The southwest ridge of Keyes Peak is an enjoyable Class 2/3 scramble over mostly good terrain consisting of stable ground on the lower section of the ridge, and mixed granite slabs and medium size talus on the upper portion. As with most peaks in northern Yosemite, there are also sandy/scree areas and a few White Bark Pine bushes that can hinder your way. However, these areas can be avoided pretty easily leaving you with a pleasant scramble on mostly good rock all the way to the summit.
The route begins on the west side of Keyes Peak from the Pacific Crest Trail in Jack Main Canyon.
Elevation Gain: 2,000ft
Distance: 3 miles RT
Keyes Peak is located in a remote area of northern Yosemite National Park 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 Keyes Peak
page for the best options to reach this remote mountain. The SW Ridge ascent begins on the west side of Keyes Peak from the PCT in Jack Main Canyon.
Break off from the PCT just west of Keyes Peak and head cross country through Grace Meadow towards the obvious rise of the SW Ridge as seen in this
photo. It's about .75 miles to where the ridge starts, but hiking across the meadow is pretty easy.
The initial ascent consists of good ground with mixed patches of conifers and grassy meadows. Follow the rib as it rises gently upwards for a few hundred feet until you ascend above treeline. The terrain then changes from grass/dirt/sand to granite slabs and talus. Continue up the ridge as it winds it way to the north. There are great views of the west face of Keyes Peak along the ridgeline.
The true summit is the north peak which requires a bit of a bit Class 3 climbing to reach. From the granitoid south peak, climb down to the saddle via a steep granite ramp. Here the rock suddenly becomes metamorphic (brown colored). The ridgeline becomes quite narrow at the saddle, but the climbing is easy. Make your way up the talus slope 70 feet or so on the north side to the true summit.
No special gear is required to climb this route.