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North Arete T 
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North Arete 

YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 3000', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c [details]
FA: Claude Fiddler & Jim Keating 7/1984
Season: Summer
Page Views: 489
Submitted By: Richard Shore on Aug 26, 2014

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Looking back across the summit plateau from the ma...


A long route guarded by one of the burliest approaches in the Sierra. When viewed from a distance, the North Arete is the prominent "long twisting rib" that descends from the West Horn sub-summit on Mt Williamson. A very obvious line from afar, but when viewed from beneath it is a very complex and confusing mountain face. I thought finding the start was the crux. See the marked up photos below, they may help locating the start. Considered one of the "100 Classics" by Moynier & Fiddler, I thought it was a fun easy line on good rock, but for the same grade not nearly as spectacular as the North Ridge on Lone Pine Peak. A good way to bag this 14er by a technical route that doesn't require superhuman endurance, like the NE Ridge.

Once you've located the rib, best accessed from the west via a loose talus scramble, cross over and climb it mostly on the east (left) side. Loads of 3rd and 4th class scrambling up to where the ridge eventually narrows, where short bits of easy 5th class are mixed in. Any difficult looking sections (towers) are bypassed on their left side. Eventually, you will reach the summit of the West Horn. From there, scramble down NW to find the downclimb onto the summit plateau. Finding the descent from the West Horn has proven difficult for some who have rappelled. Walk the long sandy plateau to the main summit of Williamson. Descend the loose 3rd class West Face back to your camp in Williamson bowl.


The route can be approached two ways:
The "standard" route up Shepherd Pass, down into the Williamson Bowl (camp). Getting here is no easy task, so you might as well plan on spending an extra day and climb Tyndall while you're here. You won't likely be coming back up here anytime soon. From the Willy Bowl descend the Williamson creek drainage to ~11K'. Traverse up into the route through a break in the cliff-band up loose talus.

Alternatively, a more direct and shorter approach up Shepherd Creek and Williamson Creek may be made. I believe this is an unmaintained canyon bushwhack, but I may be wrong. This might be a reasonable means for car-to-car type folks.


A solo for many, but a short 30m rope and light rack wouldn't go unused.

Photos of North Arete Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The North Arete III 5.4 3000'
The North Arete III 5.4 3000'
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down towards the start from the Williamson...
Looking down towards the start from the Williamson...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Long Twisting  Rib, photographed from the Shep...
BETA PHOTO: The Long Twisting Rib, photographed from the Shep...

Comments on North Arete Add Comment
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By Chris D
From: the couch
Jul 2, 2015

Considerable beta can be found in This Supertopo thread.

Finding the ridge (then actually staying on it) can be the biggest challenge of this climb once you get past the brute physicality of lugging your 40 pound backpack 6,000+ feet over 12 miles up to Shepherd Pass the day before the climb. Then there's the 2-3 mile cross-country hike with a 1,500 descent on the approach. We were able to locate the ridge by dropping down Williamson Creek to the 11,000 ft level, then traversing left and up for quite a while, under multiple ridges, always looking up to see if we were under the "correct" ridge, then finally heading up when we figured we were.

We still managed to get onto a neighboring rib for about 500 feet, but the climbing over there was great too. It's a huge adventure. YMMV. I posted a number of our photos here.

We had a GPS with us, and if you download this kml file and open it in google earth, you'll see the route we followed, with photos affixed to the actual locations they were taken. Pretty neat!

For most people, this is going to be a route best enjoyed vicariously. It's just a gigantic undertaking... Ha!

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