Sierra Gorge Section (SGS)
Qualifying Gorge Scrambling List
Hosted for WSC on Climber.Org
Purpose: To give hikers the opportunity to visit remote, wild, scenic
places where few humans have trod, especially on the western slopes of
the Northern Sierra Nevada.
The Western States Climbers do not maintain this list, but provide access
to it on this webpage for interested parties.
Go straight to the list of gorges
See a brief introduction to gorge scrambling
See a description of the sport of gorge scrambling
See the categories of qualifying gorges
See the grading system for gorges
See a list of basic equipment for gorge travel
See a list of extra essentials for gorge travel
Check this glossary for gorge scramble terms
See the emblem requirements for significant
accomplishments in scrambling gorges on this list
who were recognized for their accomplishments in scrambling gorges
on this list
See those who contributed to bringing this gorge
list to you.
Just a word of warning
A few related lists of worthy objectives are:
Please send any comments on this Sierra Gorge Section List to
Note: Most of the following description is copied from the Peak and
Gorge Section NAS/SGS List, which cites Gene Markley as the author in 1978.
The physical nature of these traverses will be such that the scrambler
will encounter problems that will permit them to utilize his strength,
stamina, agility and fortitude to overcome the natural obstacles that confront
him. The gorge setting will be such that the scrambler will be aware of
the wilderness aesthetics of the area. In this setting, man's relationship
to his natural environment will become apparent and appreciated.
Gorge scrambles are rated I to VI, where I is the easiest, essentially
a rock hop, and VI is an expedition gorge (special insurance restrictions
apply to these). Unusually high or low water flows can add dramatically
to the trip's difficulty. Neophytes should inquire as to the rock scrambling
and swimming ability required, and how to wrap their gear.
Description of the Sport
What this sport offers is the opportunity to visit remote, wild, scenic
places where few humans have trod. It does require a knowledge of all mountaineering
techniques such as scrambling, boulder hopping rock climbing plus the ability
to swim. A scrambler must have good stamina, be in excellent condition,
and be able to function under adverse conditions. It is similar to cross-country
rock scrambling with a few extra problems thrown in. In a short section
of a gorge, one may be required to cross a raging stream, scale a short
wall, scramble through loose rock, do some bushwhacking, and cross a dangerous
slide area. While the rock climber can often rappel off his loft and the
peak climber can ride the scree off the mountain, the gorge scrambler after
his traverse usually has to climb several thousand feet out. This is generally
through dense brush, loose rock, slides and cliffs.
Of all mountain sports, this is perhaps one of the most hazardous. The
scrambler must always watch for falling rock, loose rock, wet rock, moss
covered rock, and unstable slide areas. He must be on guard against falling
into a raging stream or box waterfalls. Other problems can be heavy rains,
rattlesnakes and poison oak. Rescue is almost impossible in any reasonable
length of time because of the difficult terrain involved. Helicopter rescue
is limited because of the narrow canyon walls and wind drafts.
First of all, a scrambler must be prepared for the worst. He should
study his traverse before the outing. A compass, map, matches in a waterproof
case, extra energy food, and extra clothing should be carried. Gorge teams
should be generally small in number; preferably not more than twelve.
Qualifying Information for the Sierra Gorge Section Gorges
Significant accomplishments in scrambling gorges on this
list may be recognized by inclusion on the WSC
Internet Recognition List of Emblem Holders and List Finishers.
To qualify for the Gorge Emblem, an adult gorge scrambler must traverse
a minimum of ten gorges from the qualifying list. A minimum of five gorges
must be selected from those designated as emblem gorges. The remaining
five gorges can be any of those found on the qualifying list or be exploratory
This plan is for youth through age 20. The youth must scramble six gorges,
three of which must be designated as emblem gorges and three must be designated
as standard or exploratory.
General Qualifying Information
The traverse in the qualifying gorges must include at least one mile of
wild, remote gorge. The physical nature of these traverses will be such
that the scrambler will encounter problems that will permit him to utilize
his strength, stamina, agility and fortitude to overcome the natural obstacles
that confront him. The gorge setting will be such that the scrambler will
be aware of the wilderness aesthetics of the area. In this setting, man's
relationship to his natural environment will become apparent and appreciated.
The qualifying traverse will be rated one through six. Although the
rock problems will generally be limited to class four, other factors such
as number of water traverses necessary, total elevation lost and gained
and length of traverse may raise difficulties substantially.
Because of the newness of this mountain sport and the relative sparse
information about gorges, credit will be given for any traverse that meets
the standards of the qualifying Gorge Scramble II. On completion of these
traverses, the description of the traverse, the exact location, the leader,
participants date of traverse should be recorded so it may be later used
to obtain recognition.
The process for obtaining recognition is specified under "process"
on the WSC Internet Recognition List.
Gene Markley and other members of the former Sierra Gorge Section compiled
the original hardcopy version of this gorge list. Former Peak and Gorge
Section member John Sarna designed the webpage to make this list generally
available to the public after the dissolution of these Sections.
Hiking and climbing conditions do change, and some information given here
is subjective. The Western States Climbers do not accept responsibility
for outdated or incorrect information. Please help future climbers by sending
corrections to John Sarna.
The Grading System
Essentially a rock hop through the center of a gorge, minimum amount of
brush and rock to overcome, will contain several ups and avers, time limited
to one day. (Example: Lower Bear River or Lower American.) The bath of
fire is less than 1,000 feet of gain.
Some rock scrambling required, several ups and overs, some rock slabs encountered,
brush and loose rock to work through, maybe one or two days. (Example:
Chico Creek or Capehorn, North Fork of the American River.) Bath of fire,
approximately 1,000 feet.
Some exposure encountered, a variety of ups and overs, rock slabs, brush
and loose talus to traverse, some wading with bad footing encountered,
may be one or two days in length. (Example: Golden Challenge, South Yuba
River and Bake Oven, North 'Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.)
Bath of fire, approximately 2,000 feet.
Many strenuous ups and overs to complete, rock slabs, loose talus and moderate
brush to overcome, several stream crossings may be required, pools lying
between perpendicular rock faces to be traversed, ferrying of supplies
and equipment required. (Example: Box Canyons I and II, done in combination,
on Middle Fork of the Yuba River and End of the World, Middle Fork of the
American River.) Bath of fire, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet.
Some expedition planning required, constant encounter of pools to traverse,
hazardous rapids to work through, rock faces to traverse or climb around,
strong swimming may be required during water traverse, minimum of two days
in length. (Example: Devil's Gorge, Bald Rock Canyon, Middle Fork of the
Feather River.) Bath of fire, 3,000 to 4,000 feet.
Expedition gorge requiring constant class three and four climbing, floating
traverse with belay may be required, streams may be in rage providing constant
danger, roping required constantly, ferrying of equipment and supplies
required, a variety of strenuous ups and overs, loose talus slopes to be
traversed, time in excess of two days required, (Example: Tenaya Canyon,
Yosemite and Upper Middle Fork of San Joaquin River.) Bath of fire, approximately
Categories of Qualifying Gorges
The Qualifying Gorges are divided into three series: Emblem, Standard,
and Exploratory. The Emblem gorges are those that hold a physical challenge
and a setting that has been previously explored and recorded. The Standard
gorges are routine treks through wild, remote gorges that have previously
been scrambled and recorded. The Exploratory gorges are those that have
no previous recorded data and may be from any of the canyons located in
the Sierra. For credit and recording data,, the exploratory gorges must
be described in a brief statement.
List of Recorded SGS Gorges
This list of gorges primarily covers the Northern Sierra Nevada and is
organized by river systems and generally ordered from south to north. An
asterisk ("*") indicates an Emblem Gorge, and an "x" indicates a Standard
A. Feather River
x - Horseshoe Bend - Middle Fork of the Feather River.
* - Franklin Gorge - Middle Fork of the Feather River.
* - Marble Cone Gorge - Middle Fork of the Feather River.
* - Devil's Gorge - Middle Fork of the Feather River.
* - Bald Rock Canyon - Middle Fork of the Feather River.
x - Chico Gorge - Chico Creek.
B. Yuba River
* - Box Canyon I - Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
* - Box Canyon II - Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
* - Box Canyon III - Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
* - Bed Bug Smith - Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
* - Foote Gorge - Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
* - Seven Steps - South Branch Creek.
* - Golden Challenge - South Fork of the Yuba River.
x - Washington - South Fork of the Yuba River.
x - Blue Tent - South Fork of the Yuba River.
x - Lower Bear - Bear River.
x - Granite Gorge - Big Granite Creek.
* - Monument Gorge - Monumental Creek.
C. American River
* - Blue Canyon - North Fork of the North Fork of the American River.
* - Rawhide - North Fork of the North Fork of the American River.
* - The Slot - North Fork of the American River.
* - Royal Gorge - North Fork of the American River.
x - Marble Gorge - North Fork of the American River.
x - Sawtooth - North Fork of the American River.
x - American Eagle - North Fork of the American River.
x - Euche Gorge - North Fork of the American River.
* - Giant Gap - North Fork of the American River.
x - Cape Horn - North Fork of the American River.
* - Screwauger - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
* - Last Chance - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
* - Devi1's Gate - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
x - Bogus Thunder - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
x - Bake Oven - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
x - Mule Bridge - North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
D. Rivers to the South
* - Deep Gorge - Deep Canyon.
* - American Hill - Screwauger Creek.
x - Home Ticket - Grouse Creek.
* - Grouse Gorge - Grouse Creek.
* - Upper Peavine - Peavine Creek.
* - Lower Peavine - Peavine Creek.
* - The Links - Secret Creek.
* - Secret - Secret Creek.
x - French House - Middle Fork of the American River.
x - Red Star - Middle Fork of the American River.
* - End of the World - Middle Fork of the American River.
* - Mosquito Falls - Middle Fork of the American River.
x - Rubicon Trail - Middle Fork of the American River.
* - No Return Gorge - Wallace Creek.
* - Pigeon Roost - Rubicon River.
x - Nevada Point - Rubicon River.
x - Buckeye Gorge - Rubicon River.
* - Muir Gorge - Tuolumne River.
* - Tenaya Gorge - Tenaya Creek.
* - San Joaquin Gorge - Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.
* - Tehipite Gorge - Kings River.
* - Gorge of Despair - Kings River.
* - Lost Canyon - Kings River.
* - Enchanted Gorge - Enchanted Creek.
Glossary of Gorge Scramble Terms
Bath of Fire - The climb out at the end of a traverse.
Bogus Thunders - Streams running through narrows causing sounds like thunder.
Box Falls - Waterfalls with walls on both sides.
Ferrying - Transporting supplies and equipment across bodies of water.
Floating Traverse - Traversing pools by floating through them with the
Gems - Pool at base of waterfalls, often good for swimming.
Gorge Scrambler - One who participates in gorge scrambles.
Gorge Rock Hopping - Novice level of gorge scramble.
Gorge Scramble - Traverse of part or all of a wild gorge.
Main Gorge - Gorge with canyon walls generally over 2,000 feet.
Pitching - Working around a cliff section.
Rock Slabs - Smooth rocks lying at generally a low angle receding from
Roping - Any time rope is used as in stream crossing, rappelling and safety
Stream Rage - Stream not safe to cross or wade into due to its wild nature,
as in a spring flood.
Swim Traverse - Traversing of pools and streams by swimming through them.
Tributary Gorge - Small gorge which usually runs into a main gorge and
is often very rugged
and contains many waterfalls.
Ups and Overs - Scrambling over and around large boulders or cliffs lying
along the stream bed.
Water Traverse - Traverse of streams or pools requiring wading but not
Water Belay - Being belayed through water slides, rapids, pools and across
Water Slides - Streams flowing down steep incline but not falling.
Water Shoots - Swift stream flowing down a steep incline in trough-like
Basic Equipment for Gorge Travel
Boots - Quality canvas shoes with rough soles or Rhino type with lug soles.
Socks - Should fit firm around ankles for protection from rocks.
Pants - Swim suit or cut-offs.
Shirt - Cotton T-Shirt for protection from sun and rocks.
Pack - Soft pack as European knapsack or ski mountaineering pack.
Light-weight wind parka and wind pants. Also, good for brushy bath of fire.
Wool hat for protection against heat loss in bivouac.
Dry socks so you can relax and restore your feet during the evenings. Also
dry socks are a must for the bath of fire.
Sleeping Bag - 1-lb or 2-lb. liner types or light-weight Dacron.
Stove - Small compact type.
Food - Canned or in waterproof plastic bottles.
Waterproofing Material - Standard type garbage liner, plastic bags, or
heavy duty canoe type bags.
Map of Canyon.
Light, extra waterproofed clothing for bivouac.
Light weight rope for protection.
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This page was last updated on 17 Jan 2009