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Our Favorite Alpine Climbs in the High Sierra

The High Sierra, also called the “East Side,” is a gem of California. A jagged mountainous wonderland, it’s a favorite playground for alpinists, rock climbers, backcountry skiers, and hot spring enthusiasts.

Right now, it’s prime season for alpine climbing in the High Sierra! Alpenglow guide Tim Mincey has spent A TON of time in the region this spring and summer. Between guiding, exploring, and playing in these mountains, Tim has come to know the region intimately. We caught up with him for a quick interview and asked him what his favorite alpine climbs of the High Sierra are.

Favorite Single-day Adventure: Third Pillar of Dana, 11,500’ – Regular Route

Single-day adventure

Third Pillar of Dana, 11,500’ – Regular Route

How hard is it? “It goes at 5.10-. Early season might require crossing a little bit of snow.”

Where is it? “Just south of Hwy 120, outside of the eastern entrance to Yosemite.”

Describe the route: “A couple hours of approaching actually brings you to the top of the climb, where you scramble down to the base of the route: 5 pitches of excellent granite crack and face climbing, all 5.8-5.10.”

What makes it special? “The entire route hangs 5000’ above Mono Lake, and the position and views are just as spectacular as they get!”


Favorite Two-day Adventure: Bear Creek Spire, 13,720’ – North Arete & Northeast Ridge

Two-day Adventure

Bear Creek Spire, 13,720’ – North Arete & Northeast Ridge

How hard is it?  “The North Arete is rated 5.8, but there’s also the Northeast Ridge which is rated 5.5.”

Where is it? “At the very head of the Rock Creek drainage, between Mammoth and Bishop.”

Describe the route: “The North Arete starts with a few pitches of 5.7-5.8 climbing up the most prominent pillar on the mountain, and then joins with the Northeast Ridge route for a few hundred feet of stunning, exposed, 4th- and low-5th-class ridge climbing.”

What makes it special? “A high trailhead at 10,260’ offers easy access into the alpine with a gorgeous hike through Little Lakes Valley, and the ridge climbing to the tiny summit boulder is just so dramatic. Also, looking down on Chickenfoot Lake makes me smile every single time I’m up there!”

Favorite Three-day Adventure: Middle Palisade, 14,040’ – Northeast Face


Three-day Adventure?

Middle Palisade, 14,040’ – Northeast Face


How hard is it? The best line on Middle Pal is “just” a 3rd-class scramble – but it’s one of the steepest and most sustained 3rd-class routes you’ll ever do! Depending on conditions, there’s a good chance you’ll use an ice axe and crampons to approach the climb.”

Where is it? “On the Palisade crest above the South Fork of Big Pine Creek, which you access from the town of Big Pine.”

Describe the route: “A 4.5 mile approach with 3400’ of gain brings you up from the trailhead to camp at Finger Lake, and from there it’s another couple thousand feet of gain up the Middle Palisade Glacier to the base of the route. Once on route, it’s basically 1200’ of straight-up scrambling all the way to the summit!”

What makes it special? “First of all, I’m just psyched anytime I’m climbing anything in the Palisades – it’s one of the highest, most rugged parts of the Sierra. And then the entire time you’re approaching and looking up at the route, you’re thinking that there’s NO WAY that it’s only 3rd-class. Once you start climbing, though, you realize that the rock is surprisingly good and the terrain is just blocky and ledgy enough and you’re actually cruising up to 14,000’!”

Tim Mincey


For information on any of our other expeditions check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email We hope to climb with you soon!