West Pillar 5.9

  • Currently 3.0/5

Eichorn's Pinnacle

Tuolumne Meadows, California USA

Trip Report
West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle - Regular and Direct Variations (Photo TR)
Wednesday July 18, 2012 6:48pm
If you want a report with pictures, visit my website, since SuperTopo has deprecated displaying photos from off-site.
Regular Variation
Direct Variation

The obvious line up the West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle.
The obvious line up the West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle.
Credit: PellucidWombat

This year I had the had the fun of climbing the West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle twice. Between both visits I climbed both variations (Regular & Direct), including both P5 variations (5.8 rib wrestling and 5.9 OW/flare/stem). The following are two mini photo trip reports of each variation.

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Eichorn Pinnacle - Topo of West Pillar routes

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Eichorn Pinnacle - Topo of Top

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Cathedral Pk & Eichorn Pinnacle summits area

West Pillar (Regular Variation) (III, 5.9, 5P)
January 14, 2012

Hubert Koepfer and I took advantage of the last day that the High Sierra was likely to be open for rock climbing this winter season by climbing Eichorn Pinnacle car-to-car. We did the classic West Pillar route, which had some nice burly wide climbing. One of the more memorable parts of the climb was hearing the lakes in the valley below as they emitted moans & rumbles from cracking and shifting ice! Some noises sounded like whale calls echoing over the alpine valleys.

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Eichorn Pinnacle seen near Cathedral Lakes.

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Eichorn Pinnacle seen on the x-country approach from the trail. The West Pillar is bulging to the right.

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The West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle (5.9, 5P). Just follow the wide crack! The easier original variation goes to the right of the prow. The slightly better direct variation (5.10b) goes to the left.

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The West Pillar of Eichorn Pinnacle (5.9, 5P). The easier original variation goes to the right of the prow (5.9) up a flare and crack behind a large detached flake. The slightly better direct variation (5.10b) goes to the left.

Being January and all, it was pretty cold in the shade. Since I suffer a bit from Reynaud's Syndrome in my hands, it was painful to start climbing! Fortunately I got to the wide sections quickly, which are much more manageable in the cold. After some strenuous chickenwinging and leg camming in the OW I emerged into warm sunshine.

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Hubert following P1, climbing around the wide crux (cheater :-)

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Looking up the prow from the 5.4 slab traverse & downclimb. The objective of P2 is to climb the steep 5.9 flare on the right.

Oddly the SuperTopo lists the P2 5.9 crux to be the flaring corner. I found this part to be pretty solid and fun and felt like the real crux of the pitch was an awkward climb out and to the left of a little roof encountered after the 5.4 traverse.

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The 5.9 flare. Really not too hard (more like 5.8) and pretty fun. The angle of the cracks seemed best climbed with hand jams by crossing my arms just short of the wrists in sort of a 'crucifix jam'.

I chose to continue straight up the harder 5.8 corner variation instead of stepping right for the easier variation. The corner was great, with solid rock and made the pitch a lot better. If you are doing the regular variation, take this 5.8 corner!

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Hubert at the P2 belay.

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Chill 5.7 terrain. Sustained at the grade and really fun. Steep, mostly well protected, and there are many ways to go. Just take the line that looks like the most fun!

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P4 approaching the summit.

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P5 5.8 'rib wrestling'. I didn't understand this statement in the topo but it becomes self-explanatory once you do it. This section was harder and scarier than it looked. Yikes!

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P5 5.8 'rib wrestling', looking down after the match.

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P5 almost to the summit, joining the regular route.

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Cathedral Pk summits seen from Eichorn Pinnacle in the fading glow of sunset.

Due to the short day and some relaxing in the sun lower down, we topped out right after sunset. It was nice having the climb and summit area to ourselves! We rappelled in the dark and spent the next hour downclimbing snow covered slabs in our climbing shoes to retrieve our shoes left at the base. A storm was forecast for the next day, so we went to the Valley to climb Flatus on Sunday. This climb was perfectly timed as the Sunday storm was the winter storm that finally closed Tioga pass for the season.

West Pillar (Direct Variation) (III, 5.10b, 5P)
July 14, 2012

Stefan Suter and I climbed the W Pillar Direct (III, 5.10b, 5P) car-to-car. I led P2 (5.8) & P3 (5.10b) and Stefan led the rest (P1@5.9, P4@ cl.4-5, P5@5.9). This time we took the P5 5.9 OW finish, which climbed a cool flare behind a detached flake. I followed both the 5.9 offwidths on P1 & P5 without dropping my pack on a leash to keep it sporty. Great climb!

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Stefan leading P1 (5.9). He is at the 5.8 OW.

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Stefan leading P1 (5.9). He is at the 5.8 OW.

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Stefan leading P1 (5.9). He is at the 5.9 OW crux. This can also be stemmed.

It was interesting to follow P1 this time instead of leading it, as I could experiment more with less trepidation of falling. I found both the 5.8 and 5.9 OW to be much easier, so much that I left my pack on (I trailed it when I led it in January). The 5.8 crux can be stemmed and face climbed on the right just fine, and the 5.9 crux can be nicely stemmed while staying deep enough in to place or clean pro. The only OW moves I did this time were camming my legs in the crack as I moved over the top. If you climb the 5.9 as an OW, left-side in tends to be better. If stemming, right side in is better due to the lean and better holds on the left face.

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Stefan atop P1. The strange double cracks of P2 are above.

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Strange double or triple cracks of P2 (5.8)

Pitch 2 was really fun, and the multitude of cracks got me switching around to follow the best line. I stopped about 30 ft short of the piton belay indicated in SuperTopo as I heard that it was better to do so since the 5.10b crux is essentially right on top of that belay. I made a semi-hanging anchor on a sloping ledge.

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Upper part of P2. Stop at a sloping ledge for a semi-hanging belay short of the high corner. The highest corner, indicated in ST as the belay, is nicer to belay but the crux of P3 is then right on top of the belay.

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Leading up P3, looking at the 5.10b crux section.

This is the view from the lower anchor. The bit above is a lot thinner and harder than lower down, and would be the crux of the pitch if you go all the way to the SuperTopo belay. I'd call it 5.8+ or even 5.9-.

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P3 5.10b lieback crux section.

I found the crux surprisingly scary. It is so close to the belay ledge that it is hard not to accidentally step on the anchor piton. I'm not much of an 'arms' guy, so I suck at liebacks and this one really worked me.

I placed a #2 Metolius cam to start, and another body length up I slammed in an awkward and strenuous fist jam and threw in a #3 Camalot. The flare behind the block made the cam set funky with the top lobes being a bit too wide, but it was strenuous enough to hang where I was that I decided to race up to what looked like a good rest spot and place another piece instead of fiddling with this one.

I climbed up a ways only to find no good rest! Now it felt like I might risk falling if I hung out to place gear, but there appeared to be a good rest/gear placing stance a bit higher.

I climbed up further only to find no good rest! Crap - now I'm high enough that I would deck even if the #3 Camalot held. I was getting concerned but decided at this point to still climb a bit higher and finally sunk a bomber hand jam with a good stem. I threw in a 'thank god' cam and stepped right to finish the pitch. Whew!

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P4 (cl. 4-5). First half is cl. 2-3 & very easy.

This time I think we found the easiest way to climb P4. Done this way, it follows the crest more closely and is cl. 4 (or a generous cl. 5). Just traverse the high blocks (cl. 3-4), aiming for the small tower split with vertical cracks. Place a piece in the cracks and step right, and make a few cl. 4 mantels to the top. From there it is cl. 3 to a nice belay on a sloping ledge in the corner below the next pitch.

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Add annotated picture of P4&5
Stefan on P4 (cl. 5). You can clearly see the detached flake forming the 5.9 OW variation to the left.

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Stefan leading the beginning of P5.

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Stefan on P5 starting into the 5.9 OW-flare behind the detached flake. The 5.8 'rib wrestling' variation continues left of the flake just below him.

Whether you climb it with stemming or staying inside the flare, the crack seems best approached left-side in.

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Stefan leading the P5 5.9 OW-flare variation.

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Following the P5 5.9 OW-flare variation, which goes behind the detached flake above. This section was short but very cool!

I found that if you avoided stemming and attempted this section facing in, it was pretty reasonable to climb with a pack. Sink a deep fist jam, press with the other hand, throw in a leg, and heel-toe with the outside foot to adjust the ratchet and up you go!

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The upper section of P5. Exposed but very easy.

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Stefan rappelling off Eichorn Pinnacle.

On the first climb we downclimbed to the start of the route to get our shoes. Perhaps doing this in climbing shoes on snow covered slabs in the dark had something to do with it, but this option sucked. On the second climb we took the Cathedral Peak climber's trail descent and this was a much nicer way to go.

For leading either variation nothing smaller than a 0.3 Camalot or #1 Metolius is needed (#1 or #2 C3s can be helpful on the P1 crux). Also, doubles through #3 Camalot should allow one to climb comfortably. A #4 Camalot could be placed on P1 but is very optional. The P5 OW variation is protected just fine with #2 & #3 Camalots, though a #4 could optionally be placed too.

Personal Website - Eichorn Pinnacle, West Pillar
Personal Website - Eichorn Pinnacle, West Pillar, Direct

  Trip Report Views: 8,067
About the Author
PellucidWombat is a mountain climber from Berkeley, CA.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 19, 2012 - 09:09am PT
Beautiful pics, what kind of camera are you shooting with?

Trad climber
  Jul 19, 2012 - 11:50am PT
Nice TR and a beautiful line.
Chris Brent

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Jul 19, 2012 - 12:29pm PT
Amazing TR! Great beta, make me want to try either route.

from SoCal
  Jul 19, 2012 - 01:36pm PT
Nice TR, great photos make me feel like I am there.

Mountain climber
Draperderr, by Bangerter, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 19, 2012 - 02:02pm PT
Hey Ezra,

The camera I've been using is a Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS. One thing I like about it is that the LCD screen has continued to work fine after cracking it, which is definitely an important feature to consider for a climbing camera. LCDs will become cracked, and ones that black out from that are then useless!


Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 19, 2012 - 02:07pm PT
I don't think there's a bad route on the whole pinnacle. Even the original route is worth the approach all by itself. Thanks for the TR, information, text and pictures. Everything about this was first-rate.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Jul 19, 2012 - 05:19pm PT
Superb TR especially your images and graphics. Thanks! Hurrah too and let's not forget old Jules Eichorn.

Jim Herrington's photo of Jules near the very end of his life. Bay Area Peninsula. His last wife is in the background.

(Jim Herrington Photography)

Mountain climber
Draperderr, by Bangerter, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 19, 2012 - 05:02pm PT
Thanks for the props, Peter! Also thanks for sharing the photo - I don't think I've ever actually seen a picture of Eichorn.

John - I had imagined doing the N Face route much earlier in my trad climbing progress. It sure looks like a fun little side trip! At this point I'm thinking it might be a nice way to end a Cathedral Traverse, maybe next summer :-D

Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Jul 19, 2012 - 05:04pm PT
I need to climb that!

ooh I'm jonesing bad for some beautiful high sierra granite.

Thanks for the frustration :)

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Aug 17, 2012 - 04:32pm PT
Bump for under-appreciated awesomeness!!
looks easy from here

Santa Cruzish
  Aug 17, 2012 - 05:26pm PT
Fantastic TR!

I'm especially appreciative of the pics where you added the routes and details.

My need-to-climb list is getting really long...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Aug 17, 2012 - 07:45pm PT
Fantastic TR!

Thanks for taking the considerable time needed to put your adventure in this sort of form.

Makes me want to drive right down there and do it, as a quality TR should!

Another Glen Dawson adventure on the FA of the pinnacle named after his partner, Jules Eichorn.

There is a short movie of the FA hiding somewhere.

Trad climber
  Aug 18, 2012 - 03:53am PT
Just sayin...if Mark were to make his own topos/guide book, it'd make Supertopo look like the Reid guide :P

Also, agreed the 5.8/9 OW on the first legit pitch was not that bad, but definitely found the climbing to the right of the "rib wrestling" to be, umm, awkward.

Advice to similarly minded climbers...It's super worth it NOT to go climb Eichorn's Pinnacle via the 5.4 route after doing Cathedral. Save that summit for when you can ascend the West Pillar route (either variation). It felt a lot more rewarding.

I heart the Cathedral range.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Aug 18, 2012 - 10:13am PT

great write ups, superb beta, I dig your annotated topos!


Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Aug 25, 2012 - 11:47am PT
Fantastic documentation!! I confess these OW pictures might've scared me away from this route. Luckily I already climbed it, twice. This route is total fun and the summit is the most photogenic spot on earth! Draw straws to see who raps off first and hikes up the side of Cathedral to take this photo (attached). Thanks to Dan R. for capturing this pic of our summit moment.
Bill Mc Kirgan

Trad climber
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  Nov 17, 2013 - 08:50am PT
The ST home page featured a picture of Eichorn Pinnacle so I was inspired to do a little TR searching and found this gem.

The photography and writing is excellent, and the route overlays put this trip report over the top in it's class (please forgive the Consumer Reports lingo).

Just saying I really appreciate the effort you went to putting this together. Thanks!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 4, 2016 - 01:00pm PT
Bump for great photos and climbing content.
Tom Patterson

Trad climber
  Jun 5, 2016 - 05:43am PT
Man...no one documents a route like you do. Great shots and illustrations. Thanks for bringing us along!

Social climber
  Jun 5, 2016 - 10:05am PT
^^^^A I agree with Tom here BUMP. This is another wombat classic TR.
Eichorn's Pinnacle - West Pillar 5.9 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
West Pillar as seen from the base.
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on Eichorn's Pinnacle
Eichorn's Pinnacle - North Face 5.4 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click for details.
North Face, 5.4
Eichorn's Pinnacle
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The unreal summit of Eichorn Pinnacle.