Type: Trad, Snow, Alpine, 8000 ft (2424 m)
FA: Harding and Ohrenschall 12/29/1954 to 1/2/1955
Page Views: 5,818 total · 30/month
Shared By: Scotty on Sep 22, 2007
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurk Er, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer Ski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description Suggest change


TH to Summit: 8000 feet
Total climbing vertical: 11,000 feet

Round Trip: 25 miles

The Northeast Ridge of Mount Williamson is a Sierra classic--not for the history (which it has--in his twilight years, Norman Clyde claimed that he had made the FA in the 1920s, and Warren Harding made his maniac bones in an epic first winter ascent recounted in Doug Scott's "Big Wall Climbing"), and not for clean, good rock, which it has, at least when it counts, nor for the views, which it boasts in spades. The NE Ridge of Williamson is classic because it may very well be the hardest climb of its grade and type in the country. As RJ Secor says, "This 8,000 foot waterless climb is one hell of a hard climb."

You kick off with a 1-mile cross-country hike which includes fording a nasty little stream. Climb 2000 feet of decomposed granite, dirt, sagebrush, manzanita, juniper and pinon to the ridge itself. Hang a right, and keep going, quickly. Soon you will be on clean desert rock which quickly transitions to alpine rock. Stay as close to the top of the ridge as possible. Ignore the tremendous exposure, and just keep moving. Top off your water bottles on any snow or melt you might find, because you're going to need it. Keep going. Many miles and thousands of feet of elevation later, the ridge fishhooks to the south and then back to the west. Cross the East and West Horns, both 14,000+, and descend the West Horn on its northeastern side until you can cross to the last obstacle before the long slog across a plateau to the summit. Descend by moving to the north, where you will find a 3d class chimney that enters a couloir facing southwest. This is the way down.

Location Suggest change

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Protection Suggest change

Some folks climb this with no rope, and they move very quickly, since they are 1-day blitzkrieg types. Mortals may want 30 meters of thin cord for raps and for moral support during dicy moves. But be warned, if you try to pitch and belay all the sketch out of this climb, you will need a long term residency permit. Bring along some throw-away webbing for rap anchors, and a head for continuous hours of unprotected exposure.

The descent is the reason that the climb has a snow rating. You will descend the "tourist route" which means glissading or plunging down about 1000 feet of snowy couloir.