ApproachFrom Road's End at the east end of King's Canyon, head east from the trailhead for 2 miles. Cross the bridge at the junction with Bubbs Creek, and follow the Bubbs Creek Trail for about 5 1/2 miles until you reach Charlotte Creek coming down from the north.
Route DescriptionLeave the trail at Charlotte Creek. There is a use trail that follows the north side of the creek, but the first several hundred yards of it were wiped out in some floods a number of years back. Climb up the slopes and look for the trail about 30 yards north of Charlotte Creek, and below the steep granite slopes on your left. The use trail does not go through the shrubs adjacent to the creek, so thrashing about in there will get you nowhere slowly. Once you find the trail, it's good for about a mile until you have climbed up towards the lower granite skirt of Charlotte Dome (the use trail is more regularly used to access Charlotte Dome, so it ends here).
Follow the creek that leads up towards Gardiner Pass, or on the sunny slopes to the left. Once you've climbed the steep slope out of Charlotte Creek and the forest levels off some, bear right and follow the canyon fork heading NE towards Mt. Gardiner. As you reach treeline, the creek peters out - get water here if you need it - it's still a ways to go!
Climb the never-ending scree and talus slopes. At the far end of the canyon, turn left and head north directly up to Mt. Gardiner's south summit. Nothing up to this point is harder than class 2, though you've climbed 8,000 feet from the trailhead!
Now the fun begins. Climb down the south summit along the ridge. At the low point in the ridge, climb around on the left (west) side until you can climb back up to the knife edge. Climb along the edge, bypassing one obstacle on the right, and a second on the left. This second bypass around to the left is just before you reach the north summit, and is the most difficult section. A sloping ledge drops precipitously off to the left. A small finger crack along the upper edge is all you have for about 6 feet to keep you safe. After this it's a class 3 scramble to the summit. Note: this finger crack section can be bypassed by a short downclimb on the right side of the ridge - easier and safer, too.