Cardinal Pinnacle, West Face

Getting there–
Cardinal Pinnacle sits above Hwy 168, about 15 miles west of Bishop, CA, above the community of Aspendell (which consists of a few dozen houses and a lodge/restaurant). Just above Aspendell you’ll see the pinnacle looming above the road; park at turnouts on either side of the road and hike towards the lower left corner of the rock. The approach is a 20 minute slog up steep talus… a great warm-up! The West Face route begins at the base of a 20-foot-high trapezoidal block with cracks on both sides. You can start up either side of the block; the crack on the right is a little easier and most people go that way.

Stats–
Summit Elevation: 9,700′
Length of Route: 500′
Pitches: 4
Difficulty Grade: 5.10a

Season–
Bishop itself is hotter than Mars in summer, but once you’ve driven up to 9,000′ it’s a different story. Summer is prime time for this route, but Cardinal Pinnacle can also be nice in fall and spring, especially on a sunny afternoon. The first pitch and most of the second pitch face north and can be cold; pitches three and four face west and get lots of afternoon sun.

Nearby routes–
Cucumbers starts to the right of the West Face and joins it for the last two pitches. It comes into the sun a little sooner, a good option on a cold day or if there’s a traffic jam at the start of the West Face.

Crack Kingdom is a popular link-up that shares the first pitch of the West Face then cuts left to climb a .10b flare (part of Crack of No Hope), then cuts left again to finish with two pitches of splitter finger cracks (.10c, part of another route called Wild Kingdom).

More information–
The most complete guidebook is Bishop Area Rock Climbs, by Peter Croft and Marty Lewis, which includes all of the routes mentioned in this write-up. The Good, The Great, and The Awesome, by Peter Croft, includes the West Face and Crack Kingdom. Supertopo: High Sierra Climbing, by Chris McNamara and McKenzie Long, offers excellent info for the West Face route but does not include any of the others.

Photos! I don’t know how many times I’ve climbed the West Face, but I’m always happy to do it again. Here are photos from three of those ascents:

Rock climbing is fun! Heidi at the top of pitch 1, Cardinal Pinnacle West Face
Heidi approaches the top of pitch 2, having just done the traverse and pulled around the corner.
Kelly leads pitch 3. She has correctly traversed right just a few feet above the belay. A common mistake is to climb higher to a cool-looking dike that leads right into the correct crack system, but is a slippery and unprotected way to get there (not recommended!)
Davis follows pitch 3, a fun finger crack with traverses at the beginning and end of the pitch.
Davis at the belay, top of pitch 3
Davis, still at the belay at the top of pitch 3, as seen from near the top of pitch 4
Heidi near the top of the optional summit pitch, an unprotected ‘scramble’ to a scary knife-edge summit ridge with a single rusty bolt that you would not want to rappel from. Most parties do not climb to the actual summit of Cardinal Pinnacle. Many just start rappelling from the top of pitch 4; others scramble to the big ledge 20′ above the highest rappel station and enjoy this, which is essentially the summit. Others choose to climb the knife’s edge to the true summit, but no one really understands why.
Kelly on the rappels. The rappel route starts from the ‘nose’ of the formation and goes back to the base of the West Face route. Four 35 meter rappels–bring a 70m rope for this one.
When you’re done rappelling, turn and look directly behind you… V8 Crack is a delicious treat located across the gully, less than 100 yards away… here’s Kelly enjoying dessert after a morning lap on the West Face

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