Petit Griffon Spire-Western Summit

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Technical Alpine Climb
Time Required:
Most of a day
II, 5.7

Route Quality: 6 Votes

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Petit Griffon Spire-Western Summit
Created On: Nov 12, 2002
Last Edited On: Apr 8, 2014


From the trailhead at Mosquito Flats, take the Mono Pass Trail to Ruby Lake. On the East side of the lake, unmaintained trail follows the drainage past Mills Lake to the glacier below Mt.Abbot and Mt.Mills. The Petit Griffon Spire, is the obvious "Gunsight" tower at the col between these two peaks. Climb the 35 degree couloir to the base of the tower. In later season (from early August on)this might not only require ice axe, but crampons as well. There are really two towers at the col, one hidden behind the other. This route climbs the higher, western summit. The route was first climbed in 1964 by Dave McDonald and David Harvey and was the only documented ascent of the western summit as of 1996, when Miguel Carmona and I climbed it and found the register stashed in an old metal film canister (please read the corrections section for additional info). If you have an extra day in the Rock Creek area, this clean, steep spire is an excellent climb to do. See some great photos of Petit Griffon on Mt.Abbot's photo page, it's as steep as it looks.
Note: This route can also be climbed from Dade Lake, which normally serves as a camp for Bear Creek Spire and Mt.Dade climbs. Skirting the North side of Mt.Dade will soon bring you to the basin in front of the North side of Abbot/Mills.

Route Description

From the col, climb up and around to the SW side on steep, almost vertical 4th class rock. From the notch between the two summits, climb a steep 5.7 edge to reach the flat, table sized and exposed top of the western tower. To descent: Either retrace your steps back to the col or (as we did) scramble to the top of Mt.Abbot and descend the NE Couloir (see the NE COULOIR page for photo and a drawing of the descent).

Essential Gear

Ice axe, crampons, 50m rope, a few medium size Hexes, a few medium size wires. We think this is a really worthy day climb; recommended.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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LEM - Sep 13, 2013 1:34 pm - Hasn't voted


The 1964 climb was McDonald’s third time on Petit Griffon. Three UCLA Mountaineers including McDonald climbed the pinnacle in 1959, but left an inadequate register. The same Mountaineers had tried the climb in 1958 at Dave Harvey’s suggestion, but aborted that attempt when McDonald was injured by rockfall in the couloir.


asmrz - Sep 17, 2013 5:34 pm - Hasn't voted

Very interesting correspondence

Regarding the above:

I received the following e-mail 09/10/2013:

I, Dave McDonald, and I think Don Myers climbed this in 1959. Dave Harvey suggested the climb, but didn't do it with us. We had tried the year before, but Dave McD was injured by a rock coming down the couloir, and we put the attempt off to the next summer. The bolt on top is mine.

My response to (SP member LEM) was this:

Very interesting.

When I climbed the route in 1996, there was an old rusty metal film container on the top serving as a summit register. In it was just one entry.

It said:

First ascent of the Western Summit, Dave McDonald and David Harvey, 1964. (it also listed the day and the month but I didn't make a note of it).

What gives?

A few days later I received the following response:

Mr. Smrz:

Thanks for the reply.

Not that it makes any difference, but....

Dave Harvey, Dave McDonald, Don Myers, and I were members of the UCLA Mountaineers

in the late 1950s. One day on a trip to the Mono Pass area Dave Harvey pointed out the

pinnacle between Abbot and Dade, and thought we needed to climb it. McDonald and I

took a stab at it in summer 1958, but it was warm, the ice was melting, and lots of rock was

falling in the chute. McDonald was hit in the arm and we abandoned the try. We came

back the next summer and did it with a third guy, who I remember as Don Myers. Harvey

wasn't on either attempt so far as I remember. There was no evidence of a previous ascent

at that time. It wasn't that big a deal and nobody brought a film can, but we did leave a note

in a crack. And the bolt we abseiled from.

I have to say that I was not much of a rock climber, and the last couple of moves up the

crack in the flake on the Dade side were among the more interesting periods in my life.

Harvey was a hell of a lot stronger rock climber than I ever was -- he used to do some

hairy stuff with Bill Amborn -- and it would have been a lot easier following him up.

Best regards,

Louis Emmet Mahoney

LEM - Oct 15, 2014 4:55 pm - Hasn't voted


The 15 August 1959 issue of the UCLA Mountaineers’ newsletter Occasional Misery described an ascent on 1 August 1959 by Mahoney, MacDonald, and Myers. Kudos to Froylan Tiscareño for providing documentation.

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