The Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse can be done two ways: Clockwise, from Atlantic to Drift, or Counterclockwise. Counterclockwise the traverse is a fun, loose, easy fifth class scramble with two or more rappels (50m rope required). Traversing the ridge clockwise kicks the heat up a notch, with at least one pitch of fifth class most will want a rope on. The route requires 6-10 hours of the day, depending on group comfort and speed. Come prepared for two to four hours of exposed, extremely loose up and down climbing, all stuck between a lot of talus walking.
Follow directions to Mayflower Gulch. Mid-clearance, two wheel drive vehicles can easily make it the additional 1.6 miles into the heart of the basin as of June 2010.
Route DescriptionClockwise (5.7)
Begin by hiking the western shoulder of Atlantic to the summit. As you approach, the jagged section of the ridge comes into sharp perspective. As you drop off the summit of Atlantic, pause for a moment to consider your route through the first of five main gendarmes. At the top, contemplate the second gendarme before dropping to the col.
The first gendarme
is a non-issue. Scramble around.
For the second gendarme
, a short section of 5.5 and some scrambling tops you out. On the far side, below the summit by about 15-20 feet, are two fixed nuts equalized by some now manky webbing. The rap line looks almost
downclimbable. Replace the webbing and rap, or backtrack and scramble down to the right and around to the saddle, just below the end of the rappel. Look up at the rap line . Downclimbable, probably, but not by most.
The third gendarme
. There is potentially a leadable line on the front (north) side, but not something I would solo. I scrambled around to the left and found a mellow line (about 5.5) that is likely avoidable and felt contrived. An easy scramble brought me to the bottom of the fourth gendarme.
After some carefully scrunity, the fourth gendarme
will reveal a mellow (5.5 + fourth class) line to the summit. Don't pat yourself on the back just yet, though. Once you top out, ponder your fate that is the fifth gendarme.
The fifth gendarme
. It looks steeper and better consolidated than anything else you've scrambled over. Where are the broken blocks with tons of edges for your boots and holds? The holds, on close inspection, all seem to slope away from the wall. The most protectable line looks to be right up the middle of the fin, but it involves a potential roof move. I took an easier-looking but very exposed fifth class face to the right of the fin (5.8? 5.5? I don't want to sandbag you, but I don't feel I can grade this accurately.) This would be a difficult pitch to protect well and being in the shade it was snowy when I climbed it. I climbed diagonally, to the right, until I was able to gain the arete (gaining the arete was the crux), which thankfully gave way to third class talus. An exposed line of the only sustained fifth class climbing on the route.
The Fifth Gendarme
Two or three more gendarmes stand between you and Fletcher, but they pale in comparison to the fifth gendarme, so don't worry about it. Once you summit Fletcher, the only remaining difficulty is accessing the summit of Drift, which involves a short spot of exposed fourth or easy fifth downclimbing.
Counterclockwise involves at least two rappels. Bring rap rings, a small passive protection rack, and 30-40' of webbing to replace aging setups.
Essential is relative, but most people will want a 50m rope, a light alpine rack, climbing shoes and a partner, amongst those other essentials. Snow can hang around in weird places on this route, and a small ice axe could be useful until later in the season.