Hiking to the Cloudripper, Palisades region

Notes by piero scaruffi | Other California trails | Other California destinations
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Cloudripper (4,122m) is strategically located to give you a full view of the Palisades. There are two (reasonable) approaches. From the dead end of the South Lake road (the Bishop Pass trailhead) hike about one hour up, then turn left into the trail for the Chocolate Lakes. Within five minutes you will pass Bull Lake. Then start counting: the third Chocolate Lake is where you want to leave the trail. Actually the trail (as of 2014) sort of disappears here. Coast the northern shore of the lake. In front of you (east) there is a confusing wall full of chutes. Cloudripper is very visible... if you know which one it is.

The good news is that virtually all of those chutes will take you to the summit plateau, and none of them is particularly vicious. To your left there is a red chute. Next is a chute that immediately splits in two (i call them 2A and 2B).

If you keep moving south you will see two more chutes. All of them work. Probably 2B is the short cut because it doesn't involve walking further south. At some elevation it gets easier to traverse into chute 3, which is wider and terminates closer to the summit. You could even traverse into chute 4, which is the shortest way to the summit plateau. Whichever way you took, you eventually emerge on the summit plateau. Contrary to expectations, it is not a scary ridge but a wide plateau with several peaks. Cloudripper is the massive one to the south, and its summit is the southwesternmost peak.

As you scramble up its northern face, you don't see the summit yet, but the southwestern peak that you see is a useful reference point. Once there, it is obvious that the real summit is 100 meters further to the south. The easiest way to climb it is to the left.

  • South Lake trailhead (2990m)
  • Junction to Treasure Lakes 20'
  • Junction to Marie Louise Lakes 40'
  • Chocolate Lakes turnoff 50'
  • Chocolate Lakes turnoff
  • Bull Lake 1h
  • Third Chocolate Lake 2h
  • Top of chute 3h'30'
  • Summit 5h

Another way to get to Cloudripper is via the Seven Lake trail in Big Pine. Cloudripper is the mountain right on top (west) of the highest lakes. Scramble up from the last (westermost) of the seven lakes and you'll reach the summit plateau.

Technically, you can also get to Cloudripper from Green Lake but i don't know why anybody would want to do that. The trailhead is the closed road at the picnic area of the South Lake trailhead parking lot. The trail loses a lot of elevation and heads in the wrong direction; then (at an unmarked junction) it makes a sudden U-turn and starts heading in the right direction and regaining all the elevation that it has lost. Once you reach Green Lake (the second lake on this route) head for the wall of boulders in front of you (south). At the top of that wall (sometimes referred to as Vagabond Peak) you see Cloudripper on the other side of the plateau. Descend to the plateau and climb the southwesternmost peak of Cloudripper.


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