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Temple Crag
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Dark Star T 
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Venusian Blind T 

Sun Ribbon Arete 

YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 22 pitches, 2000', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10a French: 6a Ewbanks: 18 UIAA: VI+ ZA: 18 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: Don Jensen & John Fischer - Sept 1969
Season: Summer
Page Views: 21,985
Submitted By: ttriche on Apr 3, 2006

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Scott Bushman on the classic Tyrolean traverse.


This is a classic long-day alpine route on good rock with some unique features, not least of which is a Tyrolean traverse. Most people start from an obvious crack in a left-facing dihedral (as seen in Mike Morley's picture here near a big grey scar, some distance (300'? 500'?) from the base of the snowfield and the start of Dark Star. The main drawback is the descent through Contact Pass, though you could bypass that by traversing to Gayley and Sill...

This route has many variations and it's wise to take a topo unless you've climbed a lot on Temple. A good topo can be found in Croft's book or the High Sierra Supertopo book (the latter has some errors). However, Bruce Bindner (R.I.P.) posted a better topo right here; it's the best I've seen and you will appreciate it once on the route.

The rock on the route is overall pretty solid, but there are plenty of loose blocks that could kill you if you got careless. It would be a good idea to start early (regardless of whether you plan the ascent car-to-car or from a camp site) because Temple is plenty exposed to electrical storms. When Scott and I climbed the route, a storm blew in after we had passed the crux, my hair stood up, and the rope started making crackling noises... luckily for us the storm changed directions and did not get any nastier. Check the weather beforehand!


The first pitch of the route can be seen in Mike Morley's picture among the 'Beta photos'. It is near a large grey scar and a says uphill from the toe of the Dark Star buttress. It's a good idea to start early and go fast, because the descent requires some attention; Contact Pass is unpleasant no matter how you approach it. A single-rope rappel from the rightmost rappel station should plop you down onto the scree, and from there it's mostly slogging back to the snowfield and your campsite (or the trail and your car).

If you're camping, a good idea is to pitch your tent at Second Lake, and then walk over in the afternoon to kick steps in the soft snow leading up to the base of the route. In the morning the steps will have hardened. Going car-to-car, a set of lightweight aluminum crampons will be helpful in early season.


Alpine rack -- some nuts, a few cams, many slings.

Photos of Sun Ribbon Arete Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: View from high on Sun Ribbon Arete.
View from high on Sun Ribbon Arete.
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit of Temple at dusk. Whipping winds, bright s...
Summit of Temple at dusk. Whipping winds, bright s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Topo of Sun Ribbon Arete, showing a few of the com...
BETA PHOTO: Topo of Sun Ribbon Arete, showing a few of the com...
Rock Climbing Photo: Adam waits at the bottom of the climb for Sun-Ribb...
Adam waits at the bottom of the climb for Sun-Ribb...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ready! Poised to huck for the granite spike that m...
Ready! Poised to huck for the granite spike that m...
Rock Climbing Photo: Heave! for the Tyrolean. A flying octo-cluster is ...
Heave! for the Tyrolean. A flying octo-cluster is ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tyson harnessing his inner-Stallone on the Tyrolea...
Tyson harnessing his inner-Stallone on the Tyrolea...
Rock Climbing Photo: Miss! Try as we might with wrist finesse, this sce...
Miss! Try as we might with wrist finesse, this sce...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at the snow field below SRA. Decided to...
Looking up at the snow field below SRA. Decided to...
Rock Climbing Photo: Sun Ribbon Arete, summer '08.
Sun Ribbon Arete, summer '08.
Rock Climbing Photo: Having fun on Sun Ribbon Arete
Having fun on Sun Ribbon Arete
Rock Climbing Photo: Jon throwing down on Sunribbon!!!
Jon throwing down on Sunribbon!!!
Rock Climbing Photo: My good friend keith on SRA
My good friend keith on SRA
Rock Climbing Photo: SRA from Moon Goddess
SRA from Moon Goddess
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave on the knife-edge
Dave on the knife-edge
Rock Climbing Photo: Jake having way to much fun on crux pitch!
Jake having way to much fun on crux pitch!
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up the dihedral and crack system at the be...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up the dihedral and crack system at the be...
Rock Climbing Photo: My good friend keith enjoying the begining pitches...
My good friend keith enjoying the begining pitches...
Rock Climbing Photo: This is Temple Crag and the blue line is Sun Ribbo...
BETA PHOTO: This is Temple Crag and the blue line is Sun Ribbo...
Rock Climbing Photo: My good friend keith high on SRA.
My good friend keith high on SRA.
Rock Climbing Photo: SRA from Moon Goddess I
BETA PHOTO: SRA from Moon Goddess I
Rock Climbing Photo: Great views high in the arete
Great views high in the arete
Rock Climbing Photo: SRA from Moon Goddess II
BETA PHOTO: SRA from Moon Goddess II
Rock Climbing Photo: Couldn't stop laughing.
Couldn't stop laughing.

Show All 24 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Sun Ribbon Arete Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 3, 2015
By kenr
Aug 18, 2015
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

As of August 2015, there's not much snow remaining in the gully by the bottom. So there's lots of loose rock and sand to cross before reaching the continuous rock at the start of the first pitch. And the rock (since it's anchored only by sand) does tumble down. Think about not being under other parties.

Nice thing is that we didn't need an ice axe or crampons. We started for a ways on the left side of the snowfield (which had not re-frozen during the night). One of us used a thin sharp rock as a dagger. Then onto the sand/rock and traversed across the top of the snowfield. Then more loose rock and sand before finally reaching Pitch 1. After that it was great.

On my hike up to camp the previous afternoon, I met another party who had retreated off Venusian in the afternoon, said lots of rock was falling down the gully, they thought from melting snow above.
By 426
Mar 6, 2007

We always camp as close to the base as possible, it is a bit of a hike from 2nd (and even 3rd) Lake.

Water is usually not an issue with glacial melt. You can often crawl behind the glacier to approach this route on loose/sandy rock. This obliviates the need for axes/crampons.

Contact Pass can get messy quick, after you dropped down from the buttress proper (scary 4th or a rappel) I recommend that you "stay high and right"--don't get drawn into the large talus.

Alternately, if there is enough snow you can glissade large portions of Contact nearer to the buttress.
By M.Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Jun 13, 2007

Fantastic route!

We camped at Third Lake and that worked well for us, but Second Lake also works. From Third Lake, it is a mere 45-minute hike up a talus slope to the base of the steep snowfield. Getting up the snowfield might be the crux of the route, depending on the conditions. With only approach shoes (no crampons or boots) and one ice axe each, we were able to kick/chop steps, but it cost us over an hour to reach the rope-up ledge. From there, you can toss your axe and hope it reaches the base of the snowfield to retrieve on your descent.

The route: after ascending the snowfield for a few hundred feet, gain a rock band and scramble up to a large ledge. Walk to the far right edge of the ledge and rope up at the base of a left-facing corner system. Ascend this (5.6). The next 2-3 pitches are 3rd/easy 4th class scrambling. Another 3 full pitches brings you to the top of the Second Gendarme, where you will need to set up a tyrolean traverse to cross! This is the most fun and memorable part of the route. Toss a loop of rope across the gap, aiming for a horn of rock about 20' on the other side. Once you have successfully looped it, secure both ends of the rope on your side, and tyrolean across the gap. Re-rig for the second to retrieve your rope. From here, more scrambling and a couple of short rappels brings you to the route's crux - a steep 5.9 hand and fist crack on the left side of the arete. Climb this, then traverse right at a slung block (crux). This section is rated 5.10a in the Croft guidebook. Continue up crack system to easier ground. Several more easy pitches (mostly 5.5ish) from here along the sometimes knife-edge ridge lead to 4th class and eventually 3rd class to the summit.

Descent involves one single-rope rap to Contact Pass.
By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Jul 24, 2007

After Bruce posted his topo, I could hardly be excused for failing to update the route description, and so I've revised it to include all of the detailed information everyone here has contributed.

It's a great route and I certainly enjoyed it (although the electrical storm that paid us a visit scared the shit out of me).
By Sirius
From: Oakland, CA
Sep 23, 2008
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Hard-pressed to think of a route I've enjoyed more. Absolutely stellar.

One tip: bring about 5 or 6 feet of untied webbing if you plan to do the left (5.9 crack to face traverse) version of the crux. You'll be glad you did when you find the tied sling currently in place.

Know also that there are many errors in the ST topo - Croft is a much better source for this climb.

We simuled every pitch except the crux, and still did the descent in the dark. This is a (gloriously) long route.

426's advice to stay high and right in Contact is gold, and crucial, especially if you descend in the dark.
By M.Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Jan 30, 2009

FA: Don Jensen & John Fischer - Sept 1969
By Bruce Bindner
May 4, 2009

Topo added. Hope it helps. Feedback appreciated.

By caughtinside
From: Oakland CA
Jul 20, 2009

Fun route, very long, should keep you going for a while! I know it's the Sierra, but this one just had too much loose rock for me to give it 4 stars. Having done Venusian with the same partner the previous summer, we both agreed that Venusian is a much more solid route. Much more tick tacking around the loose crap on Sun Ribbon.
By Cory
From: Boise, ID
Jun 28, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

So much fun! The coolest climb I've ever done! From the start of pitch one to the summit took about 8.5 hours. We were able to simulclimb almost all of the route, I think we only pitched out 4 of the 20 pitches (pitch 1, pitch between tyrolean and crux, crux, and one other).

We mostly followed the topo on this site, which is very good. Passing the third gendarme we went to the right, and found the 5.7 traverse moves to be somewhat tricky (my partner thought it was more difficult than the 5.10a "crux" on the following pitch).

For the crux pitch, the supertopo shows two options, both of which are supposed to go at 5.10a. The option to the left (which is what the topo on this page shows) follows a crack on the left side of the arete to a 5.10a exit move, and the option on the right has a 5.10a face traverse protected by two pitons to a 5.9 crack. Both looked fun. We chose the option on the right and found the climbing very fun and exposed, if a bit soft for 5.10a. The traverse is a little thin, but it's only one or two moves and then you gain the excellent crack. If I ever repeat this climb I think I'll try the other option. After the end of the 5.9 crack I ran the 60m rope all the way to to the end up steep fun climbing on positive holds. That was an awesome pitch!

Unfortunately I didn't get to experience the "unpleasant" scree of Contact Pass that I've heard so much about, since we were able to glissade almost all of it! What a great way to cap off an excellent day!
By Mike Flanagan
From: Redlands, CA
Jul 19, 2011

So much longer than expected. The topo had us thinking that we would be mostly done after the 30' rappel into the notch, but this was definitely not the case, as there was quite a bit of climbing left. After the notch rappel I headed right and climbed a pretty sketchy pitch of bad rock that seemed more difficult than the 5.4 I expected..I was down and right of the " 3" crack" described in the topo. After that we climbed back up to the arete proper and stayed on it almost to its end, where we downclimbed a bit and then scrambled mostly 4th class to the top.
By fossana
From: Sin City & Bishop
Jul 25, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

We brought a 30m and roped up only for the crux section; this will get you to the 5.6 terrain. I suck at 3.5" cracks but was fine leading with only a 3" cam. All of the towers are downclimbable at 5.7 or less. Em and Bruce's topo was extremely helpful.
By Kodye
From: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Jul 27, 2011

I just climbed Sun Ribbon a couple of days ago. We simul-climbed all the way to the Tyrollean traverse. The Tyrollean went pretty quickly. Then we did a mixture of pitching and simul-climbing. It gets a little loose the higher you go but definitely manageable. The route finding wasn't a big issue, it is a ridge climb so no matter which specific line you take gets you to the same place at roughly the same difficulty. We brought 8 shoulder length slings, a set of BD Camelots one each to a #3, one set of stoppers, and eight quickdraws. The gear we brought seemed to do the trick just fine. As for the descent, once we rapped down into contact pass there was still enough snow pack that you can glissade for most of the descent. It was a great climb but I do regret not bringing bug spray (I hike up here all the time and I knew better but I would rather forget the bug spray than my harness)!
By Justin Tomlinson
From: Monrovia, CA
Jan 28, 2012

An historical perspective, this route was rated IV, 5.8 in Steve Roper's "Climber's Guide to the High Sierra" in 1976.

He writes, "This is an exposed, committing, and difficult route." Of the crux he writes, "Enter the obvious, left-facing crack above either directly from its base (5.9) or via a delicate traverse (5.8) from the left. Steep and difficult climbing leads upward...."
By Nick_Cov
From: Truckee, CA
Oct 20, 2012
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

Don't skip the tyrolean, tons of fun. Definitely top out and try to get to the rap before dark. My headlamp broke in my pack so descending at night was terrible. We only brought 1 #3 but were wishing we had another for the 5.9 section on the crux pitch. Route finding is straightforward, look for cairns for the descent.
By ACassebeer
From: Mojave, CA
Jun 30, 2014
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Approach: avoid the snow and scramble up the broken ledges on the right hand side. I don't know why anyone would risk going up that snowfield with the other option available.

I highly recommend using a 30m rope. The 30m will keep the drag low, get you through the crux pitch, set you up for an easy belay, and allow you to rap to a nice ledge on the descent with 20' of 5.0 downclimbing to Contact Pass. A rope any longer will just give you more trouble than it's worth.
By Connor Newman
From: Denver, CO.
Aug 4, 2014

This is a great climb, gets a bit wandery at the top but still excellent. Most of the climbing is less than 5.5 it seemed like, so my partner and I found it nice to just place gear sparingly on most pitches (4-5 pieces per pitch keeps rope drag low) and stretch the rope. Doing it this way we did 10 pitches, plus simul-climbing both at the bottom and top. This seemed way easier and faster than doing it in the 20-22 pitches listed on most topos.
By kenr
Aug 20, 2015
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

A typical climber's descent from the summit (or its SE or E side where Sun Ribbon + Venusian reach) is ESE down talus 1200 vertical feet to Contact Pass (perhaps only 700-900 feet if skip going to the summit), then N and NNW down more talus (with some scree and sand) toward Third Lake or Second Lake. The steepest section has a rappel not more than 26 meters just above Contact Pass. We had a 50 meter rope, so I did not have to try the other options ...

I've heard that as a climb the difficulty of this rappel line is around 5.6. I've heard of people doing the rappel with a rope less than 50 meters and down-climbing the lowest section. The topo photo on this page says there's a class 4 way nearby. An older guidebooks says there is a 5.2 line nearby, and two class 3 ways which reach the talus about 300 feet or more south of the top of Contact Pass.

The rappel anchor (or other options) might not be easy to find in the dark.
By kenr
Aug 20, 2015
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

This a real alpine climb.
The class 5 sections on the route are straightforward and rather run and interesting, on mostly sound rock (loose stuff was mostly rocks sitting on horizontal ledges - obvious). The crux seemed like a fairly normal Sierra granite move.
But ...
  • getting from the top of the (long) approach talus up to the sound class 5 rock could be tricky. Now that much of the permanent snowfield is gone, conditions vary widely early versus late season, or how much single-season snow fell in the previous winter, how good a re-freeze during the night. The rock surface that was formerly covered by permanent snow could be very loose and sandy and difficult. Not obvious that climbing around right side of snowfield is best. Early season after big-snow winter likely have more of the looseness covered by snow -- if the snow is firm and stable.
  • more downward sections in the upper half than I expected.
  • descent is not trivial - (I surely would not want to still be above Contact Pass in the dark).

We climbed in 7 hours from the bottom of Pitch 1 to the summit ridge.
  • without combining any of the class 5 pitches.
  • without any simul-climbing on any class 5 pitches.
  • with a lunch break just before the crux pitch.

I think that much more important than saving minutes on the class 5 climbing was managing the downward and "gap" sections of the ridge. Seemed like the Tyrolean took almost as much time as some of the class 5 climbing pitches (but the point is that we methodically got through it). And then my partner was very experienced with alpine situations, so we got through each down-up gap without any loss of time from equipment snag on the down or finding the next up. And his experience kept me from getting just discouraged by "not yet another gap we need to cross".

It was also important that we were both very comfortable moving quickly together through the exposed class 3+4 sections. For me that was from doing lots of soloing on alpine ridges, and from practicing lots of down-climbing on Top-Rope.

How to get my partner's competence at managing the down-up gaps on ridges and overall alpine navigation -- seems harder and longer.

By kenr
Aug 20, 2015
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

statistics ...
. . (noticing how the word "bivy" appears twice in the topo photo, perhaps it will help
. . . to have some parameters for estimating times).

  • trail approach: about 2400 vertical feet of uphill over distance 4.5 miles (+725 vertical meters over 7.3 km). Trail is well-maintained, mostly sandy nor rocky, and carefully designed to avoid steep sections.
  • cross-country approach: 1000-1250 vertical feet of uphill over distance 0.75-0.9 mile (320-380 meters uphill over 1.2-1.5 km). Much on difficulty talus. One creek-crossing with no bridge. Significant section (more than 100 vertical feet?) of snow+ice and/or loose rock between top of talus and bottom of continuous sound rock.
  • climbing: about 1150-1500 vertical feet (350-450 meters). Depends on how you measure (class 3 versus class 5) and measuring is tricky anyway. Looking at paper and digital maps, I greatly doubt the top of the highest class 5 pitch is more than +1500 feet above the bottom of the pitch 1 dihedral. (And I doubt there's more than +1200 vertical feet total of only the class 5 pitches).
  • 11-12 pitches of class 5.
  • about 18 pitches total including class 3+4 - (more if count the Tyrolean as a pitch).
  • 3 5o 5 significant down-up gaps with likely rope-work (rappel or lower or Tyrolean) - though all the rope-work is theoretically avoidable.
  • true summit: 300-500 of additional scrambling up above top of climbing route, then back down again.
  • descent to Contact Pass: 700-900 vertical feet down on talus, then (avoidable) single rappel.
  • descent from Contact Pass to hiking trail: downward 1450-1700 vertical feet over 1.1-1.3 miles distance. Mostly talus, some sand and scree.

By C Martin
Aug 21, 2015

Was there last week. Bailed off before actually making it to the first pitch. The 3rd/4th on the approach just below the start of the climb but above the "snowfield" was really sandy, and after being pretty tired from climbing Sill a day or two before we got a bit sketched. Our rope also took a core shot from rockfall on our bail. Wasn't the day for us.

To whomever climbed after 8/12/15, happy booty'ing. Returns are cool, but booty is booty, or pay it forward. Thus is life/climbing. We wouldn't be climbers if we didn't have to bail every once in a while.

To be climbed another day!!!
By Goran Lynch
From: Oakland, CA
Sep 3, 2015

My partner and I enjoyed this route a couple of weeks ago, especially the pitches leading to the Tyrolean. There are lots of rope hijinks after that, which diminish the flow of the climbing quite a bit, though the crux pitch is pretty great (we did the left variation).

One note is that the supertopo shows a 3", 5.8 crack near the top of the route, and Croft shows the same crack as 4" and 5.9. Neither of these match up exactly with my memory of the climb and the topo picture here on MP does not contain this move at all, but I did climb a wide (mostly wider than fists, and I have pretty big mitts), steep crack in a right-facing corner. It protected with a fixed wire high and left (could not inspect this at all) which I was able to back up with a yellow X4 and a less-than-inspiring #3 Camalot in the narrowest part of the crack. A few moves through this section were full-on 5.9+ thrutching, made especially exhilarating by the mediocre gear.

I would be hesitant to climb up into that maw again without a #4 Camalot to protect it, and I don't think I'd bring a cam that big all the way to Temple Crag for those few moves. Scrambling around the side is casual, and sure seems like the lower-stress option.

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