Hiking Mt Tyndall

Notes by piero scaruffi | See Travel resources | See Other California hikes

Mt Tyndall (4273 m) is located next door to Mt Williamson and reachable in a (long) day hike via Shepherd Pass.

See this page for details on the trail to Shepherd Pass.

When you reach Shepherd Pass, you see Mt Tyndall in front of you:


Mt Tyndall can be hiked only from one side: the "north rib" (which looks like a black vertical line from Shepherd Pass), although it is more of a class-3 climb than a "hike". The very visible "spine" of the mountain is instead a deadly route because it has many peaklets that cannot be easily bypassed.

If you are into a very long approach, you can also climb Tyndall from the southern side that faces Mt Barnard: see the description of how to hike Mt Barnard, then descend to the Wright lakes, and from there ascend north via Lake 3645, an easy class-2 route.
Otherwise, as painful as the Shepherd Pass trail is, the route is via Shepherd Pass, a grand total of 39.6 km round-trip from the trailhead.

What you see from Shepherd Pass is the northwest spine. The summit of Tyndall is about 2 kms south of Shepherd Pass, the farthest end of the spine. From Shepherd Pass walk over the gentle plateau that heads southeast (left) towards Williamson (you will see the monster shape of Williamson emerge after a few minutes) but stay on the right hand-side of this plateau. At some point you will identify a "ramp" of stones that provides a bridge to approach the north side of Tyndall. The "north rib" is a line of boulders that seems to go up vertical, and it begins just above this "ramp".

This "rib" is a long tedious scramble up tallus rock that takes you to the ridge. The summit of Tyndall is to the left of this rib and it will become more and more clearly visible as you climb up the rib. Most climbers recommend to stay on the right of the rib (if nothing else because you get some shade) but towards the top you should move to the left of it, otherwise you may end up into the wrong chimney. At the top of the rib, you need to get into a chute slightly to your left:

Enter this brief chute (20 meters) and you'll emerge on the very crest of the mountain. Most people walk down one or two boulders on the other side, where it is easier and safer to walk. At this point you are basically at the altitude of the summit. However, what you see on your left is not the real summit: it's a false summit about 100 meters away. From there it's another 60 meters to the real summit.

  • Trailhead: (1920 m)
  • First creek crossing: 25'
  • Fourth creek crossing: 40'
  • Saddle: 2770m, 5 kms (2 hrs 15')
  • Fifth Creek crossing (usually dry), end of downhill: 6 kms (3 hrs)
  • Sixth Creek crossing (never dry): 2620m, 7 kms (3 hrs 15')
  • Nice rock in shade and camping sites (3h 45')
  • Big pyramidal boulder by trail (4h 25')
  • Last creek crossing before Anvil (sometimes dry in summer): (5 hours)
  • Anvil Camp: 3.130 m (5h 15' hrs)
  • Pothole: 3.200m (5h 45')
  • Shepherd Pass: 3.672 m, 18 kms (7 hrs 15')
  • Bottom of the black rib: 8 hrs
  • Top of black rib: 9 hrs 45'
  • Summit: 10 hrs

Via Whitney Portal

It is possible to reach Mt Tyndall or Mt Versteeg from the west, starting at Whitney Portal, following the route to Mt Morgenson via Tulainyo Lake. Tyndall's western slope looks actually gentler than the (very popular) eastern slope and the route is infinitely nicer. The downside is that it involves climbing a difficult pass (not recommended in the dark, especially on the way back) and the Whitney Mountaineering ledges (not recommended downhill in the dark).

Here is the route in blue (the red line is simply the border of the Inyo National Forest):

You start from Whitney Portal and follow the route to the base of Mt Morgenson but you continue past Morgenson towards Lake Wales, and descend the gentle slope towards its eastern shore, but remaining higher than the lake. You pass Mt Wallace on your right and you head towards the western slope of Mt Barnard.

You circle northwest and then northeast around this slope (trying not to lose elevation) and you enter the Wright basin with its multitude of little lakes. Head straight north as much as possible. At this point Mt Versteeg and Mt Tyndall are very visible.

Mt Tyndall from Mt Barnard:

Mt Tyndall and Mt Versteeg from Mt Barnard:

(Note: to climb Versteeg you need to gain the northeast side of it before the summit, the easier route that comes up from the Williamson Bowl)

  • Whitney Portal
  • First lake 1h30'
  • Small plateau 2h30'
  • Big plateau 3h30'
  • Chute 4h30'
  • Pass (4000m) 5h15'
  • Lake Tulainyo (3908m) 5h30'
  • Descend towards Wales Lake (3573m) 6h30'
  • Promontory between Wales Lake and Wallace Lake (3497m) 7h
  • Coasting Mt Barnard 7h30'
  • Last of the Wright Lakes (3645m) 8h30'
  • Mt Versteeg 10h30'
  • or Mt Tyndall 11h
Pictures of this hike
Mt Williamson weather
Directions from Independence:
From Hwy 395 in Independence, turn west on Market street, drive 7 kms to Foothill road, turn left.
The first parking lot (2kms on Foothill Rd) is the stock trail. In theory, only 4WD can go beyond this point. If you want to reach the hiker's trail, keep going on this very dusty road, and turn right at the next two forks. It's about 2 more kms than the stock trail, which means that it saves you 2kms of hiking. It easily takes 30 minutes from Independence to the trailhead.
There is no campground, but one can just pitch tent at the trailhead and leave the car there.

Permits

Mt Tyndall now lies inside the Whitney Zone so you need a Mt Whitney permit even if you are hiking a different mountain. Check with Inyo National Forest. Obtaining a permit is an absolute nightmare. Make sure you have an unlimited amount of patience and you are willing to deal with a level of stupidity that defies Darwinian evolution.
Beware that the Lone Pine rangers seem to have no clue about trails and routes: if you have questions, don't trust their answers. If you trust their advice, you are literally risking your life (some of the worst possible information have come from those rangers). It appears that many of them never hiked in their life any of the mountains. They are basically mere bureaucrats handing out permits, selling souvenirs AND checking permits on the mountain. Your best source of information is the hikers you meet on the mountain. Your tax money helps hire more bureaucrats to enforce more bureaucracy: it is debatable whether this has anything to do with protecting nature or increasing your safety. See this page for more anti-bureaucracy ranting.