Trip Report
Got to see... the Gorge of Despair
Tuesday October 25, 2016 9:26pm
I figure there's not enough photos of the Gorge of Despair (the gorge, hanging canyon of intimidation, gorge of depression, place that's really hard to get to, or, more simply, GoD) online. And, at the least, surely Kristian Solem will appreciate this.

springtime confluence view. some formations of the gorge seen in upper...
springtime confluence view. some formations of the gorge seen in upper left
Credit: shylock

Most Sierra enthusiasts know about the gorge. Although it isn't even included in the old SEKI climbing guide, the view from highway 180 and, most recently, Kristian's posts and enthusiasm for the place has inspired anyone with an inkling of appreciation for really cool places and sick ass granite. It is definitely due to the roadside view one can get of these striking formations that climbers have been drawn here since the early 50's. I mean, the place is freaking cool. From the mythological setting that revolves around Tehipite valley, to the climbing, to the insane thought of trying to descend the entire gorge (has this been done?).

random lake at the top of the gorge. a little high sierra flavor
random lake at the top of the gorge. a little high sierra flavor
Credit: shylock

But...yeah... it's a little hard to get to. No doubt. One starts on the south fork of the Kings where it's dusty and hot (~4,000 ft.) and in 10 miles or so crests the monarch divide (the poetic name that describes the ridge/mountain system that separates the middle and south forks of the Kings. ~10,000 ft.). It feels like the High Sierra up there but it's on the westside, so even cooler.

I'm not a weekend warrior for the time being but my friend Chaz is, to a hardcore degree. The guy is a badass doctor (and painfully, at times :), nice guy) that loves to climb and therefore gets no sleep. But it really meant we only had a few days. Also that we did most of the approach in the dark. It's also late in the year and fkn cold. But, eff it, and finally we get a view of some of these pointy formations.

Eastern side. R->L Crystal, cobra, el commandante, el corporale, an...
Eastern side. R->L Crystal, cobra, el commandante, el corporale, and frustration turrets. Silver Turret in the shade on the left. Kettle dome across the way
Credit: shylock

We started off on the "classic" moderate line of the place. Prow of Cobra. A beautiful line and an amazing summit ridge.

beautiful Cobra Turret. Prow is left skyline
beautiful Cobra Turret. Prow is left skyline
Credit: shylock

Cobra. What can't be seen is the insane overhanging east face. wow
Cobra. What can't be seen is the insane overhanging east face. wow
Credit: shylock

chaz following. looong ways down to the canyon floor
chaz following. looong ways down to the canyon floor
Credit: shylock

looking down into Crystal Creek drainage. One to the east of GoD. One ...
looking down into Crystal Creek drainage. One to the east of GoD. One that also holds a ton of granite
Credit: shylock

Above photo is Rad for me personally.. It's a view into the drainage that Daniel, Vitaliy, and I descended after topping out on the Watsi Wall, a huge wall we climbed earlier this summer. I'm super lucky and stoked I got to experience this area from 3 different angles this summer (Chaz and I climbed on Tehipite Dome last month as well). Although the place is freaking huge and we didn't even see close to all the GoD has to offer.. So. much. beauty.

looking up Crystal Creek at the backside of GoD
looking up Crystal Creek at the backside of GoD
Credit: shylock

Chaz looking into GoD from Tehipite summit
Chaz looking into GoD from Tehipite summit
Credit: shylock

Ok so we're on the summit of the Cobra and discover a rule put down by the GoD, no summit registers and no summit rap anchors. WTF. Secor does describe the gorge in his book and eventually we find a pin anchor he mentions. We slung a flake instead. Interestingly, we discovered one new bolt at the top of the Prow route and one randomly placed new bolt in the middle of the descent. hmmmm weird. Only sign of modern activity in the place.

Chaz looking for rap on top of the Cobra's sidewalk summit
Chaz looking for rap on top of the Cobra's sidewalk summit
Credit: shylock

We then decide we have to tag El Commandante since it's the most badass looking one from the highway. We climb some random chimney vaguely/poorly described by Secor and summit that thang. Sweet first day. Since we're camped way up at Despair lake, we have a monster hike to end it. But it's freaking beautiful so what the hey.

Doctor Langelier. Obelisk can be seen top center
Doctor Langelier. Obelisk can be seen top center
Credit: shylock

Next day we were hoping to do some rad climbing. We wanted to check out the west side of the canyon and it was between a new route on a formation I will not mention :) or the classic looking Solem route Despairadoes.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/703700/Despairadoes-on-topic-back-country

Lacking a bolt kit we made the possibly weak decision to climb the established despairadoes. It did look rad, a very obvious line.

Chaz on P1
Chaz on P1
Credit: shylock

Unfortunately, we had to BAIL. After hearing intense buzzing all the way from back on the approach, we discovered a huge freaking hornets nest in the corner on pitch 2. I climbed up to the 2nd bolt of the pitch where you then have to make a traverse into the corner and begin stemming up the thing. Well, we said f*#k it, not worth it. In the course of stemming I would have been curb stomping 100s of the little mother truckers. (bolts are in great shape and the pin in the corner looked good too, and the route above looked amazing. damnit!). So, back on the ground, we decide we have to summit the silver turret somehow, being the biggest thing out there. We romp up the north buttress. Secor said a tension traverse was required on the FA but we found nothing of the sort necessary. Sh#t rock interspersed with actually sweet splitters led to another badass summit ridge.

Summit ridge of Silver Turret. Oh, and Tehipite dome
Summit ridge of Silver Turret. Oh, and Tehipite dome
Credit: shylock

Chill time ensued...

View from summit into the drainage to the west. Granite, lots!
View from summit into the drainage to the west. Granite, lots!
Credit: shylock

The descent off the Silver Teabag put us in great position to play around on The Fang, a most sweet spire. The original route up it was good fun and we played around on the amazing westside chickenheads on the other faces.

Chaz at the base of the Fang. And westside sunset.. oh yeah
Chaz at the base of the Fang. And westside sunset.. oh yeah
Credit: shylock

rad
rad
Credit: shylock

So, 4 spire summits in two days. We didn't necessarily do the rad climbing we came to do but, we saw the gorge of despair.. a GoD damn dream I will say.

Chaz about to summit Mt. Harrington on the way back to the car
Chaz about to summit Mt. Harrington on the way back to the car
Credit: shylock

As a bonus, for some real rad climbing down the road and with a shorter walk, we got to check out Vitaliy's Emperor.

V crushing
V crushing
Credit: shylock

Chaz cruising
Chaz cruising
Credit: shylock

  Trip Report Views: 6,638
shylock
About the Author
shylock is a social climber from mb.

Comments
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Oct 25, 2016 - 09:30pm PT
Well done! Very nice pics! That's a long ways to carry gear.
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Oct 25, 2016 - 09:37pm PT
RAD, Kris will dig this. Thanks for posting
Inner City

Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Oct 25, 2016 - 09:52pm PT
Wow cool! Great report, I too wonder if that gorge has been descended?
Looks so pretty in there...
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Oct 25, 2016 - 11:03pm PT
Nice TR. Sounds like a great trip. Bummer about the wasps.

I don't know who added those weird bolts you found on the Cobra. Wasn't us.

We rapped off two fixed pins. Our 50M doubles came up short at the next anchor and some serious shenanigans were required to get down, but no extra bolts.

NutAgain!

Trad climber
https://nutagain.org
  Oct 26, 2016 - 08:33am PT
Thanks for pics of a place that very few will ever make it out to see.
Daphne

Trad climber
Northern California
  Oct 26, 2016 - 08:51am PT
So gorgeous, that gorge. Thanks for documenting your adventure :)
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Oct 26, 2016 - 08:58am PT
for sure a spectacular place farther than many will ever go
thanx for taking all the snaps, and the time to share them here.
I'd love to see it for reals, but this was great, Thank You.
and whats this "What can't be seen is the insane overhanging east face. wow!"
Off the side of the Cobra. are we to understand the secrets that the place holds,
are Futuristic?
Ho Man....
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Oct 26, 2016 - 09:56am PT
Glad you had fun.... pretty amazing place no?

Instead of trying Desperadoes, you should have climbed "From-Afar" 11b/c .... on the south face of the Cobra, up where you can look at the "most amazing overhanging east face ever...". If that climb was close to the road it would be a 5 star classic crack climb. We camped right there in the spring and water was not to far down the hill, bone dry this time of year though.

So whats up with the wasps? sounds bad.

So you got to look at the Fixed pin on P2.... congratulations! I will say this about that spot. I bet you think when you get to that spot... you can chop a rest.... NOT!!! I had to hang in there after the "11d" traverse (Kris rating not mine) with everything I had just to switch arms and get my heart rate down.... then launch up 40 feet of overhung 5.8 on jugs, with no pro.... Yes Kris IS a mad man when he gets the bit between his teeth.

The Fang! Looks like you guys got the second!!! I got scared at the big block with the pin under it.....I turned tail and down climbed.... Kris was focused on Desperadoes.

We did a 3rd ascent on one of the lower towers, there are summit registers on the lower towers .... with some famous names in them.



This brings all the good memories back and some of the bad also.... just think about having a locked up knee at the base and making the long walk, crawl, back to the road head. That was a day I will never forget.





Thanks so much for this TR, the GoD is the most remarkable place I have ever been to in the Sierra.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 26, 2016 - 11:25am PT
Wonderful! Thank you very much.

John
i-b-goB

Big Wall climber
Nutty
  Oct 26, 2016 - 07:29pm PT
It must be called the Gorge of Despair because you have to decide what to climb!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Oct 26, 2016 - 11:51am PT
So you've seen the faces of GoD...meh.

Seriously, a STERLING account of what seems to be a pretty heavenly spot.

Most of us will NEVER get to heaven, but this will do.

Many thanks.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 26, 2016 - 04:05pm PT
Awesomeness is upon you!
Thanks!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 26, 2016 - 04:34pm PT
Wild, and a great pic of the summit register, and the Fang!
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Oct 26, 2016 - 06:01pm PT
Impressive
shylock

Social climber
mb
Author's Reply  Oct 26, 2016 - 09:41pm PT
Glad all of you enjoyed seeing a little bit of the place

I don't know who added those weird bolts you found on the Cobra. Wasn't us.

We rapped off two fixed pins. Our 50M doubles came up short at the next anchor and some serious shenanigans were required to get down, but no extra bolts.

Yeah, those bolts were much newer than the ones you guys had in. The two pin anchor was down to one. It baffled us why they didn't throw one in on the summit rap anchor if anywhere. Weird.

It was super hard deciding what to climb. We also really wanted to try From Afar but since the raps put us on the other side of the Cobra, we decided to go for Commandante.. Oh well, we'll go back again, as you did..
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 27, 2016 - 03:59am PT
What a great trip, and trip report. Thanks!

Love the summit register! 1951!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 27, 2016 - 03:17pm PT
Thought this place was made up! Thank you for proving it is actually real. :) Can't wait to make it out there braj. Together!
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
  Oct 27, 2016 - 03:19pm PT
What is this, like the gorge of deadened dreams! You fookers done well!
Escopeta

Trad climber
Idaho
  Oct 27, 2016 - 08:15pm PT
Thanks for the pics. I've heard so much about it but always stopped at the part about the posion oak......
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Oct 28, 2016 - 09:03am PT
We also really wanted to try From Afar but since the raps put us on the other side of the Cobra, we decided to go for Commandante.. Oh well, we'll go back again, as you did..


Shylock.... From Afar dosen't go to the summit. It stops about 40 feet down... looks really easy, almost a scramble to the top from where P2 ends. So if you do climb From Afar you have great anchors for a two rap decent. We got hit with a Big Thunder Storm and beat a hasty retreat... Our intention was to place a Rap anchor so you could go down on the south side and avoid the 1,000 feet down and 1,000 feet up hike.

Again... love the TR.... If you don't mind I can post up some more photos of this place, on your TR .... anybody looking for info will find this TR.


Esco.... your thinking about CRS.... The GoD is PO free.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 28, 2016 - 09:10am PT
Guyman, please post more photos. The benefit of this site is with sharing content and good stuff being on top. GOD is certainly great to look at!
shylock

Social climber
mb
Author's Reply  Oct 28, 2016 - 04:56pm PT
Post up Guy!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 29, 2016 - 04:05pm PT
Guy is a tease....come on, I stayed home this weekend, did not go climbing, so that I can see your photos sooner! :)
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Oct 29, 2016 - 04:16pm PT
too much granite!
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
  Oct 29, 2016 - 05:15pm PT
Great post TFPU
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Oct 29, 2016 - 11:01pm PT
hey there, say, ... shylock, ... wow, wonderful!!!

wow, thanks for sharing all this...

nice clear pics! great stuff...
thanks for sharing the whole report, :)

and, ps:
edit:

me, i had never heard of this gorge-name, here...
learn so much, here at the taco...

:)
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Oct 31, 2016 - 01:11pm PT
Great TR...nice summit register note!
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Oct 31, 2016 - 01:14pm PT
Guy is a tease....come on, I stayed home this weekend, did not go climbing, so that I can see your photos sooner! :)


Went climbing... sorry. Need to dig and scan some pics.... those things are slides, from BITD.
limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Nov 9, 2016 - 05:06pm PT
Bump to remind Guy that we want to see more of this fabled wonderland!
radair

Social climber
North Conway, NH
  Nov 28, 2016 - 05:21pm PT
Thanks for the TR. An amazing place that I will likely never see. The photos are appreciated.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Nov 29, 2016 - 08:26am PT
Bump for great climbing content. TFPU
BigB

Trad climber
Red Rock
  Nov 29, 2016 - 11:10am PT
guyman, pppplease add pics!!!!!!!!
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Nov 29, 2016 - 11:37am PT
Excellent!! Thanks for posting this up!

ps. slides. Would be very cool to see some posted up here Guyman. But they are a pain to convert.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Nov 29, 2016 - 01:02pm PT
Okay...

Here's one of Guy's pics, the East Face of the Silver Turret. I drew an overlay of Despairadoes. At the time I rated the harder pitches as: P2 and 3, 5.11+. P5, 5.12a. The rest are in the 5.8 - 5.10a range.

That's a bummer about the hornets. I've been hoping for some time that this route would get climbed again. It's a damn shame you guys got robbed.


Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Nov 29, 2016 - 07:57pm PT
Guy's down with the flu, so he asked me to post up some of his pics...







LuckyPink

climber
the last bivy
  Nov 29, 2016 - 08:25pm PT
nice trip! going to be part of my 2017. appreciate the post and contributions
Gary

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
  Nov 30, 2016 - 09:06am PT
TFPU! Great photos and report. That's what it's all about.
Slick W

Trad climber
lemon cove, ca
  Dec 29, 2016 - 02:04pm PT
Love this stuff! Good report, bro. Checked this place out for years, but never been there. Very cool.
EdBannister

Mountain climber
13,000 feet
  Jan 5, 2017 - 08:36am PT
thanks for posting..
Great report, loved the 51 summit!

KSolem's next guidebook?
chalkfree

Trad climber
Claremont, CA
  Jan 5, 2017 - 08:45am PT
Awesome! Would love to get to know GoD sometime.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Jan 5, 2017 - 08:51am PT
KSolem's next guidebook?

ED.... don't count on it. And really no need... it's sort of like the Valley in 1948. You see a summit, go pick out a line... your most likely doing a FA... unless you find some ancient tat, pin, hex along the way.

Before we went, Gary Vallie told us about a small rack they dropped... and where it landed, they couldn't go down and fetch it. It was right there... biners, pins and hexes, 18 years later!!!

I think that the place goes for years and years without new footprints.
Bascuela

Trad climber
Fresno, CA
  Oct 3, 2018 - 03:17pm PT
Bump.
Just because this place is amazing.
GusBenner

climber
Berkeley
  Dec 18, 2018 - 04:56pm PT
Enjoyed your pics of the GoD climbing. To fill out history, in Sept 1990, Les Wilson, his son Chris, and I descended the full Gorge to Tehepite Valley. Something like 17 rappels. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly what ropes we had, but a lot of pitons and a bolt kit (not used). The last rappel was a bit overhanging and longer than our rope capacity. Les rapped down to mid face, swung in, found a crack, put in 3 old iron angle pitons. From this hanging position our ropes reached the ground. We then pulled garbage bags and wet suits from our packs, donned the wet suits, put clothes in the bags in our packs, threw the packs in the middle fork, and jumped in. Took a day to float to the junction with the south fork, where a trail leads up to the road at Yucca Point. We had stashed a bike on the drive in, and cycled back to the car at Lewis Creek
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Dec 18, 2018 - 05:41pm PT
Gus that was so cool to meet you at the Berkeley Iron Works. Made my day.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Dec 18, 2018 - 06:03pm PT
Took a day to float to the junction with the south fork

What could go wrong? 🤡

Radness

limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Dec 18, 2018 - 09:08pm PT
Aaaaaaaaand awesomeness!

The trip report and Gus's long awaited story of the descent of the GOD, thanks for sharing that.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Dec 18, 2018 - 09:20pm PT
cool stuff!


My eyes still lingering on the Fang too long.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Dec 23, 2018 - 03:00pm PT
My friend Michelle Beatty took this Dec. 12th. I marked it up, although a lot of detail is lost.

EL Corporale Turret is on the east flank of the Gorge, catching the sun. Commandante Turret is barely visible behind it shaded. The other formations area all jammed together in the shade. The approach crosses the Monarch Divide at Mt. Harrington. The big drainage tucked up under the wing must be the Kaweah?


Oops. It turns out I'm totally, and I mean totally wrong. See post below.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
  Dec 23, 2018 - 11:44am PT
Wow!
Bascuela

Trad climber
Fresno, CA
  Dec 23, 2018 - 02:11pm PT
I apologize to do this but that photo is waaaasy off. Iím an airline pilot and have flown the arrival into Fresno plenty of times. What weíre looking at here under the inboard pylon is the intersection of south fork of the san joaquin and piute canyon (JMT entrance to Kings Canyon Park). From there ...whatís labeled as Yucca Point is the intersection of JMT and Evolution Valley. Whatís labeled South Fork of Kings River is actually Goddard Canyon. In fact frozen Martha Lake can be seen at the head of the Canyon. Whatís labeled as North Fork Kings River is Piute Canyon. Whatís labeled Harrington and El Corporale is Emerald Peak & Mt. McGee. Below the outboard pylon is the blackcap basin area.
Buddy of mine took this back last week.

Here we can definitely see the intersection of the middle fork and south fork the Kings. Tehipete Dome center left with gorge of despair directly across.

Anyhoo, sorry for the correction. Went up to Harrington in October out of Deer Cove TH. The whole monarch wilderness is such amazing place.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Dec 23, 2018 - 02:59pm PT
No apologies necessary, I got fooled. I've been into the Gorge several times and the lay of the land looked about right, but seeing your shot makes it clear.

Must be fun flying over that terrain.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Dec 23, 2018 - 03:21pm PT
Yeah, Kris, you had me thinking my amygdala had swapped places with my frontal lobe!
I knew it looked funny but I didnít wanna make myself look stoopider than usual.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Dec 23, 2018 - 04:41pm PT
Yeah, Kris, you had me thinking my amygdala had swapped places with my frontal lobe!

By the looks of it mine did that a while ago.

So here are a couple I'm sure of. I do my best work with both feet on the ground :-)

Yucca Point and the Monarch Divide


A view from closer in on the road

Inner City

Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Dec 30, 2018 - 07:01am PT
This thread just keeps on giving...Gus that descent of yours sounds unbelievable. I can't decide what seems more perilous, the unknown rappels or the river float to the confluence..hmm

More photos and stories please! I gotta get in there.
limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Jan 13, 2019 - 09:49pm PT
Love that last picture, Kris. If youíve been there in the last few years you probably noticed that the sign at the big turnout with the view of the monarch divide is totally off. Something like 9 things are mislabeled, you should send the forest service that picture so they can fix it :)
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Jan 14, 2019 - 10:47am PT
I saw that. No point in trying to hellp 'em out though. I'm sure they went far enough over budget doing it wrong in the first place that getting it done right is out of the question :-)
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