Elevation: 10,364 ft
GPS: 37.5909, -119.014
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Shared By: kenr on Aug 26, 2013
Admins: Aron Quiter, Euan Cameron, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer Ski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes


There are several multi-pitch routes which go to the summit (or the high aretes) of Crystal Crag. The summit aretes are high-quality ridge granite similar to the high ridges around Tuolumne Meadows (but with a shorter easier approach). The West face has less-steep and loose rock with some dirt, but the rock tends to be sounder toward its south side. Now that the lower East face has been developed with sport routes, there is a concern that climbing multi-pitch routes up onto the upper E face or on the E side of the N ridge or E side of summit aretes might send loose rock down on the sport routes.

  • South Ridge (low class 5 or class 4).
  • West Face central (mostly class 3 with perhaps some class 4 sections) -- at least two lines up to the summit arete between the South summit and Middle summit.
  • North edge of West face to N arete (5.6) - (also known as "North Arete") - see Description1
. . . and
. . . Description2 . . .
. . Popular (even with significant loose rock, and though most of the upward climbing is not on an arete)
. . because it goes through a unique short section of bright-white crystal, and then
. . optionally finishes with two or three hundred feet on the actual summit arete.
. . (2013 SuperTopo guidebook by Chris McNamara shows a "north face" variation which starts a bit farther west off the N ridge).

  • Aretes of Crystal Crag direct -- Combines the best of the South ridge and best of the North ridge, after reaching the arete by 250 ft of climbing on the more-sound-rock sector of the West face.
  • "Northeast Buttress" (5.8) in the 2009 guidebook The High Sierra by R.J.Secor. Said to start at an obvious dihedral.
. * "North face" (East side) (5.8) route is shown in the 2004 guidebook Mammoth Area Rock Climbs by Marty Lewis and Johy Moynier.
. . . (? presumably these are different names for the same route ?)

  • East face other routes (class 4, 5.8, 5.9) in the 2009 guidebook The High Sierra by R.J.Secor.

Getting There

Crystal Crag is 3 to 4 miles SW of the town of Mammoth Lakes. The (highest) South summit is at GPS latitude/longitude approximately (N37.5911 W119.0140) --> [ see on Map ]

Trailhead is the parking by the N side of Lake George (GPS latitude/longitude approximately N37.6035 W119.0111) (altitude approx 9050ft/2760m) - (Bearbox for day-hiker food storage).

driving: From route 395 exit for Mammoth Lakes, go W on rt 203 about 3.7 miles through the town of Mammoth Lakes (coffee/bakery on both sides of street) to the stop-light at the intersection of Main St and Lake Mary Rd - (rt 203 goes right here, but instead) - continue Straight on Lake Mary Rd uphill about 3.9 miles ... SW then S then curve to going NW. See the sign for Pokenobe Marina on left side of road. Immediately after that turn L and go SW 0.35 mile to a T-intersection. Turn R and go 0.3 mile up steep curvy road to parking circle.

bike: Like driving, but need strong leg muscles and lungs to overcome the vertical difference of +925 ft / 280 meters on the long steady "grind" from the town up to the Pokonobe marina turn-off, then steep (plan on walking your bike up this) additional vertical gain of +100 ft / 30 meters to the trailhead.

bus: In the appropriate season, a shuttle bus could take you (and your bike) as far as the Pokonobe marina turn-off by Lake Mary. Then muscle power can take you 0.65 mile with vertical gain of +100 ft / 30 meters to the trailhead (which increases the approach work+time by about 10%).

hiking: From the North side of the parking circle by the N side of Lake George, start up the Crystal Lake trail, at first NW about 0.15Mile/240meter, then generally SW about 0.75Mi/1200m uphill with many switchbacks (and some great views over Lake George). Reach a junction with the Mammoth Crest trail, pass by that and continue Left (SE then S) toward Crystal Lake, at first gently up for about 200ft/60m (to about altitude 9700ft/2960m), then down about 0.2Mi/350m to the outlet creek from Crystal Lake. Cross the creek to go around E side of Crystal Lake. After a short ways an unofficial climber's trail breaks off Left (E) to access routes on the W or NW or N or E sides (including the Sport sectors). To reach the South ridge or nearby, first go S to a flat clearing near the SE corner Crystal Lake, then cross-country SSE on a rising traverse.

statistics: Hiking on a maintained trail for about 1.5 miles / 2.5 km distance, with vertical gain of +650 ft / 200 meters -- plus another +110 ft / 35 meters vertical gain on return.

4 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at alpine / multi-pitch

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c
South Ridge
Trad, Alpine
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Aretes of Crystal Crag direct
Trad, Alpine
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Mod. Snow
East Face, Central Gully
Trad, Snow, Alpine 3 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
South Ridge
Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c Trad, Alpine
Aretes of Crystal Crag direct
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Alpine
East Face, Central Gully
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Mod. Snow Trad, Snow, Alpine 3 pitches
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