Saber Ridge: Tamarack Lake, Sequoia National Park (Technical Description)

September 25, 2017

On September 7th, 2017 I climbed Saber Ridge not knowing much about it. My initial thoughts were that it would be several sustained pitches of 5.7+ to gain the ridge and then a 3-4th class cruise along the ridgeline. I was surprised to find after the headwall most of the ridge continues to gain about 700 ft of elevation and remains in the 5.5-5.7 with most sections runout with poor pro selection and high exposure. Too much for me to consider simul-climbing it as the gear is questionable and the rock quality not feeling bomber enough for no-fall climbing.

Upon completion, it took me ~16 hrs to climb, an overnight bivy and a 4 hrs descent. The whole trip is a great story that I talk about in another post, but here I hope to outline the technical attributes of the climb for other rock climbers.

General Takeaways

* Aside from when navigating around a steep block or leaning pillar, the ridge proper is where you will find the easiest climbing. Accompanying it will be lots of heady exposure that makes even 5.6 moves feel tenuous.

* The route feels as if no one has ever climbed it with sandy grains and lichen frequently rubbing off on foot placements. Cracks are typically bountiful in the hand size which makes the climbing pretty good. However, these cracks can often be flaring or dirty with flora. The granite grains are sharp. They tugged at my clothes, ripping my puff and rain pants, while endowing many small cuts into my hands and ankles when jamming.

* When there are not cracks there are flakes and blocks. Most flakes sound hollow, but few of the many big blocks felt loose to a pull. However, given the infrequency of climbers on the route I still felt uneasy with both flakes and blocks. Any American Alpine Club accident report book can tell you that in the alpine, even big blocks can go for a ride when subject to fall level forces.

Annotation of terms used by others to describe the route and my approach.


P0: Solo up slabs until you reach the top of the large dihedral and rope up here.

Soloing up low-angle crack

Example of the angle of the lower slabs

P1: From top of dihedral traverse right into a small right facing corner. Continue up the runnel until you run out of rope.

P1 Belay

Looking down from P2 belay

P2: Go up diagonal crack until you can gain the ridge proper. Climb until you run out of rope. I belayed in the where a bunch of cracks appear but they were pretty flared so it was a marginal anchor.

P2 belay

P3: This is the 5.7+ technical crux pitch. You do a sort of S maneuver out right of the head wall. Then going up and diagonally left to get back on the ridge. The middle of this pitch is steep face climbing that can be runout. Our leader ran it out 50ft. Chicken heads are probably your best bet for pro. Belayed from a dark crack next to chicken heads and a couple of pot holes.

From the many cracks belay our leader traversed ten feet right and then did a steep move to get back up to ridge proper using bushy crack. It probably is better to just get up the ridge from belay.

Look up from P3 belay

P4: Go up the ridge on face holds to the dark granite slot where the cracks begin again.

Look up from P4 belay

P5: Continue up the ridge

P5 belay

P6: Climb up the dark slot’s flared, dirty cracks. Had to get out and right of slot to make an anchor.

Looking down from P7 belay

P7: Continue up easy stuff to ridge

Lookup up off P7 belay

P8-9: Continue along the ridge. We switched to simul follow off one rope here since the exposure was high but the technicality moderate.

Climbing up first ridge section after gaining headwall

Top of headwall P8 belay

P10-12: One long simulclimb three pitches in length off a double rack until reaching a raised, leaning part of ridge.

(Don’t go too far out on this raised section as it is spicy and only cliffs out)

Simulclimbing ridge

P13: Left of the raised section rap down to the rock below to continue up ridge

Looking up at the ridge after rapping down a 20m

We actually spent the night here on this ledge before the rappel because we didn’t expect the ridge to be so long and sustained. This is just a technical description you can read about it in my other post about the whole story.

P14: Gain the ridge again and do the first knife edge traverse by pulling on the ridge and smearing grainy granite with feet

Me following on the knife edge

Right before the smear section of the knife edge

P15: Continue up ridge, shuffling feet in a crack off to get past an exposed section.

P16-17: Continue on ridge. A couple more knife edge sections.

Two pitches away from the boulder field (right)

P18-19: You see the point in the ridge now. Go off the ridge into the 3rd class on the right.

Looking down Saber Ridge from the 3rd Class Boulder Field


In one long simul-climb, go around the high point and around the backside. Take the ridge East for some easy 5.4 technical downclimbing to the first gulley. There is a climber’s trail down it, but you can see that it cliffs out in a few hundred feet of slab.

The first gulley ends in this section of slab that looks a little too steep to down climb (it looks small here but its 2-3 full rope raps)

Instead, continue over to the second gulley by keeping right of the ridge proper / ‘hole’ to get past the high point and then going left into the gulley via easy 5.4 downclimbing. From here descend the gulley. We took the drainages towards the bottom but you could possibly also take some of the low angle rock slab.

Entering the 2nd gulley just off the technical downclimb

Descending the second gulley a few hundred feet down where it gets wider