Finishing off a week of alpine rock climbing training we chose to climb Charlotte Dome located deep in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. This impressive dome offers 1200’+ of rock climbing on superb granite in an exceptionally exhilarating setting. It is no wonder this climb has long been considered a classic among Sierra alpine climbers.
This climb is best done as a 3-day trip. The first day is an enjoyable backpack out of Onion Valley and over Kearsarge Pass (11,823’/3603m). Surmounting this pass is the highest elevation encountered on the entire trip. The trail then drops down above Kearsarge Lakes and intersects briefly with the famous John Muir Trail en route to Charlotte Lake. We chose to set up camp here in mid afternoon. This left the team plenty of time to take a swim in the lake and relax on a warm pleasant afternoon typical of summer Sierra conditions. An early dinner followed and the team was sacked out as night fell.
On day 2 the team woke before sunrise and navigated the approach to the base of Charlotte Dome by headlamp. The trail quickly turns into a faint “route” as it descends approximately 1000′ of elevation over a 2 hour period. Arriving at the base of the route after the sun came up the group divided into two teams, roped up, and began navigating the 12 pitches of rock climbing the route requires. Excellent quality granite is prevalent throughout the climb and a variety of rock climbing techniques are employed including face moves on friction in small solution pockets, crack climbing, and much more. The route lends itself to slinging small granite horns and “chicken heads” in addition to placing traditional rock climbing protection including nuts and cams. After climbing into the late afternoon the team arrived at the summit psyched on completing such a classic route! After summit photos and a snack all that was left was to descend off the back side and retrace the approach route back to camp at Charlotte Lake.
Day 3 was devoted to packing up and backpacking over Kearsarge Pass en route to the Onion Valley trailhead. An casual leisurely pace allowed the team plenty of time to enjoy the magnificent Sierra backcountry scenery and reflect on a truly memorable adventure up an all time Sierra classic route!
Congratulations Erin, Christy, and Vicki on a job well done!!
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here: