Mount Clarence King South Face

Fresno, California

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Mt. Clarence King, Mt. Cotter, and Mt. Gardiner form the divide between Woods Creek and Bubbs Creek. All three peaks have difficult to reach summits. Norman Clyde wrote of Mt. King, “From a basin dotted with alpine tarns called Sixty Lakes Basin, rises a solitary mountain of the Matterhorn type, a beautiful pyramid from whatever angle it may be viewed and generally conceded to be one of the most difficult ascents of the Sierra.” Bolton Brown’s solo ascent of this difficult peak has been considered one of the hardest climbs of the time. Brown had tried the route the year before, but recalled, “it was all in vain; presently there loomed above me a vertical cliff 50 feet high and smooth as the side of a house. Only wings could go up there.” A year later he “began to hanker for another try at Mt. King.” This time he was able to surmount the final obstacle by lassoing the summit; then, standing in a makeshift sling, he hauled himself onto the top. Brown described the precarious perch the summit afforded. “If you fall off one side you will be killed in the vicinity; if you fall off any of the other sides, you’ll be pulverized in the remote nadir beneath.” After a glorious summer in the Sierra, Brown wrote in his journal, “That ended our mountaineering for the summer. The grass plumes held ripened seeds, and in the swamps, tiger lilies and columbine had given place to golden rod. And so we headed west with sincere regret, and many pledges to return. . . .”

Mount Clarence King: South Face Professional Review and Guide

"Mt. Clarence King, Mt. Cotter, and Mt. Gardiner form the divide between Woods Creek and Bubbs Creek. All three peaks have difficult to reach summits. Norman Clyde wrote of Mt. King, “From a basin dotted with alpine tarns called Sixty Lakes Basin, rises a solitary mountain of the Matterhorn type, a beautiful pyramid from whatever angle it may be viewed and generally conceded to be one of the most difficult ascents of the Sierra.” Bolton Brown’s solo ascent of this difficult peak has been considered one of the hardest climbs of the time. Brown had tried the route the year before, but recalled, “it was all in vain; presently there loomed above me a vertical cliff 50 feet high and smooth as the side of a house. Only wings could go up there.” A year later he “began to hanker for another try at Mt. King.” This time he was able to surmount the final obstacle by lassoing the summit; then, standing in a makeshift sling, he hauled himself onto the top. Brown described the precarious perch the summit afforded. “If you fall off one side you will be killed in the vicinity; if you fall off any of the other sides, you’ll be pulverized in the remote nadir beneath.” After a glorious summer in the Sierra, Brown wrote in his journal, “That ended our mountaineering for the summer. The grass plumes held ripened seeds, and in the swamps, tiger lilies and columbine had given place to golden rod. And so we headed west with sincere regret, and many pledges to return. . . .”"

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Fresno
Class: Class 5 - 5.5
Local Contacts: Kings Canyon National Park
Local Maps: USGS Mt. Clarence King, Kearsarge Peak
Grade: Grade II
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Clarence King: South Face

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May 2018