East Arete of North Summit

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.02080°N / 118.4214°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.10 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 15
Additional Information Grade: IV
Sign the Climber's Log


A great backcountry route up an exposed arete. Almost everything you will read about this route in the existing guidebooks is questionable.

Don't let the first couple of loose and dirty pitches discourage you - it gets better.

Getting There

Standard approach to Red Lake - not an enjoyable hike but far from being as bad as described.

From Red Lake aim for the permanent snowfield at the bottom of East Couloir. Start of the route is some 50 feet to the climber's right of the East Couloir but you can start pretty much anywhere, as long as you ascend the leftish side of the broad arete.
Start of east arete of Split Mt

We used a 60 meter rope and made good use of the length. Placing as little pro as possible on the arete proper helps to reduce ropedrag.

There is a 90 foot rappel (downclimable) at the end of P11, impossible to do with a 50 m rope.

First five pitches have rappel stations (a party retreated from the top of the chimney in September 2007).

Route Description

First five pitches are easy but extremely loose. Although simulclimbable/soloable, I would not recommend because even if you try really hard, you will probably knock some rocks on the second. Even a small rock will dislodge more rocks... We climbed these pitches such that the second could take cover and then follow.
Pitch 1 - 5.6, loose
Pitch 2 - 5.6, super loose
Pitch 3 - 5.7-5.8, loose, up a left facing corner, tops out on a good belay spot
Pitch 4 - gets you to the bottom of the chimney
Pitch 5 - chimney, 5.7, loose inside but good stemming so it is easy to avoid the loose rock. Belay at the top of the chimney, there is a large flake you can sling
Chimney on P5

Pitch 6 - start straight up from the top of P5, up a right facing steep crack. This pitch had the best white granite from the entire route, luckily very solid. In the middle of this pitch, there were a couple of moves that felt like 5.10. You will top out on the very start of the arete proper.
Start of the East arete proper, Split Mt

I assume that this is the pitch that the guidebooks claim Galen climbed via a 5.8 strenuous squeeze chimney. I did not see anything like this. If this variation exists, it must be to climber's right. Misha thought there was a horizontal ledge leading to the right and that may potentially lead to this mysterious chimney.
Pitch 7-9 - knife edge, up to 5.6. At the foot of the first large gendarm drop some 6 feet onto the left side of a notch.
East Arete, Pitch 7
East Arete of North Summit

A couple of pitches on East Arete of Split

Pitch 10 - this pitch diagonally ascend the left face of the first gendarme. Plenty of holds with a lot of exposure - 5.7-5.8
First Gendarme
East arete, pitch 10

Pitch 11 - easy 5th, follows the top of the arete and ends at a large notch. There is a rappel station here.

90' rappel that looked downclimable at 5.6 - 5.7
Looking back at the tower with the 90 foot rappel

Pitch 12 - easy 5th
Pitch 13-14 - easy 5th
Downclimb or short rappel into the gully to the left (there is a rappel station). I thought the downclimb was easy and faster than rappel that would drop you quite a ways down the left side of the arete.

Pitch 15 - 5.7?

Top out on the broad northeast slope some 200 feet below the true summit.

Descend the regular northeast (Class 2-3) route - the descent into the gully leading down from the Split/Prater saddle is not obvious at all. If you are descending in the dark and are unfamiliar with the descent route, I think you will have hard time.

The descent is loose scree hell.

Essential Gear

60 meter rope
Set of nuts
Set of cams up to #2, a couple of small aliens. In total we had some 8 cams?
Sling material for rappels (either for retreat or to replace existing stations that looked little old...)

Miscellaneous Notes

Our itinerary:
3am wake-up
4am start
6.30am get to the start of the route
7am start climbing
6.30pm finish climb

Galen is a stud - there is no way I would want to solo this.

As noted above, almost nothing in guidebooks matches the route we took - no 5.8 squeeze chimney, no 5.8 lieback to bypass one of the gendarmes.



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