Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 7 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Vern Clevenger/Bob Harrington
Page Views: 10,921 total · 85/month
Shared By: Old Skool Slabhead on May 26, 2008
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description

The entire route entails some challenging but very fun diverse climbing. The crux 10.b lies on the Seventh pitch. It is definitely a Classic and must DO!

Total of seven technical Pitches with an additional 300' feet of Class 3ish to reach the Summit proper.

Approach: Scramble up the right side of the pedestal (3rd class) to the bottom of the route.

P1(5.9, ~100'): Climb ~30 feet of blocky 5.6, then head up the crack just left of the arete. Belay at the "ear".

P2(5.10a, ~100'): Climb the crack straight above the "ear". Fun face moves to link crack systems. Belay at ledge.

P3(5.9, ~100'): Continue up, traversing left on the obvious sloping ledge below the orange lichen-covered bulge. Belay at the base of the "Triple Cracks".

P4(5.9, ~120'): Climb the "Triple Cracks". This seemed like the physical crux of the route. Stance belay just above the obvious alcove. The rock below the alcove is somewhat loose, there is a thin crack just above the alcove that's solid.

P5(5.8, ~100'): Take the center of 3 cracks above the alcove. The left one looks like a wide lieback, and the right one is a splitter (but grainy) thin crack. The one in the middle takes the path of least resistance. After ~50', head left up a couple of rampy lieback sections (not the splitter hand crack directly above). Belay at a large ledge below a right-facing corner.

P6(5.10b, ~120'): Climb the crux dihedral. Stiff off the bat, then eases up. Below the smaller summit block, head left up an offwidth/chimney/stem with a large fixed cam in it. Belay at large ledge.

P7(5.7, ~50'): Head up/right through a small notch, then follow the right-slanting crack system on a slab below/around the larger summit block (the huge one that's obvious from the approach). Belay on another large ledge.

You're now on the summit ridge (~500'). The climbing along the ridge is inobvious, and is definitely not 3rd class, more like mixed 4th/5th class. Lots of gendarmes and large pillars to navigate. We ended up following the ridge proper for ~200', downclimbing to the right of the ridge, then heading straight up through blocky 5.6ish climbing to the summit plateau.

Location

Descend Class 2 via the West Ridge to the Col between Merriam and Royce. Then proceed down to Camp. There may be a snowfield below the col, depending on time of year.

Protection

This is a Backcountry Trad route with ZERO fixed gear.

Gear List:
2ea MET TCU's (#1-3)
2ea MET FCU's (#4-8)
2ea WC Flexi #4 Friend
1 Set Of Stoppers
10 Alpine Slings(Draws) w/Biner's
10 Spare Biner's
2 60m Double's
That is my beta/topo photo that I put up on Summitpost. Glad to see it is getting used, because it took me a while to make it.
I thought the route was solid, and does not deserve a PG13. There is a little bit of grainyness because it doesn't get climbed that often, but there is very little loose rock. Pretty standard for Sierra granite.
The great thing about this climb is that it is all climbing. There is very little scrambling or easy 5th class. Jul 30, 2009
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Thanks for posting! I have added Lurker's pitch-by-pitch into the main route description. Aug 30, 2009
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
  5.10b PG13
Rude Boy   San Francisco, CA
  5.10b PG13
This route is AWESOME! I believe it would be just as poplar as the Third Pillar of Dana if not for the looooooong approach. A wee bit more moderate than Third Pillar too. My main complaint was that it was too short. I could have used a few more pitches. Very fun. May 21, 2013
Dustin Stephens
  5.10- PG13
Dustin Stephens  
  5.10- PG13
Great route! Especially as you get higher up. First couple pitches are somewhat dangerous and loose. Approach is burly, so be in the mood for a backpacking trip. Mosquitoes can be pretty heinous in mid-summer up until Royce Lake. Jul 1, 2013
Aaron Miller
Santa Fe, NM
  5.10b
Aaron Miller   Santa Fe, NM
  5.10b
Superb route up a very scenic peak.

Several pitches can be linked. Linked 2 and 3 together, finishing the traverse left to the nice belay below the triple crack corner pitch.
I also climbed pitch 5 and 6 together by going straight up the plumb line of cracks instead of traversing right. Not sure why the topo says "no" as if you will end up in Oz, it links right into the nice belay below the crux pitch. It may look like there are loose blocks on this pitch but they seemed very solid to me, took gear well and never exceeded 5.9. There were a few loose hand-sized rocks just sitting in the crack, as though no-one ever went this way, but we tossed most or all of these off the route.

At the top of the route, there are 2 sections of huge summit blocks to negotiate. The first you take left, as the topo says, but the second is funky and goes right around it to the start of summit ridge traverse.

Also, the ridge traverse at the top is more like 1000', not 300', but its all good. Jun 20, 2014
Lurker
Truckee, CA
  5.10b
Lurker   Truckee, CA  
  5.10b
Absolutely stellar route. Looks and climbs similar to Third Pillar of Dana, but with a bit more commitment and logistical challenge. Unsung classic, although apparently it's in the new Supertopo book, so it will probably become a trade route. I feel that it deserves a better description than given; the topo posted on this site seemed fairly accurate however. Pitch lengths below are loose estimates. There are multiple options on most pitches (this is the High Sierra of course); this just seemed like the most well-traveled route.

Approach: Scramble up the right side of the pedestal (3rd class) to the bottom of the route.

P1(5.9, ~100'): Climb ~30 feet of blocky 5.6, then head up the crack just left of the arete. Belay at the "ear".

P2(5.10a, ~100'): Climb the crack straight above the "ear". Fun face moves to link crack systems. Belay at ledge.

P3(5.9, ~100'): Continue up, traversing left on the obvious sloping ledge below the orange lichen-covered bulge. Belay at the base of the "Triple Cracks".

P4(5.9, ~120'): Climb the "Triple Cracks". This seemed like the physical crux of the route. Stance belay just above the obvious alcove. The rock below the alcove is somewhat loose, there is a thin crack just above the alcove that's solid.

P5(5.8, ~100'): Take the center of 3 cracks above the alcove. The left one looks like a wide lieback, and the right one is a splitter (but grainy) thin crack. The one in the middle takes the path of least resistance. After ~50', head left up a couple of rampy lieback sections (not the splitter hand crack directly above). Belay at a large ledge below a right-facing corner.

P6(5.10b, ~120'): Climb the crux dihedral. Stiff off the bat, then eases up. Below the smaller summit block, head left up an offwidth/chimney/stem with a large fixed cam in it. Belay at large ledge.

P7(5.7, ~50'): Head up/right through a small notch, then follow the right-slanting crack system on a slab below/around the larger summit block (the huge one that's obvious from the approach). Belay on another large ledge.

You're now on the summit ridge (~500'). The climbing along the ridge is inobvious, and is definitely not 3rd class, more like mixed 4th/5th class. Lots of gendarmes and large pillars to navigate. We ended up following the ridge proper for ~200', downclimbing to the right of the ridge, then heading straight up through blocky 5.6ish climbing to the summit plateau.

Descent: Down the 2nd class west ridge to the col between Merriam and Royce peaks. There may be a snowfield below the col, depending on time of year. Jun 22, 2014
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
 
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
 
Great route. I found the crux pitch easy for .10b and would rate it at hard 5.9 or 5.10a at most. Whatever the grade this was a really fun pitch.

On the second pitch just above the face moves there is hanging block at the point where you change from a right-facing corner to a left facing corner. This section is devoid of holds and so it is clear that everyone pulls on this block. My concern was that this block looked totally detached and if it decides to release you and your belayer could be at significant risk. Be careful. Jul 9, 2014
Agreed that the supposed "crux" pitch was quite tame. Steep but perfect hands for about 10' until you can stem out onto the other crack. I don't remember the loose block Karsten speaks of, but thought that changing corners pitch 2 was probably the crux of the route (10a). The Triple Cracks is definetely the highlight of the route, and quite sustained. Jul 9, 2014
Satchel Friedman
Berkeley, ca
  5.10b
Satchel Friedman   Berkeley, ca
  5.10b
I think the route description should be updated - there is more like 800 feet of 4th-5th class climbing with significant exposure along the ridge.

All in all, the climb is magnificent and far superior to third pillar. Apr 24, 2016
Justin Skaare   CO
 
You could likely link the first 6 pitches into 3 with a 70. We linked 1&2 and then tried to link 3&4, but ended up belaying 25 ft below the alcove on the right hand side of crack systems, but in retrospect think we could have just made it with the 70.

On the traverse (pitch 3), we ended up having to down climb to make it into the triple crack system.

If you're simuling the ridge, do so with a shortened rope. The climbing is exposed with some dangerous fall potential, being able to communicate with your partner is quite helpful. Be prepared for real climbing, especially after a traverse just below the ridge that leads to an option of 3 separate cracks.

We brought RPs and C3's and I don't think we placed them. Aug 8, 2016
DennisL
Bishop, CA
 
DennisL   Bishop, CA
 
SuperClassic! The route is in fine condition after some rockfall at the beginning of this month (August 2016), but you can see on the approach how far the shrapnel flew!

We brought a BD #4 but never placed it for lead protection - save yourself on the hike and leave it at home unless this route is at your limit and you need to sew it up! The "crux" section of p6 where you might place it is very short and easier than sections on earlier pitches. Aug 13, 2016
Fantastic route, one of the jewels of the sierras for sure!
A few things:

-Approach is FOR REAL 5 hours to Royce Lake (via Pine Creek) w/ ~5k of elevation gain
-we used the #4 many times
- PG13 rating should be removed, great gear the whole climb
-Many opportunities to combine pitches with a 70, however after the Triple Cracks this could lead to severe rope drag if the leader places lots of pro
-Variations: At the top of the triple cracks pitch (past the alcove), finishing 10 meters up and right (following a short #1/#2 sized hand crack past the alcove) allows you to belay from a nice stance, preferable to the heinous hanging belay, which places you right underneath some sketch looking blocks
-Don't miss the traverse into the triple cracks pitch, it is easy to go above it and think it goes, as others thought, evidenced by fixed nuts used for lowering back to the correct traverse point.
-Stay roped up to get to the true summit, as there are a few places where a fall would surely be fatal. Aug 28, 2017
Bernard Van De Walle
San Francisco, CA
Bernard Van De Walle   San Francisco, CA
Beautiful route. A couple comments that I hope will be useful for other parties:

- I'm not a morning guy, but I was so happy to hit the switchback on the approach no later than 6.30AM. Wake up early for the approach, it gets super super hot later in the day when the sun hits hard.
- The approach on the talus is on the right toe of the buttress. (As there are two toes on the buttress and it was not super clear to us initially that it was the right one).
- We belayed on a mossly choss pitch 0 to the base of the crack that leads to the ear belay ( the belay for end of pitch 1).
- Pitch 3, we traversed early, before the roof, but it seems that the right way to do it was to traverse just below the roof.
- Pitch 2 and 3 seem to be both short enough to link easily with a 60 meter (didn't try but it should work)
- Crux pitch 5, we belayed at a nice ledge just before the Wide S crack.
- For pitch 6, we went right on the first small summit block, then through a weird Tunnel that leads to the second large summit block, then right on that one on the classic finish. It is pretty clear we were supposed to go left on the first summit block, but right side works also, with crazy rope drag.
- The ridge was way more tricky than what we thought, definitely keep roped up. We pretty much walked on the ridge for the first half, and went on the left side (and a little bit down) on the second half. We went up to a pretty obvious easy 4th class couloir that leads to the Summit ledges.
- #4 definitely not needed for us. We placed it, but could easily have placed something else. There is maybe one small section of 3-4 feet on pitch 5 of easy 5.9 layback that requires it, but that's it.
- As said earlier, Climbing felt pretty easy for the grade, definitely easier than 3rd pillar of Dana.
- As of early July 2018 there was still a bit of snow to get to the base, but crampon or ice axes probably not required. (we didn't use). Jul 3, 2018
David S.
San Francisco, CA
David S.   San Francisco, CA
My partner and I had to bail after the first pitch for various reasons on September 16, 2018. We left a 240 cm dyneema sling and two wire-gate biners backed up by a #7 BD nut at the 'ear'-- gear is yours if you go get it. I'll be back as soon as I can to climb this tremendously beautiful buttress.

In case it wasn't clear, this route (being north facing) is a refrigerator in the late season. Don't bother with an early start. The crux of the climbing we did manage to do was trying to feel my fingers and toes as I jammed up the excellent first pitch finger crack. Sep 18, 2018