The Obelisk is a beautiful rock standing at the western boundary of King's Canyon. It is part spire, part dome, with long low-angle buttresses on it's southern and western sides and shorter but very steep faces on it's northern and eastern aspects. It's summit is only accessible by 5th class climbing.
The rock is excellent in general and features huge amounts of chicken-heads. This abundance of chicken-heads results in many of the routes being quite moderate given their steepness, and one will find several great routes in the 5.5-5.8 range. On the Obelisk's north face these chicken-heads are generally absent and these routes typically link together more traditional features such as cracks, flakes, and corners.
The best time to climb on the Obelisk is in the summer and fall. In the early season the approach will be more difficult due to swampy conditions and snow. The high summer is perfect for climbing on the Obelisk's steep and shady north face, and the fall is better for climbing on the many buttresses on it's south-eastern and south-western slabs.
The easiest descent from any route is to rappel the NE side of the formation to the notch. This requires two ropes so you will either need to climb with twins or carry a tag line. The first rappel is short and it is best to leave one of your ropes coiled. The second rappel is about 160ft and mostly free hanging. Both rappels give issue with rope snags. If your rope gets stuck on the first rappel it's easy to lead back up to free it (5.0 chickenheads, you can do it in approach shoes). On the second rappel if your rope were to get stuck above the roof you would be SOL, but usually it gets stuck on this ledge off to the right which has some chocktones it'll get snagged behind. You can lead back up to this ledge if you need to, but we got our rope stuck here 2 out of 3 times that we did this descent, and both times I was able to get it unstuck with about 5 minutes worth of whipping the rope.
| || About to drop below the roof into the free-hanging rappel. |
Also very useful is this Summitpost page for the Obelisk, which has more detailed approach information.
R.J. Secor's masterful and comprehensive guidebook "The High Sierra" dedicates five pages to the Obelisk and provides photos and descriptions for 14 of its routes. The 3rd edition is available from the publisher here.
The routes on this page should be organized from left to right using the NE face descent rappel as the "end" of the cliff. So routes on the far left side of the North face (such as "Far Out") would be the furthest left climbs, and routes at the far right side of the East face (such as, well...the "East Face") would be the furthest right climbs.
Most climbers will find the approach to be the crux. While lengthy, it's not terribly hard and doesn't involve any difficult scrambling.
First you need to obtain a wilderness permit (Dinkey Creek Ranger Station is on the way). Then you drive past Wishon Reservoir and park at the Crown Valley Trail Head. The first few miles lead to Statham Meadow and are pretty straightforward. Though the trail is quite dusty and braided in a few sections.
After Statham Meadow the trail becomes very difficult to follow thanks to a heard of free range cattle that have trampled all over the place between Statham Meadow and Spanish Meadow. Follow the human trail as best you can to Spanish Meadow and then to Spanish Pass before descending down to Lower Geraldine Lake. This lake is typically used as the base camp for the Obelisk. This portion of the approach took us about 7 hours our first time.
| || Your objective at last! |
From the lake it's another hour (or a little less if you have it dialed) to the base of the Obelisk. Head up forest and then slabs to the south-east and follow a flat slabby area just below an enormous talus ridge. This will lead you to a point on the ridge where you will see the Obelisk. For routes on the West Face (and possibly on it's South Face) it's best to drop down the hillside and head straight for the toe of the Obelisk. The Secor guide warns that this will result in major bushwhacking, but that's not actually the case and it will save you lots of time. For climbs on the North or East sides you want to follow the rolling hills to the left (staying high on the ridge) before finally dropping down to the sub-formation at the Obelisk's NE shoulder.
4 Total Routes
['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',2],['2 Stars',2],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
Featured Route For The Obelisk
West Face 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b CA
: Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP
: The Obelisk
The route is mellow, exposed, and just plain fun. If you learn how to sling knobs with one hand it will make your day easier. The crux is probably the first pitch or two.Start out by climbing the chimney/left facing corner and exit to the right when you get the chance. We missed the exit and climbed all the way out of the top. Once you're out of the chimney/corner climb up six awesome pitches on chickenheads and knobs! ...[more] Browse More Classics in CA
News and Events For The Obelisk
The Obelisk from Spanish Mountain (looking at the ...