Clarence King and Fin Dome

6 Sep 1999 - by George Sinclair

There were three of us on this private trip. The first day we hiked about twelve miles and crossed both Kearsarge Pass and Glen Pass. Even though we failed to get in as far as originally planned, it was still a hard first day. Early the next morning we hiked the remaining distance into 60 Lakes Basin. At around 9:00am we dropped our packs and headed for Clarence King.

Two of us on the trip had done Clarence King many years before, so we knew the route. There is an improbable looking ledge that leads to the saddle just south of the peak that works quite well. It only involves a short bit of class 3 climbing to get started on the ledge. Higher up the mountain there is some difficult class 4 climbing getting up to the summit blocks. If one stays close to the east face the climbing is somewhat easier. At one point we climbed a steep crack, with good holds that went up to a flake. The summit blocks may be somewhat harder than the reported class 5.4. Getting unto the actual summit requires making a strenuous mantle. Unless one throws a rope over the summit, there is no protection here. We reached the summit around 2:00pm. The summit register was found at the base of the summit block on the east side. It was placed by Secor back in 1993.

Going down we made two short rappels using pre-placed slings. We made it back to where we had left our packs at around 6:00pm. We camped nearby. The following day we hiked up the 60 Lakes Basin Trail to where it begins to drop down to Rae Lakes. We dropped our packs here and headed for Fin Dome. As we neared the Dome, we found it hard to believe that there really was a class 3 route on it as listed in the guidebook. All sides looked very steep. However, after some false starts, and by following the description found in the guidebook, we finally found the correct route. An old, engraved Sierra Club register was found on top dating back to 1973. It is one of the most thrilling class 3 climbs I have ever made. There is only one way to go, and the exposure is considerable. If you get off route anywhere you will quickly find yourself on class 5 rock. For those who are interested I offer the following route description:

Start up a talus fan on the southwest side. Near the top of the talus work over to a gully close to the Dome. From high in the gully do a short class 3 traverse to the left that takes you unto a good ledge. Proceed higher to another good ledge with a small tree. Without getting into class 5 rock, stay as high as possible while traversing north along ledges and ramps. There is one spot where you may need to drop down a short distance. Eventually you will follow a sloping ramp up to where it ends. Traversing further north will be easily seen to be no longer possible. Instead, work up ledges and ramps to the right. This is the most exposed section of the climb. Some may want a rope here. When further progress to the right is no longer possible, climb up to higher ledges. By now you should be finding ducks placed by previous climbers. These ducks will be useful in getting back down. You may need to build additional ducks to help you later. After awhile the going gets easier. Continue up ledges, following the route marked by ducks, toward the summit.

After climbing Fin Dome, we headed towards Glen Pass. Instead of following the trail, we decided to start out on the cross-country route over Rae Col and pick up the Glen Pass trial later. This is a strenuous and steep alternative to the trail that I don't think really saves any time. We reached the pass late in the afternoon and then dropped down to Charlotte Lake where we camped for the night. The next day we hiked the eight miles out to the car, which we reached about 1:00pm.

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