Charlotte dome is a beautiful High Sierra dome located deep in the Kings Canyon wilderness. The rock Quality is excellent, featuring clean granite with knobs and chicken heads, and the scenery and solitude are hard to beat. The class 3 North ridge is the easiest and first route to the summit. Dispite the long approach this dome attracts many climbers to its most famous and coveted route, "The South face". It's no wonder it was included in the famous book "Fifty Classic climbs of North America".
Getting ThereTwo options exist for approaching Charlotte dome.
1) From the east side. From Hwy. 395 in the town of Independence take Onion Valley road to the Trailhead. Onion valley trail leads over Kearsarge pass. Then down to Charlotte lake. Past Charlotte lake follow the unmaintained trail down canyon to the Dome.
2) From the west . Take the Bubbs creek trail from Roads end trailhead, which is 7 miles east of Cedar Grove in Kings canyon N.P. It's about 8 miles to Charlotte creek. From there hike up the use trail on the west side of the creek. (left side,looking up)The Manzanita is thick as you get close to the dome so keep a close eye on the trail or the bushwacking can get bad.
map of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park.
Red TapeAdmission to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park requires a $20.00 per vehicle entrance fee, this fee will allow access for a period of 7 days. Other options available are the annual SEKI pass for $30.00 or the America the Beautiful Pass. These passes are available for purchase at Park entrance stations or online. For information click here
Wilderness permits are required for overnight visitors. Available from the Inyo National Forest Ranger stations located in Bishop or Lone Pine for those approaching from the east. For information write or call the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station at PC Box 8, Lone Pine, CA 93545, (760) 876-6200.
In Kings Canyon for the west side approach, the Roads end permit station is located at the trailhead and opens at about 7:00 am during the summer. Bearproof food canisters are required to get a permit and are available for rent at Roads end.
When To ClimbThe climbing season for Charlotte dome is late April thru October. The road to Kings canyon is closed in winter.
CampingExcellent camping is available where Charlotte creek crosses the Bubbs creek trail. There is water available and a NPS Bear box is located here. Many parties hike to here one day, set up base camp and hike up and climb the dome the next . It is possible to camp near the dome. Some flat Bivy sites are available on the eastern side. Water is available from Charlotte creek, although getting close to the creek is tricky due to thick Manzanita. From the eastern approach Charlotte lake can be used as a base camp but it is still a long hike to the dome. So you may want to find a site closer down canyon. Water is available throughout the summer from Charlotte creek. Bears are a problem here so use the Canisters which are required by the N.P.S. They are available for rent at Cedar Grove.
"If you approach Charlotte Dome from the east (Kearsarge Pass, etc.) and would like to set a basecamp much closer to the dome than Charlotte Lake, there is excellent camping on a bench on the north side of the canyon about 400-500 feet above Charlotte Creek. This bench is actually part of one of the recommended ways to approach Charlotte Dome from the east. Instead of taking the trail down the canyon to the foot of the dome, you diagonal up to this bench a little earlier. This puts you at about the same elevation as the middle of the dome; from here you never have to negotiate the lowest slabs of the dome to start or finish your climb. You just come in from the side, contour down around the base to start, and finish not too far from your camp. The bench mentioned above includes several sub-areas with perfect sandy flats, flat soft duff under lodgepole pine groves, and a couple of creeks." (EricO)
Also Car camping is available in the Cedar Grove area at four NPS campgrounds Canyon View, Moraine, Sentinel and Sheep creek.
Mountain ConditionsIn the spring, snow may be at the base. Depending on snowpack. That could obscure part of the first pitch and make the descent more difficult. Afternoon Thunderstoms are common throughout the summer. Be prepared.
EtymologyCharlotte Dome (10,690 ft.)
Also Lake, Creek
"The name [of the lake] appears on Hoffmann's map, 1873, but the origin is unknown. The lake was known as 'Rhoda Lake' at one time; that name was used by J. N. LeConte in 1890. (A Summer, 56, 58-59.) It had been given by a party from Independence in honor of Mrs. Charles Houle, who frequently camped at the lake in the 1880s. (Farquhar files.) Called 'Charlotta Lake' by Bolton C. Brown in 1896. (SCB 2, no. 1, Jan. 1897: 19-20.) The USGS added the dome's name to the 7.5-minute quad because it had been in common use for many years. The dome is just west of Charlotte Creek and 1.2 miles south of Gardiner Pass."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
"This beautiful piece of rock was one of the earliest Sierra domes to be discovered outside of Yosemite Valley. In 1864, when the California Geological Survey camped along Charlotte Creek, Charles Hoffman sketched this dome. It was first climbed 102 years later. Then in 1970 one of the world's finest rock climbs was discovered on its south face."
- R. J. Secor, The High Sierra, Peaks, Passes, and Trails
"Some prospectors had come over the summit to this place, as I told you, and we resolved to follow their trail, asuming that where they went we could go. Tuesday, July 26 , we started and got about eleven miles, a hard day's work, for we rose 4,300 feet. First we went up a steep, rocky slope of 1,000 to 1,500 feet, so steep and rough that we would never have attempted it had not the prospectors already been over it and made a trail in the worst places -- it was terrible [this is the steep section of the Bubb's Creek Trail that starts two miles from Roads End]. In places the mules could scarcely get a foothold where a canyon yawned hundreds of feet below; in places it was so steep that we had to pull the pack animals up by main strength. They show an amound of sagacity in such places almost incredible. Once Nell fell on a smooth rock, but Dick [Cotter] caught her rope and held her -- she might have gone into the canyon below and, with her pack, been irretrievably lost. We then followed up the canyon three or four miles, and then out by a side canyon [Charlotte Creek] still steeper. We camped by a little meadow, at over nine thousand feet. Near camp a grand smooth granite rock [Charlotte Dome] rose about three thousand [slight exaggeration -- it is closer to 1,600] feet, smooth and bare."
- William Brewer, Up and Down California
NPS webpage for Rockclimbing in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park backcountry.
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