The Cockscomb

10 Aug 2003 - by Arun Mahajan

Within a couple of hours of having started from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows, we were at Budd Lake. We circled the lake from the left and after a short scramble over slabs (some class-3) were on the top of a ridge. We traversed south and then angled east climbing upwards toward the ridge that connects the Cockscomb to the broad fin of Echo Ridge. Again, there were some sections of class-3 before reaching the ridge. After a short walk on the brush covered slope we were at the base of the summit towers of the Cockscomb. Class-3 scrambling over blocky terrain got us to the obvious notch on the north-west.

We put on our harnesses and helmets here but did not feel the need to rope up just yet. Staying right of the knife edge and using a finger traverse, we were on a broad ledge. Facing us was a wall with a couple of crack systems. We circled this wall from the right. The route is not obvious but it is there. Circling around, with exposure to the right and at our backs, we came to two small towers. We continued climbing to the left tower, still unroped. The right tower seemed to be of equal height or maybe a little higher and had a small sling. So, we climbed it also. We used rope for this short, mid fifth class block. The short sling at the top went through a piton. From the notch between the two towers, the tower with the sling is short and easy to protect although the summit fin is so small and thin that it is hard to stand upon.

On the way down from the summit slopes we choose a different way down to Budd Lake and ended up making a few hard class-3 moves to eventually get down. This was a seven hour day for us.

The Cockscomb has a spectacular summit and offers moderate technical climbing and also great views of the startling Matthes Crest. We all liked the route on the Cockscomb so much that we decided to come back for another go, maybe with a few more of our friends.

The climbers: Ron Karpel, Scott Kreider and scribe, Arun Mahajan.

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