Clyde Minaret (#54)
Day 46, Clyde Minaret
I awoke just as the sun rose to the sound of rushing spring runoff and a gentle morning breeze easing through the subalpine forest.
Unzipping my tent, I gazed eagerly up at the tooth of black rock towering high above. I quickly ate, packed my things, and set off.
Nervous anticipation buzzed through my body, doubling each time I caught another glimpse of the peak above.
I forced myself to keep a conservative pace, both to save energy and allow the snow to soften and rock to warm. I hoped to climb the Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret, a 1500’ wall of rock on one of the most striking peaks in the Sierra.
The route is long, committing, and sustained. As I climbed towards the face, my eyes traced the line of the route, connecting cracks and dihedrals. It is impressively steep, near vertical the entire way, and the fact that it is never harder than 5.9 is wonderfully improbable.
The day was warm and windless, the rock looked dry. It was all systems go. I dropped my pack, skis, and stripped to my long underwear. With nothing but a chalk bag and climbing shoes, I postholed up steepening snow to the base of the route.
It was steep and engaging right off the deck, requiring a tricky and fairly ridiculous transition from snow to rock, stemming between small footholds while putting on my climbing shoes to avoid getting them wet. I got myself situated, took a deep breath, then cast off up the steep dihedral.
The rock was unique: blocky and slippery, but providing excellent incut holds and great cracks. I moved upwards smoothly, reveling in the joy of free movement on rock. Each time I reached a difficult move, brief exploration with eyes and fingertips revealed some hidden hold in the perfect spot to enable secure upward progress. The snowfield below quickly fell away, but the air below my heels felt familiar and comforting. My mind was quiet, calm.
I settled into the rhythm of movement, and stayed in that rhythm until I emerged onto the final ridge, after over a thousand feet of excellent, sustained climbing.
I sat in the notch, dangling my feet over the abyss, reveling in the experience. After a few minutes of clear-minded meditation, I continued up the sharp, winding ridge to the tiny summit.
I didn’t linger long, as I was still buzzing with the energy of the climb.
I bounced my way down the south face to the very aptly named Amphitheater Lake, then shuffled across snow barely firm enough to support my weight to South Notch. Here, I was met with a steep snow downclimb. The top was firm and quite sporting in my trail runners, but a perfect dagger of rock in lieu of an ice axe took the edge off. Before long, the firm snow turned to powder, and I bounded my way down through the steep, knee deep snow, having almost as much fun as I would have on skis.
In no time, I was back below the base of the climb, gazing up at the towering wall that I now knew so intimately. The next few minutes would go down as some of the best of my mountain life -- skiing perfect corn off into the afternoon sun away from the base of Clyde Minaret, the dark spire tall and proud behind me.
View the activity here.
Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret
These were taken as Nathan moved his camp toward the next day's objectives.