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Routes in Phantom Pinnacle

Phantom Pinnacle, Left T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
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Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


This is the long lost sister of the popular Cathedral Spires. Invisible from the road, it is tucked away in the large canyon to the east of the Spires. It's obscurity says nothing of it's quality however. It's both an impressive and shapely pinnacle and the climbing on it is excellent. There are two routes recorded in the Reid guide. The Left Side route (5.9) is a hidden gem that's on the radar of many Valley locals. The Outside Face (5.10d) takes an impressive and intimidating line up the east side of the pinnacle.

Getting There

If you are not familiar with the approach to the routes on the Lower Cathedral Spire, you should maybe climb that first to learn the area.

Basically, both the Higher and Lower Spires, along with Church Tower, lie on a ridge of rock. Routes on Higher Spire are approached from the gully to the west (Spires Gully), and routes on Lower Spire (such as Northeast Face and South by Southwest) are approached from an unnamed gully to the east. To find Phantom Pinnacle you will first begin up this eastern gully as you would for routes on Lower Cathedral Spire.

At a point shortly after passing Church Tower (and a ways before Lower Spire) you will see a large buttress of rock off to the left. Leave the gully at this point and traverse left around this buttress through an open area of pine forest. As you round the left side of the buttress you will encounter worse bushwhacking. Your goal is to follow the base of this cliff uphill for a couple hundred yards, at which point the Phantom Pinnacle will become apparent.

Approach beta for Phantom Pinnacle

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Classic Climbing Routes at Phantom Pinnacle

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Phantom Pinnacle, Left
Trad 3 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Phantom Pinnacle, Left
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 3 pitches
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daiyi x
Oakland, CA
daiyi x   Oakland, CA
You can avoid bush bashing almost entirely by following a series of talus fields all the way up and around to the base of the pinnacle, with short stretches through trees to get between talus fields. Following the approach beta above, when it says to leave the gully (a cairn-marked trail up talus fields) towards Lower Spire to traverse left, do go through the open area, then try to look for talus fields tending up and to the left, getting progressively less mossy. The approach marked on the photo on this page is a little deceiving because it looks like you're supposed to push upward until you hit the buttress and then traverse left, but the brush against the buttress gets very dense and it is easier to cut through lower down.

We followed the beta on this page approaching the climb and had an adventurous time, then saw the promising talus field path from the top of the pinnacle. I imagine it's tricky finding the right talus fields on the way up so when you're at the summit take a moment to orient yourself for a nicer hike out (: Jun 11, 2018

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