Mt. Stewart, Patterson Bluff, Amphitheater Wall, Arctic Lake Wall, Mt. Newcomb
North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada
Mike Pennings and I established a direct line (Fallen Angels, IV 5.10+) to the west summit on the north face of Mt. Stewart, following a prominent crack system that widens enough at one point to inspire the pitch name The Sleeping Bag Simulator. The climbing is on clean, solid rock, and most of the ten pitches are consistent 5.10.
Brandon Thau, Joe Reichert, and I linked up ten long pitches of steep, sustained free climbing with a short bolt ladder (perhaps freeable face climbing) on Patterson Bluff. Our route, Way of the Dragon (IV 5.11 A0), brings the number of routes in this area to well over a dozen, though it may be the first on what is called the “back wall.” As with the main bluff, this route is reached by rappelling to the base.
On the Amphitheater Wall in Kings Canyon National Park, Sigi Vogl and I put up Center Stage (IV 5.10), following a steep crack system that goes directly up the center of the main wall in the cirque. Virtually all of the ten pitches have some 5.10. There are no written reports of any previous technical activity in the cirque, though there are at least half a dozen enticing formations in this beautiful lake basin. This area is a long way from anywhere, but we chose to approach via Bishop Pass, Knapsack Pass, Cataract Creek, and Ampitheater Lake—20+ miles, half of it cross-country, making for a substantial day.
In Sequoia National Park, on the Arctic Lake Wall, Mike Davis and I climbed Arctic Blast (IV 5.10), a right-facing corner system that ascends directly to the east summit. We also climbed an eight-pitch route (5.10+) to the main summit that may be all or part of Galen Rowell’s Arctic Dreams route. It’s hard to tell, as there are impressive crack systems about every 50 feet across the face. Also in this park Aaron Zanto and I climbed the obvious central crack system up the east face of the fortresslike formation that lies along the south ridge of Mt. Newcomb, above the Sky Blue Lakes cirque. The seven pitches of The Keep (IV 5.10) follow brilliant cracks of all widths and end in a clean, strenuous corner that is set back inside a huge cleft. A unique climb in an amazing setting.