NW Face of West Peak

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.7 (YDS)

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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NW Face of West Peak
Created On: Aug 5, 2011
Last Edited On: Aug 6, 2011


RJ Secor devotes precious few words to this feature in his comprehensive guide, but does mention the high quality of the rock. That encouraging bit of mystery combined with the somewhat longer than average(for Yosemite) hike required to reach the feature and its relative invisibility will inspire some adventurous souls to seek this climb out.

The dark orange, well-featured face is ~900' tall and stands over a small ice patch sliding into rubble and a scenic tarn over the forested Return Creek valley. This makes for one of the more colorful and verdant vistas in the Sierra alpine which is sure to be enjoyed in solitude. The West Peak summit register dates to the mountain's first ascent by members of the CCC in 1933 and shows only two parties up the NW Face since the route was first climbed.

Getting There

The NW Face of Shepherd Crest can be reached from either the Saddlebag Lake Trailhead or the Pacific Crest Trail from Tuolumne Meadows.

Following the PCT through Virginia Canyon one should leave the PCT and continue up the trail in Return Creek valley for 1.5 - 2 miles. At an opportune spot near the 9000' level heading Southeast will lead uphill through open forest and eventually to treeline in the basin below Shepherd Crest. Continuing up past talus, a steep stream, a small tarn, and permanent snow and ice below the face the climb can begin wherever the moat can be safely negotiated.

From Saddlebag Lake follow the instructions on the main page to "McCabe Pass" and descend to the West-Northwest past upper McCabe Lake, following McCabe Creek to just below the 9800' level. From here there are two choices:

1) Head almost due North past springs marked on the 7.5' USGS quad toward the WNW-trending ridge from the West Peak of Shepherd Crest to a minor notch at 10900'. From here descend on scree, or likely snow before September, to the basin below the NW Face.

2) Continue WNW to a broad gap, with tarns marked on USGS maps, between McCabe Creek and Return Creek at ~10000' and make a slightly descending traverse Northeast to the basin below the face.

Route Description

There is no published information on the line the first ascensionists took so any climb done may be a first, but there are a number of reasonable features to follow. Secor reports five pitches from their climb, but expect up to 12 ropelengths to the top if weaving a path through the abundant low-angle terrain.

This face should be gained wherever the moat allows, but all things being equal low-angle crack systems exist near the lowest point on the face to climber's left and partway up the couloir adjacent the face to climber's right.

The one line I can speak for begins at an obvious corner system near the lowest point on the face towards climber's left. The climbing then follows the path of least resistance up mid-fifth-class corners diagonally to climber's right to a large white perched block in the center of the face. Expect at least two short sections linking cracks and ledges with solid, but runout 5.7 face climbing up knobs and seams.

From the large ledge with the distinct perched block turn sharply climber's left almost to the left skyline towards a notable chimney. Solid cracks near the chimney lead to low-angle ground heading climber's right to a final short, steep wall lined with cracks which top out on the summit plateau. The summit proper lies 1/4 mile to the East.


The only non-technical descent follows a 3rd class South-facing gully almost due South from the summit back to McCabe Creek.

Any camp not being carried over should be in line with this descent and the trailhead. Excellent campspots exist everywhere in the McCabe Creek valley, in the basin below the NW Face, and in several spots in Virginia Canyon.

Essential Gear

Rope, rock rack to 2", ice axe, possible crampons for "McCabe Pass" and ice and snow below NW Face.

NW Face of West Peak

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