The Machete Ridge, a West Side Story.
6 May 2001 - by Arun Mahajan (view roster page)
On 6th May, the two of us, Scott Kreider and myself,
Arun Mahajan, spent a day in the less frequented west side of the
Pinnacles National Monument and climbed the Machete Ridge by
way of the 'Old Original' route. As climbing goes, it never gets
harder than 5.3 / 5.4 and you go more down than up but it was
still a long day.
The Climbers guide to the Pinnacles is dead on. After a couple of
false turnoffs from the main trail, Scott guided us to the base of
the true climb.
- P1: Protected by one bolt, 5.3 per book. Scott led this till the notch.
- P2: Straightforward exposed class-3/4 ridgetop walk that Scott
led on belay till some bolts in another notch.
- P3: The more sporting of the pitches. I went up first on the ridge
top but seeing no bolts and a drop off that was definitely not
5.3, backed off and discovered that I was off route. The correct
route is below this ridgetop boulder and goes around a bulge.
Little airy but short and I passed by the bolt by going below and
then clipping back, then a short walk/crouch beside the ridge top
boulder to next bolt at the feet. Easy class 3 down walk to notch
and a 5.4 step to top this notch to a comfortable a flat area with a
couple of nice manzanita bushes to anchor and belay from.
- P4: Another airy class-3 ridgetop walk. Scott led this till he
ran out the rope and then I followed, our version of a 'simul-climb'
to a 3 bolt rappel station.
- P5: This is a long rappel. We had two 50m ropes and they were
enough, but just barely. There are two intermediate two-bolt rap
stations on the way down, the first one being on a ledge.
Everything seemed to be set up for single rope rappels.
- P6: Scott on lead, 5.3 to a U-notch between two small turrets and
then 4th class down climb to another flat area. There is a rock-block
here with bolts on either side. This is the end of the official climb
it was already 4pm. So, instead of bailing here, Scott and I went up
the Middle Tower, a 5.5, 2 bolt route with a pair of bolts on the
top also. Steep drop offs on either side, especially on the west.
After rapping off from the Middle Tower, back to our packs at the
rock-block, we decided to rappel into the shaded gully on the
right. A full length, double rope rappel (by this time we were
*really* happy that we had lugged 2 ropes) got us down the steep
face into a gully to another set of shiny new bolts. We did another
rap to the next set of bolts, also in the gully and rapped off again
to a bolt pair on the top of a class-4 drop off into the void below.
It was debateable whether we needed to rappel these last two spots
but for one thing, this was unknown terrain for us and the rock was
polished and smooth, so it was a good decision. By this time we
were really getting tired of all the rappeling and the heat had already
worn us down. Thinking that this was the last rappel, Scott took off,
only to discover that the dropoff was not that long and it led him
to a tree that had slings and rap-rings! Here we go again, one more
rap. But this time, the rap was steep and long over a 4th/low-5th
class wall that was covered with dry moss and smaller vegetation
that would have made down-climbing extremely treacherous.
Now, we were in a rocky gully and some watchful down climbing
got us at one end of 'the caves' and the trail.
All in all, if you are looking for an opportunity to practice some
aspects of ropecraft with multiple pitches and with only mellow
climbing as the challenge, then this beautiful ridge is worth
We used two 50m ropes and think that two ropes will be necessary
to get off safely. A couple of large cams were useful for anchoring
while doing variations like the start of the Middle Tower,
but otherwise all the other trad gear simply added weight to the
pack. Half a dozen quick draws and about that many shoulder
length slings were all that we used. All those shiny new bolts,
some with nice new slings made this quite a deluxe climbing
experience as Scott liked to put it.
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