<-- Map of summer 2015
     climbing roadtrip 
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CLYDE Minaret
Route: Southeast Face w/ direct start (5.10a, 1400')

TR #: 200

Category: California       Summit Elev: 12,281 ft       Rock Type: Metamorphic

Partner: Julie Brugger

Fifty classic climb + super fun partner = favorite climb of Summer 2015 so far!


The Minarets are the series of jagged spires that can be seen to the west from the town of Mammoth Lakes. Unlike most of the Sierras, the Minarets are not composed of granite, but rather of a more ancient metamorphic rock, which gives the Minarets their characteristic needle-like shapes. Clyde Minaret is not only the biggest of the Minarets, but also has the prettiest face—its dark triangular SE face is home to a great rock climb, one of Steck and Roper's fifty classic climbs of North America. Clyde Minaret is named after Norman Clyde, the High Sierras most prolific first ascensionist.

Because of the metamorphic rock, the climbing on this route is steep, smooth rock with angular holds. While there is the occasional hand jam or finger jam on this route, the nature of the rock is steep slick faces with small crimpers for the harder sections, and juggy ledges for the easier sections.

Random notes: (1) This climb eats gear of all sizes. We had a double rack from BD 0.4-3, plus about 15 slings; we felt this was a good selection of gear for the route. (2) We had a 60m rope. On three pitches we were forced to simulclimb the last 10 feet or so in order for the leader to make it to a good belay spot, which worked fine, but also suggests that a 70m rope might be a good choice for this climb. (3) The descent took us a few hours from summit to camp. The route-findng on the descent is not trivial and the terrain is loose and steep enough that descending in the dark would probably take twice as long and be twice as dangerous. (4) According to Steck and Roper: "Although the climb is usually done clean, it is advisable to carry five pitons in addition to a standard selection of twenty chocks." This is no longer advisable. ;)

Julie and I both really enjoyed this climb. We found the rock to be high quality, the climbing to be athletic and fun, the route to be satisfyingly long, and the route-finding (including on the non-trivial descent) to be engaging. Not only did I enjoy the climb itself, but I had an absolute blast climbing with Julie. We had so many common interests and threads in our lives it was a bit uncanny at times. Julie and I had planned to climb a few more days together after this trip, but when we got back to our cars we discovered that both (!) of them had been broken into by bears, and Julie decided to head home to deal with insurance claims and car repairs. I was more upset to loose a few days of climbing with Julie than I was about my $500 roof box and $30 flat repair (photos of car damage at end of this trip report). I hope Julie and I can meet up and climb again someday.

The following page gives a route overlay, pitch-by-pitch description, and photos from our climb of the Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret. 

Overlay by my friend and King-of-the-Route-Overlay Mark Thomas — why reinvent the wheel when a friend has already done as good a job as possible.
Mark's trip report for Clyde Minaret. Mark notes that the Pitches correspond as best as he can tell to Peter Croft's topo and not to how he or I did the climb, as we both linked and stretched a few pitches.

note: Pitches as per Peter Croft's topo in The Good, The Great, and The Awesome.
Pitch descriptions:
Photo descriptions:
Hike 9 miles on trail from Devil's Postpile to (camp at) Cecile Lake. From Cecile Lake, scramble up talus to the base of the route.

1. Getting permits at the ranger station in Mammoth Lakes, since we planned to camp overnight at Cecile Lake below Clyde Minaret. Cecile Lake is about 9 miles from the Devil's Postpile trailhead, so this climb is more typically done as an overnight than a car-to-car. Julie and I were lucky to secure an unclaimed overnight permit the day we wanted to hike in.
2. Between 7am-7pm in the summer, you must pay $7 to take the Red's Meadow Shuttle to the trailhead. Outside of this time you could drive your car to the trailhead and park there. 
3. On the trail towards Minaret Lake. Minaret Lake is about 8 miles from where the shuttle drops you off and Cecile Lake (where we camped) is about 1 mile past Minaret Lake. 
4. Minaret Lakes, with Clyde Minaret in the distance. 
5. I brought my phone for an alarm clock, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I got strong cell service (Verizon) right from our camp at Cecile Lake! 
6. Evening sun over Clyde Minaret, with Cecile Lake below. This photo was taken from our camp spot. 
5.7 (original start) or 5.10a (direct start), ~430'
Original start: A traversing pitch goes right and slightly upwards to a ledge on the face proper.
Direct start: Climb directly up thin cracks in right facing corners for two pitches from an area of reddish rock directly below the face.
7.  8.    
7. Approaching Clyde Minaret from camp, bathed in the pretty morning alpenglow.
8. Julie leading off Pitch 1 of the direct start up the right-facing corner. This pitch is rated 5.9. Although the route featured a lot of good climbing, my favorite two pitches of the route were the first two pitches of the direct start. It is also the most challenging climbing, since the rest of the route is rated 5.8.
9. Looking up Pitch 2 of the direct start. This pitch continues the great climbing up the corner, mostly 5.9ish with a 5.10a crux at a short offwidth section (can either stay in offwidth or step out right to avoid offwidth, either case seems 10a).
10. Julie leading off Pitch 3 of the direct start, which begins with a short downclimb and then traverses left to intersect the original start below the Pitch 4 crack. Easy 5th. 
5.7, ~400'
From the ledge, climb a few pitches up and right in intermittent corners to a big ledge about 20 or 30 feet left of a large left facing corner.
11. Looking up the crack of Pitch 4. I led this pitch. This pitch starts off with really fun 5.7ish wide-crack climbing and continues up the somewhat-ambiguous corner system. I linked Pitch 4 with the first half of Pitch 5 (pitches as per Croft topo, which is what we used). We ended up doing a few feet of simulclimbing (on a 60m rope) so that I could make it to a nice belay spot.
12. Julie looking up her pitch, which linked the second half of Pitch 5 with Pitch 6 (per Croft topo). We ended up doing a few feet of simulclimbing (on a 60m rope) so that Julie could make it to a nice belay spot.
13. The old bolt on the ledge at the top of Pitch 6 
5.8, ~160'
To get into the corner involves a kind of inobvious traverse down and across on 5.8 face climbing. Start climbing the corner (5.8) to an alcove.
14. Looking back at Julie at the belay after leading the "inobvious" 5.8 face traverse". The chalk made it more obvious. =)
5.7, ~150'
Continue up the corner past a white scar to a ledge at the beginning of the large upper dihedral.
15. Julie leading Pitch 8.
5.8, ~210'
Up the dihedral to its top at an obvious notch. 
16. Looking up the corner of Pitch 9. I led this pitch. After the direct start pitches, this was my favorite pitch on the route. It was a long pitch, and we ended up doing about 10 feet of simulclimbing (on a 60m rope) so that I could make it to the notch. 
5.7, ~140'
From here either follow a ledge that cuts out left across the face about 30 feet and then straight up (steep 5.7) or just go straight up from the notch (5.7).
17. Looking up the ridge from the top of the Pitch 9 corner. There are two options here. We went left around the face to climb a 5.7 crack system.
18. The 5.7 crack system of Pitch 10. I led this to the ridge and set a belay. 
easy 5th, ~400'
Climb the summit arete to the top.
19. Looking up the ridge from the top of the Pitch 10 crack system. From here it's about 400 feet of easy 5th, which we simulclimbed to the summit.
20. A bivy pack as we approached the summit. There was some food, some water, a hot pack, a tarp, and other miscellaneous supplies inside. It looked as if it had been used at least once.
21. Another bivy stash we spotted as we approached the summit. I guess several climbers have gotten benighted on this route.
Enjoy the view!
22. Julie on the summit.
23. Smoke from a forest fire near Oakdale. 
24. Looks like we missed Alex by a couple of days, too bad, I would have liked to meet him. Sounds as if he was doing the Minaret Traverse. 
25. View out towards Mono Lake from the summit. 

There are two descent options: (1) the SW Face route around to South Notch or (2) the Ken-Clyde Couloir (probably only realistic when snow-free). Either one starts off by following the ridge north until it's possible to drop to the left to ledge systems leading down this face (Class 4 or rappel) toward the notch between Ken and Clyde. From the Ken-Clyde Notch, Option 1 goes right and around Ken to South Notch while Option 2 goes left down the couloir.
26. Julie starting down the ridge to the north. 
27. We tried to find the "4th class ledge system" to Ken-Clyde Notch but ended up on some pretty steep 5th class terrain. There were rappel anchors everywhere (obviously climbers come down this in the dark, since there's more rappel anchors than needed that's for sure), so we ended up doing some rappels down towards the notch. I wouldn't want to do this descent in the dark.
28. Julie downclimbing between rappels on our way towards the Ken-Clyde Notch. 
29. Looking down the Ken-Clyde Couloir. We had initially planned on going from the Ken-Clyde Notch towards Amphitheater Lake and around towards South Notch for the descent, but our rappels dumped us off on a climbers' path leading down Ken-Clyde Couloir, so we decided to go that way. 
30. Once in the Ken-Clyde Couloir, we scrambled down to the base of the couloir, and had to do two rappels. This was our first rappel.
31-32. This was our second rappel. 
33. Looking out the end of the Ken-Clyde Couloir. Almost there!
34. Looking back into the Ken-Clyde Couloir. It was completely devoid of snow, which probably made it a lot easier as a descent route.   


On this trip, we learned the hard way that bear (and human) break-ins at Mammoth Lakes are something to worry about. I'd always figured that bears just got into cars of careless tourists who parked in unpatrolled pullouts and left half-eaten egg MuMuffins lying out on the front seat with the windows cracked open, but when we got back to our cars in the parking lot after the climb we were shocked by the sight. My roof box was literally ripped open, a tire was flat, and there was a big dent on my roof and dirty paw prints on my hood. Amazingly, all the gear in my roof box was left undamaged; the only damaged items were two teeth-punctured quarts of 5W-30 motor oil. Julie, however, faired a bit worse than me. The bears had actually gotten inside her truck and completely trashed it; her truck was devoid of her bins of camp food and climbing gear. UPDATE: Over the next couple of days, Julie and I mulled over the mystery of the missing climbing gear. Here's what we think happened: Someone broke into Julie's car and stole her climbing gear, camping items, and packaged hiking food, and threw things around to make it look as if bears had gotten inside. This attracted the mamma bear and her cubs to the area, and they proceeded to break into my roof box. There are a few pieces of evidence that suggest this is what happened: the lack of paw prints, claw marks, and tooth impressions in Julie's vehicle and their presence all over mine; the fact that my gear was lying untouched in plain sight on top of my car while Julie's was stolen; the different hand-writing on the two notes left on our car. So, the moral of the story is to beware of both human and bear break-ins in this area. It sucked to end such a fun and successful climbing adventure in this way, but it did make for some interesting photographs and a good story. I think overall I was most bummed by the fact that Julie and I had to forgo our plans to climb a few more days together, so she could go home and deal with insurance claims and car repairs. Later that day, I affixed a "Mammoth: Don't feed the bears" sticker to my new $550 roof box as a reminder to never be cavalier about Sierra bears again....