Petit Griffon and Crystal Crag

It’s hard to beat the High Sierra in June. A bunch of earth science folks had wanted to squeeze in one last trip before we took off for the summer. On Friday, we headed out and camped near Tioga Pass to acclimatize. By 6:30 the next morning Brad, Zach and I, fresh off an ascent of the East Arete of Mount Humphreys a few weeks ago, started hiking up from Mosquito Flat. Our objective was the Petit Griffon, a small, seldom-climbed spire next to Mount Abbot. We made quick work of the beautiful approach.

Bear Creek Spire

In sharp contrast to most climbs in the High Sierra, the approaches in this region start from a high trailhead (over 10,000 ft) and aren’t usually longer than 4 or 5 miles. By the time we hit the couloir marking the base of the route, the snow had softened up considerably, but we weren’t postholing.

Zach starting up the couloir towards the Petit Griffon

Upon reaching the Sierra crest, we racked up and got ready for the rock finish. Zach opted to take the leads as he wasn’t planning on climbing Sunday as well. Two stout 5.9 pitches set the tone…the Petit Griffon wasn’t going to let us off that easy! I’m not ashamed to say that after sinking my feet pretty deep in snow and freezing my hands on the first pitch I pulled on a prussik to get past a move. On the second, a handhold broke and I took a few tries getting up a headwall before a short airy traverse.

Zach leading the stout second pitch

Brad led the fun 30 foot finish to the summit which was just big enough to let the three of us enjoy some lunch and check out the view. Upon viewing the summit register, we noted that the Petit Griffon is climbed only about once a year. For such a spectacular route in a relatively accessible spot, it’s wonderful to know that there are still plenty of wild places.

Beautiful hiking above Ruby Lake

After a delicious dinner and soak at some hot springs, we crashed in the woods near Mammoth. Over a late breakfast, Brad and I decided to climb the classic North Arete on Crystal Crag. It’s in a beautiful setting and has a wild, alpine feel, but is very accessible above Mammoth Lakes. With our systems dialed from the day before, Brad and I charged up and down in a few hours, meeting up with our friends at Crystal Lake for the hike out. This was one of the most enjoyable routes I’ve done in a while. The ridge and quartz vein near the top were spectacular. What a way to wrap up training for this summer’s Pamir expedition!

Complete photo gallery here:

Petit Griffon and Crystal Crag