Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.84806°N / 119.40552°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Elevation: 10904 ft / 3324 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Panic pillar is a vertical pillar of rock just a few dozen feet south from the summit of Cathedral Peak. Even though a few feet lower in elevation than Cathedral, it holds a much greater challenge for a rock climber. Not just a physical challenge of pulling 5.8-5.9 moves, but a mental one – last 25 feet or so of climbing can’t be protected by traditional gear. A leader fall from the last ten feet of the climb will cause serious injuries or death. Due to above mentioned difficulties this pinnacle does not see fraction of traffic Cathedral Peak receives.
First Free Ascent (on lead) was likely made by Tom Higgins and Bud Couch, in early 1970s. They are responsible for naming this formation and placing a single bolt on top to use for a rappell.
Glen Dawson and Jack Riegelhuth are thought to make a First Ascent of a pillar in 1930s or 40s by throwing a rope over the formation and than climbing it on “top rope.”
Cathedral Peak and Panic Pillar
Cathedral peak with multiple people on top and elegant spire of the Panic Pillar

Getting There

Take Highway 120 to Yosemite National Park and drive to Toulumne Meadows. Easiest way to approach the peak is via Cathedral Lakes trailhead.


Most climbers would want to climb Cathedral Peak or Eichorn Pinnacle first and do Panic Pillar after. The route itself takes the line up the West Face of the pinnacle and has difficulties up to 5.9. Since upper section of the climb is not protectable R rating is appropriate. Possibly X rating as well, since falling from the last moves to the top would cause serious injuries and possibly death.
Make your way to the notch of Cathedral and Panic Pillar. Establish a belay below a steep crack. Climb a crack and transition to the west side of the pillar. Before you transition you can clip a rusty piton and place a small cam (green alien/blue metolious), or maybe a nut. From there you do not need any gear. Pull yourself up and mantle to the top of a small ledge and continue climbing up towards the top using the arete. Near the top you will have to make a few 5.8/5.9 moves using tiny knobs with a potential for a ground fall.
Gorgeous views
Views from the top of the Panic Pillar

Red Tape

Entrance Fees:
The trailhead lies in Yosemite National Park and an entrance fee is required. Weekend use fee is 20$. Frequent visitors may want to purchase National Parks Pass, which is currently 80$ and valid for a year.

Wilderness Permits:
Permits are required for overnight trips, though most parties will chose to dayhike this peak unless part of a longer trip. Permits can be picked up at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center near the trailhead during open hours. Check the Yosemite Permit Page online or Park Wilderness Permit Office for full details on hours, the reservation process, and reservation availability.

Food Storage:
Bear canisters are required throughout Yosemite National Park.

Fires are prohibited above 9,600 feet.

Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit Office
PO Box 545
Yosemite, CA 95389
Phone: (209) 372-0740 
Fax: (209) 372-0739

When to Climb

This pinnacle can usually be climbed during months when Tioga Pass is opened. Check conditions and snow levels before coming, since the pass is not plowed during the winter season.


Usually done as a day-hike since camping in Budd Creek drainage (Cathedral Peak's east side) and within 4 miles of the trailhead is not allowed.

Toulumne Meadows
Beautiful sunset in Toulumne Meadows

External Links

Good information on conditions in Yosemite:

Condition of Highway 120: