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Charlotte Dome
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South Face 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 12 pitches, 1500', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Galen Rowell, Chris Jones, Fred Beckey - October 1970
Season: June-July
Page Views: 28,717
Submitted By: Chris Owen on Mar 7, 2006

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BETA PHOTO: Here is my best estimate of the route we followed....


A route on solid rock in a magnificent position.

P1 5.4 Climb up a groove, traverse right to a little wall with large knobs, up this to a large ledge; spike belay belay on the right.

P2 5.6 On the righthand edge of the ledge is a corner formed by a detached block, climb this, then up a crack, traverse right around an overlap, climb a crack and switch right into another crack to reach a small ledge in an alcove. Nut belay.

P3 5.6 Climb the wall on the left of the alcove, traverse right along an easy ledge and gain a ramp of different rock, head right up this for 30ft, then climb a crack (small wire) step left and climb a slab to a ledge. Nut belay.

P4 5.6 Climb a crack, then easily right to a chimney crack, up this to a ledge on the right. Climb a beautiful left-facing corner (50 Classics shows Allen Steck on this) to a thinner crack, up this then step right to a small ledge and nut belay below the Slot Pitch.

P5 5.8 Climb The Slot, good holds on the face to the right to a small ledge running across the face. Belay at a crack on the right with nuts. A magnificent pitch.

P6 5.7 Up the crack, with an awkward move right to gain a ledge below a steep wall. Nut belay on the right.

P7 5.7 From the righthand end of the ledge go over 2 small pinnacles and climb up a steep right facing corner to a semi-hanging belay on nuts. A great pitch.

P8 5.7+ A long intricate pitch. Climb the crack that the corner has become until it peters out, ahead looks hopeless, but step left into another crack, nut, head up and left, aiming for a small pocket in the slab above, this pocket takes a 2.5 Friend. Make a delicate step left to a crack, good pro. Step left up a rib to a ledge (wires in diagonal crack on the right), climb a steep step to a crack (TCU), head up this to a ledge, traverse right to a small spike and nut belay.

P9 5.6 The Furrow Pitch. The face above is deeply furrowed with large holds, head up this, aiming for bushes, good pro to start. Soon the protection becomes sparse, head rightwards to a nook overlooking the recess high on the Dome. Thread belay. An exposed pitch.

P10 5.6 The Dick Long Pitch (see 50 Classics). Traverse left over bushes to a steep flake crack, up this in a magnificent position to a huge ledge with a dead tree. Thread (and possible bivi!!)

P11 5.6 Climb the orange face behind the belay directly to another ledge. Thread. A brilliant finish.

P12 Easy climbing leads to the summit ridge.


Start at a tree beneath a recess to the left of the buttress which holds the climb.

Descend the north ridge to its lowest point and scramble down.


Full rack.

Photos of South Face Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Dawn over Mount Brewer, North Guard, & Mount Franc...
Dawn over Mount Brewer, North Guard, & Mount Franc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approaching the South Face of Charlotte Dome.
Approaching the South Face of Charlotte Dome.
Rock Climbing Photo: moon over Charlotte Dome
moon over Charlotte Dome
Rock Climbing Photo: Melody pauses high above Bubbs Creek.
Melody pauses high above Bubbs Creek.
Rock Climbing Photo: Schematic of the route we took in August 1992.
BETA PHOTO: Schematic of the route we took in August 1992.
Rock Climbing Photo: View of Charlotte Dome.
View of Charlotte Dome.
Rock Climbing Photo: Leading the Slot, 9-11-08. Photo by René Renteria...
Leading the Slot, 9-11-08. Photo by René Renteria...
Rock Climbing Photo: My wife near the top of Charlotte Dome
My wife near the top of Charlotte Dome
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at the maze of features on the south fa...
Looking up at the maze of features on the south fa...
Rock Climbing Photo: Belay station at the top of the slot pitch
BETA PHOTO: Belay station at the top of the slot pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Eriko leading the super fun furrows pitch.
Eriko leading the super fun furrows pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: last stroll to the unusual summit block
last stroll to the unusual summit block
Rock Climbing Photo: Melody leading pitch 4, with the Slot up and to he...
Melody leading pitch 4, with the Slot up and to he...
Rock Climbing Photo: My Wife on the South Face
My Wife on the South Face
Rock Climbing Photo: Nathan groovin' up the Furrows Pitch. P10.   Photo...
Nathan groovin' up the Furrows Pitch. P10. Photo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Alpenglow on Charlotte Dome.   Photo: Corey Gargan...
Alpenglow on Charlotte Dome. Photo: Corey Gargan...
Rock Climbing Photo: Melody Wong on the ledge before pitch 7 in the des...
Melody Wong on the ledge before pitch 7 in the des...
Rock Climbing Photo: Finishing up the first 5.8 pitch.
Finishing up the first 5.8 pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down at one of the early pitches, around p...
Looking down at one of the early pitches, around p...

Comments on South Face Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 21, 2017
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Mar 7, 2006

Sorry about the detail - I couldn't resist transcribing something that I had written down 20 years ago after I did the climb for the first time. Some of the pitches can probably be combined with a longer rope. I don't claim for one minute to have described the route of original ascent, except perhaps for The Slot Pitch.
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Mar 9, 2006

Don't underestimate the subtle route finding on P8. A little lapse of concentration and you could easily be climbing scary runout 5.10. Be sure to take your time to find the path of least resistance.
By Adam P.
From: San Jose, CA
Apr 18, 2007
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

It's been a while since I've done this route, but there isn't much beta I can offer in addition to what has already been stated. The Supertopo is spot on for the route and gear. It's a great route and a lot of fun.
By John Korfmacher
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jun 9, 2008

If the sight of Charlotte Dome as you approach down Bubb's Creek doesn't get you fired up, you should sell your gear and take up knitting instead.

IIRC the anchors on the first two or three pitches were not very good and the pro was kinda minimal. But the moves were easy and the rest of the route is excellent with interesting movement, exposure, and spectacular views every time you look up. This is the kind of adventurous climbing that the Sierra has always been about.
By Justin York
From: Phoenix, AZ
Nov 9, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Got stuck at the top for four hours in a torrent of rain, hail, and lightning. Besides that, the climb was great and the position is most excellent. The polished granite walls across the canyon were yosemite-esque, and not a soul in sight.

Used the supertopo which was spot on. Never harder than 5.8 and the pro was good. I found tricams useful in many spots where nothing else would have worked (i.e. small pockets). Therefore, I don't remember the mandatory runouts being bad at all. The rock and the climbing get better as you ascend. Furrows pitch was cool!

Did the approach over Kearsarge pass. Pretty, but long. STAY HIGH on the manzanita slope bushwhack after leaving the trail past the lake. The campsite below charlotte dome's shoulder is superb, but will make you work to get to it!
By Spider Savage
Mar 16, 2010

The best climb ever.

I was carrying a handmade sketch Chris (author above) gave me but I got off route up there around 6 & 7. Went up too soon instead of to the right. Had some nice hard face climbing but no place to put pro. Took me an hour to build one belay. The rest of the day was great!
By Jasmine Kall
Aug 23, 2010

Did this yesterday, don't go down to early on the decent. Keep going till you hit a trail. There was a lovely decaying fixed line down the steep section that helped us, but it won't last much longer.

Saw my first bear also on the way in and a giant rattler!
By vanishing spy
Sep 30, 2011
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

Great time in the back country. We were the only ones around for miles. We camped at Charlotte Lake due to a late start on the approach day. In retrospect I recommend camping at the lake rather than at the dome. Yes, we had a longer (mostly down hill) approach and a predawn start but I'm thrilled I didn't have to drag my camping gear through the manzanitta or any farther than needed. Plus there are Bear Boxes at the lake.

The climbing was fun but the setting was spectacular. We climbed pitches 1-3 and pitched it out from there. I did find the hole for a #2 on Pitch 8 but also found it committing, run out and wild. I took this pitch too far (60m) into the furrows where it was difficult to find a good belay. The summit was not what I expected from a dome.

Perfect weather.
By Justin Tomlinson
From: Monrovia, CA
Jan 28, 2012

From Steve Roper's "Climber's Guide to the High Sierra" in 1976, after identifying the start of the climb, his route description is, "Ten pitches of cracks, dihedrals, and chickenhead knobs lead to the summit."
By super dave
From: las vegas, nv
Aug 20, 2012

If you head left on the upper part of the pitch after the furrow pitch you can climb this cool roof crack out left and up to the same ledge the regular pitch finishes on, fun.
By Yosemitesam
Sep 2, 2012

This route is so rad! Hiked in from the East. Long, but way worth it. Supertopo made the cross country directions from Charlotte Lake more convoluted than needed be. We found the climbers trail well marked with cairns and pretty easy to follow. I agree that the Supertopo is right on for route and gear, except consider skipping the #4.

Everyone in our two parties agreed that pitch 8 was the crux of the route and more difficult than the slot. Also, never found any 40ft runouts on the slab pitch. I got in 3 or 4 good pieces. There is a pretty clear path of least resistance on this pitch and I think it would be hard to get into runout 5.10 territory accidentally. The last pitch is one of the best and the summit is simply amazing!
By BighornAdams Adams
Oct 27, 2012

Is this route climbable in winter? November?
By Floyd Hayes
Jul 21, 2013

WESTERN APPROACH AND DESCENT: Bubb’s Creek Trail crosses two forks of Charlotte Creek, which are about 0.1 mile apart. According to my GPS it’s 7.3 miles from the asphalt at Road’s End to the first fork and an additional 0.1 mile to the second fork. The campsite with a bear locker is just beyond and downhill from the second fork. We camped just before and downhill from the second fork, where there was more shade. The climber’s trail is about 150' west of the first fork and starts under a big Douglas Fir. The start is marked with cairns and branches outlining the first 15 feet. Three of us started hiking in the dark and followed cairns, but the “trail” was indistinct and difficult to follow, and we did a fair amount of bushwhacking. Somehow we lost the cairns about a third of the way up and they suddenly reappeared near the top of the approach. We ascended up a slight ridge between a gully and cliffs to the left and Charlotte Creek on the right, and were never very close to Charlotte Creek. With three of us climbing we were slow, so we descended in the dark and wound up descending closer to Charlotte Creek, never seeing a single cairn! The descent was stressfully steep with scattered short cliffs to our left and right, but below us we always managed to find relatively open class 3-4 gullies or slopes, with occasional bushwhacking short distances between them. We eventually came out within 30 feet of the start of the trail. There are multiple ways to get up and down the steep slopes, so if like us you can’t find a “trail,” don’t stress out!

PROTECTION: We thought the climb was reasonably well protected, with occasional short runouts but nothing more than 30' on terrain >5.5. We carried two each of the smaller cams and one each of the larger cams, but I wished I had a few more larger cams, which I ran out of on the second 5.8 pitch. The big #4 cam came in handy on both 5.8 pitches, so I was happy to have it.

PITCHES: We closely followed the Supertopo route description. At times it was a bit bewildering but we pretty much stayed on route the entire time, except pitch 1 when our leader led the arete (5.7) left of the standard start. Pitch 4 did not have “poor pro” and I never saw the “5.5 chimney,” which I must have climbed to the left of. On pitch 5 we climbed a corner and face to the left with an exposed and poorly protected traverse (with one tricky 5.7 move) back to the right at the top of the pitch. The flake to the right looked easier and we wondered why Supertopo labeled it as “no.” About two-thirds up pitch 8 I moved right onto the face, which looked easier than the crack and felt like 5.6, running it out about 30' before moving back into the crack and to the miserable belay stance (my companions stayed in the crack). Pitch 9 protected surprisingly well–definitely no 40' runouts. We thought pitch 10 was easy, feeling more like 5.6 than 5.7. Pitch 11 felt harder than 5.4, more like 5.7! We were a bit confused about where to go on pitch 12 and wound up going up cracks between the “gold slab” and “steep gold wall,” which seemed to be the correct route. Above pitch 12 we thought a few moves below the summit ridge felt like class 4 rather than class 3. We also thought a few of the moves during the descent were class 4.
By Floyd Hayes
Jul 26, 2013

Here's a video
By kfox Fox
Jun 10, 2014

Climbed this route on 6/8/14 - Awesome!
Used the Super Topo description and was able to stay on route.
The description and topo above, by Chris Owen, we both found very confusing.
If descending back to Bubbs Creek the beginning of the climbers trail is challenging to find, prepare for some Schwacking!
Amazing route, rock & setting! Go get it!
By Que'bien Thomas
From: Long Beach, California
Jun 26, 2015

This is why we climb.

ULTRA classic climbing and incredible, stupendous, remote setting. Forget route finding! Seriously, overthinking is the only mistake you could make.

The approach across the slabs (from east) was the trickiest bit, but locating that little tree that marks the top of the first pitch calibrates the whole route. Supertopo topo and "going up" accomplish the rest.

Yosemitesam is spot-on. Save a #3 for the top of the OW-ish pitch and reward your hanging belay with some bomber pro.
By Edward_
Jul 13, 2015

A few thoughts...

- Did not bring a #4, and there was no real place I really felt I needed it. I'm sure smaller gear would have helped.

- Only had one #3, I felt that was sufficient. I brought two #2, but could have got away with one.

- Belays for the first 4 pitchs aren't great, but it was easy enough that I think it makes sense to simul to the 4th belay.

- Approach from Bubbs Creek, lots of cairn stones that take you no where. I would say follow the creek as much as possible. We bush wacked way too much on approach, on decent we found a trail that was almost at elevation with the start of the route. Maybe someone has better advice then me though?

Furrows pitch was amazing and awesome!
By Antonio Caligiuri
From: Bishop, CA
Jun 17, 2016

Had essentially the same approach/descent experience as Edward. The supertopo beta is confusing, it says to cross the creek 200yds past the lake and you will definitely see the trail end at the creek then pick up on the other side. This eventually lead us to the old packers' fence also mentioned in supertopo but then we never saw a trail again and were crosscountry/bushwhacking all the way to the base, arriving with soaked shoes. On the way back we found the trail immediately from the closer campsite and followed it almost the entire way back to the lake. So here's better beta: when you reach the first meadow (almost immediately past the lake) the trail is going to be on the north (looker's right) side of the meadow. Here you could either just cut across the meadow trying to find the driest path or cross the stream and follow the trail through the woods until it runs out then cut north to find the trail. Either way it is definitely worth taking the time to find this trail. I should also mention that even botching the approach, this route is totally worth it!
By Todd Graham
From: Crowley Lake, CA
Aug 16, 2016

Climbed Charlotte Dome car-to-car yesterday in 18 hours via Kearsarge Pass. One very very long hard day. Should have stashed a coke at the Pass for the way back.

The trail to the dome is great. No problems. Lots of water sources past Charlotte lake. Follow trail past Charlotte lake, across creek to left/south side, thru talus, thru horse gate, across creek again to its right/north side, then follow trail all the way to the dome. If you are bushwacking going downhill past Charlotte lake you are blowing it.

The climb itself is immaculate. We did it in 8 pitches with a 70m rope (though it could be done in seven):
1) Simul-climb past tree and up/right thru parallel cracks (keep moving right) to small stance below slot ledge; 2) climb up to slot ledge; 3) climb slot up to traverse, traverse right and up to ledge at 5.8 crack (extend slings to reduce drag on this pitch), 4) climb 5.8 crack to stance below runout face; 5) climb runout face to stance below furrows; 6) climb furrows to huge dead tree ledge, 7)climb orange face to summit ridge. If you are solid at 5.10 this route could be almost all simul-climbed. Bring lots of small cams and small to mid-size wires, and lots of slings, since you protect the face climbing sections with them. Be careful on the first part of the descent off the summit -- it is exposed and one slip in the wrong place and you are gone.
Rock Climbing Photo: 7 pitches to the top. Simul up to small ledge belo...
7 pitches to the top. Simul up to small ledge below slot ledge.
By King Tut
From: Citrus Heights
Feb 21, 2017

"Is this route climbable in winter? November?"


Um, ain't exactly Mt. Everest and Novembers can be very dry until the snow starts to fly...But, for example, Kearsage Pass has 40' of snow right now and the west approach maybe only 10'...would be a nice ski in in March/April from the East. If you had your pick of Novembers it could be very nice during the day, expect sub-freezing nights and short days.

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