There are 9 summits in this massif that rises in the Cathedral Range of Yosemite National Park. It is popular among climbers, offering class 2-5 climbs on the various peaklets. The easiest summit takes two minutes of scrambling to climb, the most difficult is several pitches with a 5.7 crux. All of them are interesting problems with many possible variations. They are often climbed as a dayhike, requiring 3-5 hours on average to climb them all, plus additional time for the hike in and out. There are excellent views of Yosemite from the various summits, particularly of nearby Cathedral Peak
and Matthes Crest
There are nine named summits as described by Secor and shown in this photo
. I've named two additional ones (# 2 1/2 shown in photo, and #0 located between #1 and #5), but there are more still. Here's an overview of each:
- class 3. The north side is tricky but short, the south side is a bit easier.
- easy class 3, approach from the east side between #1 and #2. Variation
: climb the class 4 West Face
- class 3. Approach as above for #1, climb the north ridge to the summit. Variation
: climb the class 3 West Face
- class 3. From the west, climb the short ridgecrest from the main ridge between #2 and #3.
- class 3. Highest of the Echo Peaks. Register on summit. Traverse the fun, adjoining ridge from #2. Variation
: climb the class 3 West Face
: Climb the class 4 ridge from the saddle between #3 and #4.
- class 4. This is the second hardest of the Echo Peaks and has a summit register placed by the Sierra Club. The steep gully between #3 and #4 on the east side can be most easily climbed to the left (south) of the central gully. From a point about 30 feet below the main #1-4 ridge on the east side, climb the NE side of #4 via ledges and flakes. Variation
: climb the class 3 West Face
to the notch between #3 and #4, then downclimb about 30 feet on the east side before following directions above.
- class 3. The north and east sides are easy class 3.
- class 4. This is the third hardest of the Echo Peaks. Secor rates it class 3, but it has some exposure with awkward moves. The easiest way up is from the north side, traversing from right to left at the base to get onto the vague north ridge. It can also be climbed at low class 5 on the West Face, traversing upwards left to right (low class 5).
- class 3. Easy class 3 from the north. The northwest side has some steep, fun class 3+ flakes that can be climbed. The SE side also goes class 3 through some short chutes, approached from the base of #9.
- class 3. The north side is easy class 3.
- class 5.7. The hardest of the Echo Peaks has a summit register placed by the Sierra Club. The SW Face
offers the easiest route to the summit. Beware - loose knobs. The NE Corner is 5.9.
Having climbed these peaks a few times, I can recommend what I think is the most efficient way to tag all eleven: approaching from Bud Lake, climb to the north ridge (#8, #7, #5, #0, & #1 are all along this ridge) at the base of #8. Climb #8, descend to base of #9 via the west side of #8. Climb #9, return to the ridge and climb #7 from the ridge, climb #5 from the ridge, then drop your climbing gear on the ridge between #5 and #0. Descend the west side of #5 to climb #6. Descend further to climb #4 from the northeast, then head north along the west ridge to tag #3, #2, #2.5, and #1. Descend the east side (between #1 & #2) back to the north ridge, climb #0, then return to your gear. You can descend the north side of the ridge directly from here, back to the Bud Lake Trail.
The easiest approach is via the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows
. From either the east or west, take Highway 120 into Yosemite NP and drive to Tuolumne Meadows. The Cathedral Lakes Trailhead is located on the west end of the meadow, about a mile west of the visitor center. It is a very busy trailhead and there are usually a dozen or more cars parked there at any given time during the summer.
Permits are not required for day hikes, but Wilderness permits are required for overnight visits. These can be obtained from any ranger station in the park. The nearest location is the permit building just east of the Tuolmne Meadows campground. It is just off the road that leads to the Tuolumne Lodge, on the right hand side.
Because of the camping restrictions in the Bud Creek drainage, it is usually climbed as a day hike.
When To Climb
Climbing is generally done May-Oct. Before and after this time Highway 120 is closed. There can be much snow on the ground in May and June, so check ahead and plan accordingly if you intend to climb at this time. Late in October the highway is often open but closed to overnight parking - dayhikes to Echo Peaks can still be done easily. Even in early season when there is much snow on the ground, Echo Peaks can be approached on snowshoes without much difficulty. The majority of climbers at the trailhead are heading to Cathedral Peak, so don't worry about crowds. With 9 summits to choose from, you can climb them in a variety of orders, which allows multiple parties to share the peaks simulataneously. You'll likely have the peaks to yourself.
Camping is not allowed in the Budd Creek drainage on Echo Peaks' north side. With these restrictions you are better off climbing Echo Peaks as a day hike. If you want to camp, check out either Cathedral Lakes (on the west side of Echo Peaks) or Echo Lake (south of Echo Peaks, near Matthes Crest). Both of these sites have frequent bear visits, so take appropriate action to keep your food from them. Bear cans are now required in the Tuolumne backcountry for overnight stays.
Mountain ConditionsNPS Page
"Echo Peak and Echo Creek probably were named by the Wheeler Survey; both are on atlas sheet 56D, 1878-79. The peak remained singular until the fifth edition of the Mt. Lyell 30' map, 1922. The lake name first appeared on the Tuolumne Meadows 15' quad, 1956, and the valley name on the Merced Peak 15' quad, 1953."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada