Red Baron Tower

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.56170°N / 118.224°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical Rock Climb
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: 5.10
Sign the Climber's Log


The Red Baron Tower (III, 5.10) is the westernmost route on the wall that forms the incredibly long south face of Lone Pine Peak. The Tower appears to be on the Lone Pine Peak wall but a watershed divides it from Lone Pine on the summit plateau. Its peak is known as Peak 12,960+ or Peak 13,016 depending on the map and book. The reddish summit of the Tower is seen as a very flat platform part way up the skyline when viewed from the Stone House Ashrama. It’s a lot longer to get to the climb than it appears from the Stone House.

Fred Beckey and Barry Hagen climbed this route in a right facing dihedral system in 1972, calling it Red Baron Tower (III, 5.7 A2). Pat Brennan and Bruce Bindner freed the Beckey-Hagen route on the tower in 1996 and rated it 5.10.


From the Stone House, going cross-country, contour along the south side of the canyon, not descending too far down. When a rock wall is apparent and above on the south side, continue up to this wall then diagonal up. High in the canyon, cross the boulder field. Cross the north fork of Tuttle Creek just above where the South Gulley route enters the canyon. The way has been cairned and it is preferable to stay high rather than deal with the brush lower down. Continue up onto a plateau with huge trees that lies near the Zig Zag Dihedral on Peak 12,960+. There is great camping here and a flowing stream. Its four hours to the camping area and another hour further up to the base of the climb.

On the same formation as the Red Baron Tower and just to the right is a huge chimney/corner system. This obvious corner is the Milktoast Chimney (III, 5.8).

Route Description

Here is some detail of the climb. There is a good topo in Moynier- Climbing California’s High Sierra.

The climb is stout but protects well at the cruxes. The second, third and sixth pitches are especially good.

Approach the base of the Tower. Scramble up to the start at the base below the huge right facing corner. This is also the start of the Milktoast Chimney. 1. Begin up the chimney and traverse left to a platform below the red roofs (5.8, 100 ft.). 2. Traverse left under the roof (run it out to prevent rope drag) and continue up the right corner to a 1 1/2 ft. wide ledge (5.9+, 160’). 3. Continue up then right under a roof, exiting then up to another ledge (5.10, 165’). 4. Climb the runout face/corner to platform (5.8, 160 ft.). 5. More of the corner crack to a big platform (5.9, 160 ft.). 6. Straight up the corner to a pinnacle (5.8, 160 ft.). 7. Up to a ledge, right for 30 ft. then up and left for 40 ft. (5.8, 100 ft.). 8. Up the final right corner (5.8, 100 ft.).

To descend, traverse along the top of the tower to the wall. Continue past the gulley on the left and descend into the next gulley for a short distance. Do not continue down this gulley. Traverse left, and descend gradually on ledges toward a large buttress that will become visible after a short while. Descend into the flat canyon just before the buttress. There may be water flowing in this part of the canyon as you continue your descent.

Essential Gear

You will need two sets of tcu’s from 00, set of nuts, friends to #4, and hexes. A full 50M rope is also needed. Five of the pitches are 160-165 ft. A 60M rope does not gain a better ledge and has a weight penalty.

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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brutus of wyde

brutus of wyde - Dec 30, 2005 3:28 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

"From the Stone House, going cross-country, contour along the north side of the canyon"

Don't you mean the south side of the canyon?

Cheers, and thanks for posting these two routes!


brutus of wyde

brutus of wyde - Jan 8, 2006 7:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

Red Baron Tower

Fred Beckey's name is associated with many first ascents in the Sierra High Country. In the early 1970s, a few groups of climbers, including Galen Rowell, Beckey and various companions began exploring the Tuttle Creek drainage out of Lone Pine, California. In the style of the period, most of these ascents were made using a combination of free and aid techniques. Beckey's first ascent of the Direct South Face of Lone Pine Peak (erroneously called the easiest Grade V in the United States) was made in May of 1970.

On the approach to this climb, the Red Baron is visible as a high-angle tower far up the canyon.

Two years after the ascent of the Direct South Face, Fred returned to the area with Barry Hagen and made the long, arduous approach to Red Baron Tower. After working through the fearsome overhangs and steep dihedrals low on the route, the pair found continuously interesting free climbing to the summit.

For many years, this climb remained unrepeated. The easier approach to longer routes in the drainage doubtless was a factor, as was Steve Roper's "Climber's Guide to the High Sierras" which described the descent as a series of rappels -- an unsavory prospect. And why spend a full day hiking upcanyon when the luxurious shelter of Stonehouse was available for the climbs in the lower canyon? Regardless, any free attempt on the tower would require intimidating climbing through the roofs guarding the first few pitches.

In July, 1995 Pat Brennan and I, having climbed many of the routes in the lower drainage, wandered upcanyon to establish the beautiful Zig-Zag Dihedral route on the south face of Peak 12,960+. During this ascent, we had the opportunity to study the Red Baron Tower.

What we saw convinced us that a free attempt was warranted. The next summer found us again camped beside the stream near the base of the climb. The following day we were to discover that the entry overhangs went free at a casual 5.8. The next section, however, gave each of us pause: A few very large, loose flakes on the route (some of which we trundled) were evidence that we were among a handful of climbers who had ever ventured there. Incredibly steep, surprisingly solid rock, brushy hairline cracks and difficult climbing eventually brought us to the upper pitches, which we expected to ease back into fairly mellow climbing.

What we found instead was cracks in the 5.7-5.9 range, only slightly easier than the sections Beckey and Hagen had aided. Conscious of having spent more time on the upper pitches than we had expected, we spent little time on the summit, pausing only long enough to finish the last of our water before searching for a descent.

Returning to camp that evening, we rested in a flat meadow, next to a bubbling stream, and looked back up at the steep, sustained dihedral. It was then that we realized we had just been treated to one of the finer routes in the southern Sierras.

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