Above Bridgeport, California, is a small resort known as Twin Lakes. Many backcountry climbers will recognize this as the starting point for ascents of Matterhorn Peak of the High Sierras.
Twin Lakes is also the beginning of the Barney Lakes Trail, which leads past the mouth of Little Slide Canyon several miles north of Matterhorn Peak. Little Slide Canyon contains some of the finest rock formations in the northern Sierras. These include the massive Incredible Hulk, and across the canyon, the beautiful towers of Outguard Spire, The Turret, Regge Pole, and The Duck.
Although many classic technical rock climbs have been established on the excellent rock of The Incredible Hulk and Outguard Spire, scant attention has been paid to the precipitous, sometimes rotten rock of Regge Pole: Two routes were opened in the 1970's on various sections of the South Face, both requiring mixed free and aid climbing.
I first visited this area in 1992 with Pat Brennan to climb the Polish Route on The Incredible Hulk. It was on that trip that we noted the steep, unclimbed dihedral system on the East Face of Regge Pole.
Pat returned to the area with Steve Untch to attempt the climb on the Pole. They encountered loose rock, difficult climbing, and finally were stopped by a slightly overhanging offwidth crack, too wide for their gear. They retreated, with ropes damaged from rockfall but otherwise unscathed. But this was to be Steve's last trip into the area, for he was later killed on K2 as he assisted a partner disabled from altitude.
In 1994 Pat and I returned to Little Slide Canyon to attempt Regge Pole. Even before we reached the base of the climb, it became apparent that the proposed line was out of condition: streaks of water from the previous afternoon's snow flurry glistened on the second pitch, which was rated 5.11 R/X when dry. Rather than face this horror-show, we continued along the base of the spires to climb a beautiful twin crack system on the East Face of the Turret, and finished off the weekend with the first ascent of Instant Espresso on the East Face of the Duck. The Pole had won the second round without us setting foot on the rock.
In September 1996, Pat and I returned to the Pole, thoroughly prepared with beta from the previous attempts. Our equipment included double ropes, extra-long runners, a bolt kit, and crack protection to 12 inches. Even so, the second pitch remained a difficult endeavor, with long traversing runouts on difficult ground -- equally dangerous for leader and second. As Pat followed this pitch, he dislodged a 1,000-pound block, and was slightly injured in the ensuing 20-foot ledge fall.
The third pitch, a stack of overhanging flakes, fell to 5.9 free climbing.
Above was the offwidth. This was the high point of previous attempts.
One hour later, I found myself retching, placing two #4 Big Bros and a bolt at a tiny belay stance, with the wide crack below me.
Pat followed, then traversed out steep face into a slightly overhanging, rotten hand crack, and forty feet later arrived at a spacious ledge at the base of the beautiful upper dihedral.
The remaining two pitches of the climb remained continuously challenging, presenting slightly overhanging cracks, roofs, and a final section of 5.10 face moves onto the incredible summit, which we reached in the early evening.
East Face Dihedrals (which we rated III, 5.11) is a serious route. The objective hazards, coupled with continuously difficult climbing, present a challenge to even the most experienced backcountry climber. That said, this route ascends a spectacular line in a wild, remote setting: The East Face Dihedrals of Regge Pole is without peer for stark beauty and pure exposure.
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