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A Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra (1954), edited by Hervey H. Voge


Route Descriptions

ROUTE DESCRIPTIONS in this Guide are mostly rather general and will require a considerable amount of route-finding ability from any climbers who follow them. In some, only the direction of approach is given, while in others, the entry merely constitutes a record that the peak has been climbed. For many climbs no more is needed, but in other descriptions, particularly for prominent peaks, ultimate further elaboration is desirable, and it is hoped that users will supply this.

Information has come from personal experience of the authors and their friends, from summit registers, from letters sent in to the Mountaineering Committee (formerly the Committee on Mountain Records), and from articles in the Sierra Club Bulletin and the Sierra Club Base Camps’ mimeographed books. This information is incomplete and it is certain that many ascents worthy of record are not included. A climbing party may thus ascend a peak for which no record is available and still find a cairn on the summit. An effort has been made to limit the term “first ascent” to those cases where climbers stated that no cairn was found, but even this may be in error as cairns can be destroyed by storms or may not have been erected in the first place. Sardine cans and other human artifacts constitute fairly good proof of previous ascents and have been found when no cairns were evident. The priority of ascent of a new route up a peak is even harder to certify, and it is quite possible that some injustices have been done.

Conventions followed in describing routes should be mentioned. The basic location of a route is given by compass direction from the summit, for example, north face, west ridge, etc. Actions of the climber are stated for him as though he were advancing (usually toward the summit) in the general direction of the route; thus he may be told to turn left or right. For added certainty the compass bearing of his new line of advance is sometimes given. For example, directions may call for a traverse to the left (N). Since route descriptions are not detailed, they should not be taken too literally. If the description says: “Follow the west ridge to the summit,” the climber should remember that the best route may actually involve a number of small deviations to one side or the other of the ridge, and that it is up to him to find these rather than to stick stubbornly to the ridge in difficult places. Actually on most routes a considerable number of variations will be possible, and many variations may be of about the same difficulty.

Times of ascent are given rather rarely. They should be considered as rough estimates, since the time for a given ascent will vary markedly, depending on the skill, speed, and condition of the party.

“Ducks” made up of two or three stones stacked vertically have been placed by various persons to mark routes on peaks and along knapsack routes. These are sometimes useful, but should usually be viewed with skepticism. Many ducks have little significance. Some may lead to poorer routes. The climber who encounters ducks does not usually know what the builder of the duck had in mind, and it is better for the climber to judge the situation himself than to follow blindly a series of ducks. Sometimes a duck‘ is built to mark the right (or the wrong) chute for descent from a ridge. It is the feeling of the editor that climbers who know their business will rarely need a duck to find the return route. If a duck is built for such a purpose it is usually best to destroy it on return. The building of ducks, except in a few exceptional places, should probably be discouraged.

Terms commonly used in the Guide have been roughly defined as follows:

Gully—the broadest and lowest angle of depression that grooves the mountainside.

Chute—steeper than a gully, and often subject to recurrent avalanches of rock or snow.

Couloir—a chute which has or is likely to have ice or snow.

Chimney—a steep, narrow chute with approximately parallel walls.

Crack—a narrow separation between rock faces varying from about one foot to two or three millimeters.

Face—a steep side of a mountain, which may vary from a slope of about 40° to a vertical cliff.

Slope—a side of a mountain gentler than a face.

Ridge—a high divide extending out from a peak.

Aręte—a narrow, steep ridge.

Summit—the highest point of a peak.

Pass—the lowest or most convenient point at which a long ridge can be crossed.

Col—a high, steep pass. A rounded col is often called a saddle.

Notch—about the same as col.

Next: Climb ClassificationContentsPrevious: Safety Precautions

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management