South East Arete
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BETA PHOTO: Looking up the 3rd-4th class gully beneath Squaret...
While not the first route to the summit, this pioneering route has become the trade route for summiting Squaretop. The final pitch up the southeast arete starts is airy and beautiful. While the Ingraham Guide
calls this final pitch "High 4th," I felt that a low 5th class rating was more appropriate. The first few moves to establish onto the arete are exposed and difficult to reverse. The preceding "pitches" are 4th class or less but are exciting as well, with some steep and serious 3rd and 4th class rock scrambling.
The start of the route is at the base of the main Squaretop gully, which leads down from the summit to the west. The gully begins with a 200 ft 3rd class slab, with easiest passages on either the far-right or left sides. This beginning slab is a good barometer for how well you'll handle the rest of the route. If you find this initial slab sketchy and insecure, than you're in for much more of the same, and you can consider bailing here before you get into more fun higher up.
Above the initial slab is a bush-whack slog. Some beta says to look for "deer trails", good luck with that. Keep slogging up the gully until near the top it divides into 3 distinct gullies. Choose the middle one, from which the summit cog is still barely visible.
The next 500ft or so ascend the steep rocky gully, via 3rd-4th class scrambling. It's a beautiful ascent. Near the top is a final steep headwall (do not mistakenly veer left underneath a giant boulder in a gap on the ridge). This is the first place you may pause and realize a fall would result in a 300 ft tumble down the chute.
The top of the gully places you on a shrubby ledge under the west side of the immensely steep Squaretop cog. (A small spire just north of the cog , called the S-1 spur, can also be climbed.) Continue up the brushy ledge around to the SW side of the Cog and up a 3rd class open-book and pass underneath a giant boulder to gain the small saddle beneath and the start of the SE Arete.
The final pitch (5.3) starts at the saddle, with the crux move simply establishing on the arete. A tricky and exposed move is required to pass a small overhang on the right and bump up onto the arete. Follow good cracks the rest of the way to the summit.
Approach this route via the Modoc Mine rd and the approach trail leading up to The Tooth
. Before you reach the huge boulders underneath the Tooth, veer off right to the south and traverse two gullies to reach the start of the Squaretop Gully. This gully is easily recognized by a slabby "headwall" which guards the entrance to the gully.
Unless you are keen on down climbing steep 4th and 5th class over 100+ fall potential, bring a rope for rappelling ( a single 60m is enough). You will also want to bring plenty of webbing (I used over 25ft) to replace rappel anchors as the existing stuff is probably going to be old and frayed. As for protection needed, a set of wires, some runners and a few cams in the 1-2" range will be all you could possibly need. the crux move on the final pitch has an old piton, but is better off protected by your 1-2" cam.
Most rappels are off of boulders or rock horns. the rappel at the top of the 4th class gully is an old piton and ancient looking hex anchor.
BETA PHOTO: John Bregar rappelling from the summit. A single 6...
John Bregar on the last pitch up to the summit.
BETA PHOTO: John Bregar underneath the S-1 Spur.
By Robert Cort
Jul 9, 2011
As of 7/8/2011, the piton protecting the opening move is no longer there. Not to worry, as previously mentioned the move protects well with a medium to small cam, or well placed nut.