Caltech Peak (4207m) is a 56 km roundtrip hike from the nearest trailhead, the Symmes
Creek trailhead in Independece. This is the infamous Shepherd Pass trail that
i described here. For most people just getting to
Shepherd Pass is a monumental day hike. From the pass leave the trail (that
coasts Mt Tyndall and heads slightly south towards the John Muir trail losing
a lot of elevation) and head east contouring the Diamond Mesa to your right.
This involves some bouldering, especially near the lake (that you might or
might not see, depending how high you stay). When you reach the southeast
chute of the Diamond Mesa, turn right around it (lots of bouldering if you
don't want to lose elevation) and you should reach another
lake, that i call Corner Lake. Coast the lake to the right and start ascending
in the general northwest direction, trying to minimize the downhill sections.
Caltech Peak now appears to the north. Just head towards it. Eventually you
will hit the John Muir trail (impossible to miss it). At some point the
John Muir trail crosses a little creek (one meter wide). That's a good point
to leave the trail and head straight up towards the southeastern slopes of
Caltech Peak. Stay to the right of the prominent waterfall. Above it you will
find another lake. Walk to the lake and, just before the lake, start climbing
the slope. If you go too far to the right you will see some cliffs above
your head. Avoid those. Best is to climb slightly to the left of them until
you reach another plateau. You might have mistaken it for the summit from
down below. Move decisely to the right, still gaining elevation as you head
for the next visible summit (also a false summit). At this point you can
move as much as you like to the right. Most likely you'll have to do so in
order to avoid the snow. Just keep gaining elevation as you do so.
The real summit is behind to the right, so you are actually heading in the
right direction (the direction of Forrester Pass, if you know where it is).
Eventually it becomes obvious which is the real summit and it's an easy scramble
The view is highly educational. To the north you see Mt Stanford. To the east is Junction Peak. To the south you clearly see Mt Williamson and Mt Tyndall, and, behind and above the latter, Mt Whitney. Best is the view from southwest to northwest: the Great Western Divide in all its glory.
Distances (and 2010 time):