The rating of South Face route of Granite Peak is subjective at best. It is generally considered as "Class 4+", the "plus" meaning that you may encounter what could be deemed a low class 5 move. Very careful route finding may avoid class 5, but even the easiest route is very exposed at times. This is the rating that was given based upon personal experience and the consensus of guidebooks, internet summit logs, and other climbers. Many different climbers and guidebooks have rated this climb from class 3, up to and including 5.7. The route is solid class 4 with possibly the occasional low class 5 move.
It all boils down to how comfortable the individual is with exposure. Know your abilities and your performance level under exposed conditions. Back off if you do not feel comfortable. Best to come away safe than to get into terrain exceeding your abilities.
One strategy note: If using a high camp on Froze-To-Death Plateau, the further you can get to Tempest Mountain the better. You can cut significant time off your summit day by camping at the base of Tempest. If camping at Avalanche Lake, get a pre-dawn start. It's a 2000' climb from Avalanche Lake to Bivouac Saddle (the Tempest/Granite saddle) through very rough terrain.
From Bivouac Saddle between Tempest Mountain and Granite Peak: The first obstacle is to climb the east slope/ridge immediately above Bivouac Saddle. From the saddle, traverse left (south) and follow a faint climber's trail to the left of the east ridge. After going left, the trail will turn up the slope near a rib. From here, either continue up the slope via a faint climber's trail or continue right (north) to the
east ridge (class 3). Either way, climb the slope or the ridge and finish via class 3 moves on the right (north) side of the top.
At the top of the east ridge, you will be able to see the snow bridge. Take time to view the chimney system across the gully and consider your route. Locate the "X" crack feature (see photos link below) which will help in route finding once in the system. Traverse right, staying high on the slope while moving towards the snow bridge. In late season, the snow will be gone and it will be a small saddle instead of a snow bridge. In early season, a belay and/or ice axe may be needed to cross the snow bridge.
After the snow bridge, descend slightly to the left and ascend the left-most chimney via class 4 moves. After the chimney, go left of the "X" crack feature, and continue up another chimney to the far left. Exit right onto a ledge, and ascend the final class 4 chimney to the top of a rib. From the top of the rib, drop down into a shallow gully. Cross the gully and do a class 4 scramble up an obvious chimney to a notch, where a rap station will be seen.
From the notch, the entire south face and final route will be in view. Take time to consider your route and note features. Once on the face, occasional cairns will help guide the way. From the notch, begin by traversing north, then west (left), staying high, towards the face. Scramble up to a slab with a large horizontal crack. Use class 4+ moves to ascend a crack, then traverse right onto a small ledge under two chimneys. A rap station will be found here. Move up directly between the chimneys on exposed class 4 terrain. Stay between the chimneys to avoid class 5. Above the chimneys, another rap station will be found. Continue up another 30 ft until reaching a large flat boulder area. From here, traverse the face (class 3) to the left (west) until reaching a ledge below the keyhole. Directly under the keyhole, go up and right through a chute via class 4 moves until reaching a ledge. Another ledge with a low roof will be seen above with human-built stepping stones placed to climb up to the ledge. Once on this ledge, move left for a few feet, then exit to the right (north). Continue to the right for the final summit scramble (class 3). For the descent, down climb and reverse your route to the 2nd rap station above the chimney system. Either down climb or make two 80 ft rappels to the base of the face. A convenient rap station is also at the notch, and yet another is above the snow bridge section. When descending the long slope back to Bivouac Saddle, either follow the east ridge down to the saddle, or go a little right and follow a faint climbers trail down the slope. Snow conditions on the slope will again determine your route of choice. Water can be found at the base of the slope if there is a snow field present.
Hiked in the first day and set up a goat-clogged bivy with granite just in site. Got a good alpine start and made it to the summit by 9:30, then made it to the car by 9. I've never hurt so much in my entire life.
My two friends and i left the car at 12:30 am after a full day of work from all of us. We went as light as possible(we thought) dont need harness or rope. missed the fork for the switch backs from hell and over shot by about a half mile. made it half way through the frozen to death by sunrise. by this time we have passed two teams on there way out after reaching the summit that day. at the end of the frozen to death we pass two more teams getting out of there tents, we changed and drop down into the saddle. Passing yet another team we set off. the snow bridge had only three steps through the snow. little exposed through the chimney but great views. we reached the summit at 9.15 am after about a half hour on the summit resting and just enjoying the view we set off for home. we were back on the frozen to death by 11.30 where we ate lunch with some goats. after about an hour we decided to leave making back to the car at 6 pm that night. all that was left was the drive home and a stop to fill up on Chinese food. all in all we were on the go for 17.5 hours and awake for 38.
Hiked all the way up from the parking lot to the base of Tempest in a nasty downpour, but summited on a beautiful clear morning the next day. Absolutely beautiful. Definitely no need for gear, except a rap line if you don't mind exposure.