American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Matterhunk; Bubbs Creek Wall; North Dome

California, Sierra Nevada, Kings Canyon National Park

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Dick Leversee
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 1987

“The Matterhunk” is our unofficial name for the huge limestone peak formation a mile south of Boyden Cave on Highway 180 on the south fork of the Kings River. In October Herb Laeger, Eddie Joe and I climbed the dramatic 1500-foot northeast arete from the Boulder Creek trail to the summit, staying as close to the edge as possible the whole way. Descent is via thegully below the north face and back down the trail to Boyden Cave. The climbing is very enjoyable, on good limestone, a rarity in California. (IV, 5.10 + , 10 pitches.) 

In August, Eddie Joe and I hired borros to ferry loads to the junction of Charlotte and Bubbs Creeks below Charlotte Dome. We spent the next 2½ days completing one of the Sierra’s only two Grade VI back-country routes. Crystal Banzai, on Bubbs Creek Wall. (The Kroger route on Tehipite Dome is the other.) We chose an obvious line of cracks, arches and comers on the longest section of the wall (2300) feet), just left of the center. This line curiously follows a bizarre white crystal band from base to top. The route went 90% free with less than 200 feet of aid and entirely clean. We used bathooks to pass a blank section on the fourth pitch and a total of 15 bolts on the 17 pitches. 

Start at a big pine 100 yards up and right of a huge, white, left-facing dihedral which marks the beginning of the crystal band. Diagonal up and left, intersecting an obvious ramp, to the “Crystal Palace” (ledge) with its “Dungeon” at the top of the huge white dihedral (3rd pitch). Follow the “Crystal Corner” and arch above up and left to bathooking which leads past four bolts to a small stance (2 bolts). From here we climbed up and slightly right to join the main crack-and-corner system, which followed for five more pitches, ending at “Zero Point Ledge,” just above the obvious huge “Seagull Roof.” Two more pitches of cracks lead up and slightly left to a good ledge. Above this, climb up and right for 100 feet to the arching right-facing dihedral which is visible from the ground. Here, instead of following the corner system up and right, face-climb left for 20 feet to a large right-facing flake and follow this and the thin crack above for a full pitch to “Dead Tree Ledge.” Above, face-climb up and left to gain entry into a huge right-facing comer one pitch below the top. Here, instead of climbing the perfectly blank comer above, face-climb left over the comer to easy knobs which lead to the top. Descent is via Charlotte Creek to the west (toward Charlotte Dome). Recommended rack: tiny nuts to 4” (2 each), 1 #5 Friend, 1 skyhook, 2 bathooks, 2 Leeper cam hooks, hammocks. (VI, 5.11, A3.) 

In July, Karl McConachie and I finished a new all-free route on the south face of North Dome, above Zumwalt Meadows, A Tall Cool One. We followed the obvious continuous crack system to the right of the original Frost route for 11 pitches to the very top of the dome. This is a serious route involving some climbing on less than perfect rock with 8 of the 11 pitches being 5.10 or harder, ranging from finger to off-width cracks. This route is best done late in the season as the third pitch can be very wet and slimy. Recommended rack: Friends-3 each to 4", 1 #5 Friend. (V, 5.11, 11 pitches.)

Dick Leversee, Pro Leisure Society

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