Tired of being a climbing tourist? In California it becomes more and more difficult to find a private wall/mountain with quality established routes that you might have to yourself on a great weather weekend in the Sierra summer. Juggernaut in 2020 fits that bill but probably not for long. Its two high quality moderates, Crimson Gem, 5.10-, and Dihedral Route, 5.10, are two routes that will rival any at their grade in the Eastern Sierra. Although only five and four pitches long respectively, they make for a great two-day pairing (or for the ambitions, competent and efficient partners, one full day). We left our camp with approximately a one-hour approach at 7am each day and was back to the base of these routes by noon each day. Both routes are easy to follow and straight forward. Although Crimson Gem seems to get more accolades as of 2020, my favorite pitch of either route was the 3rd pitch on the Dihedral route, a finger crack corner that leads to a massive right leaning roof that you traverse below before pulling out of it at its terminus and continuing on for a long fun well protected pitch at the grade. Crimson Gem’s first and third pitches offer stellar finger and ring locks before giving way to easier ground including a “hero type” roof at 5.9. Forgot the masses at the Incredible Hulk, try something new at Juggernaut, while the quiet lasts.
Covering the 10 mile+/- ascent with an overnight pack and climbing gear will take approximately 5 hours and the return approximately 3 hours. I have no idea of the net elevation gain, but you will have enough ups and downs and turns to slow you down compared to the straight forward Incredible Hulk approach. Despite the topos for both routes being spot on in my opinion, approach beta as of 2020 on MP.com left something to be desired. Getting to Barney Lake from the “Red Neck’s-R-US” RV Resort at Twin Lakes outside of Bridgeport is straight forward. Park where the boat trailers are and go pay your overnight parking fee at the entrance gate to the main RV grounds. Then hike from the west end of the relatively massive RV park to Barney Lake which is a unique and pristine lake offering a true sandy beach at its east end (a nice swimming hole on return) and a hanging valley swamp at its west end. The trail along the north side of the lake forces you to gain and then lose elevation at the other end.
Along the east sandy beach of Barney Lake is your first view of the Juggernaut. You will see two obvious features to the west. The most obvious north face is on the feature to the right which is in the foreground. The Juggernaut is the less obvious objective on the left, considerably further away. From the west end of Barney, continue on this singular trail up to a trail intersection at a narrow pass. Continue straight for Mule Pass Trail which does not maintain straight for long. This trail meanders along several lakes passing from the east side of the first to the west side of the rest of them, mosquitoes aplenty in July. At these lakes more than likely you will see camps of a few avid backpackers. During this lake navigation you will have lost complete sight of the Juggernaut. Don’t panic, just keep trodding along a good trail. Eventually you come to your 2nd intersection on Mule Pass trail and the Juggernaut will be starring down on you.
The location at this intersection (go straight) is your best camping option (left). Good water, good shelter from the wind, available shade, several level sites and drier ground resulting in less mosquitoes compared to most options.
The hike/scramble up from this most ideal camping spot takes less than an hour to reach the base of the north face (closer to 30 minutes once you have it wired). Continue on Mule Pass trail crossing a creek in short order, turning south (left). Look for a lightly cairned climbers trail on your right in 5 minutes +/- and before another creek crossing. Follow the terrain southwest to eventually contour directly west to avoid the rockier/snow laden ground guarding the northeast face directly. Once up on the ridge head south for the true north face where you will want to leave your packs regarding the return from the west. Dihedral, Crimson Gem and Arch Rival all start off a ledge that requires some 4th class climbing to reach the northeast corner of the formation. In fact, this area receives a solid amount of morning sun in July.
1st Pitch- 65’- 5.10-/ Although the Dihedral Route has my favorite pitch on this wall, it’s 3rd (roof) pitch, Crimson has my 2nd and 3rd favorite pitches on the wall including it’s first pitch, albeit a relatively short one. From the base ledge serving both the Dihedral and Crimson routes, climb the right facing finger/stem corner to its top and belay. This wall gets blasted with sun in the morning, but this corner does shade itself well. Never really felt a substantial crux as much as it is just sustained fun at the grade. I placed a piece in the left wall to start and then small gear in the corner itself. Right foot always seemed to have something going on out on the right face or the slight overhung nature of the corner might have made the climbing more challenging. Finger and ring lock city.
2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.10-/ This is my favorite pitch on the climb, a straight in finger crack(s) that trends up and right from the belay. Pretty damn clean finger sized climbing up a clean wall. Belay at the base of a significant right facing corner.
3rd Pitch- 150’- 5.10-/ This pitch is easier than the first two pitches as there are more hand jams and the pitch is not as sustained. Traverse up and right to the steep left facing corner (still left of the left facing Dihedral route). Climb the corner which turns into a steep mostly hand crack. I took this route to the base of an obvious left facing corner just below the “triangle” roof. The topo, at 130’, shows this pitch stopping at a bit more comfortable ledge 20’ below.
4th Pitch- 100’-5.9/ The way we pitched it out, this is the shortest pitch of the route. Climb the relatively easy hands corner to below the roof and pull out of it with good jams onto the arete out right and up and over to a comfortable belay spot.
5th Pitch- 160’-5.8/ MP.com makes noise about this last pitch being loose and even dangerous? Those posters must spend too much time cragging. I thought this pitch was a real joy and would not consider it that loose at all in comparison to most backcountry climbing. Climb the dual wide cracks through a roof type protrusion and continue on fun climbing at the grade to the top of the formation. You can sling a small boulder on top for a belay.
Hike west to the upper most western bump. Descend down a short ridge line to a col and turn right to descend an easy sandy and rocky gully that wraps back around east to the base of the north face. On the approach you essentially leave your packs at the base of the true north face (west of the route) and rack up before making a 150’ scramble up and east to a ledge that serves both Crimson Gem and Dihedral (the start of their respective corners).
The gear call on the topo references some micro cams and a #4. We did not rack a #4 and I saw zero need for it. We took the double rack suggested from #.3 to #3 and no doubt did not need the extra #3 either. I had a #.1 and #.2 and don’t remember placing the #.1 at all. We placed zero wires even though we had some available (did place a few off set cams instead). The cracks were clean and took the finger cams all day long, as many as you want to place. The pitches are not overly long and we always had plenty of gear left atop each pitch. But there is zero hardware on this route, so you will have to make gear stations at each belay. Half a dozen alpine slings, helmet (Dihedral route has a bit of loose rock on it) and biner approach shoes to your harness for the descent. Route receives a fair amount of morning sun in July. We were done climbing the route before noon which it no doubt is fully shaded by then.