Rock Climbing in "Lost Yosemite" at Courtright Reservoir
Courtright Reservoir is recognized for great trout fishing, but is quickly becoming a mecca for “rock jocks”. Climbing enthusiasts will see the alluring formation of Power Dome as they near the reservoir. It teems with a host of 5-pitch, friction scare-a-thons. This “lost sister” to the well known climbing area of Tuolumne Meadows is located just two hours east of Fresno. The Sequoia/Kings Canyon guidebook dedicates more than a third of its contents to the Courtright Reservoir! Unlike the Yosemite experience, you won’t have to wait in line for a route. Scattered around the perimeter of Courtright are a myriad of domes and walls.
Dome of the Immaculate Conception (aka Notre Dome) - has sustained micro edging and clean cracks (mostly 5.10’s). Lost Canyon Wall - is east along Short Hair Creek featuring moderate, wildly exposed climbs and some steep and overhanging routes (5.7 to 5.11). Tiger Cage – is east, just a few hundred yards off Courtright Road, slightly south of the reservoir. offering climbs on a thin friction slab, steep face and cracks. Several anchors can be accessed on top for top roping most routes.
Tiger Wall - is next to Tiger Cage, the 75 foot orange and black overhanging Tiger Wall covers stout face and crack climbs ranging from mid 10’s to burly 12’s. Try ‘Hungry Tiger’ (5.10b) and ‘Tiger By The Tail’ (5.11c)
Broken Tiers/Transformer Wall - is down in the Helms Canyon, next to the reservoir spillway, this wall seldom sees traffic due to loose rock. But there are some selected routes that won’t disappoint: ‘American Pie’ (a 3 pitch, 5.9) and ‘Knappy Sack’ (a 50 foot 5.10a)
Power Dome - is in the Helms Canyon, seen to the right from Courtright Road when entering the area. This dome is the hallmark of Courtright. Power Dome hosts some bold friction climbs with the occasional solution pocket for psychological comfort. A word of caution: most routes are runout like the routes in Tuolumne! Rest assured, Power Dome claims several classics. ‘Helms Deep’ (.10c R), ‘Welcome To Courtright’ (5.10a), ‘A Little Nukey’ (5.9-), Eve Laeger’s route ‘Esto Power’ (5.10d) and ‘Consider Me Gone’.
Punk Rock - If your skills aren’t in the highly honed category, this will surely make you a punk! Nothing easier than 5.10., it is located southeast from the reservoir (next to Penstemon and Dusy Domes) and only has only four reported routes on it with loads of first ascent potential (5.10-5.12). Try ‘Reach For the Sky’ (5.11a).
Penstemon Dome - Some liken this to a classic backcountry dome with only a 15 minute approach. It is east of Punk Dome. Most routes are steep friction/edging climbs or crack corners. Try Rope-A-Dope (5.8), Shake the Flake (5.9), Song Of The Earth (5.10a) and a unnamed route, left of ‘Song Of The Earth’.
Dusy Dome - This is rarely climbed. But it is host to many challenging steep slab climbs and shouldn’t be passed up. Climbs range from 5.7 to 5.11a R/X. Try Black Satin Slips, Neener Neener, and Little Lambs Eat Ivy.
Voyager Rock - east of the reservoir is where heroes are made and cowards are sent home! Voyager features many crack routes and even a few aid lines (Doughballs On a Rampage 5.11a A2). Even Voyager’s ‘Ramp On’ (5.6) makes for a wild challenge to the fledgling leader. Highlights to Voyager Rock: ‘Smoke For Face’ (5.11a, FA: Dwight Kroll) and ‘By Jupiter, There Are Rings Around Uranus’ (5.11d, FA).
Locke Rock - is the most remote dome, situated past the northeastern shoreline of the reservoir. It has three routes upon its flanks but contains loads of route potential. If you are willing to make the effort by hiking or boating, Locke Rock will pay dividends.
Leopold Dome – is beyond the northern shore with an array of climbs for all levels. It exhibits Penstemon Dome characteristics. Most of the moderate climbs are well bolted. Try ‘Burnt Beyond Recognition’ (5.10c) ‘Piss Flaps’ (5.8+) and ‘Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God’ (5.10b).
Trapper Dome - this is where you want to go for “clip and go” routes. It is located on the west side of Courtright, left of the Trapper Springs Campground Road. Even the easiest route, Drill Instructor (5.4, 110 ft) covers 10 bolts to a chained belay! Try ‘Carson-Kodas Arete’ (5.11c), ‘I Wouldn’t Wanna Be Like You’ (5.10d/5.11b), ‘Zodiac Mind Warp’ (5.10d), ‘Rhythm Divine’ (5.10d), ‘Orgasm Addict (.10+). Visit the backside of the dome’s north side, called ‘The Sex Wall’ featuring excellent bolted slab routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.10d.
Ready to go? From the Coastal region, Central Valley, Bay area or Southern California, drive to Fresno on Hwy 99. Once in Fresno, take Hwy 180 east toward Kings Canyon. Stay on the 180 until the exit appears for Hwy 168 east. Exit onto Hwy 168 and travel to Prather and continue to Shaver Lake where you will turn right onto Dinkey Creek Rd and follow until the McKinley Grove Rd. turnoff. Turn right and continue to intersection for Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs. Turn left to Courtright Reservoir.
Camping Options: PG&E offers two campsites at Courtright. The fee is $25 per night. Sites have picnic tables, fire pits, water and pit toilets. Voyager Rock has 14 tent only campsites on the southeast shoreline. Trapper Springs is near the western shoreline, with 75 tents and 45 trailer sites. It is close to both Spring and Trapper Domes. For reservations call 877-444-6777.
Otherwise, camping is FREE. Get a Wilderness Permit at recreation.gov/permits/445858. Respect the areas that are signed as “No Camping” areas. Respect all national forest rangers and PG&E employees. For further information on Courtright climbing visit mountainproject.com/area/106032767/courtright-reservoir.