American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, The Smokestack

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1972

The Smokestack. This is the lefthand tower on a separate but obscure massif of the Wheeler Crest, marked as P 8400 on the map, above Well’s Meadow on the Owens Valley floor. Though visible from Bishop, it appears so small and blends in so well with the 8000-foot escarpment of the crest, that Doug Robinson had trouble convincing me that we should even attempt it. Our first attempt in January, 1970, was stopped on the third pitch by a steep blank section. Looking back, we saw our high point was only a quarter of the way up the tower and realized that it must be at least a 1000-foot face. In 1971, we reclimbed the first two F8 leads, and as I watched amazed, the new Doug Robinson led a F9 traverse without hesitation. Higher I tried to follow his example but finked out by placing the only bolt on the route for protection on F9 face-climbing. I kept the bolt kit out as Doug began the most questionable part of the route where there were no cracks. After many false starts, Doug led a brilliant F10 traverse to the beginning of a chimney system. Still the climbing did not taper off and only one of the nine leads was less than F8. I have rarely seen such continuous and varied free climbing. Jams, flaring chimneys, steep face climbing and low-angle friction with micro-flakes all provided cruxes on various leads. This would be a classic in Yosemite. NCCS IV, F10.


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