12,813 ft Recess Peak is located near the west end of the Mono Divide at the apex that separates the First Recess and Second Recess. The peak is steep on all sides except its south side which makes for an impressive profile when viewed from points north. The Recess is only a little over 2 miles from Mount Hilgard which I blogged about previously. However, the climbs couldn’t be more different as Recess Peak is usually approached from west via Lake Edison while Hilgard is typically climbed from east via either Little Lakes Valley or Granite Park. The climb of Recess Peak via the standard route is a relatively straightforward outing via the Bear Ridge Trail that starts at the Lake Edison Vista Point. In fact, the most arduous part of the journey may very well be the winding, bumpy and slow drive to the lake along the Kaiser Pass road. Full photo album here. Route map here.
The trail makes a steep climb in the first mile from the trailhead at the Edison Vista Point and then flattens out in a pleasant montane forest. The trail continues to climb, but it’s generally well graded. After nearly five miles reach the junction with the John Muir Trail. Cross over the JMT and take a use path up to broad meadows where remote snow sensors and the Bear Ridge snow surveyor’s cabin is located. From the cabin and meadow the general idea is to head southeast though sections of whitebark pine forest and meadows to the small lakes tucked in beneath the west face of Recess Peak. The terrain is rolling with some up and down but very efficient cross country travel. One may even encounter use paths and rock cairns at times, but since the cross country travel is so efficient it’s not worth spending too much time investigating. Make a short, steep climb up to the lowest lake beneath Recess Peak and then climb directly up to the southwest ridge of Recess Peak. One may also continue up the drainage to the second largest lake and utilize a chute to access the southwest ridge higher up. Once on the ridge, cross over to the south side to avoid tedious scrambling and aim for a flat area at about 11,200 on a south spur of the southwest ridge.
From this flat area one can ascend back to the southwest ridge crest for an enjoyable scramble of the ridge to the summit. The climb via the ridge is mostly class 2 with a few class 3 moves along the way. One can make things slightly more difficult by strictly sticking the edge of the ridge. The drop off on the north side of the ridge makes for a scenic airy climb and the impressive west face of Recess Peak is always in view. Recess Peak has a fine view of the surrounding terrain including the Mono Recesses, the Silver Divide, Red Slate Mountain and Mount Hooper. However, the more impressive view in my opinion lies 0.5 mile to the southeast at the next high point on the Mono Divide.
This peak is known as “Mist Peak” as it is positioned immediately above the remote Mist Lake. From Recess Peak descend the southeast slope which is class 2 boulder hoping down to a broad saddle and flat area between Recess Peak and Mist Peak. The climb of Mist Peak from the flat area is similarly class 2 rock hoping up about 400 vertical feet. From Mist Peak one has a commanding view of the arc of the Mono Divide from Mount Mills to Mount Hilgard. In particular, 13,741 ft Mount Gabb dominates the skyline and leaves a strong impression with a fearsome arrow shape. To the left of Mount Gabb is the trio of peaks in Mount Mills, Mount Abbot and Mount Dade. To the right and behind the Mono Divide is Bear Creek Spire. Farther to the right one has a wonderful view of the precipitous north face of Mount Hilgard including the remote Hilgard Lake. Tucked into a sharp bowl at 11,500 feet, Hilgard Lake may not go completely ice-free some snowy years. From Mist Peak rather than retrace steps up to Recess Peak and down the southwest ridge, it is much more efficient to take a class 2 chute down to the granite basin and traverse easy slopes back to the flat area at 11,200 ft. Cliffs guard the upper area between Recess Peak and Mist Peak but a weakness in the cliffs provides access down a chute to the slopes below. Simply head down the slope between the two peaks which becomes a shallow, broad gully and where the slope steepens the chute presents itself. Once across the basin and back to the flat area at 11,200 ft retrace steps back to Lake Edison.