West Pillar, Direct Variation

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.10b (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 3 Votes

7411 Hits
74.92% Score
Log in
to vote
Page By:
West Pillar, Direct Variation
Created On: Sep 17, 2005
Last Edited On: Jul 13, 2006


In keeping with my pet theory that ignorance is the prime mover in human history, the direct variation on Eichorn's West Pillar was climbed by accident when the first ascent party got off route. In the summer of 1979 Alan Bartlett and Don Reid were attempting Gary Colliver and Mike Cohen's original 1972 line, which goes at 5.9. Where Colliver and Cohen traversed right at the beginning of the second pitch, Bartlett and Reid went straight up. The rest is history.

Both the original route and direct variation are visible, though somewhat indistinct, in the photo at left. In the lower left corner there is a small clump of bushes. The routes share the same first pitch, starting near the next clump to the right.


Start at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows, and follow the trail until it begins to head down toward Cathedral Lakes. Travel cross country and then up third class slabs to the base of the obvious West Pillar. Rope up on a ledge near the base of a large right-facing corner system on the right side of the pillar.

Alternative approach provided by old5ten: "An alternate (xcountry) approach is to park at Pywiack, circle the dome on the Southern side heading East, and follow the Western drainage slabs up to Lower Cathedral Lake. From there head East up easy scree/talus to the base slabs and route."

Route Description


Looking up at the first half of the West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle. The Direct Variation is marked.

  1. 5.8-5.9 offwidths
  2. First belay area
  3. Second belay area
  4. Crux 5.10b fingers/lieback

Supertopo describes this route in five pitches, Moynier & Fiddler in eight. There seems to be no reason to do more than five pitches if using a 60m rope, so this description follows the Supertopo approach. The whole route protects very well, including the crux. Rock quality is excellent.

Pitch 1: Start at the ledge near the base of a large, right-facing corner system. Three 5.9 offwidth sections provide the principle entertainment. These are most easily passed making liberal use of stemming and face holds. Gear to 3".

Pitch 2: Continue straight up steep, but moderate, cracks and flakes until reaching a big left-facing corner. Follow the corner (up to 5.8) until a sloping ledge is reached. Gear to 2".

Pitch 3: Continue up the corner with steep lieback moves (5.10b). Continue upward until reaching third/fourth class terrain. Much as one would like some relief after the 10b section, the difficulty doesn't back off until higher up. Pumpy. Gear to 2".

Pitch 4: Stay below the left-hand side of the arete, passing a short 5.6 bulge en route to fourth class terrain. Belay to the right of the top of a huge flake/arete.

Pitch 5: Continue upwards to a ledge, then surmount either a 5.8 rib or a 5.9 offwidth/stem to easier ground and the top.

A single 80' rap off a new 3/8" stainless bolt and slung blocks will get you to third class terrain. Alternatively, the 5.4 North Face may be downclimbed.

Essential Gear

1 set of nuts, cams to 3". Double cams in the small to mid sizes may be useful for those who like to place lots of pro.

Miscellaneous Info

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