Route: West Face (5.10a, 500', 4p)

TR #: 159

Category: California       Summit Elev: 9,700 ft       Rock Type: Granite

Partners: Mark Thomas, Nic Risser

Four pitches of clean Sierra granite to cap off my summer's Californian climbing adventures.

Annotated photo of the West Face route (and Crack Kingdom and V8 Crack, routes I climbed a few years later) and rappel route on Cardinal Pinnacle.
Cardinal Pinnacle is an exquisite chunk of finely-grained granite just a short drive west out of Bishop. The feature contains several excellent routes ranging from 5.10 to 5.12. SuperTopo notes that the 500' tall Cardinal Pinnacle is akin to a mini version of the Incredible Hulk (a truely incredible chunk of granite which we had climbed earlier that week). Only about 500 feet high and right off the road, Cardinal Pinnacle was a great choice for one last Sierra rock climb with Mark and Nic before I had to drive back north to Washington. We climbed the popular West Face route, which has four pitches of consistently 5.9 to 5.10 crack climbing. It took us a few hours to climb the route as a team of three, and another hour to rappel back down to the base. The climbing was excellent, and the only downside of the route being that it left us wanting much more!

Update: In 2015, while on a climbing roadtrip through the Sierra, I managed to fit in a day at Cardinal Pinnacle, climbing the excellent routes Crack Kingdom and V8 Crack.

Approach Cardinal Pinnacle from the road. The third pitch of the West Face route goes up the gleaming face. Getting to the base of the route is an easy (~20 min) scramble up the talus field in the foreground.
Approach What a nice chunk of granite.
Pitch 1 The West Face starts 50 feet up and left from the toe of the buttress on a trapezoid shaped block with cracks on either side (right above me in the photo). The first half of the pitch follows the corner (5.9) up to just underneath the bush in the photo, where it makes an airy step right. 
Pitch 1 The second half of Pitch 1 leads into a thin finger crack in a corner and then to a bolted belay on a ledge. This finger crack (shown in photo) is the 5.10a crux of the pitch.
Pitch 2 Steph climbing the steep clean corner (5.8) at the beginning of Pitch 2.
Pitch 2 Here Mark is just under the looming roof near the the top of Pitch 2, about to embark upon the 5.10a step right around the arête. Shortly after the step is a bolted belay stance.
Pitch 3 Pitch 3 climbs the slabby west face of Cardinal Pinnacle. Here Nic is starting up the exposed face traverse. The traverse goes right into a crack system.
Pitch 3 Mark climbing up the broken 5.9 crack system and fun slabby finger cracks on Pitch 3. Nic is at the gear belay at the base of the chimney of Pitch 4.
Pitch 4 Mark leading up the chimney (5.8) of Pitch 4. This is a short pitch which goes left just above the chimney to a ledge with rap anchors. 
Descent The descent involves rappelling back down to the base of the route. There are a lot of bolted rap stations on the pinnacle, but the standard rap route (4 rappels with a single 70m rope) appears to go down to climber's left of the route. Thanks to Nic's gutsey rap-route-finding skills we were able to make quick work of the descent (3 rappels with our two 60m ropes) and all three of us were at the base in less than an hour.