American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Upper Castle Rocks, Various Ascents

United States, California, Sierra Nevada

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Brandon Thau
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2007

Dave Nettle joined me, in May 2005, on my first excursion to Upper Castle Rocks in Sequoia National Park. We knew of only two routes in the area: The Gargoyle (5.10 A1), on South Guard, and the Beckey Route (5.8 A2) on Amphitheater Dome. After figuring out where the Gargoyle route started, we freed its 10' A1 tension traverse, at 5.10. The rock was not as clean as Castle Rock Spire or the Fin. Contrary to the Sequoia-Kings Canyon guide, The Gargoyle starts at the top of a 4th/5th class, right-leaning ramp that starts at the base of the north gully. The next day we climbed The South Arête on the Little Spire (5.11-). Our route follows the broken south ridge for three long pitches to the base of the Little Spire summit block. Two fantastic pitches lead up overhanging and well-protected face climbing to the pointed summit. The exposed belay and arête climbing on the second pitch are spectacular.

In June 2006 Chris LaBounty, Neal Harder, and I climbed three new routes. Axes of Evil (5.11) starts at the lone pine tree at the base of the South Guard/Ax gully. It follows face features for three pitches, before entering the gully for four more pitches. Golden Axe (5.11a A0) follows the only weakness on the improbable south face of the Ax. This six-pitch route starts at the base of the Ax/Amphitheater Dome gully and follows the left leg of the obvious “wishbone” crack system. We did not free the section between the third and fourth bolt on the fourth pitch, but it will likely go free. Lastly, we did an enjoyable two-pitch route near camp (point 9,081' southeast of Castle Rocks). It follows the obvious chicken-headed pillar that lies against the southeast face of the dome. One tricky 5.10 bolt-protected move guards the summit and a nice view of Sequoia.

Brandon Thau

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