The Southwest Ridge is a very enjoyable Class 3 climb that begins from the intersection of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Roger's Lake trail. I am of about average speed and was able to reach the summit in just over an hour from the trail, making this climb possible as a side trip while hiking the PCT. The entire route can be be done via a combination of granite slabs and boulder hopping up a pretty stable talus slope. Those looking for less technical climbing can easily move to the climber's right on the mid/upper part of the ridge to ascend the sandy slope east of the ridge. This also makes a great descent route. Those looking for a greater challenge will find plenty of short Class 4 and 5 variations along the ridgeline. Generally, the further left you are as you ascend the ridge the more technical challenge you will find.
Elevation Gain: 1000ft
Distance: .5 miles
Volunteer Peak is located in a remote area of northern Yosemite and is usually climbed as part of a multi-day backpacking trip due to the distance involved in getting there. Follow the directions on the main Volunteer Peak
page for the best options to reach this remote mountain. The SW Ridge ascent begins on the west side of the peak at the junction of the PCT and the Roger's Lake trail.
From the intersection of the PCT and the Roger's Lake trail, hike .2 mile south across the lightly forested meadow until you reach the granite slabs
southwest of the summit. Pick a line up the granite slaps that you are comfortable with. The further to the right you climb, the easier the ascent. The granite slabs on the lower portion of the route are Class 3 for the most part.
There is a large granite shelf above the slabs with a couple of tarns that look reasonably clean for drinking (assuming you have a water filter). From here you can either hike to the climber's right (east) and ascend the Class 2 sandy southern slope, or stick to the ridgeline for more enjoyable Class 3 climbing on rock. The ridgeline is steep here, but the initial buttress
can be passed on either the left or right via a series of granite ledges that lead to another smaller shelf 100 feet above the first one.
Above the second shelf, the SW Ridge consists of mostly large, stable talus. Those who like boulder hopping will enjoy the remainder of the ascent to the summit. Once again, the easier climbing is generally to the right and the more challenging climbing to the left of the ridgeline.
No special gear is required to climb this route, however a pair of sticky approach boots would be helpful for the Class 3 granite slabs on the lower portion of the route.