I finally got around to climbing Mt Langley via the pass above Cottonwood Lake #5. The pass goes by the unofficial name of "Winter Pass" according to SummitPost.http://www.summitpost.org/winter-pass/290498
I arrived at the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead parking lot near dusk this past Sunday, Nov 4th. I hiked in about 6 mi, the last hour or so by flashlight, and made camp in some trees short of the mostly dry lake east of Cottonwood Lake #3.
In the morning I hiked up to Cottonwood Lakes #4 and #5. Army Pass looked dicey with snow coverage, especially at the potentially dangerous top.
Since I was wearing trail runners and didn't bring crampons or ice axe I quickly looked over at Winter Pass, which is the route I wanted to do anyway. From below it looked essentially snow-free. According to SummitPost, the pass is class 3/4 in the lower talus field. At this time of year I found it to be standard class 2. Lots of talus to negotiate, some big, but nothing technical. There was no cornice to negotiate and the near vertical rock at the top was easily bypassed by traversing south for 30 yd to the low point.
After Winter Pass there was a sandy hike over to the Mt Langley headwall that is usually bypassed on the far left for a class 1-2 approach. I wanted something more fun and direct, so I headed toward the east ridge and picked a route up that became a challenging class 3+ climb. On the summit the clear, sunny day provided excellent views.
For the descent, I hoped that the snow on Army Pass would soften during the day, but it was icy at the top and after a brief attempt I chose not to tempt fate. In a sight-seeing mood, I chose to come out the long way over New Army Pass and back to my backpack at Cottonwood #5. With the day quickly ending I headed over to Sunday night's camp site where the pine cones were already picked out of my sleeping area.
Tues morning I packed up and headed over to visit South Fork Lakes, down the South Fork use trail and back to the deserted parking lot.
In summary, Winter Pass (I agree that Navy Pass has a nice ring to it) without snow is a fun and safe way to access Mt Langley. It deposits you higher up and closer to the peak than Army Pass.
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