Type: Trad, Alpine, 1500 ft, 13 pitches, Grade IV
FA: John Evans, Dick Long, Allen Steck, Chuck Wilts - June 22, 1963
Page Views: 25,644 total · 164/month
Shared By: Chris Owen on Mar 23, 2006 with updates from Murf
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Ironically, one of the Sierras greatest Alpine rock climbs isn't even on granite! But rather a steep, smooth rock with angular holds from more ancient times. Watch out for more loose rock than usual.

Start the climb up the lefthand gully, uphill from the base of the face. There may be a cairn.

P1-2 5.6. Make a long traverse right and slightly upwards then around onto the face proper.

P3-7 5.7. There's a shallow dihedral up high on the right side of the face; aim for it, but don't go too far right. Pitch 7 finishes with a tricky traverse to a hanging belay at the bottom of the shallow dihedral.

P8 5.8. Climb the shallow dihedral to an alcove.

P9 5.8. Left out of the alcove then wander across and up the white scar to a ledge just below the large summit dihedral.

P10 5.8. A short strenuous corner leads to a ledge at the bottom of the main dihedral.

P11-12 5.8. Two pitches up the summit dihedral lead to a notch.

P13 5.7. Traverse left on a large ledge then up the face to the summit ridge.

Scramble the ridge to the summit.


See schematic.

From Cecile Lake.

Cross Class 3 rock towards the Ken-Clyde Notch, down climb this to the start of the climb - a rappel is necessary at one point.


Most climbers will want a double set of their preferred cams, especially given most modern topos have 170'+ pitches.  A full set of nuts, minus any super small, is helpful. 15 or more alpine draws, with some extra shoulder length slings.


Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
  • *Disclaimer**

This is the way we went - you may find a better way.

I've changed the "Protection" section to make it more contemporary. When I climbed it all I had was a set of nuts/hexentrics - and didn't feel particularly short of pro but times and attitudes change. The same could be said for stances - the original belay spots seemed to make sense and it never occurred to us to feel the need for a longer rope. Mar 24, 2006
John D
John D  
Car-to-car makes for an enjoyable (albeit long) day. We hiked in at 1AM, completed the route (and the descent), then hiked back out before sunset. I recommend the 5.9+ direct variation, although there is loose rock. The lakeside bivvy spots are beautiful. But the creek-side mosquitos... Jul 3, 2007
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
I found the topo fairly inaccurate. The topo from the 100 classic Sierra climbs is far more accurate. The first pitch is a long traverse up and right but is probably about 5.7. There was a pile of sticks at the start, though a better reference point is that it's nearly level with the toe of Michael Minaret to the left.

Three more pitches lead to a ledge atop a pedestal where you start the crux 5.8 + traverse R. into the dihedral, which really isn't indicated on this topo. From there, you following the dihedral to the traversing pitch up and left.

A great climb, but not for 5.8 newbies. It's long, committing, with route finding issues. A 5.8 climb for solid 5.9 climbers. Dec 12, 2007
vincent L.
Redwood City
vincent L.   Redwood City
The direct start is well worth doing . It is two pitches of 10a climbing up a terrific dihedral . Overall the route is pretty sustained at 5.8 . It took us about 8 hours to climb the route . Route finding is not that hard . Much of the route is climbing up corners . The traversing pitch was 5.9 , and scary in my opinion . The pro is there but you have to make moves a few feet out at times . An amazing climb . Dec 26, 2007
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
There is a direct start that is 5.10. A lot of parties start up the face too soon and end up doing this. To add to the confusion, the line in the photo in S&R does not show the initial traverse.

There was a lot of snow in the descent couloir when we climbed this. We got by without ice axes by doing a few more rappels. Aug 18, 2008
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
In response to Fat Dad, see disclaimer.

As far as the traverse being one pitch, perhaps we had a shorter rope, or maybe I just stopped short at a convenient spot, didn't think 5.7 was called for when compared to the technical difficulties of the rest of the climb.
The traverse into the Shallow Dihedral is shown as 5.7 at the end of P7 (also in description as "Tricky Traverse"), but I didn't think it was the crux at 5.8, but rather the Shallow Dihedral itself. But then again I did this route in the 1980's (long before there were any schematics) maybe a hold broke off or something. Mar 5, 2009
Genoa, Nv
scottthelen   Genoa, Nv
This route can be done in 7 pitch's with a 70 meter rope without bad rope drag. Jun 3, 2010
Mark P Thomas
Mark P Thomas   Draper
Direct start is 5.9 and really not much harder than some of the cruxes higher up. Way too easy for the 5.10a that Croft gives it. Really fun, clean and worth doing. Frankly, we found the technical crux to be a move right off the belay on one of the last 5.8 pitches higher up. The route is stout enough that if you're strong and fast enough to do the route solidly, you should be able to handle the direct start, so don't skip it! Jun 8, 2012
Tim Wolfe
Salt Lake City, UT
Tim Wolfe   Salt Lake City, UT  
For those, like me, who initially had no other source other than this web site to do this route, I will provide a bit more information to the future climber.
Location: West of Mammoth – go to Mammoth, pick up your wilderness permit for entry at the Shadow Lakes trail head at Agnew Meadows. Drive (or take bus depending on season and time of day) toward the Devils Post pile – two choices – park at Red Meadows and hitch hike back to Agnew Meadows (allowing for a circular hike coming in from Agnew and exiting to Red Meadows) or just park at Agnew Meadows for an in and out approach. Walk the 8 miles into the base of the mountain skirting the East side of Iceburg lake and camping at Cecile lake close to the route.
The Route: Be aware that this is not Sierra granite climbing – the rock is much more loose and likely more dangerous because of the large amount of choss in places so be careful and do not climb below another party if you value your cranium. On the good side there are holds everywhere so you can pick your path. We did the direct route – these pitches were 5.8, maybe 5.9 and actually some of the better rock on the mountain. It climbs up the right side of a pillar a bit to the right of the descent gully, The start is in a dark broken right facing corner that looks unlikely but is solid, good quality climbing. Pitch 1 was short, ending under a curved small roof. Pitch 2 continued up the corner with the final section a smooth clean dihedral. When you get to a large ledge with a wide crack above going to the pillar top – look left – there are fixed wires and a nice belay stance. Do not go to the top of the pillar. Instead Pitch 3 traverses directly left and up on loose ledges to a large ledge below a left facing corner and a white face with a large crack in it. Pitch 4 climbs this and continues up. Stay in this left facing dihedral system taking your path of choice for several hundred feet aiming towards an obvious large detached flake with a chock stone behind it. This flake sits just below and right of some large black overhangs. Belay at the top of this detached flake on good ledges. The next pitch is the mental crux – face climb right and down aiming towards the base of a large left facing dihedral. Place long slings on any gear to reduce rope drag. Once in the corner climb straight up a fair distance to a small ledge in good rock – stepping left and setting up a belay. Straight above you is the remainder of the dihedral. Climb up into it carefully and stay in this dihedral for 2-3 pitches – some very loose and dangerous rock as well as some really good rock in the middle – don’t kill your belayer. At the top of the dihedral step into a notch and traverse left on a ledge to belay. Then climb a short section up over the ridge of the mountain. From here it is primarily 4th class on the West side of the ridge or directly up the ridge for a few hundred feet to the summit.
The Descent: Follow the summit ridge to the northwest down a 4th class traverse, climbing over a 20 foot wall and continuing along the ridge. The gully to the left (South) is not the final gully – rather you need to get over to the next gully SW. Descend the left side of the ridge you are on above this first gully then over the crest of this ridge and back north a short distance descending into the second gully. From here we changed into our hiking shoes and walked down to the Clyde-Ken saddle and back down the couloir to the start of the route. One long rappel was needed – easy with double ropes.
The gear: Essentially no passive gear (wires, hexes) is needed as almost all placements are in parallel cracks. We had a single set of Camelot’s to size 3 with 3 extras (0.4. 0.5, .75) plus 4 microcams (C3’s). On the entire route we placed 2-3 wires – medium sized. Long slings are essential. Due to the large amount of loose and sharp rock I suggest double ropes but this is a personal safety decision. Sep 22, 2013
Ryan Nevius
Chiang Mai, TH
Ryan Nevius   Chiang Mai, TH
Camping at Minaret Lake is WAY better than camping at Cecile. If you do camp here (which I HIGHLY recommend), the is a great option. Jul 3, 2014
Don't underestimate the route finding problems. For those who do the original start, the topo here and in Supertopo are misleading because they show 2-3 pitches of traversing to the right when it is actually just a little more than 1 pitch. I have uploaded (photo #25) a detailed topo of the first three pitches plus our rappel route (we realized we wouldn't make it to the top before dark). We wound up spending several hours checking out various options (indicated with an arrow and "no") before finally finding the start of pitch 4, so I think the topo is accurate. Here is a description of the first three pitches:

Pitch 1: 5.7, 130'; traverse right 110' to corner, belay 20' beyond corner.
Pitch 2: 5.7, 160'; traverse right 20' to left-facing corner, then up 140' to 8’ ledge.
Pitch 3: 5.8, 70'; climb up 70' to 40' ledge, then left to 25' pillar.
Pitch 4: continue up and right.

Incidentally, the final moves of pitch 4, just left of some overhanging loose stuff which might be easier, were really hard. We concur with those who thought the route had a lot of loose rock--be careful and good luck! Aug 25, 2014
J Kazu
Los Angeles, CA
J Kazu   Los Angeles, CA
Tim Wolfe's descent beta for the Ken/Clyde couloir is spot on. It was two raps for us with a single rope. There was steep snow in the couloir when my partner and I did it (July 2016). I used an ice axe and crampons while my partner did without staying in the moat by the sidewall where the snow had melted out. Jul 19, 2016
Anyone been up here this season? How are the approach/descent conditions? Aug 1, 2017
Derek Field
Derek Field   California
@amarantine: We climbed this route on 21 August 2017. Crampons and ixe axe were pretty useful on the approach and descent. The approach is mostly snow-covered from Iceberg Lake up to the base of the route. There is a fixed rope on the slope above Iceberg but I'm not really sure why. The descent, on the other hand, was a bit more gnarly than we were expecting. Steep snow in the lower Ken-Clyde couloir (mentioned by J Kazu) has melted into an outrageous blade of ice, making the rappel somewhat technical. I backed up the anchor with a fresh piece of cordalette, and there are two 70m ropes fixed for rappel. It's best to rappel the full length of this setup instead of using one of the manky intermediate anchors - just be warned that there will be some interesting chimneying in the icy moat.

On another note: I've never collected so much booty in my life on a single route. Seriously, there are almost enough fixed nuts and cams on the face (plus tons of bail anchors on random blank sections off-route) that a confident climber would hardly need to bring a complete rack. There were some pitches I didn't place a single piece off my own harness. The second pitch (direct start) has three #1 camalots welded into the tight-hands crack. Use long slings!

I would also add that the direct start goes smoothly at 5.8 (not any more challenging than the rest of the route) and the sloper traverse into the corner (P6 I think?) is not really that cruxy. Undoubtedly the biggest challenge on SE Face is routefinding because there are often several options (eg. overlapping flakes) and one needs to choose carefully in order to stay at the grade. Expect to bust a 5.9 move at some point.

I highly recommend sticking to the crest of the final summit ridge instead of traversing the rubble on the right flank... for the exposure and position, you won't regret it! Aug 23, 2017