OverviewGunsight is named for the distinctive V-groove made by the notch between Middle and Lower Cathedral Rocks. It is most prominently viewed from the vicinity of El Cap Meadow as the steep gully on the northeast side between the two rock formations.
Gunsight is the usual descent route for climbs that end on the summits of Middle and Lower Cathedral Rock, and sometimes as the easiest descent route from Leaning Tower when water in Bridalveil Creek is low enough to make crossing safe. It is a very short, but steep route with 1,300ft of elevation gain from the valley floor. Hans Florine has climbed it from the asphalt in 28m30s (one way), but even at a moderate pace it can be climbed in an hour.
ApproachFrom the SR41/140 junction, head east on Southside Drive for about 1/2mi around the north side of Lower Cathedral Rock. Park off the pavement along the straight section of road. Look for a boulder-strewn wash, dry most of the year that can be followed south towards the North Face of Middle Cathedral Rock. This dry creekbed has evidence of a trail and is used by climbers for access to Middle Cathedral Rock as well as descents of the Gunsight. One can also hike through the forest understory, but due to downed trees and other bio-obstacles, progress will be a bit slower. Head for the obvious gully between Middle and Lower Cathedral Rocks.
Route DescriptionThe scrambling starts when you smack up against the North Face of Middle Cathedral Rock. The face is rather imposing, rising sharply for 1,600ft. Follow the boulder field towards the Gunsight, staying to the left in the lower section until short cliffs force you to the right and into a narrow constriction (class 3) about 20 feet high. About the halfway point one encounters a short class 4 section on the right side. More scrambling above this leads to the crux about 2/3 of the way up. A large chockstone blocks the main channel, which is class 5 and exposed if you try to climb directly. A fixed rope is usually present on the right side, anchored by two bolts. Clearly this is the easiest way past the crux. For the purest, or if the rope is absent or looks unsafe, the chockstone can be bypassed by climbing class 4 rock on the far left side of the gully. Though exposed and frightful-looking at first glance, the holds are good with solid stances. The remaining third of the gully above the crux is an easy scramble to the notch.
The summit of Lower Cathedral Rock (with fine views) is an easy scramble up the Southwest Face, staying close to the South Ridge.
In winter, a climb is a more significant challenge. There is usually snow/ice in at least a portion of the route during winter, as it sees very little sun to help melt it off. Depending on snow conditions, it might be a straightforward snow chute climb, or dangerous mixed climbing with ice and/or avalanche conditions. In both winter and early spring expect the rock to be wet. There were few places we found where the wet rock was actually slippery, but nevertheless it made for greater hazard than when dry.