Mt. Stanford (north), West Ridge

12 Jun 2004 - by Dee Booth

I liked the traverse over the north-northeast ridge of Stanford so much I decided to try the west ridge from Pioneer Basin. I couldn't find any trip reports on the route but it seemed like it could be dayhiked by going in over Mono Pass and returning by the Hilton Lakes trail. So at 4:30 AM, bleary-eyed, I started walking from the Mosquito Flat trailhead. Mono Pass was still covered with snow but Summit Lake was beginning to thaw. I lost the trail on the pass finding it again on the descent to Trail Lakes only to have it disappear again until after the Golden Creek crossing.

At about 9:30 AM I arrived in Pioneer Basin, a chain of lakes encircled by Mounts Hopkins, Crocker, Stanford and Huntington. Just another breathtakingly beautiful place in the Sierra. The terrain is gentle and I crossed it easily with my sights set on the gentle slopes slightly west of the low point on the ridge. At about 12:00 I began climbing the ridge which is broad and sandy with a moderate incline until just below the summit. Staying on the crest of the ridge will avoid some of the sand and make walking a little less tiring. The first obstacle is a rock tower on the eastern end of the ridge followed by a notch. I made the mistake of climbing the tower and, not finding an easy way down the other side, down climbed and skirted it on the south side into the notch. I got back on the ridge but this ended with no obvious way to the summit. Again I down climbed and traversed into the next gully which lead easily to the summit where I sat at 1:25 PM.

The route out was down the east slope of Stanford, following the drainage to Lake 10353. I skirted the lake on the north side and around to the outlet where I picked up the trail back to the Hilton Lakes trailhead. I got to the road at 6:45 PM and started the one mile hike up to Mosquito Flat where I'd left my car. This felt like the hardest part of the hike. Total time was 14.75 hours, 16 miles and 5800 feet.

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