Climbing the Regular Route (5.10b) of the Third Pillar of Dana, view from the top of the final pitch looking down the entire route. Photo by Mark Thomas.
High quality alpine granite in an almost surreal setting, the Third Pillar of Dana sits at the edge of the Dana Plateau with views of Mono Lake thousands of feet below. One of the more popular routes in the Sierra, the Regular Route of the Third Pillar sees its share of traffic. The route has five pitches of mostly 5.9 to 5.10+ climbing; the final pitch is often thought of as perhaps the most dramatic and highest quality single pitch in the High Sierra.
This page gives a brief trip report of our climb of the Regular Route on the Third Pillar of Dana in June 2013. I can't think of a better way to spend a summer day.
Annotated photo of the Regular Route on the Third Pillar of Dana. This photo was taken by Steph Abegg with her telephoto lens from Tioga Pass Road. Annotations by Mark Thomas.
Annotated photo of the Regular Route on the Third Pillar of Dana. This photo was taken from below the pillar. By Mark Thomas.
Annotated photo of the upper pitches of the Regular Route on the Third Pillar of Dana. By Mark Thomas.
Annotated photo of the start of the Regular Route on the Third Pillar of Dana. By Mark Thomas.
Video Trip Report
I brought my GoPro Hero3 helmet video camera on this climb. I wore it for Pitches 1, 2, 4, and 5 while Mark wore it on Pitch 3. We recorded footage of the entire route. With the wide-angle head viewpoint, some of the footage is quite spectacular. Mark and I have put together a video to summarize the highlights of the climb.
Video trip report.
One of the cruxes of the climb as seen from my helmet videocamera.
(Condensed) Pitch-by-Pitch Description
Pitch 1: 5.9
After traversing the snow slope (non issue for us) we ended up on a large horizontal ledge. We started up, went around a giant flake, and kept climbing up.
Pitch 2: 5.10+
Pitch 3: 5.8
Up. The pitch tops out on an enormous flake, which makes quite a spectacular belay ledge.
Pitch 4: 5.10+
Just above the belay, there is the choice of either a 5.10 finger crack or 5.8 flaring squeeze. We went through the squeeze. Then it was up some more, making a delicate step at some point that is the supposed 5.10b crux of the route.
Pitch 5: 5.10+
This pitch is described as "the best 5.9 pitch in the universe" (Moynier, Sierra Classics, p. 280). Off the belay, most climbers seem to chose the more direct and less run out variation that goes through 10b fingers and through a roof. However, many sources (including Mark and I) agree that the actual crux of this pitch (and perhaps the entire route) is at about mid-pitch, where there is a liebacky move into a crack with two little knobs to pull oneself up to a next ledge. Once this is achieved, its steep and fun 5.9 climbing the top!
Approach and Summit Photos/Notes
From SuperTopo guide: "The striking prow of the Third Pillar of Dana will be visible 100 yards before you reach the dramatic edge of the plateau, and the top of the descent buttress is immediately to the west of the Third Pillar."
The stacked rocks on the left are where you descend. The Third Pillar of Dana tops out on the high point on the right. Photo/annotation by Mark Thomas.
From SuperTopo guide: "Descend the buttress via low-angle 3rd class terrain; generally stay to the left, or 4th class drops must be negotiated. Cross the snow field to prominent ledges near the bottom of the snow chute, about 150 feet above the bottom of the rock on the Third Pillar."
Nearing the base of the Third Pillar.
Looking over at approach to Third Pillar of Dana from the base of the route. Some years there is a snow chute that requires either an axe and crampons or additional descending; for us, the snow chute was not an issue due to a low snow year.
Looking up the route. Fun climbing ahead.
Some shadow fun at the base of the climb. The sun is out and we are ready to climb!
Steph at the wild top-of-enormous-flake-please-don't-peel-off-today belay at the top of Pitch 3. Photo by Mark Thomas.
Mark on top of Third Pillar of Dana, holding up our rack. Our rack consisted of doubles from 0.4" to 3" (this included 1 set of Metolius offsets), one set of nuts, small-to-medium offset brassies, about dozen slings. The offset cams and nuts were quite useful on the cruxes.
In celebration of Two Pi Day (3.14x2=6.28=June 28), we devoured two Moon Pies on the summit.
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: www.stephabegg.com.
"Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife tricks. Great success shooting the knife into the piano. The woodworms are so bad and eat hell out of all furniture that you can always claim the woodworms did it."