Trip Report
The Serpent's Tooth - FA of the Wild West Crack (IV 5.11+)
Friday October 30, 2015 11:13am
For a climber, finding the direct line from the bottom of the peak to a spire-like summit is equivalent to winning a lottery. Emilio Comici's most famous quote is, "I wish some day to make a route, and from the summit let fall a drop of water, and this is where my route will have gone." While fighting our way over the Hamilton Towers from Hamilton Lake, Brian and I were dreaming of awesome crack systems, but we did not expect to find an incredible crack system that led to a spire like pinnacle. Possibly unclimbed summit pinnacle!?

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A 800 foot spire with a splitter going straight to the base of a 40 fo...
A 800 foot spire with a splitter going straight to the base of a 40 foot summit pinnacle
Credit: Vitaliy M.

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Yes, there is a perfect KNEE JAM! (photo of me following the 2nd pitch, by Brian Prince)

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Me in a nice rest spot on pitch 3. Route is a crack climbing heaven!

WOAH. It is really difficult to describe what I felt after the initial excitement of seeing this crack system wore off. Although beautiful, it was VERY steep and intimidating. "We gotta try this thing before we leave," exclaimed Brian. "Hell yeah!" After looking at it for a few more seconds I added, "it looks burly though. Especially the bottom and the top. Two wide overhangs! Not sure if we will have the gear for it. But we can't leave this valley without trying!" For the next three days we focused our attention on everything else that we wanted to climb, saving the beast for last. Deep down, both of us knew we were gonna get our asses kicked by this thing, so we saved it for the last day.

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Brian snapping photos on the approach

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Brian, the Angel Wings and Cherubim Dome

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Back side of the Eagle Scout Creek Dome

A day for a 17 mile approach to Hamilton Lake, a first ascent on Cherubim Dome, a first ascent on the Rowell Tower, two long first ascents on the South Face of Hamilton Dome. Can we put up our fifth route in five days?! We ate our last food, grabbed a bar or two each and made the approach to the base of the forbidding spire. Usually when you get closer, rock climbs appear easier, not this one, it was still scary as f***!

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Brian on P2

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Steepness of the pitch. That's the tag line hanging in the air!

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Brian following the 3rd pitch. Great Rock!!

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Pitch 4 - Spliterzville continues!

After fourth classing for a bit, Brian and I roped up. Another heads up pitch with 5.10 face climbing got us to an exposed stance below the business. Brian solved a 5.11 boulder problem to get into the initial squeeze chimney. It evolved into a really cool pitch that I enjoyed on top rope. For Brian it was likely quite gripped due to the fact that our largest piece was a #5 Camalot that he left behind after 40 feet of climbing. Up ahead he climbed the flare which evolved into more excitement in form of face climbing. Some stemming and eventually it turned into a nice crack which accepted protection. We swung leads and I found the next pitch well protected, although I got a fair share of adrenaline. As I climbed up a steep corner, I was rewarded with a great jug. It was flexing, so I didn't want to hang out on it for long. Steep terrain requires a dynamic move to get into a solid hand jam up above, from which I was planning to place gear. As I gained momentum, the jug broke. To my surprise, prior to riding the Drop Zone, I had enough momentum to sink the jam and absorb the shock with my shoulder. After that, a tricky 5.10+ or 5.11- crux got me to another belay stance where I built an anchor. Brian led a great pitch of 5.11 jamming in the continuously challenging corner which I had to try very hard to get clean on the follow. What I saw when I got to the belay station, was what I was fearing for most of our trip to Eagle Scout Creek.

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Getting to the top of the 5th pitch

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Overhanging slot ...The V SLOT! How is it gonna be?!

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Steep and crazy! Check out the tag line to understand HOW steep it is.Me gettin into the V Slot :) This pitch was probably the technical and the wild factor crux. WILDER than the Harding slot! :)

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Get me the hell out of here, 2 hours later I decided to take a selfie!

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Brian getting through the overhanging flare

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AGGGGHHHHHH THE SUMMIT! Brian's face says it all :)

Above us, was a steep corner that culminates with an overhanging flare. A chimney reminiscent of the notorious Harding Slot guards the path to the summit. It was my turn to rise and shine. After the burly flaring hand and fist crack pumped me out to an absolute limit I was facing the overhanging slot. What happened next, will remain a mystery and only those who repeat the route will know if you are able to climb it as a squeeze, offwidth through an overhung flare, face climb or do all of the above. What matters more, is that it was the wildest pitch of my life. A pitch that drained me for two hours and spit me out to the base of the final obstacle - 40 feet of unprotected face climbing to the smooth summit pinnacle.

In the notch, I saw a part of an ancient rappell anchor that likely belonged to the members of the Rock Climbing Section of the Sierra Club. They claimed an ascent of these towers from the North, in 1953. As I started up the face, I expected the top to have an anchor as well, or some sort of a crack where I could make one. When I climbed up the smooth and unprotected 5.7-8 face climbing, the top was as featureless as the bottom. I sure as hell was not gonna down-climb back to the notch risking death, so I doubt anyone did climb the actual summit in 1953. I drilled a single bolt on top and belayed Brian, who found the pitch as wild as I did. We drank the last of our water and had no more food to enjoy. All that was left is taking in the views and getting a breather after getting utterly zonked out by the monster route we discovered. WOW. Than, we had to find a way down off the formation, hike over the col, pick up the camp, hike back over the pass and find the way down to Hamilton Lake. We had no food, but at least there was more water and we had enough daylight - glass half full!

Five grade IV First Ascents in five days and we were not done yet! :)

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Brian climbing up to the top

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Me on the summit (by Brian Prince)

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The Serpent's Tooth is the obvious steep face on the right. The big one on the left, we climbed and dubbed The Rowell Tower (report to come later). As seen from Eagle Scout Creek Dome.
For the most part, the quality of the rock and the climbing was great. If this formation was in the middle of Yosemite, crowds would fight for the right to go up first. Knowing that it is miles away from the trailhead, I would be fairly surprised to hear about the second ascent happening in the next few years. I would say it is a bit wilder and burlier than Astroman, but not as long. The exposed summit block and the direct line of the climb, of course is unmatched. The views of other spires, domes and high sierra peaks are priceless as well. A five star backcountry route!

  Trip Report Views: 4,706
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is an annoying gym climber from San Francisco.


Trad climber
  Oct 30, 2015 - 11:28am PT
Dude, more and more mind-blowinger by the day.

The Good Places
  Oct 30, 2015 - 11:34am PT
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Oct 30, 2015 - 11:42am PT
We're gonna to have to start calling you Beckey instead of Vitaliy.

Social climber
  Oct 30, 2015 - 11:43am PT
YaHOO!!! What a ride! Time to start thinking about tying all these TR's together into a bunch of short stories or something.

Stoked I didn't have to open up the "Ready for Donald" thread!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Oct 30, 2015 - 11:46am PT
Time to start thinking about tying all these TR's together into a bunch of short stories or something.

haha than I would not have any time for work..or climbing. And, THEY ARE short stories!
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
  Oct 30, 2015 - 12:44pm PT
Another great TR. You are putting together an impressive FA list!

  Oct 30, 2015 - 07:24pm PT
Whoa - that looks so bitchin', and look at all that rock. I'm impressed...great, great job man. AWESOME!!
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Oct 30, 2015 - 10:30pm PT
Another great TR Vitaliy, but dammit, hold some back to stimulate our imaginations over the winter.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 30, 2015 - 10:39pm PT
I sense an ebb in the stoke Force. I know you can do better!!!

;) :)
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 31, 2015 - 04:15am PT
We're not worthy!
Yet another incredible TR, thanks!
KP Ariza

  Oct 31, 2015 - 10:30am PT
Living a dream.
You guys are Rad, great job.

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
  Oct 31, 2015 - 10:42am PT
Another nice TR Mr. V. TFPU!

Ice climber
  Oct 31, 2015 - 12:04pm PT
Keep on crushing !!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 31, 2015 - 04:55pm PT
I told you already that I am growing tired of reading about all of your FAa!

Trad climber
  Oct 31, 2015 - 10:42pm PT
Incredible, I got a adrenaline boost just reading that!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Oct 31, 2015 - 11:29pm PT
I just have to laugh and shake my head at how many great TR's you're posting from this same area.
Thanks again.

Social climber
  Nov 1, 2015 - 05:45am PT
An AM "I love this area and this TR" bump. Someone has to pick up the TR slack since Pellucidwombat is on "vacation".

(Went into Hamilton lakes when I was 10 with my family (1967). Bearpaw meadow did not have a store and you had to backpack into it. Had our first "bear encounter" there. Went into Hamilton lakes the next day. There was a fire ban at the lakes (apparently there wasn't one earlier), so we brought Sterno cans to cook over.)

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Nov 1, 2015 - 05:57am PT

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Nov 1, 2015 - 08:09am PT
Vitality for Prez. you are my climbing inspiration.
Stewart Johnson

Gym climber
top lake
  Nov 1, 2015 - 08:13am PT

Social climber
  Nov 2, 2015 - 06:12am PT
you're tellin me a couple of newbs were the first to climb that thing!? shame on Nettle, Croft, etc. for letting this happen

Gym climber
  Nov 2, 2015 - 07:06am PT
Row row row your boat,

Life is but a dream.


Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Nov 2, 2015 - 08:19am PT
Dude! GO....AWAY!!!


The Granite State.
  Nov 2, 2015 - 08:25am PT
Someone should trundle that summit block on Eagle Scout Creek Dome.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
  Nov 2, 2015 - 09:18am PT
When I was a grab in' it all - like yowza! I had some girl fans try to write me down,
Just trying put a strange chink where there did not need to be one !
That orange pack ? Is its BD? ascentionist? Is it holding up
Trashy ?
Fast times fine sky
Wow yowza!

Trad climber
Menlo Park, CA
  Nov 2, 2015 - 10:37am PT

Trad climber
Auberry, CA
  Nov 2, 2015 - 11:46am PT
But, it's so pointy!

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Nov 2, 2015 - 02:01pm PT
All of the routes in that whole are look dumb. I'm glad I wasn't there.

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
  Nov 2, 2015 - 02:22pm PT
Getttin after it Vitally. Doing what the rest of us dream of doing, when we quit our jobs that is.

Keep em coming!


Trad climber
RV, middle of Nowehere
  Nov 2, 2015 - 04:45pm PT
What are your thoughts on making the route more user friendly?
Adding bolts to belays?

Or mid pitch cause people don't wanna bring big gear?

Where's Sloan when ya need him

Social climber
  Nov 2, 2015 - 10:11pm PT
Repeat within a few years?? I give it a solid 10

a seriously crazy route. we did astroman again shortly after and indeed, the harding slot is seriously child's play compared to the last pitch of this thing. not necessarily in terms of tightness or anything like that, but in terms of wildness, airiness, and abstract beta this thing is something else.


Social climber
Air B&B Town, USA
  Nov 3, 2015 - 01:03am PT
Vitaliy, I like how you shunned the helmet for the slot. Didn't want to get the coconut wedged......
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Nov 4, 2015 - 12:43pm PT
What are your thoughts on making the route more user friendly?
Adding bolts to belays? 

I am all for adding bolts to the belay stations! Even if you can built a natural anchor. I don't give a flying fk! If I ever go back I want it more convenient than it was!! Please add a bolt mid way up every pitch too, won't hurt :)

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Nov 7, 2015 - 06:07pm PT
The stuff dreams are made of. Who do you guys think you are crafting your own reality?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Nov 9, 2015 - 05:35pm PT
This was included in SuperTopo Climbing News Check it out here >>

Trad climber
  Nov 10, 2015 - 09:32am PT
my life sucks

Trad climber
  Dec 7, 2015 - 03:44pm PT
I agree with limpingcrab,,,that whole area looks so STUPID, I;m gona remind myself to never ever think of the possib;;;;;;;;;;;;;