Mount Clark Southeast Arete

Lee Vining, California

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This stunning fin is the high point of the Clark Range in Yosemite National Park. The sharp profile of this feature inspired its early name, the Obelisk. The peak is now named for early Yosemite custodian Galen Clark, a close friend of John Muir. He frequently accompanied Muir on his backcountry rambles. Clark came to Yosemite in 1855 in poor health and the doctors did not give him long to live. However, the move must have done the trick as Clark lived to be 96, finally passing away in 1910 in Yosemite Valley. Clarence King was obsessed with climbing the peak. “From every commanding eminence around the Yosemite, no distant object rises with more inspiring greatness than the Obelisk of Mt. Clark. From the north this peak is a slender needle, jutting 2,000 feet from a pedestal of rocks and snowfields.” King and his companion James Gardiner made an ill-fated attempt to climb Mt. Clark in late fall of 1864. An early winter storm swept in on their camp at the base of the peak, leaving the slopes covered with a foot and a half of snow. Two years later King and Gardiner returned, determined to make the ascent. “There was in our hope of scaling this peak,” he wrote, “something more than a mere desire to master a difficult peak. It was a station of great topographical value, the apex of many triangles, and, more than all, would command a grander view of the Merced region than any other summit.” The final steps to the summit were spectacularly exposed and involved an insecure leap onto a ledge. Of this exposed move, Gardiner wrote, “It was, I think, duty’s call that nerved us. That leap, like most dangers, seemed more perilous after it was made than before; it was not the length of the spring—that was easy—but to light in exact balance on a projecting rock that scarcely held half of one foot, while the remainder of the body hung over a precipice 1,500 feet deep, was a thing requiring most exact judgment.”

Mount Clark: Southeast Arete Professional Review and Guide

"This stunning fin is the high point of the Clark Range in Yosemite National Park. The sharp profile of this feature inspired its early name, the Obelisk. The peak is now named for early Yosemite custodian Galen Clark, a close friend of John Muir. He frequently accompanied Muir on his backcountry rambles. Clark came to Yosemite in 1855 in poor health and the doctors did not give him long to live. However, the move must have done the trick as Clark lived to be 96, finally passing away in 1910 in Yosemite Valley. Clarence King was obsessed with climbing the peak. “From every commanding eminence around the Yosemite, no distant object rises with more inspiring greatness than the Obelisk of Mt. Clark. From the north this peak is a slender needle, jutting 2,000 feet from a pedestal of rocks and snowfields.” King and his companion James Gardiner made an ill-fated attempt to climb Mt. Clark in late fall of 1864. An early winter storm swept in on their camp at the base of the peak, leaving the slopes covered with a foot and a half of snow. Two years later King and Gardiner returned, determined to make the ascent. “There was in our hope of scaling this peak,” he wrote, “something more than a mere desire to master a difficult peak. It was a station of great topographical value, the apex of many triangles, and, more than all, would command a grander view of the Merced region than any other summit.” The final steps to the summit were spectacularly exposed and involved an insecure leap onto a ledge. Of this exposed move, Gardiner wrote, “It was, I think, duty’s call that nerved us. That leap, like most dangers, seemed more perilous after it was made than before; it was not the length of the spring—that was easy—but to light in exact balance on a projecting rock that scarcely held half of one foot, while the remainder of the body hung over a precipice 1,500 feet deep, was a thing requiring most exact judgment.”"

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Lee Vining
Class: Class 4
Local Contacts: Yosemite National Park
Local Maps: USGS Merced Peak, Half Dome
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Clark: Southeast Arete

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May 2018