5.8. Fun!

Where the S turns leftward you land on a little spire for a short pitch of downclimbing. Then things open up, romping up easy plates and knobs on great orange rock

Above there is a deep chimney that gets so wide at the top I had to lunge for the exit. No photo, and anyway you can probably climb around it. Now we're on the upper recurve of the S, the rock has gotten steep again, and we're distracted by a stuck-rope snafu that burned the rest of our daylight. Which led to some exciting exploration up steep Tuolumne-style knobs by headlamp, occasionally 5.8. Some of the most intense climbing on the route, with great position that unfortunately we couldn't see. Or photograph.

Eventually things started to ease off and we bounded along the final ridge to unrope at Midnight. I started getting lazy, but Michael prodded me onward to summit at 1:15 and finally down to crawl into our sleeping bags at 4:00 AM. A full-value day.

S-Wall (IV, 5.9, 15 pitches) September, 2008.

Sun drove us out of our bags to admire our route by ten the next morning. We broke out one of those packaged fondues and a baguette of sourdough for a victory feast, complete with uncorking a good Chardonnay.

There's so much more where that came from. Just direct-starting the bottom of the S would yield several pitches of 5.10 crack climbing. Not to mention the rest of the mile-wide wall. It's a shame the approach is so casual...

Yep, nothing left to do in the Sierra.

  Trip Report Views: 2,941
Doug Robinson
About the Author
DR is a trad climber from Santa Cruz.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report

Trad climber
Newmarket, NH
  Apr 15, 2009 - 01:43pm PT
Good fun and good job

Soda Springs, CA
  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:21pm PT
Nice TR Doug! Looks like a great place to go climbing!

Where are you going skiing? Are you coming through tahoe on the way? Drop me a line.


climber a single wide......
  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:23pm PT
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DR snarfs a classic line.

A lot of us have sniffed around there.
I've free soloed two different 5-easy lines far left
(SW) of your wall (basically up those
"mounds of rubble" in the middle of the pic). Great rock
where it steepens. I felt like
Norman Clyde rockaneering unexplored terrain.

Also some good bouldering in that basin.

  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:24pm PT
Thx Doug for a true climbing post!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
Nice DR!

It looks like a great climb, and certainly you had a fun adventure. Well done!!

Any more pix??

Hmmm....maybe you're out the door with your skis already....

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:51pm PT
thanks Doug. A nice tr. that is such an easy hike, I'm surprised more people don't go in to check that wall out. I will this summer.

  Apr 15, 2009 - 02:56pm PT
Beautiful !
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
Excellent post - great line. Congrats Doug!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:24pm PT
OK a couple more shots.

Looking up from the base. Up the center is where I got scared and bailed. The crack lines on the right look like the business, and run a good 400+ feet.

Here's another view of the crack section. Where we started is just left of the edge of this photo.

Good light on the left half of the South Face. Slight edge of the S-Wall buttress extreme right. Nice ridges...

Any of those look like your lines Sewellymon?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:28pm PT
Great post. Wow, 15 pitches. that is a lot of sierra climbing. nicely done.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:34pm PT
Great stuff.

That next to last picture reminds me so much of the stone and systems on Mt. Conness!
handsome B

Gym climber
  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:39pm PT
nice work!

Boulder climber
Institute of Better Bouldering-DirtbagDad Division
  Apr 15, 2009 - 03:41pm PT
Sounds right up my alley. Looks like a keeper. Thanks for the TR, with the all important Chardonnay. Can't criticize that style!

crazy horse

Trad climber
fresno, ca
  Apr 15, 2009 - 04:10pm PT
Thanks for sharing doug!!! much appreciated.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2009 - 04:26pm PT
Hi Chief,

This little creek is five minutes from rope-up.

Or if you prefer lakefront property with bouldering, this is 20 minutes away.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Apr 15, 2009 - 04:27pm PT
Great post, and looks like a great route. Thanks for a wonderful break from tax day issues.


Trad climber
Cheyenne, Wyoming and Marshall Islands atoll.
  Apr 15, 2009 - 08:45pm PT
Very nice Doug! You never fail to make me home sick.

Thanks for posting.

dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Apr 15, 2009 - 11:05pm PT
Was this last Sept?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Author's Reply  Apr 15, 2009 - 11:10pm PT
Yep, last September.

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
  Apr 15, 2009 - 11:28pm PT

Fantastic! Keep 'em coming and share the stories.

Trad climber
  Apr 15, 2009 - 11:56pm PT
Very cool adventure Doug! Great images also!

Social climber
  Apr 16, 2009 - 12:07am PT
Man, just what I needed. Thanks!

What a sweet wall... so much unclimbed rock. Extraordinary. Put that wall fifteen minutes from the road and you would have another tahquitz... out there... its a sierra climbers jungle gym. Just the way it should be.

Gym climber
It's not rocket surgery
  Apr 16, 2009 - 01:21am PT
Tax day over, this is great...
Plan High Sierra, asap

Social climber
  Apr 16, 2009 - 02:10am PT

WOW. That is gorgeous. Looks like some fun can be had there... woah. How's the rock quality? Looks solid.

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
  Apr 16, 2009 - 12:49pm PT
Cracks? What cracks? I think a huge bolt kit will be needed to get past the blank sections.

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Apr 17, 2009 - 11:25am PT
Hi Doug
Congrats on what looks like a good route on this seldom explored peak. The South side looks full of possibilities. Langley today is in about the same situation Lone Pine Peak was in the mid 80s, a lot of potential and a few routes. The North side of Langley to the right of our arete (Rest and Be Thankful) has some wild possibilities on some much steeper ground and remains to be explored by those who don't mind long approaches and solitude. BTW, thanks for mentioning our effort on the North Arete. We loved the Tuttle Creek drainage and the wild scenery there, what a place.
Cheers and good climbing, Alois Smrz.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Author's Reply  Apr 17, 2009 - 01:03pm PT
Greetings Alois,

Congratulations on the Rest and Be Thankful arete. Sure looks like a stellar route. Looong too. I suspect that your 15 pitches were a lot longer and more direct than ours. I mean, one of ours was just a 20' downclimb off a tower. With that one photo you fired my imagination, that's for sure.

I like your analogy to LPP in the Eighties. It's practically roadside compared to the north face of Langley. Surprising to me that no one seems to have followed your lead up there in the decade since. But then exploratory climbing in the Sierra is not what it was back in the Seventies.

The North Face is steeper off to the right, eh? Sifting through various photos it's hard to get a fix on, but I had definitely noticed at least one more nice arete over on that side. Nice that you are encouraging on the approach up the canyon. I've never gone any higher than the South Face of LPP...

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Apr 17, 2009 - 02:03pm PT
There are at least three aretes on the North Face. We picked what clearly looked like the easieast one although it had a tower at the start that wasn't part of the ridge. We shortened the route by a few pitches by starting behind that 1st tower. If you go up there, climbing the first tower on our route can wait (not sure it would improve anything), the second arete to the right will have a line that starts at the floor of the canyon and looks like a grade or so harder (also 4-5 pitches longer) than the Rest and Be Thankful. That arete looks awesome, we wanted to come back to it, but for various reasons (injuries) never did. The approach via the Stonehouse and Keyhole Wall is not that bad. All the way to Keyhole you follow what could be called a trail, above Keyhole, cross the creek to the left and hop up the talus to the base. There are couple of flat spots bellow the wall, water is near-by. Wonderful place. With all the gear for multi-day climbing, 5-6 hours from your car, maybe a bit longer for us over 60...

Trad climber
the Magic City
  Apr 17, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
Thanks for the TR and info Mr. Robinson!

Social climber
State of decay
  Apr 17, 2009 - 04:21pm PT
Wasn't there something you guys called the milk bottle tower?
Did that ever get explored? Just wondering if I should get off the couch.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 17, 2009 - 04:51pm PT

to borrow a quote

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Apr 17, 2009 - 06:56pm PT
That tower is still there, invisible, except in perfect lighting and if you stop in the right location. As far as I know it is still unclimbed. I have a slide of it here somewhere, an owesome sight. Looks like another Petit Griffon!

Social climber
State of decay
  Apr 17, 2009 - 09:03pm PT
Should'a sent a PM. Now I'll have to stand inline!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Author's Reply  Apr 17, 2009 - 09:08pm PT
There's a striking needle just offroute of S-Wall too, 2/3 of the way up. Michael wanted to go climb it, but it was already getting late.

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Apr 18, 2009 - 12:15pm PT
Looks like somebody could have fun on Langley and for a few years. Only two (or so) technical routes on it now and a ton of possibilities. It'a a good, a bit away from it all place, if you run into someone, you propably know them or know of them, what more could we ask for?

Doug, again, thanks for the TR, congrats on a new route and thanks for reminding us, there is still plenty to do in our (much loved) Sierra.
Double D

  May 6, 2009 - 11:01am PT
Hey Doug, great TR...somehow I missed it earlier. Man I'm homesick for the Sierras and your pictures are just fuel to the fire!

Proud line for sure. Great to see that you're still at it BTW.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 6, 2009 - 11:51am PT
Splendid outing, Doug!

Thanks for fitting it in.

the last bivy
  May 6, 2009 - 12:28pm PT
nice explore!

Boulder climber
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  May 7, 2009 - 09:59am PT
Now from Chapel Hill, North Carolina is sent a huge hello...grateful you are still moving on stone. You are held in the light and thought of with smiles.
Be well, my friend
Jo Sanders
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 7, 2009 - 10:32am PT
Yowza, DR. That's "the business".
What it's all about. WooHoo!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 17, 2011 - 10:25pm PT
Great report

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Oct 18, 2011 - 09:51am PT
Hmmm, time to go back to Langely.

  Oct 18, 2011 - 11:18pm PT
Nice thread.
Myles Moser

Lone Pine, Ca
  Apr 21, 2013 - 06:50pm PT
Boom! Still a fantastic read and Adventure.
gonzo chemist

the east coast, for now.
  Apr 21, 2013 - 07:28pm PT
Great TR!

Ya know, I spent all of summer 2011 trying desperately to convince friends to hike up there and put up new routes with me. No one would do it. Too long a hike, not sure of the rock, etc. etc....lots of excuses. Still miss the Sierra...

Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 8, 2016 - 07:41pm PT
Bump for climbing content
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report