Cleaver Notch

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 38.10700°N / 119.397°W
Additional Information Route Type: Scramble
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 4-5
Sign the Climber's Log


This route is possibly the fastest and least technical way to get to Blacksmith in a low-snow season. It avoids bushwacking up canyons and long circular approaches. The trailhead used is Twin Lakes/Horse Creek Canyon, and related information for it may be found on the main Blacksmith Peak and Matterhorn Peak pages.

This route only involves a couple of miles on trail, so be prepared for all the opportunities that cross-country travel has to offer! Route-finding, regional navigation, and water planning are all part of the fun!

Route Description

Proceed up the Horse Creek Trail for about 2.3 miles. After passing through the long level forested-meadow portion of the trail, look for a narrow spot in the canyon where the western talus slopes are quite close to the trail & creek. Cross the creek and head up the fairly solid talus to a small saddle separating a large point of rock from the ridge on the west (refer to this map for route location).

From the saddle continue contouring up across a section of large solid talus followed by a section of small, steeper, loose talus all the while aiming for the tree-covered slope just below the cliffs on the right (NW). Continue up through these trees, over some fun slabs, and up through some short sections of easy manzanita. Avoid straying more than a couple hundred yards from the cliffs on the right (north). The cliffs, it turns out, make up the lower section of the Cleaver itself.

Once past the manzanita, you should be on some nice open slabs and talus with the HUGE notch in the Cleaver in sight. Tank up with water here, or else wait for the glacier on the other side of the Cleaver. Proceed over the 3rd class notch and down to the glacier below Blacksmith Peak. Make your way to the NW side of the glacier and follow the path of least resistance (3rd-4th class & watch the steep ice) to the top of the couloir between Cleaver Peak and Blacksmith Peak.

Congratulations! You made it to the Sawtooth Crest! From here, drop down and to the right a couple hundred feet until past the cliffs of the Sawtooth Ridge. The easiest route up to the summit is very close to the SW arete of the peak. Scramble up a Class 3-4 ledge system on the southwest face near the SW arete to a tight chute just below the two summit blocks. The actual high point is to the left (north), but the south summit also contains a register. The south summit can be reached via easy Class 4 climbing up a slab, while the north summit is reached via Class 4-5.

Essential Gear

Expect low 5th class rock at the finish; pro consists of typical backcountry requirements --- bring a variety and plenty of slings. Protection at the top of the couloir between Cleaver Peak & Blacksmith Peak may be desirable.

For early season climbs, an ice axe & crampons may be mandatory.


Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.