ApproachThe north ridge can be approached from either the east, via Rodecker Flat, or the west, from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Both approaches end up at a notch between the summit and the pinnacles to the north.
From the east (Rodecker Flat)
Follow the driving directions on the main page to the end of Sand Canyon Road. Hike up the road to where the canyon forks, and take the left branch (the South Fork of Sand Canyon). The road eventually becomes a use trail that is followed to the brushy ravine that leads up to a saddle along the Pacific Crest. (This is the saddle where the PCT is left for western approaches to the summit).
It is probably best to keep to the right (north) side of the ravine to avoid the worst of the bushwhacking, sidehilling along sandy slopes. As you reach the 6,000-foot level, you should spot a gully to the left, which leads southwest up to the crest. Follow this gully to the notch along the crest between Spanish Needle and the obvious pinnacles to its north. One can also follow class 3-4 rock to the left of the gully.
From the west (Lamont Meadow/Pacific Crest Trail)
Leave the PCT at around the 7,000' level, at the saddle located 0.6 mi north of the summit. The saddle can be reached easily either by hiking south on the PCT from Lamont Meadow (the trailhead is not well marked, but is found 0.2 mi south of Chimney Creek campground), or by following an old 4WD road and use trail from the southern end of the meadow up to the PCT, a short way west of the saddle. This latter option is both the most direct approach and also quite scenic as it makes its way through a beautiful open pine forest. The 4WD road is located roughly one hundred yards prior to the Long Valley road junction along Canebrake Road.
From the saddle along the PCT, drop down a short way on the south side and traverse across several loose ribs and even looser chutes until you reach a large talus chute, which is followed up to a gradually ascending traverse left (up and south) through forest and loose dirt to the crest. (The traverse across the ribs is extremely tedious; some trip reports suggest there are five smaller chutes before coming to the sixth, large chute, but the exact number seemed difficult to pin down to me). The ridge leading to the notch is class 2-3 from the north.
Route DescriptionDrop down into the notch and climb steep blocks/cracks past a small pine tree to an exposed but low-angle friction slab. Walk east for a few yards on the slab to a ledge, which is followed to the right around the corner. Climb a low-angled crack with a tree in it, drop down a small ramp, and then follow class 3 rock on the right side of the crest to the summit, which is reached by a short but spicy step-across.
The slab is often covered with snow and/or ice in early season, in which case a safer option may be provided by a class 4+ gully to its right. If climbing the gully, most parties opt to rappel on the descent. The slab is not easily protected.