Avg: 2.8 from 49 votes
|Type:||Trad, 800 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III|
|FA:||John Dyer, Robin Hansen and Tom Rixon 2/1940|
|Page Views:||12,504 total · 105/month|
|Shared By:||Matt Leonard on Oct 4, 2010|
|Admins:||andy patterson, Aron Quiter, Bruce Hildenbrand, M Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes|
Current Raptor Advisories for Pinnacles National Parknps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/…
Closures effective as of the day after Martin Luther King Day- July 3. Check closure website for details on closed areas.
PLEASE READ: Starting in 2018 there has been a pretty consistent yearly condor nest on this route. The first California Condor to fledge at the Pinnacles in over 100 years came from this nest. Please check with the Park Service web page, the Friends of Pinnacles website and the CrudnMud forum to see if this route is closed during the raptor nesting season and possibly longer.
We did this in a team of 4 (with 2 ropes), and had 1 person tie in short on the 2nd rope. We simul-rappeled a few times to speed things up generally the rappel stations were bomber and modern. (if simul-rapping, please be aware of the added risks and concerns). We left the parking lot at noon, and were back to the car by 6, including a fair amount of time wandering around on the approach semi-lost, casual climbing (with 2 folks who had minimal experience outdoors), and a nice lunch up on top. Pack layers it can be alternately windy/cold/shady/hot based on where you are along the route.
I would highly encourage carrying two ropes (we brought 2x 60m). We passed a lot of intermediate belay stations that likely would have allowed for a single-rope raps, but 2 ropes gave us a lot more options, and sped things up. There were a few places where shorter rope might have gotten you to a decent spot, but longer ropes allowed us to get on the most secure ground possible.
Everything is bolted so a half dozen draws should suffice we brought a few pieces that never left the pack and just added weight. There were very few spots for other protection anyway, just be prepared for easy but runout terrai. If you wanted to climb Middle Tower, a couple medium pieces to anchor a better below wouldnt hurt.
Follow the directions on the main page to west side of the park taking Hwy 146 from Soledad. Jump on the Balconies Trail from the picnic/parking area, and walk about a half mile, passing most of the west face of Machete Ridge. There is a big obvious sign that says Machete Ridge climbing access to the right, just before a footbridge (maybe the 3rd or 4th bridge).
Follow this trail up to the base, and head right (moving south), doubling back the way you came along the base. Continue to follow this trail ALL the way around the south side of Machete Ridge, and then back up around the back side (east) of the rocks. We had a hard time finding this because we kept thinking we had gone too far. It feels like you almost do a complete lap around of the ridge but after passing much of the east face, youll see two large pine trees up to the left between a saddle. There wasnt much of a trail, and you pass lots of confusing trees along the way but these are 2 pines that are pretty much on their own, right up in the notch.
Alternately you could hike in from the east side of the park, meeting up with the Balconies Trail. Havent done this but should be possible, and would take a few hours.
Pitch 1 - 5.3:
From the notch with the pine trees, scramble up the rock just before the 2nd pine. You will find a grassy ledge about 50 feet up, with a small pine tree on the north end. Just left of the tree you can see a small patch of bush/grass about 15 feet up on the left with your first (fairly high) bolt just above that. Head up and left to that bolt, then move right to a 2nd bolt at your feet. Just above this youll fine 2 bolts at eye-level for the belay. Very short pitch.
Pitch 2 walk (3rd/4th class):
You can walk about 30 feet to a small notch on your right (before the tree). Dont climb down the notch but hop up on the ridge to the right of the notch, doubling-back the way you came but on higher ground. Follow the exposed ridge down, with few (if any) options for protection. It might be possible to belay someone from the top of P1 bolts but you wouldnt be able to see/hear each other well (the rope would start below the ridge, and go up and over the other side). We walked it but it is exposed, and you have to down climb a bit on the last 25 feet to get to a gully, which is the start of Pitch 3.
Pitch 3 5.5
There is a notch here with 3 bolts 2 newer solid ones, and a 3rd on an old/homemade hanger. This pitch involves a few short exposed moves moving right around a bulge. You can see the first bolt from the belay. Once you get around the bulge, you have a crouching traverse (at least for tall folks like me), past a 2nd bolt at your feet. Its an easy walk past the 2nd bolt, but I stayed roped in. 40 feet later the ridge flattens out, and you can climb an easy 8 notch up to the obvious grassy area with a few small Manzanita trees. I belayed from here off a manzanita (and we ate lunch).
Pitch 4 walk (3rd/4th class):
From the manzanitas walk up and over the ridge to your right, following the ridge down to nice set of chains. Its an easy walk, but once again very airy and exposed. If you are concerned, you could belay from the Manzanita but it would be mighty runout, and no real protection along the way.
Pitch 5 - rappel
From these chains, we did did a double rope (60m each) rap to the NW gully below. Its a low-angle rappel on class 3 and 4rock (could be downclimbed easily) for most of it, but the last 30 or so are overhanging and a free rappel. We passed 2 intermediate rap stations that I would assume would allow for a single rope rappel.
Pitch 6 scramble/rappel
From the gully, you can either walk around right, or scramble over to another obvious gully. Youll see a U-shaped notch (not the W-shaped notch to the right). You can climb the notch (easy 5th class but not 3rd class the way some guides state) Find a single bolt in the notch (left hand side), and either rap down, or downclimb the lichen-covered rock to a protected gully. You can scramble out of the gully, and over to the base of Middle Tower where there is another rap station that ends the route.
This is the official end of the route, but Middle Tower can be climbed as a side-excursion (2-bolt 5.5), or possibly traverse farther out towards the other towers.
The descent isnt hard but it does take some time. From the final bolts at the base of Middle Tower rap down the eastern gully (NOT the west face towards Balconies there has been at least one death from this attempt). The gully (and the face) can be fairly wet and lichen-covered. You could downclimb most of the gully but if you want to avoid slippery lichen and poison oak rapping is MUCH faster, and more enjoyable. With 2 60m ropes we were able to rap most of it, just scrambling a final 40 or so to a small tree with some slings and a rap ring. A single rope rap here dropped us to a big grassy area overlooking the Balconies Cave area, and a much larger tree with more slings and a rap ring. Another double-rope rap took us down the grassy area, over another lichen-covered wall, and to the Ground below. A short scramble through some talus dropped us into the Balconies Caves, and back to the trail. Most of this could be downclimbed but rapping it felt MUCH safer, and much faster especially in wet conditions.