Northwest Arete

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.15000°N / 118.661°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 4
Sign the Climber's Log


This route is lauded in Roper and Secor guidebooks, and has a coveted place in Moynier and Fiddler's Sierra Classics.  There is some confusion over which arete is the "classic" route.  This page describes the easier, right-hand ridge.  The photo and description in Moynier's guide seems to indicate the wilder, left-hand ridge.  Would like to hear from folks who have climbed this route!

In recent years, it seems most ascents of this arete are made en route during the Evolution Traverse.  The route is of high quality, but limited technical climbing is encountered relative to the long approach.  Confident climbers may choose the Haeckel Col approach (below) and increase the amount of interesting climbing encountered.


From Lake Sabrina trailhead, follow trails towards Hungry Packer Lake.  As the trail departs the Midnight Lake drainage towards Hungry Packer, break off trail and ascend the broad ridge between the two drainages.  Some class 3 and a few short descents may be encountered along the ridge.  When the ridge ends in a steep headwall, countour around left above two small tarns and past a larger tarn around 11,900'.  Follow talus up to lake 12,345'.

From here, Secor recommends climbing steep snow and/or loose scree to the prominent notch at the left end of the broad saddle between Haeckel and Peak 12,996'.  In a low snow year, this approach looks ghastly.

An alternate approach turns lake 12,345' on the right, ascending stable and pleasant talus towards Haeckel Col.  Cut up and left and follow one of several class 3/4 steps up to the ridge.  As Secor warns, this approach involves traversing a knife edge along the ridge.  There is legitimate 5th class climbing here, but the rock quality is excellent and offers some of the best climbing on the route.  While the short downclimb back to Secor's notch involves some loose rock, no rappels are necessary.

Route Description

From the notch, gain the right-hand ridge (tricky class 4, several options) and follow it to the summit.  Better climbing is found directly on the crest of the arete. Most of the upper ridge is pleasant class 3, with some opportunities for interesting climbing on headwalls near the summit.

Alternatively, a class 2/3 slog can be achieved in the gully to the left.  The dramatically jagged arete further left has been climbed with apparently much higher difficulty.

To descend, either retrace your steps, or follow the East Ridge route back into the approach basin north of the peak.  Some ghastly steep and unstable scree may be encountered along the way.  From the ridgeline separating Midnight and Hungry Packer Lakes, a slightly more direct descent back to trails may be made by dropping early towards Midnight Lake, but many short cliffs must be negotiated along the way.

Essential Gear

The route may be soloed, with almost continuous opportunities to bail into the easier gully to the left.  The traverse from Haeckel Col (alternative approach noted above) involves some mandatory, exposed 5th class and some parties may prefer a rope if choosing this option.  If taking the standard Secor approach, ice axe and crampons may be necessary (although in August 2013 this approach looked mostly dry - and awful).

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-6 of 6

haishan - Sep 11, 2013 12:01 am - Hasn't voted

Which route?

I've titled this route page "Northwest Ridge", though all guidebooks refer to it at "Northwest Arete". After climbing the route and observing the neighboring arete to the left, I believe this page describes the NW Arete as described in Secor. However, based on Moynier's photo and route description ("exposed arete... involves traversing knife-edges and gendarmes"), I believe the left-hand route is what he refers to as NW Arete. So, preserving the "NW Arete" name for a page on that route.


Donno - Apr 15, 2015 8:58 pm - Hasn't voted

Route Name

Haishan, I reviewed Secor's description and a forum thread on this route and suggest you change the name to Northwest Arete. I believe this is the established name for this "classic" route. The ridge right of the shallow gully is probably the "Northwest Arete" because: - Secor states "It is easier to climb the chute left (northeast) of the arete." Indicating the route is on the right. - Secor again states in describing the N. Face route that there is a "chute that is left of the northwest arete." - bc44caesar downclimbed the ridge right of the chute and called it good quality class 4 and a classic - asmrz climbed the ridge left of the chute and called it 5.6/5.7, not class 4 - I believe Moynier errs in saying the route is the rightmost of the two aretes that form the Chouinard-Sunwoo "narrow ice gully' route


Romain - Apr 22, 2015 4:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Route Name

Donno is right, this should be called the NW Arete. It is the classic arete.


haishan - May 31, 2015 3:53 pm - Hasn't voted

NW Arete

Hi folks, Didn't mean to be a wrench in the cogs of SP governance... haven't been over here in a while. I agree it's pretty clear this is the NW Arete route listed in guidebooks, no qualms in fixing the page name as such. Cheers!


pcole8787 - May 16, 2016 5:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Still confused

Been reading about this issue for some time. Perhaps someone could tell me what route on the mountain this is? I climbed this version in June 2012 and am calling it the north ridge, but that may not be all that accurate as I didn't have a compass and the possibilities for variations seem endless. Any feedback most welcom @


Donno - Jun 20, 2016 7:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Still confused

I believe you climbed the N. Face to the upper North Ridge.See photo I added.

Viewing: 1-6 of 6



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