Type: Trad, Alpine, 2000 ft, 16 pitches, Grade V
FA: Don Jensen, John Fischer, Keith Brueckner, Doug Robinson, Gordon Wiltsie, Jay Jensen - 1971 to 1975
Page Views: 22,680 total · 158/month
Shared By: Ryan Franz on Apr 11, 2007
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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One of Peter Croft's "Big Four Free Climbs" of the High Sierra (see Peter's book here).

This is possibly the most direct line on Temple Crag, taking a plumb line from the lowest point of the face to the top. Either start from the nadir of the face and climb 400 feet of lower class 5, or walk up around the left side and traverse back right on a large ledge.

Climb up to a small, right facing dihedral and climb it (crux). On the next pitch, work your way up and left to a crack below a chimney. Get into the chimney, eventually tunneling through to get to more moderate ground above.

From here it is mainly alpine ridge climbing, with a few steps which can be tackled straight on or avoided to the side. Eventually you reach the top of Temple Crag. Whew!

Pitch by pitch

Rack-Heavy on the thin stuff, lots of slings, extra thin nuts. You may not even need a #4...or 3!

P1-5.10b After you've scrambled up to the base and made some 4th class moves out to the pedestal proper, you'll be looking at some dihedrals and thinking "what wild quartz" if you've got the same topo we did. Careful examination of the photos here might jog your memory. Feel free to download them to your smart card and pop them in your camera! This pitch is steep and mostly fun with a hard 10 move in the corner.

P2-5.8 Head up the corner to the top. Short pitch with a bolt. Steep and fun. Possible to combine 1 and 2.

P3-5.9 Traverse left for perhaps 40' but don't go to the end of the ledges way left. Look for a seemingly improbable corner with a lazer split super thin crack in a small golden corner. This seemed hard to me. Funky pins at belay mark the way, supplement with thin wires.

P3-5.7 Head straight up featured rock, aiming for the obvious chimney. I think we combined this with P4 on the topo to take us to the base of the chimney.

P4/5-5.8 Very cool (even cold) chimney. The crux is dragging packs through it. Not as hard as Valley 5.8 thankfully. Plenty of great holds inside. Great pitch.

P6-5.8-ish. You are now on the ridge! Follow cracks up, generally maybe staying on the right side. Be careful as much choss abounds from this point on.

P7-3rd/4th Same as P6.

P8-3rd/4th Same as it ever was...try to meter your energy, plenty of climbing left!

P9-5.7 You made it! (to the top of the lower buttress). This next pitch was wild and runout but easy. Trending to the left, face climb up lovely grey rock. Some harder moves surmounting a small roof were better protected near the top.

P10-5.7 Our topo and route seemed to deviate here. We stayed left and avoided a 5.10 roof on the topo. Seemed about 5.7 or 8, and mostly face rather than the 5.7 wide on the topo.

P11-More 4th, staying on the right side of the ridge in general was the ticket for us. I think this may have been the Dark Star pitch, an incredibly amazing crystal hole. If you keep your eyes peeled, you just might see it.

P12-14 (5th)-From here, another set of deviations from the topo. We started to simul a bit and solo here for several hundred feet. We also rapped and downclimbed across to the sandy gap. There was some fixed gear. We made a second downclimb after the rappel a ways further on the ridge. The 5.10 variation on the last buttress looks wonderful, but really greasy in the blazing sun. We wandered around in the gully on the left.

P15-More 4th and 5th, gully whomping. Looks like you'd be rapping/traving little towers and generally "unclean" climbing if you were staying on the ridge proper (via the 5.10 mentioned above).

P16-4th Top out on ridge. From here you can drop all ropes and gear if you are confident on hideously exposed 3rd class about 50' from the top of the summit. Watch yerself around the keyhole...

Descent-work your way down the gully a long, long ways. Stay up high and go straight down before it steepens dramatically and drops to the right. Scrambling down a ton of exposed ledges and steppes will lead to an obvious rappel on blocks to the very top of Contact Pass.

Alternatively, I've gone down the aforementioned gully...there are anchors (bolted iirc) but you end up way below the pass and have to scramble up sand to get to the pass proper. Expect "1 step forward, 2 step back" if you do this.

Once on Contact, pick your way down. It will probably be horrible, so expect loose blocks, sandy crap and everything in between.
Best of luck. Last time we got lucky and glissaded a bunch, but the other times I've had a terrifically bad time route finding this choss.

Once you're back at camp, yell a loud "braaaack"! You just did DS!


Standard alpine rack. Go light and your legs will thank you on the final ridge.
Here's my somewhat shoddy recollection.

Moved to above "Pitch by pitch". Thanks 426. Apr 13, 2008
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
FA: Don Jensen, John Fischer, Keith Brueckner - July 1971 Jan 30, 2009
soleman   alabama
doug robinson fa? Aug 13, 2010
harihari   VANCOUVER
Great route. Above description is good. We brought doubles in camalots from .3 to #2, one #3, and some nuts. Don't rope up for anything after the chimney except the 10a pitch-- this is a LOOOONG route and belaying everything will make it take forever. The majority of it is low 5th.

The crux is the first 2 pitches (10c and 10a/b) which have lots of bomber gear. Get an early start. if you aren't super-fast, bring a tagline so you can bail, or prepare to leave your entire rack behind. Jul 22, 2011
Justin Tomlinson
Monrovia, CA
Justin Tomlinson   Monrovia, CA
An historical perspective, this route was rated V, 5.7, A3 in Steve Roper's "Climber's Guide to the High Sierra" in 1976.

He writes, "Climb [the right-facing dihedral] for one and a half pitches to a ledge on the left. Traverse 20 feet left; then pendulum to an expanding aid crack on the left." Jan 28, 2012
Route is quite good until you reach the ridge but below average thereafter- two stars. Apr 13, 2012
Mike Watson  
Used the "download photo to SD card on Camera" trick. Was very helpful identifying the start of the climb! Apr 13, 2012
Colonel Mustard
Sacramento, CA
Colonel Mustard   Sacramento, CA
Not sure on the grade ratings in the above description, they seem a bit sandbagged. It generally seems correct otherwise, although I doubt any two parties have gone exactly the same way on the climb after the first buttress.

We linked in 400' of simul climbing on the apron of the first buttress leading to the official 1st pitch start instead of walking up and around. Largely, the climbing there was 4th, low 5th class, with maybe a move of 5.7 here and there. The start we chose had a piton marking the initial crack, but it's likely inconsequential which path you choose as long as you wind up at the "official" start.

The first buttress would be a worthy (and higher quality) climb on its own, and, frankly, I wouldn't have minded if it ended there since I'm a bit of an alpine heretic ;).

But not to worry, there's a WHOLE LOT more climbing to follow (although you could, in an emergency, rap the first butt, most likely leaving some gear/webbing, especially if you only have a single rope).

The variation we took on the second buttress utilized a varied hand crack around the right side of the pillar. It wound up being two pitches, one of approx. 100' (~5.9) and the second of approx. 140' (~5.10a). These pitches didn't have bad climbing, per se, but would have been a whole heck of a lot more fun if they hadn't been so loose in some sections. In particular the right trending traverse off the first pitch was head's up.

After that, a lot of simul and solo climbing to the several rappels and an eventual scramble up the top out gully. After gaining the second buttress, we stayed on the left side of the ridge. After the single rappel to the continued ridge climbing, we stayed on the right until the end where the two, slightly inobvious rappels plop you down for the final 3rd class traverse (right) around the red pillar and to the final gully. No rope needed on the final gully, although the way we went had a little approach shoe bouldering required.

We completed the day at dusk in August, so I guess it worked out. Expect continuous climbing, we were pretty much moving from 5am to 7pm without much downtime (hiking, climbing, descent). Route finding and care with the abundant choss necessitate a cautious approach that may slow you down in some areas. I've seen pitch count estimates up to 26 pitches. It's certainly a full day of climbing, however you count it. It did not help matters to climb myself into a wretched sore throat either! Those who c2c this are obviously in phenomenal hiking condition, although carrying ~60lb packs for camping does wear you down a bit. Dec 8, 2012
The large blocks that make up the "floor" of the chimney on pitch 6 (or 4, or 5 or whatever) are not solid. I stood on them and they dropped about 8". Had they come out of the chimney, death would have likely ensued for 50%-100% of our two man party. Beware. Otherwise, AWESOME and LONG climb. Sep 19, 2013
Good beta to climb this big route fast (8-10 hours): Solo the 500' 4th-5th class "sit-start" - it's faster and more fun than hiking up the loose scree and then traversing into the base. P1-6 (to top of chimney, per topo) can be done in 4 long pitches w/60M rope. Simul to base of middle buttress from there. 2 pitches on middle buttress, simul to first rappel station. If you're comfortable with the terrain at this point, solo the rest to the summit ( w/ rappels). We never found the supposed 5.10 pitch on the middle buttress; sounds like many parties don't. First half of the route is quite good, the rest is very "alpine" and seemingly endless. Secor guide says 33 pitches! A grand adventure.

Doug Robinson needs to be included in the FA party information listed above. Jun 16, 2014
Nelson Day
Joshua Tree, CA
Nelson Day   Joshua Tree, CA
Trip Report Jul 6, 2015
Anthony H
Seattle, WA
Anthony H   Seattle, WA
The "sit-start" variation was nice. We spent a little less than an hour to simul climb from the toe of the buttress to the start of P1. Not sure if it'd have saved us time, but it certainly seems to be a more fun/less painful way than talus hopping up to the base. Nov 13, 2015