Cotter + Clarence King

Our last of five trips together that Summer, Matt and I set out to try to climb Clarence King. We had been practicing climbing on our rest days all summer, and finally we were ready to try things out in the alpine.

It is along approach to Clarence King from any direction. We opted for Baxter Pass, due to ease of permits. Our packs were full of climbing gear, Matt carried a full trad rack, and I carried his 70 meter rope. As we sat in the shade of the bear box thinking about the 6,000′ climb up Baxter Pass, Matt took the rope from me, strapped it to his pack and started charging up the trail.

Despite my insistence, he carried the heavy rope all the way to our camp that night, halfway up the pass. The next day we finished the climb up Baxter Pass, and descended down to Dollar Lake below. We got to camp earlier then expected, so I proposed climbing Mt. Cotter. We charged up Cotter, in great shape from hiking all summer, and finally free of our heavy climbing gear. From the top, we got a great view of Clarence King.

As we returned to camp, we made preparations for an early summit of Clarence King the next day. The mosquitos came in thick that night. I slept soundly but Matt later informed me he almost packed up and left in the middle of the night. Somehow, off only a few hours of sleep, Matt lead some very difficult pitches on Clarence King. On one pitch, which was supposedly a 5.4 hand crack, Matt had to pull on the rope with all his might so that I could get up it.

Finally we reached the summit block. Matt climbed it quickly, and before I knew it, he was on the summit. There is not place to put protection on the summit, so he came down. If I wanted to summit, I would have to lead the last pitch myself. Matt cautioned me that the downclimb was much harder then the climb up, and to be careful.

I climbed the chimney and got above the final protection. I stood there for a few minutes looking at the final move, it looked solid, but could I reverse it? There was also the option of jumping down off the summit block, a move which Matt did not endorse, but Bob Burd and Sean O’Rourke recommended it in their trip reports.

After a few more minutes of hemming and hawing, I weighted my left foot, and swung onto the summit block. The views were incredible, but I could barely enjoy the summit. I knew if I fell off the rope would catch me, but not before a long fall down the other side of the mountain. I examined the jump off option, and it didn’t look too bad. I lowered my legs further and further over the edge, and then went for it, and stuck the landing.

I climbed back down the chimney, we rappelled down the mountain, hiked back to camp, and then eventually back to Matt’s car. What a way to end our summer in the Sierra!

Read Matt’s trip report here.