Eichorn Pinnacle and Cathedral Peak

4 Jun 2000 - by Ron Karpel

We left the trailhead carrying heavy packs. I had my full rock climbing rack and Arun was lugging his 50 meter crag rope. Following the Bud's Creek trail we soon were in view of Cathedral Peak's Eastern slops, which were mostly cover with snow. Climbing over the ridge north of Cathedral Peak we could finally see our destination, the Eichorn Pinnacle.

When I first laid eyes on the pinnacles I thought I will never be able to climb it. From the most common view it is a tall and narrow pencil with vertical sides and overhanging front face. There are a couple flaring and off width cracks on the face which look impossible, at least to me. How could Jules Eichorn climb this unroped was beyond me. Of course, later I have learned that the real route goes on the other side on the Pinnacle and is rated 5.4, and from then on, the Pinnacle was high on my to-do list.

Looking at the Pinnacle from the ridge North of Cathedral Peak revels that the Northwest corner is less steep and the rock face looks rich with features, so maybe it is a 5.4.

We setup our first belay at a ledge below and to the right of the ridge proper, and I started the traverse to the other side of the pinnacle. It's easy going, and the place where one should start climbing up is obvious. It's a rib of broken up chunks stuck to the main rock, but the chunks are a bit loose and they get thin pretty quickly. I throw a wire nut in a solid crack to the left and started climbing. Soon, a serious of horizontal cracks appeared in the main rock and I moved to that. There where a couple of fixed pitons, of which I clipped one and continued to a wide ledge. This would likely be the belay station of which I read in the route description, but I did not stop there. Facing back towards the summit, now looking East there where 3 main cracks. I ruled the right one too difficult, the center one would go as a squeeze chimney with a hand jam, but will be harder then 5.4 for sure. I couldn't see well in to the left most crack, so I throw a cam in the center crack and stemmed up. Soon my hand landed on something nice and solid, and I was able to pull up. A bit more class 4 scrambling got me to the top just as Arun started yelling that he is running out of rope.

Why did I pass the belay station? The Eichorn Pinnacle is one of the most photogenic sites in the Sierras, and there were only Arun and me climbing. So when I got to the top, Arun untied and ran up the ridge to take my picture. After I brought him up, I rappelled down, and ran up the ridge to take Arun's picture. Then he came down.

We had some time to kill, so we packed our stuff and went up the ridge towards Cathedral Peak. Arun took my cam set and lead the exposed class 4 rout to the top to practice placing natural protection on a lead. In the process, he used me entire set of Friends and one Predator, all in the name of practice. Following him, I realized I forgot to tell him that the old Friends with the solid stem can only be placed vertically. He was still safe though.

On the way down, it occurred to me that both of our routs where first climbed by giants: John Muir on Cathedral Peak and Jules Eichorn on the Eichorn Pinnacle. And they both climbed unroped.

Register: The register on Eichorn Pinnacle is in bad shape. The register book is gone. Instead there were a few scraps of pages which once were photo copies of the route description from John Moynier's book. There were some entries dated back to 1998, but none in 2000. Are we the first for the year? The only writing implements where a few short pieces of graphite. The squeeze rivets on one of the hinges of the fancy register box have both broken off. It will take a small drill with a 1/8"-3/16" bit to clear the holes so new rivets can be placed.

Conditions: Snow line on Northern slopes was 9,500 to 10,500. we brought or used no crampons nor ice axes and didn't need them as the snow was soft enough for kicking nice steps. And snowshoes are certainly not needed. The afternoon snow melt swelled the creeks turning a simple hop over partially exposed rocks in the morning into a serious business in the afternoon.

Participants: Arun Mahajan and Ron Karpel (scribe)


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