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Sunlit Summit

The Sphinx

Elevation: 13,277 ft.

Prominence: 328 ft.

Isolation: 0.2 miles

Technical Difficulty: Class 4+

The Sphinx Guidebook


Perhaps one of the Sphinx’s greatest distinctions is its lack of common summit name modifiers like peak, mount, or mountain. Surrounded by a multitude of higher peaks with both harder and easier routes, the Sphinx can go relatively unnoticed. One exception is the last mile of the Glacier Trail in the upper Dinwoody, where the East and West Sentinels block views of peaks on either side, and the Sphinx stands out in all its symmetric glory. It takes an imaginative eye to see any resemblance to ancient Egyptian architecture, but the Sphinx’s smooth conical profile does provide a welcome visual relief from the haphazard ridgelines of its neighbors.

General Considerations

The most common route on the Sphinx can be approached from either Titcomb Basin or the Dinwoody Glacier, but the choice of approach will determine which other peaks can be most easily combined. Importantly, the most direct ascent from the Dinwoody side is troubled by a serious bergschrund, which becomes increasingly challenging to navigate in the late season. Even though the Sphinx is a rock peak, crevasses are present on both the Dinwoody Glacier and Sphinx Glacier, making strong glacier skills a prerequisite for this peak.

Route 1: Northwest Ridge – Class 4+, Moderate Snow

To climb this fun route, it is first necessary to gain the col between the Sphinx and Mount Woodrow Wilson, which requires considerably more effort than the climb itself. From Titcomb Basin, follow shallow gullies and benches at the head of the valley to reach the Sphinx Glacier. Ascend the snow slopes of this low-angled glacier (crevassed) to the col. The Sphinx-Woodrow Wilson col has also been reached from the Dinwoody, but this is much harder and described separately (see Route 2).

Regardless of how you reach the col, the short ridge requires little description. Climb up the surprisingly steep but well-featured ridgeline, occasionally deviating farther north on slabby ledges to avoid the steepest sections. The difficulty is sustained at class 4+, but no single obstacle blocks the path upwards. The summit view of Mount Woodrow Wilson is quite daunting.

Route 2: Dinwoody Side – Class 4+, Very Serious Snow

One way to access the Sphinx from the Dinwoody would be to cross the unnamed col between Skyline Peak and Bobs Towers, from which you could connect to the Sphinx Glacier and the northwest ridge. However, if desiring a more direct route, it may be possible to climb directly to the Sphinx-Woodrow Wilson col from the Dinwoody Glacier depending on the snow conditions.

From the Dinwoody Moraine, start as if heading to Bonney Pass, then divert west onto the fork of the Dinwoody Glacier (crevassed) which flows northerly from the cirque between the Sphinx and Woodrow Wilson. Climb moderate snow to the obvious Sphinx-Woodrow Wilson col; just below the top, you will encounter an infamous bergschrund. The bergschrund consists of an enormous crevasse, and it may not be passable in the late summer after the snowbridges collapse. This route is best reserved for experienced, roped glacier teams: snowbridges may collapse at any time, and an unroped fall into the bergschrund would likely be fatal. Evaluate and proceed at your own risk.

Above the bergschrund, join Route 1 at the Sphinx-Woodrow Wilson col.

The Sphinx Map

The Sphinx Panorama

The Sphinx Photos

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