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Charlotte Dome

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Charlotte Dome Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 10,690'
Location: 36.7825, -118.48 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 36,060
Administrators: Chris Owen, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Chris Owen on Mar 7, 2006


58° | 29°

61° | 30°

61° | 36°

62° | 29°

58° | 25°
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Charlotte Dome from the eastern approach. Descent ...


Beautiful dome in the Sierra backcountry. Home to, as RJ Secor called it, "one of the world's finest rock climbs."

Getting There 

Two ways:

1) From Cedar Grove, east up Bubb's Creek trail then cut left (north) on faint-use trail up Charlotte Creek, 7.5 miles 4,500 ft elevation gain.

2) From Onion Valley, over Kearsarge Pass, down to Charlotte Lake, then down to Charlotte Dome, 9.5 miles 3,500 ft elevation gain (on the way out! c2500 ft on the hike in).

You decide which way you want to go. Living in LA I favor the western approach (1); it's all downhill on the way out.

Campsites here are wonderful, in deep forest, and hopefully no one else around. Watch out for bears! Take precautions. Bear cannisters are mandatory on both approaches.

Climbing Season

Weather station 14.9 miles from here

3 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Charlotte Dome

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Charlotte Dome:
South Face   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 12 pitches, 1500'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Charlotte Dome

Featured Route For Charlotte Dome
Rock Climbing Photo: Schematic of the route we took in August 1992.

South Face 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c  California : High Sierra : ... : Charlotte Dome
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 a...[more]   Browse More Classics in California

Photos of Charlotte Dome Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The ramp traverse.
BETA PHOTO: The ramp traverse.
Rock Climbing Photo: Charlotte Dome at sunset
Charlotte Dome at sunset
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the end of the westside approach
Nearing the end of the westside approach
Rock Climbing Photo: Dawn halfway up the wall
Dawn halfway up the wall
Rock Climbing Photo: Pulling the small roof on the "slot" pit...
BETA PHOTO: Pulling the small roof on the "slot" pit...
Rock Climbing Photo: Peter Croft's summit registry thoughts.
Peter Croft's summit registry thoughts.
Rock Climbing Photo: Campsite on the eastern shoulder of Charlotte Dome...
Campsite on the eastern shoulder of Charlotte Dome...
Rock Climbing Photo: Charlotte Dome from the summit.
Charlotte Dome from the summit.
Rock Climbing Photo: A steep angle of Charlotte Dome's south face a...
A steep angle of Charlotte Dome's south face a...
Rock Climbing Photo: On the way back during our car-to-car effort.
On the way back during our car-to-car effort.
Rock Climbing Photo: topping out the South Face. photo by Tim Richards....
topping out the South Face. photo by Tim Richards....
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit block.
Summit block.
Rock Climbing Photo: Charlotte Lake
Charlotte Lake

Comments on Charlotte Dome Add Comment
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By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Mar 9, 2006
I've only done the Cedar Grove approach, which is steep but straightforward, and 90% on a major hiking trail. When my partner and I did it, we started hiking in from Cedar Grove fairly late in the day (can't remember exactly, maybe around 4 or 5 pm). We bivied at the base of the route that night, climbed it the next day and hiked out the same day, which worked out quite well.
By karl wilcox
From: Cleburne,Texas
Feb 1, 2007
The standard Charlotte route can be very crowded in the present era of tick lists. In my view the best time to climb is Sept. or Oct. Colours are great, and nobody is around. Route finding is key on this route-- in the 1970's it was truly hard to know if one was on route, now Peter Croft's guide book offers much greater certitude. I always camp at the lake with the bear boxes and the ranger station (coming in over Kearsage pass; eastside), as in the late 1970's we lost our food when we camped closer to the dome. I seem to always need a headlamp for the walk back to camp at the lake. With two clients it seems that the route takes about 10 hours from camp to camp (Lake Camp), but in the Fall this means some dark-time walking.
By Bruce Willey
From: Bishop, CA
Jun 10, 2007
From what I hear the bears in the area are on parole, serving time after being "problem bears" in the Valley. We had a big cinnamon-colored bear pick up a fuel canister near our heads, cart it off a few feet away and explode it in its mouth. It was last seen heading for water. Not a pleasant experience for the bear and I offer my apologies for not putting the fuel canister in the bear canister. The next day, after climbing the South Face, we were heading up the valley towards the Charlotte Lake and we ran into what looked exactly like the same bear. He or she stared us down and started walking towards us. Prudently, we started up the manzanita slope. The bear followed us and I picked up a useless tree branch. To be continued...
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Oct 14, 2008
Late season is good to avoid the crowds but be prepared for bad weather - got seriously rained on one Labor Day weekend, about halfway up, water just pouring down the rock, freezing cold, bit of an epic.

I often wonder what it would be like in the depths of winter....

Roper's 50 Classic Climbs is also a great resource because it has a few photos on route, helped me a lot when I first did it in the 80's.
By Scott Sinner
From: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 5, 2012
  • I left a fishing rod in its case at our bivy spot yesterday. If anyone's going to be out there in the near future and could bring it back for me, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks. 717-580-2536
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Jul 3, 2014
I've been going to the Sierra for 30 years and i can honestly say I had only one bear problem trip; it was a trip to Charlotte Dome. A small cinnamon bear bugged us twice in the night, shimmying up the tree where we had hung our food and we had to resort to throwing rocks at it, upon which it came right back down the tree, came at 9 then 12. The next day after the climb of the South Face we heard a large branch snap near our camp in the woods, ran into camp to see a huge black bear standing there; we kept running and shouting and it ambled away.

That was back in the early 90's before the canister regulation. Once they issued that i stopped rock climbing in the backcountry, my pack was too heavy and it kinda took all the fun out of it.
By Lindsey Isaacson
Aug 7, 2015
West Side Approach Notes: The hike from Road's End to Charlotte is pretty casual, though the switchbacks up Bubb's Creek can be relentless. The "faint trail" leading to the base of the dome from the NW side of Charlotte Creek is mostly a cairned route up a 45 degree angle slope of exfoliating granite. Carrying camping gear and climbing gear would be brutal. Depending on your fitness, from Charlotte Creek expect 2 hours and change for the approach.

Descent Notes: Bushwhacking is almost a definite. Wear pants. From the summit block it is about a 3.5 to 4 hour walk back to Charolotte Creek if you catch it in the daylight and follow the "trail." The sunsets from the top of Charlotte Dome are epic.

Rack Notes: We brought a 60m 8mm rope, a single rack from 0-#3, a set of nuts, and about 8 runners. It was perfect for the South Face.

Bear Notes: There is currently a light brown mother and two cubs patrolling the area between Charlotte and Sphinx Creeks. They appear to be just bears doing bear things - falling out of bushes, turning over rocks, being cute in general. Store your smelly things properly so they can keep being cute instead of having to be destroyed.
By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Sep 6, 2017
East Side Approach Notes:

A SuperTopo guide purchased this year (Second Edition, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9833225-3-5) describes how to find the truly great campsite on the east side of Charlotte Dome. However, the suggested camp site is neither "up against" the ridge nor at 10,140 feet nor next to a "spring". And the "moraine ridges" were a little unrecognizable in the forest at dusk / dark. And, being unfamiliar, I could not recognize the old trail that goes up to Gardiner Pass. Also, we wanted to conserve smart-phone battery and so relied mainly on the SuperTopo description words rather than lat / lon ... and spent half of the next day searching with full packs for a camp site in which we had already spent the night. :)

If you have the same SuperTopo guide, I would modify - and shorten - that description to read: "Once finally back in the woods, keep heading toward the ridge that runs off the north side of Charlotte Dome by following the mostly-frequent cairns along a faint path. Look for a great campsite (36.7861 deg N, 118.4743 deg W, elevation 9,800 feet +/- 55 feet**) that lies about 100 feet above and east of a very lush and noisy creek down in woods."

Otherwise, I think the SuperTopo description and topo were great. Not sure how to submit this to SuperTopo folks - maybe I am too lazy?

** was using iPhone 5s and app "Altimeter+" by Sichtwerk AG, version 2.1 in GPS mode (i.e., not ASTER mode)

Edit to add: corrected above elevation.
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Sep 7, 2017
98,000 feet? You must've been in the ISS flying over. ;-)

I camped in a nice clearing above Charlotte Creek - there was even a fire ring there.

Approximate location of this is:

36.782192, -118.467786 EL 9200ft.

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