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Feather Canyon 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c PG13

Type:  Trad, Sport, 9 pitches, 1000', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c PG13 [details]
FA: Jim Langford & Doug Cardinal, 10/1973
Season: Fall
Page Views: 7,506
Submitted By: John Knight on Oct 27, 2009

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On the summit of H&L Dome after completing Feather...

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  • Description 

    If you're looking for some Pinnacles, High Peaks Adventure, this climb has it all. This climb includes route finding difficulties, loose rock, old bolts, poor belays, pigeons, and some of the most improbable climbing you'll find anywhere. That said, it is some of the best adventure climbing you'll find with a real alpine feel.

    From the west side parking lot, you'll need about 8 hours "car to car" for the whole adventure. See approach & descent description below. This is rated "only" 5.8 but would not be a good route for someone just breaking into that grade.

    Pitch 1 – 5.5: From the stacked boulders, work your way left up a short ramp (sling the small tree for protection) then head right using a few chimney moves. Scramble into the HUGE chamber and belay off one old bolt on the right wall.

    Pitch 2 – 3rd & 4th Class: Pick up the belay and move to the far end of the chamber. You’ll have to do a few chimney moves to get to the start of the next pitch. You will have passed under the large chockstone and be at the highest point just before the floor starts to drop.

    Pitch 3 – 5.6: This improbable pitch, chimneys and stems its way back toward the chockstone 70’ over your head. From the highest point of the chamber floor, (facing back toward the chockstone), look up about 15’ on the right wall and you’ll see your first bolt. You’ll clip two bolts on the right wall and then switch and clip 2 bolts on the left wall (4 total). Somewhere around bolt 3 you’ll need to switch from stemming/chimneying to climbing the left wall. At the top, cross over the chockstone and belay from the shrub/small tree.

    Pitch 4 – 5.8: Move the belay from the small tree to the base of a water chute/chimney. You should be standing beneath 2 closely spaced bolts. The crux of this pitch is making it past the 1st bolt. There are a total of 3 bolts on this pitch. Once at the top move through a scree filled trough and belay from a small tree at the back of the chute.

    Pitch 5 – 5.6: Move the belay north (right) to the base of another water chute/chimney. Start just right of the water chute, clip one bolt, then move left into the chimney and clip one more bolt. Belay from another small tree at the back of the meadow.

    Pitch 6 – 5.3: Move the belay right, past the most obvious pinnacle, just below a short wall (about 10’). Climb the short wall (no protection), then move right and climb another short, unprotected wall (about 15’) to the top of a pinnacle. Belay by placing a large loop or rope over the pinnacle to your right.

    Pitch 7 – 5.4: Climb down 10’ and then up a small face past one bolt. From the top of this face, walk down and left and belay at one bolt in front of another face.

    Pitch 8 – 5.4: Step out left onto an exposed ledge, clip 1 bolt, then move right up a ramp and clip another bolt as you move to the top of the pinnacle. Work your way over a series of humps and clip 1 more bolt before reaching the south summit of H & L Dome. Belay from 2 old bolts on the south summit.

    Pitch 9 – 5.1: Downclimb from the south summit then climb back up to the north summit. One short rappel from the chains on the north summit of H & L Dome will get you back to the ground.


    Approach: Approximately 2.5 miles and 1.5 hours. From the west side parking lot, take the Juniper Canyon Trail to the Tunnel Trail. Turn left at the junction and head up the Tunnel Trail to the High Peaks Trail. Once at the High Peaks Trail you have a couple options for the approach. You can either turn left, head over the top, and go down the other side toward the Don Genaro overlook (this may be farther but easier) OR you can turn right. The following directions assume you turn right. After passing The Sponge, look for a “use trail” that heads up and left toward Pot Pinnacle and Peyote Pillar. The turn is about one third of the distance between The Sponge and the stairs that head up to Condor Crags. If you reach the stairs, you’ve gone too far. Note – you’ll want to drop your packs and rack up before you leave the High Peaks Trail. Scramble up the “use trail” for a few hundred yards, then drop down a steep, gravely slope. There will be a large wall on your left side that makes up the base of H & L Dome. We stayed close to the wall and had to do one rappel (about 70’) to get to the base of the climb. The climb starts off some large, stacked boulders just right of a pink section of rock. There should be a large pine tree at your back and you should see a ramp leading left past a small pine.

    Descent: Approximately 2 miles and 1 hour. Take the “use trail” from H & L Dome/Tuff Dome back to the High Peaks Trail to collect your packs. Turn left on the High Peaks Trail and then right on the Tunnel Trail back toward the parking lot. The descent takes about an hour.


    The protection consists of mostly old bolts. A few have been replaced in key locations. You'll want to bring 8 shoulder length slings & 16 carabiners. You may want to supplement with a couple small nuts. A cordellete may be helpful for slinging trees at the belays.

    Photos of Feather Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: On the north summit of H&L Dome just before the ra...
    On the north summit of H&L Dome just before the ra...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Tyler on the south summit of H&L Dome at the top o...
    Tyler on the south summit of H&L Dome at the top o...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the waterchute/chimney at the top of ...
    Looking down the waterchute/chimney at the top of ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Tyler "tunneling" through the belay tree...
    Tyler "tunneling" through the belay tree...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down 70' from the large chockstone at the ...
    Looking down 70' from the large chockstone at the ...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Tyler coming into the large chamber at the top of ...
    Tyler coming into the large chamber at the top of ...

    Comments on Feather Canyon Add Comment
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    By Joe Forrester
    From: Palo Alto
    Oct 19, 2011

    Fun route. Can definitely be done much faster than 8 hours car to car. The 5.8 move is easily aidable if needed although it is really only one move or so of 5.8 climbing. The climb has a bunch of pigeon crap on it, but overall, is a pretty fun route. Worth the drive and the hike.
    By Griffin Srednick
    Apr 30, 2013

    Fun, and quite adventurous.....Bring a helmet, condors love giving flybys
    By mat j
    Mar 5, 2014

    This route was cruisy and pretty laid back. I think the crux for us was getting to the start of the route. Leading the chimney was easy but a little spicy knowing that those bolts have seen MUCH better days. I'm doubtful that they would hold any kind of considerable fall.
    By A Johnson
    From: Paso Robles
    Oct 19, 2015

    Did this route last weekend with my partner. The most difficult part is finding the beginning. The descriptions we found on this site, mud-n-crud, and the Brad Young book were all accurate but still lacking in specificity. The way we approached from the high peaks trail, south of the H&L Dome we trail cut down the gravel slope and through a bit of veg. Tried to hug the wall to our left but were rebuffed by PO. Found a shoot that looked close to where the several descriptions said to begin the 4th class approach and I ended up free soloing up a 5th class shoot beneath a balanced boulder. Once up there was a tree with a blue sling and a rappel ring so I was able to belay my second. This was an additional pitch not included in the route but put us right on the actual start.

    As far as the route goes, ALL of the bolts have been replaced recently. The first bolt on pitch three is a bit high, and all four are there even though you cant really see them from the deck.

    Pitch four has 5 bolts now.

    Pitch five has a ton of loose rock so be sure to warn you belayer. Rather than belaying off any vegetation on the top of this pitch, there is a chockstone you can sling with a shoulder length.

    All in all a really interesting route with some challenging climbing. Give yourself all day just for time to spare and have a blast.
    By Jack Lane
    Mar 24, 2016

    Echoing the last post, all of the bolts have been replaced, they are now shiny and solid.

    At the top of the fourth pitch there is a scree filled trough and small tree to the left (which it seems others have used to belay). My partner used that tree for the belay/anchor while I followed the fourth pitch. I took a short, top-rope fall in that slick chimney, and got to the top to find the tree mostly uprooted. (See image below). There is one more smallish tree up and to the right that could probably be used to protect the fourth pitch, but as of this posting there aren't great anchors for the fourth pitch, at least if you're going without trad gear.

    Rock Climbing Photo: Mostly uprooted tree/anchor at the top of the four...
    Mostly uprooted tree/anchor at the top of the fourth pitch.
    By Rew Exo
    Jul 13, 2017

    Is this route in the shade? I'm considering doing it in 90 degree weather.
    By Rew Exo
    Aug 6, 2017

    The route begins at 36°29'16.3"N 121°11'44.3"W.

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