American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, Merriam Peak, North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

Merriam Peak, North Face. The left edge of the beautiful north pillar of Merriam Peak begins as a blocky, segmented arête that features two or three sharp spires in the lower third and culminates in a steep, smooth, rounded buttress. In July, Dave Harden and I worked through the blocky section and followed the upper face for nine pitches. We scrambled 50 feet above the talus on the extreme left edge of the north face. An aesthetic three-inch jam crack (5.8) led up 40 feet to easier climbing. The second pitch avoided the steep prow by following third-class rock to the left for 80 feet. We climbed back to the arête to the base of a wide crack. Pitch three ascended to the right of the wide jam crack to the top of the first spire. We made a short rappel to the gully to the left of the north face. We followed broken rock and 5.7 cracks for 100 feet to a 5.9 fist crack that led for 30 feet up into a chimney behind the most impressive spires. The next pitch was the crux. We climbed over blocks and then chimneyed up to where 5.9 moves took us onto the smooth upper headwall. A 120-foot classic hand-and finger-crack led to the second ledge at the base of a wide crack. We started up the crack but traversed right onto easy face climbing that led to a big ledge. The next pitch climbed 30 feet at 5.9 to a 5.10b horizontal traverse to the left. We rappelled 30 feet into the gully at the base of a spectacular crack. The last pitch was 160 feet of continuously difficult and varied climbing up to and around an imposing roof. The pitch ended abruptly on the same ledge that climaxes the Harrington-Clevenger route. Three traversing pitches led to the actual summit of Merriam Peak. This climb is technically more difficult and longer than the normal route. (IV, 5.10+.)

Bart O’Brien

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