Cornell Peak

March 23, 2017


Palm Springs, CA

Cornell Peak is a rugged summit on Mt. San Jacinto massif. Although not nearly as high as the taller neighbours this one offers arguably the best quality-climbing in this group. There is no easy way to reach the summit and the standard route goes at 3rd/4th class. For obvious reasons my primary objective was San Jacinto Peak and thank to the limited research I did not come prepared with route information on Cornell Peak. It looked sort of “doable” from Miller/Cornell col via the west ridge and since I was there so I had to at least give it a try.

Ascent route for San Jacinto, Jean, Miller and Cornell Peaks. GPX DL

Right off the bat I encountered some class 2 scrambling steps mixed with steep snow slopes here and there and once I climbed higher the snow had largely gone. The grade also steepened but the real excitement did not come until the final 30 meters or so. I soon ditched the poles and backpack and then after some fun class 3 scrambling I reached the summit block where I couldn’t find any obvious way up. I tried a direct attack but couldn’t commit to a friction move (on mountaineering boots) and after about 10 minutes of hesitation I decided to backtrack a bit and work around the south corner to the east side.

Cornell Peak seen from partway down from Miller Peak

Going up from Miller/Cornell col. It’s all exploratory for me as I had no beta

Very cool rock formation up on this peak

Traversing ledges to link things up

As typical as the lower route scramble goes

Higher up it became more exposed…

A shady and icy gully that I ascended

From above the gully, looking down.

This was not without difficulty and once around I got to climb a few tricky 4th class moves on tiny holds. I could see that I didn’t pick the easiest line through this part but at this point I was already committed to the climb. This brought me to the final summit boulder where a couple 4th class moves were unavoidable no matter what route you choose.

Working around an awkward corner to the east side. Quite off-route now..

Not the easiest to climb in this Nepal Evos…

Finally joined the normal way near the summit

You don’t want to fall here..

Summit Panorama from Cornell Peak. Click to view large size.

Me on the summit of Cornell Peak

Not knowing what exactly to expect on the east side I opted to more-or-less retrace my west ridge route, albeit with a bit of variation to avoid the 4th class traversing part. I had previous tried a vertical chimney on the ascent but couldn’t manage to pull myself up. On the down-climb I figured it should be easier since gravity is now on my side and I just had to play a bit of stemming technique and it worked. The rest of the descent back to Miller/Cornell col was uneventful.

Looking back at the true summit boulder

Gorgeous views down at the desert floor

I down-climbed a vertical chimney to avoid traversing this down-sloping ledge

More about the descent

I really liked the rock formation here

Bit of down-climbs here and there.

Little did I know that the ascent of Cornell Peak would turn out to be the highlight of this day and I have to say that ascending this peak is far more satisfying than the taller San Jacinto Peak (which is just a walk-up).