Denny and I climbed Mount Ritter earlier that day. My original plan was to climb Mount Davis the next morning, before our trip back to Agnew Meadows, but since we accomplished a fast climb of Ritter, and were back in camp by 4 pm, there was still plenty of time to climb Davis before the sunset. The summit of Mount Davis is less than two miles from Lake Catherine, and the total elevation gain is about 1250 feet (380 m). The sky was cloudy but not threatening. While Denny stayed in the camp, collecting his thoughts about the Mount Ritter adventure, I refilled my water bottles, grabbed some snacks (and flashlight), and was ready to start.
Map of the area, with my route indicated. Our base camp was near a lakelet just west of Lake Catherine. On the way up, I walked to a low saddle northwest of the lakelet, and then followed a ridge northeast and uphill (red dots). On the upper part of the ridge there is a small rocky peak. Take a minor detour here by dropping slightly from the ridge line to your left, then follow this northwesterly facing slope to the high plateau of Mount Davis.
More often, people start at the northwest end of Lake Catherine, and follow a small stream directly to the plateau, over a system of ledges and small grassy terraces (blue dots). Either way, it is a simple class-2 terrain with ever expanding views of the surrounding areas. I took the "blue" route on my way down.
Once on the plateau, where the red and the blue routes meet, there isn't really that much more elevation gain to the summit of Mount Davis, and you are about three quarters of a mile from your goal.
This is a view of two routes to the Davis plateau taken from Banner Peak in August 2005. That year, there was much more snow in the area. This September (2009), the slopes above Lake Catherine were snow-free. The snow was found only on the plateau.
(Two highest peaks in the background are Rodgers Peak, left above the plateau, and Mount Lyell, right).
I started from our base camp, west of Lake Catherine, shortly after 4:30 pm, and reached the plateau, at a leisurely pace, about fifty minutes later. Several snow fields mark the path to the summit. They are not very steep, and you can walk over them without any snow gear. Soon, only those two small permanent snow fields remained ahead of me. The small bulge in the center of the picture, in the NNW direction, is the summit of Mount Davis, about half a mile away.
This is a view SSE from the top of Mount Davis, to the tableland that I just crossed. Beautiful view of Banner Peak and Mount Ritter in the background.
A detailed view from the above photo: Volcanic Ridge and Mammoth Mountain aligned.
The summit of Mount Davis is the right place to view Thousand Island Lake. The lake cannot be observed from Mount Ritter, and you can only see a part of it from the summit of Banner Peak. But from Mount Davis, the lake shines in all its glory..., unless it is late in the evening and cloudy, as it was on that September day. Garnet Lake is partially hidden by a low ridge. Rain may be falling somewhere close to the top of San Joaquin Mountain. The San Joaquin ridge slowly rolls down to the Minaret Summit (right), and turns into Carson Peak (left).
A detail from the above photo: Thousand Island Lake from Mount Davis.
Mount Davis from Thousand Island Lake. Davis summit is the high point on the right side.
(Archive photo from a trip in August 2005).
View north from the summit: the lower Davis Lake is in the left corner. A stream from the lake eventually reaches Rush Creek and Waugh Lake (not visible). Far, far away, in the background, is the east bank of Mono Lake.
View north: the upper Davis Lake, and the largest of several permanent snow fields ("glaciers") on the north side of Mount Davis. And a soaring seagull.
Rodgers Peak (R) and Mount Lyell (L) from Mount Davis.
Long-arm self portrait.
According to the SPS register at the top, about 25 parties had summited Mount Davis thus far this summer. The number was likely to go up by the end of the 2009 hiking season.
Safely back at the base camp west of Lake Catherine, with Banner (left) and Ritter (right) in the background. This was a long and satisfying day, and a nice doubleheader.