American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Climbs in the High Sierras

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

Climbs in the High Sierra. The publication of R.J. Secor’s Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra stimulated both a significant amount of new-route activity and a reporting of older routes that were omitted from the new guidebook. Among the new routes done in 1992 were four previously unclimbed summits east of Morro Rock in the Angel Wings-Hamilton Dome area of Sequoia National Park. There is a tremendous amount of unclimbed granite in the region. The climbing possibilities are certainly more extensive than in many other better-known Sierra climbing areas, including Bubb’s Creek, the Gorge of Despair and Glen Aulin. Peter Cummings and I spent several days climbing the following new routes: Granite Creek Dome, identified as P 9326 on the Triple Divide Peak quad, is three miles south of Hamilton Dome. The route follows the west ridge (5.6). We also ascended three spectacular towers on the south side of Eagle Scout Creek and shown on the Triple Divide Peak quad collectively as P 9550. We named the central tower “Periscope Dome.” The route is five pitches long and begins on the east side, just left of a big chimney. A 5.7 face leads up to a bushy ledge at the base of an overhanging chimney. This short 5.8 pitch leads to a blocky ledge which we followed around to the south side of the dome, where a 5.6 ramp leads to a steep 5.9 jam-crack. From there we proceeded north to the spectacular summit block. We descended via two rappels down the east ridge. We also climbed Eagle Scout Creek Dome, the largest tower on this side of the canyon. Numerous excellent crack systems exist on this formation. The first-ascent route follows easy comers on the left side of the east face. Two pitches of 5.5 flakes lead to the summit ridge, which may be scampered along to the high point. Eaglette Pinnacle was the final summit done by Peter Cummings and me in June of 1992. This 200-foot spire can be ascended via a 5.7 off-width on the west side. It is located between Periscope Dome and Eagle Scout Creek Dome.

The following routes were all completed over the last several years, but the information has just filtered in. Cockscomb Peak, east face of South Tower (I, 5.10a): Rick Cashner and Alan Swanson completed this route in September, 1987. The climb begins at a knobby 5.10 crack that leads to a pedestal. The second pitch follows a wide curving crack to the summit bulge, which is overcome by a thin 5.9 crack. Eichorn Pinnacle, Erratic Route (III, 5.10a): Cashner and Swanson climbed this route in September, 1991. It begins up a ramp of grainy rock (5.8) to the base of a low-angle, right-trending comer. The short second pitch follows the comer to a steep, left-facing dihedral (5.4). Sustained 5.10a climbing up the dihedral leads to an exit on the right above a large, loose flake. This is followed by a nice pitch up a thin crack (5.8) to a ledge beneath a knife-edged ridge. The crest of the ridge is followed (5.6) to the base of a flake with a wide crack. The last pitch climbs the wide crack (5.9) and continues along the ridge, bypassing gendarmes, to the summit. SAR Dome, west face (II, 5.10c): This summit, 1.5 miles southwest of Wildcat Point near Tuolumne Meadows, was first ascended in September, 1990 by Alan Swanson and Urmas Franosch. It is best approached from California Falls. The four-pitch route climbs the obvious dihedral on the west face. The first pitch is the crux, but each of the four pitches has some 5.10 climbing. Protection up to four inches is needed. Blacksmith Peak, far right side of northwest face (III, 5. 10d): Swanson and Franosch made the first ascent in September, 1990. It climbs slabs on the right side of the face to a thin curving crack that leads over a bulge. The route continues up a flaring crack to a comer with a scary roof. This second pitch ends in a prominent dihedral. It wanders up and left over loose flakes to a belay. A short pitch leads to the base of an overhang, which is bypassed by a poorly protected, difficult layback to a belay in a comer 40 feet above the overhang. Two more pitches lead to a long dihedral, followed by a short headwall. Above this, a knife-edged ridge leads to the summit. Santa Cruz Dome, southwest face (II, 5.9): This lies 1.1 miles north-northeast of Tokopah Falls. It was first climbed in 1980 by Alan Swanson, Nick Badyrka and Val LeCon. It begins up a 5.7 chimney to the base of a smooth ramp, which is climbed past two bolts. The third pitch features some wild overhanging chicken heads to a steep face. The last pitch continues up the face with two bolts to the rounded summit. Cheba Spire, (II, 5.9+): Alan Swanson and Corey Hicks made the first ascent in August, 1988, climbing three pitches on the south face. Carson Peak, Saint’s Way (5.9): The first ascent was made in April, 1992 by Dean Rosenau and Doug Nidever. They climbed snowfields from the base of the northwest face to the Y-shaped couloir, followed the left branch of the couloir and climbed the upper narrow chute that splits the headwall above. They followed the crest of the ridge to the summit. Fin Dome, east face, left side (I, 5.6): Rick Spitler, Don Spitler and Kevin Babitch made the first ascent in August, 1975. They started on the left side of the face, traversed up and right to a left-facing comer and climbed the comer to a large ledge in the middle of the face. One more pitch led to the top. Painted Lady, west rib (III, 5.7): David Babitch and Rick Spitler climbed this nine-pitch route up a prominent rib on the right side of the peak when it is viewed from Rae Lakes. They started up the center of the rib and emerged onto the west face after four leads. They continued up the face as directly as possible to the summit. Horse Creek Tower, northwest face (II, 5.8): Alan Swanson and Rich Kropp first climbed this route in July, 1985. The tower is a half mile north of Matterhorn Peak. The three-pitch route is marked by a prominent guillotine flake at the top of the second pitch. North face (II, 5.7): In May, 1975, Dean Gillman, Don Spitler and David Babitch started just to the left of the center on the north face and climbed three pitches of assorted cracks and comers to the top.

Bart O’Brien

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