|30,773 page views|
Good page? (20 likes)
This is what it's all about, pitch after pitch of demanding, ultra high quality climbing on excellent stone w/ a surpassing view. Almost all the pitches would be highly sought after if they were base routes and three or four would be mega classics. If you don't think this climb is great, either you're just being contrary or you need to find another sport.
Bibliographic Note 1: SuperTopo.com has an excellent free topo download for this climb that most will find more useful than the following route description:
Bibliographic Note 2: An old issue Rock and Ice (from the 80s) had an article by Bob Yoho providing the pitch by pitch "betamax" - move by move sequences for all the cruxes -- on this route. This is amusing to look at after you do the climb, but it will probably just confuse you beforehand.
Approach: Walk east from the Awahnee on a road for about 15 minutes until you encounter a climber's trail on the left which heads up to Column. The climber's trail can be hard to spot in low light, so if you're getting an early start, it's worth scoping out at least this much of the approach beforehand. The climber's trail continues past the start of AM which is more or less directly below the obvious right-facing enduro corner. After leaving the main climber's trail, scramble up ledges to a small ledge with a tree which is where the climb starts. Without routefinding errors, the approach can be done in an easy 45 minutes.
P1: Trend up and right on easy vegetated ground for about 100' to a ledge with anchors. This bushy pitch can be wet and unpleasant in spring. It makes sense to skip this belay and continue up a right facing layback w/ finger jams (short stretch of 10a) on steeper, nicer rock for about another 50 feet to another set of anchors; if you plan on doing the easier version of the next pitch, belay here, otherwise traverse left 20' and belay at the base of a thin crack. 10a 170-190'
P2: The Boulder Problem.
Option 1 the traditional Boulder Problem: From the left end of the ledge, climb up a thin crack, fiddle in some small nuts, bust some fingery, feetless, old school 11c moves (the technical crux of the route), reach a ledge/flake and traverse right 20, then up another 20'of ~5.9 layback jamming to a small, sloping ledge w/ fixed anchors.
Option 2, easier, more direct, less well protected. This variation goes straight up, avoiding the two traverses. Historically, the route did not go this way because it was harder to protect but with modern small cams (~blue Alien) it is safe.
The climbing is thin laybacking/face climbing. ST rates it 10a but 10d is more like it. The need to hang out and place gear adds some difficulty. After you make it through the crux first 10', you encounter a ramp with a crack in it. Be forewarned, this may be covered in dirt, exasperating when you are desperately trying to plug a unit (~ red Alien). Above this point, the two options merge.
I will blasphemously recommend option two, skipping the boulder problem, as the more direct, in character with the rest of the climbing, momentum preserving way. Note: Dean Potter caught some grief when he took the piker's variant during his solo of AM, so if you've got hardass friends or are in the limelight, you might want to "bear down" and go the hard way.
Note 2: Either way, this is a quality pitch.
Pitch 3: The Enduro Corner. Totally classic, an endless Indian Creek style, continuous corner which favors those with smaller hands. Starts out with 2.5 Friends and gradually thins. Keep you eye out for the occasional bomber handjam and stem rest. Towards the top, the corner thins more (1.5 Friend) and most people go from jamming laybacks to straight laybacking. This point is probably the crux of the pitch and ends with a thank god sinker hand jam. The last 40' of the pitch are 5.7 chimney in which it is nice to have a 4 Friend or Camalot. Belay at the second set of anchors, on a big ledge. 11c 165'.
If you rap from here, you've done Astroboy.
P4. One of two "easy" pitches on the climb. Head up and left in an easy, blocky corner system for maybe 20'until you hit an cruiser handcrack which is followed to a small stance in a flare with bolted anchors. 5.9 80'.
P5. Another great one, reminiscent of the Rostrum. Follow a wide hands corner crack for about 1/2 a rope length until encountering a roof; the trick on this pitch in rationing and/or walking your bigger gear through this section. From the roof, reach left to a thin crack system, finagle in some small gear (RPs, purple Alien) then step over to this crack and follow it up ( 10c layback & face climbing, occasional small nut) until you can reach back right where the crack is easier and followed to another bolted anchor ledge beneath the ominous, impending maw of The Slot. 10c, 130'.
P6. The Harding Slot. Competitor of the Hollow Flake for THE imagination seizing Valley pitch. Many strong climbers have melted down here. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, it requires a style of climbing that is rarely encountered outside of the Valley and avoided in general and second, most average and large size people don't believe they can fit through the slot. (This is a great pitch to be small on.)
At any rate, from the belay crank up on straight forward 10+/11- laybacking for about 25' until a stance. Place some #1 Friend size gear (BETA ALERT: there is an obvious 1.5 Friend placement here -- don't fill it up w/ gear.) Once you've got bomber gear, make a plan and execute. The next 6 or 7 feet can be both baffling and exhausting. You're working with very thin hands (for only one hand!) in a slick, smooth flare that's not quite a chimney and not quite a corner. ST indicates a "dyno chicken wing" is the secret here; I say nonsense -- that's the sort of inscrutable beta that's likely to leave have you hanging on the rope, thinking about rap anchors.
So somehow you've passed the entry move, and you're standing on a small ledge, still able to move your head. You're officially in the slot. Make sure there's nothing on the back of your harness (you should have lengthened your knot at the belay and left your helmet on the ground) and start squirming. They say take an 'S' path but it's not like you could move otherwise. Stay calm and settle for an inch at a time progress. The entire slot itself is about 20-25' long and the really narrow part 10-15'. There is gear to be had in the back of the slot but don't place it unless you have it in for your second; anyhow, it would be pretty hard to fall -- if you slipped, you'd quickly wedge.
For those absolutely too large to squeeze through, there is an alternative, laybacking the outside of slot, supposedly 11 X. (I question the X as I've heard a fairly reliable story of a guy going this way and taking the fall unscathed three times before he finally made it through.) I've belayed a 2nd taking this outside route and it seemed horrendous -- if possible, any members of your party who have to go this way should be following.
The Slot is the key to route. Be ready for it which means having someone who can lead 5.10 squeeze and get through the baffling entry moves. Some parties which had been cruising up to that point bail after being stymied by the entry moves. There are some great pitches above the slot and just because one move is giving you fits is no reason not to experience them; if need be, aid a couple moves and press on.
Note: you probably started the slot in the sun and ended in the shade. Plan accordingly.
You're now at the point of no return. The ledge at the end of slot is the last with bolted anchors and the last place you could reasonably retreat from.
P7. Hands around a roof (10b), then some 5.9ish hands brings you to a spot where the traditional route goes left at 11b and the pikers var. right at 10c. The 11b way is better (technical face/stem move with good gear) but if your tank is running low, discretion might be the better part of valor. More quality 5.9 cracking takes you to a good ledge where you'll actually have to rig your own belay. 11b/10c 150'.
P8. Changing corners. Fantastic. 20 or 30' of easy ground bring you to mantle (11a) which is one of those moves that you can sail through one time only to flail the next time. There is an old, questionable bolt here which can be backed up w/ something like a yellow Alien; if you're really motivated top rope pro (#2 Rock?) can be had. After the mantle, some more easy ground takes you to the base of the corner, right-facing at this point, which is ascended until things get too hard and you step left around the arete onto slabby face which is followed for a few feet until you start wondering about your last pro, out of sight, below you around the arete. BETA ALERT: reach blindly back right and place something (2 Friend, 1 Camalot?) in the original corner. Eventually you rejoin the corner, now facing left, for a long stretch of fingerlocks and stemming (small nuts). (The face passage is sensational but can be avoided by staying in the corner (11d, better gear)). After the corner ends, continue in easier, wider cracks (good to have a 3 Camalot and a 4 Friend) until a stance in the vicinity of a couple of fixed pins. There are several belay options before this point but its good to stretch it to here in order to be able to link the next two pitches. 11b 150'.
P9: Blast through a long stretch of 10- which trends right. Then up 50' of 5.9 cups and fists (#3 through #4 Camalot, easy to walk). At the end of this crack, step right and hand traverse right to the left end of a long ledge and set up a belay. This may be a really good pitch, but at this point you're probably too sated to really appreciate it. 10a, 200'.
Move the belay to the right end of the ledge.
P10. The scary face pitch. Not the best pitch on the route, but as the sting in the tail, essential to the experience. The nature of the rock changes from classic Valley granite to something less desirable. Up an easy corner for about 20'. Then a reachy 10+ move with decent protection including an extruding angle that makes a good foothold (shame); ST gives this section an R but it seemed pretty well protected to me. Up a few easier face moves, taking whatever gear you can get, and establish yourself at the base of a thin, downward pointing flake. You can get ostensibly decent gear at the bottom of the flake (red RP, blue Alien) but the flake is expanding, so this gear probably isn't worth much. If you're lucky, there may be some fixed heads within reach to the left. Whatever the case, sack up, commit to sending and work up the flake (10b) which gradually gets easier but doesn't offer pro for at least 20'; if you blew it in this section, it is possible you'd zipper all the way down to a menacing spike at the start of the difficulties. At any rate, you succeed, place a 1.5 Friend size piece (phew!) and romp up easier ground to a ledgey area. 10d, 100+'.
50' of 4th class up and right leads to the top of the column.
Descent: follow a rough trail, north for a short while and then east for much longer, with the occasional class three or four section. This will eventually feed you into slabs which are tediously descended (class two to four, possibly complicated by wet streaks) until you eventually can walk back west towards the column and find the trail to your packs and the bottom. The full descent from the top of the column to the valley floor will take two to three hours and would be quite sketchy in the dark. I don't remember much more about the descent but it would probably be well advised to consult SuperTopo or some other authoritative reference before embarking on it for the first time.
1 ea 2,3,4 RPs
2 ea 1-4 Rocks
1 ea 5-7 Rocks
1 ea purple & blue Alien
2 ea cams from green Alien to .5 Camalot
3 ea cams from .75 to #2 Camalot
2 ea #3 Camalot
1 ea #4 Friend, #4 Camalot.
Water, haul line, headlamp.
Already barely more than a speck, yet only a quart...
Astroman is a song on the "Cry Of Love" album by J...
BETA PHOTO: "Astroman".
Photo by Blitzo.
Looking DOWN into the Harding Slot from above.
Josh leading P4 (as described here) of Astroman wh...
Josh heading into the Harding Slot.
Josh well into the Harding Slot.
Bob Horan approaching the Harding Slot on Astroma...
Looking down half way through the Harding Slot
G$ Changing Corners pitch
Gpa on the Boulder Problem Pitch
Werner Braun running it out on Astroman (5.11c), Y...
The red eyed demon emerging from the slot.
Dylan rocking a bomber stem in the Enduro Corner
From: Sacramento, CA
Jul 29, 2006
Great route description! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
|By Josh Janes|
Jan 23, 2007
A few comments from my experience on the climb:
We accidentally soloed P1 to the bolted anchor before the 10a stretch. I would do this again, but would probably wear climbing shoes for it. Done this way the 10a part of the first pitch ends up being very short and it would make sense to continue right on into the easy variation of the Boulder Problem pitch. If doing the traditional, harder variation (11c), a belay is necessary due to the traverses. I thought the harder variation was quite good and would whole-heartedly recommend it.
The Enduro Corner was much steeper than I expected but (the corner itself was) also much shorter than I expected. There is a complete no-hands rest halfway up the business section which takes the Enduro out of the equation.
Next to Changing Corners, the Harding Slot was my favorite pitch on the climb. Bring a 0.5 and #3 Camalot, and 2 each 0.75, #1, and #2 Camalots. Nothing else (and ditch it all by the time you've entered into the slot!) or pay the price. I dangled these pieces, along with a belay device and a locker for the anchor, from a long runner girth-hitched to a gear loop. This worked nicely.
The harder variation on P7 felt contrived.
P10 is very scary when you're tired. Take a long breather on the ledge before it if you have the time.
Tim DeRoehn recommended the following rack to us, which we used, and was PERFECT:
1 ea. from Black Alien to #4 C4 (#3.5 Camalot)
2 ea. from 0.5 to #3 Camalots
Single set of wires & RP's.
This rack doesn't allow you to sew the climb up (e.g. mild back-cleaning on the Enduro Corner, some walking of gear on the upper part of Changing Corners and the following pitch), but we felt OK with it for our first time on the route, and it was nice to go fairly light.
Awesome climb! The Rostrum is closer to the perfect climb in terms of quality, but Astroman packs in some wicked exposure (moreso than any other free climb I've done) and a lot of adventure.
|By Scott McLeod|
Jun 28, 2007
Can I just say that the Harding Slot is NOT as bad as all the hype. It is tricky no doubt, but certainly not worth all the fear it instills in people's hearts... Mostly, it is just a work out.
The crux is getting IN to the slot, not getting though the wide section. And, at the crux of getting in, the gear is right next to you and BOMBER. red Camalots and 2 friends. Plus, there are two jugs, mostly its the feet disappearing out from under you. Oh yeah, and if you really felt despo, you could place gear up the whole thing, the back of the crack is not that far away, but you'll see, you wont need it, once you are in, you are in!
BTW- we climbed it with a single rope, and hauled a bullet pack with a 5 mil tail line. This allowed us to bring water, bars, camera, and a layer. it wasn't too bad. Just swing it around a flake or two, and OUTSIDE of the harding slot, and you are good to go.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 10, 2007
Yeah, but I hear it all depends how big you are ... in the Harding Slot the smaller you are the better.
|By Mark Ferguson|
Aug 26, 2007
can someone comment further on the nature of the runout final pitch?Its not the harding slot that scares me, its this one!
|By Josh Janes|
Aug 26, 2007
Mark, it's hard to get much more detailed than David's description above, but basically you climb up easy, reasonably well-protected rock a ways up off the belay to a stance. Then you have to face climb up an obvious flake like feature that is only protected by three or four fixed copper heads in a seam out left of the line.
A good friend of mine told me that he spoke to a guy who just replaced these heads in the late 90's and called them "bomber"... but that's third-hand information and anyone who calls a head bomber to begin with has questionable credibility in my book. But if you fell from the crux moves and the heads held, you would be perfectly safe. If they blew, you'd get messed up.
In my opinion if you're not confident that you can crank a couple do-not-fall mid 5.10 moves at the end of a long day, either have your partner lead this pitch or stay away from Astroman. That said, it's like one or two mantle/hand-foot match moves and then it's over.
From: Petaluma California
Mar 30, 2008
I've done this route about 10 times starting in 1995. A few comments.
Link pitches four and five. The belay at the top of four is poor.
After changing corners, climb fist then hands about 100 ft. to a sloping belay right with two pitons. A green camalot backs them up. Do not use the last belay below the OW section-it is loose and dangerous.
For a year or two the last pitch was safe. Someone had pounded some hexes into the head slots and painted them black. Alas, these are gone. However, someone has "cleaned" a slot under the flake before the crux move. I thought my yellow alien in said slot made the pitch safe.
From: ABQ, NM
Oct 6, 2008
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- E4 6a
Some funky math going on here, if you add up the pitch lengths listed and give some length to the boulder pitch you get something more like 1200-1300 feet not just 1000. Hey you get an extra 2-3 hundred feet for free, what could be better.
|By Brad G|
From: Yosemite and else where
Jun 19, 2009
One of My favorite climbs. Did it for the first time last week and then did it again yesterday. It can go in eight pitches if you avoide the boulder problem which imop is the same difficulty as the variation. The last pitch isnt that bad, those copper heads look alright. A yellow and a green alien would be nice to have. A red C3 was nice too.
|By Luis Cisneros|
Jul 1, 2009
There is a really bad loose flake on the pitch after Enduro. More precisely in the transition between the hand crack and the 5.9 move to the belay... I nearly pulled it off (and almost shit my pants!). Is very easy to climb around it, I suppose this is why is still there considering all the traffic this route takes.
Mar 7, 2012
FA: Warren Harding, Glen Denny, Chuck Pratt, 7/1959
FFA: John Bachar, John Long, Ron Kauk, 5/1975
|By Nick Sullens|
From: Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Aug 11, 2012
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- E4 6a
On the Boulder problem pitch my partner and I took the crack directly above the boulder problem and found it to be about the same grade as the o.g. boulder problem. Check it out sometime for something new
From: Port Angeles, WA
Oct 17, 2012
Apparently there was rock fall on route and still unstable rock remains near the base of the changing corners pitch. Just an FYI.
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 1, 2012
Climbed this one a couple days ago and didn't notice anything too loose at the bottom of changing corners. The loose flake on the pitch after the enduro is still there though. It makes an interesting, almost metallic sound when you hit it.
From: Westminster, CO
Jul 22, 2013
Did this in 95 degree heat. My 2 cents: the runout finish is worth a footnote mention at most, same with the Harding slot, IF you do not have a thick torso. For me, at the narrowest part (toward the top), my chest was so compressed that I could only take 1/4 breathes. Using either arms or legs didn't work as the chest/hip muscle would lock me in the slot. I ended up emptying my lung & slithering side to side & scrapped the shit out of my back. It was the most unpleasant experience I've had climbing. I can easily see somebody having a panic attack (take a deep breathe, oh right, you can't). Calling the route before the Harding slot astroboy is such a misnomer: a boy would have a much easier time on the pitch. Other than that, the route is classic.