South Ridge

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Less than two hours
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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South Ridge
Created On: Sep 5, 2003
Last Edited On: Feb 23, 2006


Follow the directions to Virginia Pass found on the main page. From the pass, head west-southwest through trees, meadows and granite slabs to reach Return Lake, nestled at the base of the peak. This direct route involves three or four stream crossings, easy (albeit marshy) in late season; earlier in the season, it may be preferable to descend the trail from the pass into the canyon, and head upstream alongside Return Creek.

Follow the south shore of the lake alongside meadows and talus and ascend class 2 talus to Stanton Pass, the obvious saddle to your west between Stanton Peak and Virginia Peak.

Route Description

From Stanton Pass, follow the obvious ridge to the northeast. The spine of the ridgeline can be followed directly, with exits possible to the right (south/east) to bypass any difficulties. Most of the climbing in this portion of the route is straightforward class 2, with only occasional short third class sections.

Near where the ridge turns north, the easiest passage is found by dropping down to the right (south/east) side of the ridge. Along here, the rock transitions from being pleasant granite, pretty solid for the most part, to being thoroughly unpleasant red rock, very loose. A couple of gullies lead back up to the ridge top; the left one of these leads to either cliffs or exposed, loose scrambling along the ridge, while the right leads to more exposed climbing. It appears possible to gain the ridgeline here, and drop down to the west face of the peak, but this looked a thoroughly unpleasant scramble on loose rock. I don't recommend either of these options--although the second may be key to a "true" south ridge route.

Instead, it may be best to keep to the east side of the ridge, traversing Virginia's SE Face to find a chute that leads back up to the south ridge, just short of the summit; the face can be traversed directly (class 3), or one could drop down a short way around a buttress (class 2). The chute itself is horribly loose class 2, and would make a miserable ascent route; however, immediately to its right, better climbing is found on a buttress. Follow the buttress to the ridge top, where you have an easy walk north to the summit. This buttress may well be a variation on the standard East Face route described in some trip reports.

A caveat: Secor describes the climb from Stanton Pass as being "easy class 3." I didn't find this to be the case. All four or five other register entries I saw that claimed an ascent via the south ridge also questioned the existence of the easy class 3, and whether Secor had actually climbed the peak from that pass. So the variation described here may well not be the easiest way up to the peak from the south--please add any improvements or corrections!

Essential Gear

None. A helmet may be advisable if climbing with others; there is a good deal of disagreeably loose rock around here.