Southwest Arete

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.73000°N / 119.5495°W
Additional Information Route Type: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 4
Additional Information Grade: III
Sign the Climber's Log


A note on the route rating: Steve Roper and Hervey Voge before him had this route rated as class 4. Modern day climbers have found the crux to be considerably stiffer, more like 5.6-7, and some would argue that the rating should be bumped up to this. I have preserved the historic rating of the route primarily because the crux is so short and seems a misnomer when 98% of the route is class 3-4. Despite some easy to moderate bushwhacking in places, this route has some excellent rock, breathless exposure, and challenging route-finding. The views along the entire route are simply delightful.

To reach the start of the route, first climb to the Sierra Point lookout, located at the 4,800-foot level on the SW Arete. The directions for the approach can be found in the Sierra Point link. It is mostly a class 1-2 hike to reach this point.

Route Description

From the lookout, scramble up the arete via class 3 cracks and edges for about 100 yards. A large duck, present in Apr 2005, may mark the end of the easier class 3 scrambling. Above this point, difficulties increase to 5.7-8 in order to surmount a small overhang or a narrow ledge to its right. Do not go this way unless you are looking for a more difficult challenge. The easier route goes down about 10 feet to the right from the duck to a small alcove with an oak tree growing in the middle. From here, climb steep cracks with easy handholds (class 3) on the slope behind the tree towards the east. Walk around a corner to some 30 feet of big air, gingerly climb slabs out across an insecure ledge and up to a larger ledge above protected by shrubs.

Staying on the south side of the arete, climb up a series of grunge-filled dihedrals (class 4) mixed in with some easier class 2-3 scrambling until progress is again barred by large vertical faces on this side of the arete. Traverse left and around to the west side of the arete, and climb up and around large blocks straying only a short way from the arete. Some dihedrals are climbed with big air below (but good friction holds), followed by a short knife-edge traverse, a gentle, airy step off the edge, and then the crux.

The crux is a short chimney section about 15 feet in height with two chockstones. The chockstones are quite helpful, and make the section above them relatively easy. The chimney itself is entered from the side, and this provides a psychological obstacle as well as the technical crux of the route. Below, the entry point the chimney steepens appreciably, and though it is tempting to climb down first in order to enter the chimney, this seems a harder prospect. The entry is difficult to protect, so a short pendulum and fall onto the anchor is likely if unsuccessful. Once in the chimney, the feeling is more secure and you can work your way up to the set of chockstones.

Above the second chockstone you enter a small cave/cavern which makes for a bomber belay spot to bring your partner up. From the cave, you can chimney straight up for another 10 feet to the opening in the ceiling (harder) or move towards the back of the cave and find a slightly circuitous, but easier route up through the ceiling hole. From the hole, the remaining 300 feet to the summit is easy class 3.

To descend, climb down the East Side to the notch, and then return via Lost Lake and the John Muir Trail, or descend LeConte Gully.

Essential Gear

A thin, short 30m rope is sufficient for the crux and any of the class 4 sections you might wish to protect. A regular 50m rope should be used if descending LeConte Gully. A handful of slings and a couple of medium cams suffice for protection. Rock shoes / helmet are also suggested.

Miscellaneous Info

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



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