Eagle Creek cascades down from the valley rim between El Cap's Southeast Face and the Three Brothers. It offers a more interesting route than the Falls Trail to reach the summit of El Cap, but it involves a good deal of steep bushwhacking - not recommended with a heavy pack! El Capitan Gully
is a better scramble, though technically more difficult. This makes a good alternative descent route after climbing the gully.
The base of the route can easily be reached from Northside Drive on the valley floor. Eagle Creek empties into the Merced River about a mile southeast
of Camp4 (Sunnyside Campground on the topo). Follow the creek west around the base of the Lower Brother. You can also reach the start from near El Capitan Picnic Area. There is a parkinglot on the north side of the road used by climbers to access the popular climbing routes
(such as After Six
) nearby. Follow the use trail out of the parkinglot north, going past the climbing routes until you reach Eagle Creek.
The route follows Eagle Creek up through steep canyons with much shrubbery. In the lower portion stay in or near the creekbed to avoid the brush. It is fairly easy scrambling over boulders until you reach the constriction
between Split Pinnacle and Lower Brother. Here several waterfalls make it impossible to climb the creekbed. The left (west) side is very steep, loose dirt. Climb up the right side, under trees on the steep hillside. You should never have to move more than about 30 yards from the creek. The ground here is matted thick with needles and organic matter, and will slide out easily, making progress slow.
Above the constriction, you can eventually move back to the creekbed several hundred yards uphill. Progress is erratic as you have to move out of the streambed at obstacles, passing around on the right or left. Here's where you are likely to first encounter heavy bushwhacking. Try not to rush, and look for natural breaks in the brush, or animal use trails that provide easier passage. You will likely be using some of the hardier plants to pull yourself up steep sections.
Climbing higher, follow the slight curve to the right. You may miss the stream junction
, but should be able to climb alongside either branch. The brush is heavily grown over the creek in most places above here, so travel will mostly be through the bush. Be sure not to take the far right branch of the creek that takes you up the sharp canyon
between Eagle Peak and Middle Brother (unless you do so intentionally - definitely not class 3 up there). You can follow either branch of the creek shown on the topo to the easier slopes above. Take the left branch if heading to El Capitan, take the right branch if heading to Eagle Peak. Eventually the brush gives way to forest and the slopes ease, and you are soon climbing class 2 cross-country. Just above the 7,200ft level you will intersect the trail between El Cap and the top of Yosemite Falls.
If you are climbing for the view, Eagle Peak has the far better view than El Cap's summit. Besides being several hundred feet higher, it has better views looking east into Yosemite and has a much better perch than the rounded dome on El Cap.
Sturdy shoes for the climbing, long pants for the bushwhacking. Wear gaiters if you don't want a ton of debris in your shoes. If you find yourself on anything exposed and scary, think about looking for an alternative route.
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