Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.22300°N / 118.598°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 10400 ft / 3170 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Cardinal Pinnacle is one of several (more or less) Eastern Sierra roadside rock crags. It is at high enough elevation (~10,000’) that it can be comfortably climbed during the summer. In winter, it can offer mixed climbing.

The rock and route quality is excellent, and there are numerous spectacular natural lines, both on the pinnacle itself, and nearby cliffs. The longest routes clock in at four or five pitches. This is a good place to go if you don’t have a lot of time; the approach is short, and if you’re reasonably fast you can easily knock out even the longest route in a few hours car to car. Of course, you could plan to spend the entire day there, too!

Route development at the Pinnacle has been relatively recent, and the climbs are accordingly harder than most backcountry routes. Be prepared for routes 5.10 and up.

Getting There

If you are coming from outside the US, out of state, or are simply unfamiliar with the Eastern Sierra, I encourage you to check out Matt Holliman's Eastern Sierra Logistics page. There is a wealth of useful information there, including beta on the town of Bishop, which is the jumping off point for this crag.

From Bishop take highway 168 (W. Line Street) west into the mountains. Pass the turn off to South Lake, and continue on towards Lake Sabrina. Above the tiny community of Aspendell there is a prominent crag a few hundred feet up from the south side of the road. This is Cardinal Pinnacle. There is ample parking on the south side of the road. A half hour walk up the talus brings you to the base of the crag.

Route Summary

This section is intended to provide the potential visitor to Cardinal Pinnacle with an idea of the kind of climbing it has to offer. There are over a dozen, possibly many more, routes on the crag, but the information I have presently at hand describes only three in detail. I'm working on it! A route page for the Regular Route is in the works.

The "Source" column indicates where to look for additional information by noting the author of the guidebook listed in the Books section of this page.

Route/Grade Source Description/Comments
Crack Kingdom 5.10c Croft Four pitches of 5.10a-c climbing lead to a short 4th class pitch to the top. Shares the first pitch with The West Face . Combines Crack of No Hope and Wild Kingdom.
The Prow 5.12b Croft Shares the first pitch and a half with The West Face , then traverses over to a steep face/ bridging to a splitter .12b crack. Up slabs and steep finger/hand crack to the top. Four pitches. FA Gordon Wiltsie, Jay Jensen; FA .12b finger crack Dale Bard, Bob Harrington; FFA Peter Croft, Dayle Mazzarella
The West Face 5.10a Croft Starts on either side of a prominent 20 foot-high flake near the toe of the crag. Four pitches of cracks from thin fingers to a 5.8 chimney lead to the top.
Crack of No Hope 5.10 -- FA Doug Robinson, Jay Jensen
Wild Kingdom 5.10 -- FA Dean Hobbs, Andy Selters
Regular Route 5.6 -- Two pitches in a corner lead to an anchor and double rope rappel.


Croft recommends rapping the face from the top via a series of rap stations. However, in 2005 the rap stations (except the last one) didn’t have rap rings, so unless you want to leave a bunch of carabiners, or don’t mind rapping off webbing slung directly through bolt hangers, this isn’t necessarily the best option. You will need a 70m rope (or doubles) to rap the face.

The top of the pinnacle is a north-south ridge about 150 feet long. One 70 rope will comfortably get you from the chain anchor south end of the ridge into the notch. A 60m should also do it, but watch it near the end--the notch drops off steeply on either side. There is a good block from which you can rig a second rappel in case you’re not sure about reaching the ground and don’t want to chance it. The rap is pretty steep—overhanging in places—so it’s not for the faint of heart.

It is also possible to do a combination of rapping and downclimbing off the east side or west side. There are many suitable blocks that can be slung.

When To Climb

Rock climbers will want to hit Cardinal Pinnacle during the warmer months (late spring - early fall, depending on the year). In the winter, mixed climbing can be found, though this is highly variable.

Red Tape

Since this is a day climbing area, and it is not in a wilderness area, there isn’t any bureaucracy to deal with. Hooray!


Though it’s not likely that you would choose Cardinal Pinnacle as your ultimate destination (more likely that it would be just a side trip) for those who want to camp nearby there are many options. Check here for a listing. Several of these campgrounds are within a few minutes of the crag.



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.