ApproachAmphitheater Chute offers the easiest route to the summit of Michael Minaret when approached from the east via Amphitheater Lake. From the SE end of Cecile Lake, head south up talus and glacier to the obvious low point on the Minaret crest known as South Notch. On the south side of the notch, traverse right (west) to Amphitheater Lake. The lake is not visible from South Notch, but its location behind a morraine should be obvious. You do not need to lose too much elevation during the traverse, no more than about 100ft. If you look carefully you can find vestiges of previous travel that can almost be mistaken for a use trail to help you negotiate more easily through the talus field here. Fortunately the talus is not of the more "tedious" variety found on other Sierra routes, and it is a more or less pleasant walk to Amphitheater Lake.
Michael Minaret is the steep pinnacle rising skyward west of Amphitheater Lake. An easy, broad class 2-3 chute leads to the Adams-Michael notch south of Michael Minaret. There is no easy route to the Michael's summit from this alternative notch, but the 5.7 A1 South Face route has be used to climb to reach it. Jim Curl mentions the west side of this notch can be also be climbed: "the west side of this notch shouldn't require too much fanfare. Loose class 2-3 junk is the way I remember it." The steeper, narrow chute on the right side of Michael Minaret is Amphitheater Chute which rises to the notch between Michael and Eichorn Minarets.
Once at the lake you must make your way to the west end where a small glacier awaits you. In late season you may be able to skirt the glacier around to the right, but you are best advised not to leave axe and crampons at South Notch in case they are needed. In early season the snow will climb right up the start of the route. Later in summer the snow melts back and there is a bit of a talus slog to reach the first chockstone.
Route DescriptionDepending on time of year and the amount of snow in the cirque, you will either find two or three chockstones in the chute. Surmounting these chockstones are the only technical sections. Below, above, and in-between them is class 3 scrambling. Be aware that like most of the Minarets there is much loose rock on this route, particularly the scramble sections - show proper concern for your climbing partner(s) below you by watching your step. It would not be advised to climb while another party is in the chute.
The lowest chockstone is the easiest, and can be bypassed on the right by most parties without ropes. The holds are good, but like most of the chute caution is advised due to the amount of loose rock found on the route.
The second chockstone is the crux and requires a half rope-length (less than 30m) of climbing on the right to surmount. A dihedral about 25ft up and nearly level with the top of the chockstone has some awkward holds that made our party feel this was more like 5.6 than 5.4. Above this, a nice ledge to the left is found before climbing higher over poorly protected slabs another 15ft until you can re-enter the chute above the chockstone.
The third chockstone is really two chockstones on top of each other. The easiest route here seems to be to climb the lower chockstone immediately to the right, climb across the top of the lower chockstone, and then pass the upper chockstone on the left in what is an awkward 5-foot move with exposure. Most parties will probably want to use a rope on this second section though it is but 10m in length.
Above the third chockstone it is an easy scramble to the notch between Michael and Eichorn Minarets. This notch also marks the top of Eichorn's Chute which rises up from the west side. Climb down into Eichorn's Chute for about 30ft and traverse SW across a buttress marked by a large cairn into the next chute south which is Michael's Chute. Climb Michael's Chute to the notch above go under the boulders forming The Portal. Either climb the north side of the summit directly (5.6) or follow a ledge east (left) to where you can work your way back up via a series of ledges to the summit (class 4).
Essential GearAny rope over 30m should work fine, even for rappels afterwards, at least for Amphitheater Chute. Jim Curl adds: "This might be fine for the chute itself. But climbers uncomfortable with the prospect of down soloing fifth class and faced with multiple 50 foot rappels off of the summit might wish they'd brought something longer."
Small - medium cams or chocks to protect the crux at the second chockstone, slings for rappels.
Climbing helmet - loose rock!