18 Aug 2000 - by Mark Wallace

I climbed Cloudripper on August 18, approaching the peak from the south. My starting point was Fifth Lake. Making my way over a roundabout trail leading from Fifth Lake to Sixth Lake, I made the mistake of leaving the trail before it descended to Sixth Lake. This error cost me several hours of boulder-hopping before I finally connected with a better route leading from Seventh Lake. If I were to repeat this climb, I'd follow the trail to its termination point north of Sixth Lake, then make my way over to the north side of Seventh Lake.

From Seventh Lake the route leads up a broad valley that gradually narrows and finally ends on a slope leading to a saddle between Cloudripper and Sky Haven. The fun starts (or stops - depending on your point of view) when you reach this slope. It is the scree slope from hell. There's about 1,000 feet of elevation gain up a slope laden with baseball-size rocks that start rolling downhill when you put any weight on them. The middle of the slope is at a slightly gentler angle than the left (west) side.

If you persevere and reach the top of the slope, you'll find that the climbing becomes much more enjoyable. Above the saddle is a high second class knob that may require a couple of third class moves, depending on which way you go. At the top of the knob is a gently ascending plateau that leads to more second class climbing on the main body of the peak, which has four or five false summits as you make your way west along the ridge. As you approach the real summit there is a nice alpine feel to the climb as the terrain falls away sharply on both sides of the ridge. Still, there is no real exposure. The summit rocks require one or two easy third class moves. From the top the visibility was absolutely startling - I think I saw San Gorgonio Mountain, over 200 miles to the southeast.

The scree slope from hell was more fun on the way down. At times I felt I was skiing. It was nice to have hiking poles for this part of the trip.

The climbing guides, in my view, give a misleading picture of this climb. Roper calls it an "easy walk" from Seventh Lake. I'm not sure you'd want to take your mother-in-law on this climb in lieu of her morning walk (then again, maybe you would). Secor says it is first class from the saddle until you reach the summit rocks, which are easy third class. I agree with the analysis of the summit rocks, but I'd never call the rest of the route first class. To me, first class means a trail or something so flat and easy it might as well be a trail. Except for the first 50 yards from the saddle (which fits that description), the rest of the route until you reach the summit involves the type of off-trail easy rock scrambling that is the hallmark of second class.

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