Third Pillar (Regular Route)
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***After submitting this description I discovered the much better description by Eric Burt under the High Sierra area. I'll keep this description active because the Third Pillar is commonly considered a Tuolumne climb, but visit Third Pillar, Regular Route for more beta***
The Third Pillar is a great little alpine climb on a very unique feature. The entire climb is pretty high quality, but its the exceptional last pitch that makes it a classic.
Approach via a well-marked trail at the Tioga Lake Overlook just east of the Park entrance. The trail descends steeply and heads around the west end of the lake before crossing the stream. At this point the trail disappears in the woods, but head south without straying too far from the stream at the right and the trail will become apparent again. After an hour or so the trail will reach an alpine valley/basin that sits just below the Dana Plateau. Mt. Dana is the peak to the northwest. Here the trail heads steeply up a talus slope to the right (east) after another stream crossing. Above the talus the trail heads into the beautiful plateau -- an open expanse of grass and boulders. Head due east across the entire meadow to the cliff line and identify the top of the Third Pillar which juts out over the cliff. It may be helpful to have viewed the formation from 395/Lee Vining to get an idea of the layout of this feature. Descend down a buttress just north of the Third Pillar via fourth class passages, eventually cutting back south, sometimes crossing a snowfield, to the base of the climb.
There seem to be many variations to the route, but most commonly parties scramble up around the left side of the formation and then begin climbing there. Alternatively the "Croft variation" basically starts at a low point and climbs up a large flake/pillar and up various crack and ledge systems to a fun finger traverse. Break down the pitches however you like and take whatever lines appear the best -- eventually they will all funnel you towards the narrow pillar at the top of the formation. The crux is on the second-to-last pitch and passes a short, sheer face with a pin and a few RP placements. The last pitch is an outrageous overhanging hand crack with jugs just where they're needed most. Reminiscent of... believe it or not... the Gunks!
Double set of cams from small to hands. A few RP's or small wires.
|Photos of Third Pillar (Regular Route) Slideshow
Tim Klein finishes the last pitch on the 3rd (summ...
Not a bad view from the summit of the 3rd! -photo...
Last Pitch on Third Pillar.
Kurt on top after leading the amazing final pitch.
BEAUTIFUL piece of rock
Tristan on the final pitch
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