East Face

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.10310°N / 118.5°W
Additional Information Route Type: Alpine Rock
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: 5.8, Grade II
Sign the Climber's Log


Approach via Contact Pass; or take the South Fork trail of Big Pine to the use trail leading to Elinore Lake, exiting the trail to Elinore Lake before the final climb to the lake to ascend the drainage between Gayley and Temple Crag.

Descend via Yellow Brick Road.

Route Description

Two steep gullies split the east face of Gayley. Scramble scree, talus and rock along the base of the ridge connecting Temple Crag and Gayley to the right of the snow that leads into the gully on the right side of the East face.

Two pitches, of 4th/easy 5th-class, and then mostly 3rd go up rock ledges from the right side of the snow shortly before it enters the gully.

The third pitch moves left and then straight up on an often shattered pillar that eventually joins with the left wall of the gully (the gully itself eventually peters out against the ridge connecting Temple Crag and Gayley as that ridge curves toward the summit). Psychological crux is on this pitch in a loose groove with a bulge (5.7) just before a belay on a good ledge in an alcove.

The fourth pitch goes straight up from the belay before tunneling under or going over a block, takes parallel vertical cracks on the right wall of a clean corner (5.8) to the crest of the pillar, then straight up on the crest to a belay at the top of an easy rubble strewn ramp.

A mostly fourth-class pitch, with a couple of low fifth-class moves, goes a short distance up from the belay onto the wall to climber's left before making a rising traverse right on clean, narrow ledges, then up to a flake- and block-strewn ledge.

A fourth-class pitch ends a few feet from the summit register. Four of the pitches were around 55 meters, and two were about 50 meters.

The first three pitches of this route are particularly loose, so take care to shelter the belayer. Harder rock variations could take the crest of the pillar starting on the third pitch.

An alternate start would be to take the snow gully, which was pretty sweet styrofoam neve in early August 2004 (alas, no crampons or axe were at hand), but considering the condition of the first pitches, the rock from the top of the gully could be chossy at best.

Essential Gear

Bring a 60-meter rope, which can get stretched on a couple of pitches.

We completed the route with medium to large stoppers, tri-cams 0.5-2.5, and medium to large hexes.

This route is mostly fourth/low fifth class, with fairly short cruxes. We did it in mountain boots, though approach shoes would be more secure. The most gruelling aspect as it stands now is the loose rock in the lower pitches.

Miscellaneous Info

While the start to this climb is next door as the crow flies to the Palisade Glacier and just around the corner from the celestial aretes on Temple Crag, the area has a pleasingly remote feel -- granted, it was mid-week, but Gene and I didn't see another person during the high part of climbing season in the cirque between Gayley and Temple Crag. Come to think of it, we didn't see another party in the South Fork once we left the main trail to head toward Elinore Lake.

I changed the route name here to "East Face" to reflect what ended up in Secor's 3rd edition.



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