Snake Dike (along with Royal Arches) is one of the classic long moderate routes of Yosemite. For many climbers, this is number one on the Yosemite tick list when they first come to the Valley. For others it is known as "Snake Hike," but the bottom line is it is a great climb up an amazing natural feature to the top of one of the most spectacular formations in Yosemite - second only to El Cap itself.
Get to the SW shoulder of Half Dome by following the Muir Trail to the Mist Trail past Nevada Falls, then back on the Muir Trail. From the top of Nevada Falls, continue for 0.75 mile to an obvious climber's trail that heads off to the left, contouring around behind the back of Liberty Cap to Half Dome. You'll pass a swampy area (Lost Lake), and then wander up slabs to the south face of Half Dome, heading back left across ledges to the base of the route. The approach is six miles and takes 2.5 to 4 hours.
P1: The route starts up a slab below a prominent upside-down L-shaped roof formation. A big tree is up in this roof area on the right. Climb up into the roof, then traverse out the left end and up onto a nice belay ledge. 5.7.
P2: Continue up the left-facing corner system above and past a pair of bolts (optional belay), then wander right past another bolt to a bolted anchor. 5.7.
P3: Climb up and left past a bolt and 5.7 friction to reach the dike itself. Skip another bolted belay, climbing up the dike past a bolt and easier climbing, and up to a bolted belay.
P4, P5, P6: Follow the dike for three more long pitches, all about 5.4, all very run out, stopping at bolted anchors. The final anchor is at a point past a steep section on a small ledge.
P7, P8: Lots of low angle climbing (easy 5th class) wander up the face with occasional gear placements.
Once you feel comfortable unroping, do so, and continue scrambling up 1000' of calf-burning slabs to the summit. Descent is down the Half Dome Cables route. You can't miss it. For logistical reasons, it's better to not leave anything at the base.
6 draws/slings, three or four small-medium sized cams. That's it!
From: Oakland Park, Florida
Aug 21, 2006
I like long days so this qualifies.. The approach is tough, but the climb is great fun. Once the roped climbing is over it's a calf buster to the top.
|By Lee Jensen|
Sep 17, 2006
Take a small set of cams. From 1/2 to one inch. On the first pitch climb to the tree on the left, sling it, and make the easy friction moves into the roof where you can immediately set a bomber cam. On the third pitch, look up and about five feet left from the belay to see the traverse bolt.
From: San Jose, CA
Oct 9, 2006
The free guide at Supertopo.com was quite helpful. Brought a set of nuts, six cams from black alien up to 0.75 camalot C4, six trad draws, one double-length draw, and some random slings/biners - more than enough gear. A skinny 60m rope allowed us to skip a couple of the belays. 8 pitches / 12 hours car-to-car. Bring gloves for the stupid cables :)
|By Pat W|
Oct 12, 2006
Good cruiser stuff up a nobby dike. Besides the traverse above the roof early on, the descent is the headiest part. Going down the cables is quite exposed. And the freaked out asian lady screaming chinese profanities whilst not letting go of either cable, makes the route memorable.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 15, 2006
I used to do this climb every year. It is awesome!
On one of the upper pitches there is a short section where the dike ends and there is a bolt in the smooth gap. I always thought this section was pretty tricky. You may not notice it leading (with the bolt), but it can be scary for soloists.
|By Sergio P|
From: Idaho Springs, CO
Jun 24, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b R
When descending the cables on a crowded day you may find it easier to clip into the cables with a binner attached to a sling then step outside of the cables. Use another sling and binner to clip past the poles so that you are always clipped in.
|By Brad G|
From: Yosemite and else where
Sep 24, 2007
The crux of the route is the never ending slabs to the top. Bring enough water and donít worry too much about the Runouts. A fall in some areas would be really bad but the climbing is extremely easy.
|By Kirill Kireyev|
From: Boulder, CO
May 6, 2008
Are there any potential scary pendulum falls for the second on this route? I.e. would it be a bad idea to take a 5.8- climber as your second? Thanks!
|By Jon Hanlon|
May 7, 2008
There is some traversing at the beginning of the second (5.5ish) and third pitches (one 5.7 move). A 5.7-5.8 climber should have no problem. Enjoy!
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 16, 2008
The approach is not that hard to find, and it only took us 3 hours on our first try.
After getting soaked at Mist Falls, the trail winds up towards Liberty Cap. When the trail abruptly runs into Liberty Cap, it forks. The hiker's trail goes right, you go left. It's that simple.
The hardest part is thrashing through the spring growth in the valley between Liberty Cap and Mt. Broderick, but the views and route pays you back in spades.
Sep 4, 2008
Just did Snake Dike last week, had the free Supertopo beta and the Mountain Project beta. Neither accurately represents the second and third pitch. Here is what you will encounter.
As you take off on the traverse of second pitch you can get in a piece and than clip a bolt. You will than see a pair of anchors about 60 ft up. I suggest you clip them and bring up partner. This ends the second pitch (do not recommend going further for the following reason). P2 on Mountain Project says go past "pair of bolts" (anchor), move up and right to a "fixed pin to another pair of bolts". The "fixed pin" is actually a folded metal hanger with bad 1/4 inch pin. The "pair of bolts" is wrong...as you move past the old folded hanger you encounter only one SMC hanger on a 1/4 inch bolt that sticks out approximately 1/4in and has old webbing hanging off of it. Would not anchor myself on it and use this as protection for my leader. If the leader on the third pitch were to slip on the 50 ft traverse after clipping into this suspicious bolt it probably would not hold.
So belay from the two anchors about 30 feet below on P2.
start P3 from here, do not use the folded hanger, clip the crappy SMC hanger and 1/4inch pin and hope no one falls.
Feb 20, 2009
Laurel, I think you got confused by the Mountain Project beta.
The pair of bolts mentioned by Mountain Project that you have to pass in P2 is the optional belay from the free Supertopo for P1.
If you used that optional bolted belay on top of P1 then the next pair of bolts you will encounter is indeed the P2 belay.
Concerning P3, I think you missed the traverse on the left and went off route on Snake Dance.
To future Snake Dike climbers, if you can clip any quarter incher during the climb, check your topo, you are probably off route.
|By john strand|
From: southern colo
Mar 4, 2009
A good thing for this route is a LONG rope 60m or better. This really helps out on the upper part.
|By Dean Hoffman|
May 12, 2009
Did this a couple years ago with some friends, 2 parties of two. First leader took about 20 slings and maybe a couple of nuts and started blasting, his partner simulclimbed behind him unclipping the gear and leaving it in place. My partner was right on his heels clipping in the pre placed gear and I brought up the rear cleaning everything. From bottom to top I think it took us about 1 hr 15 minutes or right about there. Fantastic route!
|By Josh Hampton|
From: Provo UT, Merced, CA
Aug 19, 2009
me and my girlfriend tried snake dike...
the hike there was longer and more strenuous than we had originally thought it would be. curns pointed the way, just hard to find them all the time.
finally getting to the dike. ive never climbed on gannet or done a "friction" climb so maybe thats why it was so hard? ? ? ?
i had brand new 5.10 prism they didn't seem to stick to the rock at all. it seemed no matter what i did, i would feel very unsure and would slip a few times on the smooth rock. which made the first 3 pitches VERY SCARY !!! my girlfriend also had 5.10 shoes but seemed to do a little better than me, but was pretty scared too.. we were unprepared for the Friction parts of this climb. and i consider myself a hard climber. i tried to find everything i could on snake dike before we left so i wouldn't have any surprises. she and i eventually felt like doing the rest of the climb could be left for another day a repelled off and went home. :(
From: Mill Valley, CA
Aug 31, 2009
We did this route on one 60m rope as a party of 3 on a hot 8/29. Approach beta was good and made it from Curry to the base of the route in 3 hours.
Climbed the P1 left side variation, slung the tree and made the easy friction moves up to the left side of the roof where it's easy to get a bomber nut in. Ran up the flake to the small ledge on top and belayed the followers from the 2 bolt anchor.
While the traverse off the P2 belay is a bit of an attention grabber, the moves are easy and you get a nice piece in before stepping over the bulge and clipping the next bolt. Moved up and left, stepping down into a small bucket after clipping the bolt before finishing the traverse moves to the dike and the 2 bolt anchor where we set up the 2nd belay.
Simuled all the dike pitches stopping twice to get gear back (note, some of the knobs are easy to sling if you want extra security)and found the route finding pretty straight forward although there are definitely some trickier variations to be had if you want them.
Walkoff is long but the hike down the cables and back to camp is way longer. All in all a super fun day and easy enough for a 5.8 leader with his or her head on straight. The toughest part of this route is not thinking about the runouts. All the bolts that need to be in good shape are in good shape. Bring lots of water.
Nov 27, 2009
Once You reach the dike, the rest of the pitches can be linked with a 60m rope.
|By chulho "charles" chang|
From: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Jan 19, 2010
Moonlight ascent in summer 2009.
2pm leave bay area
6pm start hike at curry village
10pm base of climb
2am top of half dome
5am back to curry village
9am drive back to bay area
1pm back home
...something like that. not sure if the hike is worth the climb. also, although moonlight ascent was something to remember, we didn't feel the "exposure" because we couldn't see how high we were.
still, moonlight ascent meant no crowd and perfect temp even during summer.
Sep 6, 2011
the beta available is pretty accurate and if you use your brain the climbing is logical and the protection reasonable. (the runouts are real but easy, as everyone notes, and the cruxes have pro.)
we found the approach to be tricky. not being a yosemite local, i contemplated crossing dicey slabs way too many times. ("should this look like third class to me??") all we lost was time- so i will say this:
when the supertopo approach beta says "pretty much walk straight towards the face of half dome", they are serious. this may also mean trending right and up. we followed broken ledges and corners up and right, with some bad bushwacking, until a ledge walk back to the left (and southwest) became obvious.
a little friendliness goes a long way with the parties that will inevitably surround you.
|By Jim Dover|
From: Idyllwild, Ca
Sep 12, 2011
I now know why some call this 'snake HIKE'. I used to think it was to denigrate the climb as hardly worthy of consideration as a climb because it is a moderate--thinking that hardass climbers were snobs. But no! It's because of the hike after you climb. My freakin' god! I've done the hike before but not with gear in my pack. All I'm sayin' is, if BASE was legal...
All that said, I'd do it again tomorrow. A stellar climb and truly worthy of the five star rating.
Oh, and the runouts? Yeah--a real attention getter but never felt dangerous. Made us careful on lead.
May 14, 2012
Did snake dike Saturday 5/12. Left curry village parking lot at 8:30am and got back to car at 11:00pm. Last chance for water was at Nevada Falls. Fill up and drink as much as you can there. The climberís trail is not too hard to find and follow in daylight using supertopo description. Had to wait in line at the climb for about an hour since we left late. We topped out and descended cables with prusiks before dark. Hiked down to valley via headlamp.
I am a solid 5.8 trad leader and this is the rack we brought:
Three stoppers sizes 12, 8, and 5.
Two ball nuts; purple and blue (lighter than cams in their range)
Three wild country cams sizes 2.5, 1.5, and 1.
5 alpine slings
3 double length slings (used two as cordlettes at belay stations)
60m twin ropes to save weight and have the ability to rap if needed (a single 60m is what everyone else was using)
|By Ryan Nevius|
From: The Range of Light
Jun 12, 2012
Not a single person on the route. The clear crux for me was the first pitch traverse. It's slick! I used 4 draws, 3 cams from .5-1", and a #11 stopper on the route.
|By Phil McAllister|
Sep 8, 2012
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b R
Agree with Jim Dover's assessment BANG on when folk say bring plenty of water- but to qualify with numbers - and add some
1) Hike in - plan for 4 hours unless you already know the approach
2) Runout - depending on how you link the pitches and which anchors you use - 165ft pitch with one bolt? Make sure that your head is ready for this.
3) Hike Out (back to Curry Village) - Plan for 5 hours
4) Climb - 8 pitches of REAL climbing then 1000 ft 3rd class slab with 5th class consequences if you take a tumble - i don't know that you'd just land flat on your face if you slipped. factor this time into any itinerary that you have for the day. depending on how long you stay roped up - plan 1 - 2.5 hours
5) Plenty of water - we had 4 liters (2 each) and got to the top with half a liter left. Climbing in september had a hand pump water filter with us and refilled the camelbacks at the river in little Yosemite camp ground.
6) you have climbing gear - keep your harness on and clip into those cables on the descent (two slings and two biners) - those cables are the scariest thing that i've done. more so that 165ft with one bolt..
From: Salt Lake City
Sep 29, 2012
Climbed this yesterday. I thought the technical crux was on the first pitch and the psychological is the 1200 feet of unroped slab to top out. There are bear lockers at Little Yosemite Valley. If you get a permit you can hike 4 of the 6 mile approach the day before.
|By John D|
Oct 29, 2012
My favorite way to do Snake Dike:
lightest 60m Rope you can get your hands on, a 50m might even work and be lighter.
6 single length slings/trad draws
2 double length slings
4 locking D biners
2 Locking HMS type biners
Red and brown tri-cam
black metolious 4 cam
green metolious 4 cam
Harnesses or webbing for a swiss seat.
I start the hike around 5am with 3 water bottles, but only 2 filled (for both of us) at the top of the second water fall (nevada falls?) drink up and leave with all 3 filled. Climb the route I love slinging horns/knobs on the way up to reduce the runout. Hike the slabs and eat lunch. Hoof it down to the stream and drink more water. Truck past the tourists and hopefully make it to curry village to eat dinner before the buffet closes. Last time I did it our time was around 12 hours car to car and we weren't really hurrying. I usually don't take a belay device and just use a munter; I've even done it with just a piece of webbing tied into a swiss seat, but I think it's probably worth carrying a harness. Go light, be calm and enjoy!
Oct 30, 2012
The Supertopo is great with one exception. There are two new bolts above the 2nd belay (start of P3) that are easy to see and have taken some people off route. The bolt shown on the topo that you want to use is actually quite difficult to see from the belay. Head left from the belay on to the slab watching above for the bolt.
|By Jason Albino|
From: San Francisco, CA
Apr 28, 2013
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b R
Climbed this one Wed, 4/24/2013 and was treated to fantastic weather and nobody else on the summit! What an amazing day. A trip report:
- We left our car at the Glacier Apron lot at 7:45 and hiked directly from there. The SuperTopo suggests taking the bus to the Happy Isles, but saving the .5 miles hiking didn't seem worth that effort.
- In addition to the light rack recommended above, we brought a sandwich and two energy bars each, plus 2.5 liters of water per person on a moderate/warm April day. In retrospect, the food was more-or-less sufficient but the water was lean. You may want to bring purification tablets so you can use the stream/snowmelt (if available) for water refill sources as opposed to lugging more water weight.
- Although the SuperTopo approach beta suggested taking the:
Muir Trail > Mist Trail > Muir Trail
we accidentally missed the Mist Trail turn-off and wound up hiking to Clark Point before heading a bit back down across the valley. In retrospect, this didn't add much time and allowed us to avoid the oft-slippery Mist Trail portion as we stayed on well-groomed dry switchbacks all the way to Clark Point. Not a bad alternative.
- After getting to the shoulder of Liberty Cap, the beta is to basically hug that rock as you head left, keeping tabs on a faint trail. Soon you'll reach the gap between Liberty and Half Dome, where you'll turn right to traverse the gap before the terrain will turn more flat (a small stream will be on your left). The trail then becomes fainter again, and the terrain more wooded. At this point, we crossed the stream at an arbitrary point and found the start of the extensive cairns leading to the base.
- The toughest part of the approach felt like the last bit of hiking straight up steep, loose faint switchbacks in the heat of the morning, then traversing the Half Dome base to the route start. Take your time in this section so you're not too burned out for the route itself.
- It took us a while to ID the route start from the SuperTopo because the cairns actually pass the Snake Dike route and go a little further to the base of a different route (I believe this is the "SW Face" route). The key to finding Snake Dike is IDing the "three trees" in the topo that bracket the route from below.
- Lead this route only if you feel super-solid leading 5.8. I think if you lead at a lower level, the extensive run-outs might feel pretty scary (though the climbing itself is very solid, especially after P2).
- Once on top of Half Dome, don't miss the epic photos from the top. Recommendation is to (carefully) position one photographer on the "diving board" and the other(s) across the top for great views!
- I highly recommend prusiking into the Half Dome cables on the descent, especially if the cables are down. That bit is pretty steep and you'll likely be pretty tired by that point, so better safe than sorry.
- We went for the one-day approach and although it was an exhausting day (took us 11 hours, 55 minutes car-to-car with minimal rests), I think this is the best way to do it as long as it's not too hot out. We did see a couple parties during our decent hiking up to camp out at the base and do it in two days, but the prospect of carrying camping gear and more food/water up and down that approach did not sound fun.
If you have any other questions about the route, it'll be fresh in my mind for a while, so feel free to email!
|By Martin le Roux|
From: Superior, CO
May 27, 2013
Don't be distracted by the shiny new bolts a few feet to the right of the dike on pitch 3. Those belong to Eye in the Sky.
If you're climbing with an inexperienced second then double ropes help minimize the pendulum potential when following pitches 1 and 3. But they're sure heavy to carry all that way.
Most of the belays are semi-hanging. Bring comfy shoes and avoid climbing as a party of three.
May 29, 2013
Easy fun climb! Until it started raining on us three pitches up. Super slick when wet but plenty of pro the whole way up! We simul climbed and were able to place pieces all the way to the top..the cable descent was the scariest part! The rock was we so we girthed some slings and took it slow. One biner and cable section at a time :)
|By Mark Straub|
From: Everett, WA
Jun 22, 2013
Climbed it this May under the full moon- spectacular. We started at 8pm and were back at the car at 8am. Above the 4th pitch, we were able to turn off headlamps and just follow the dike glowing in the moonlight. This was a climb I will never forget, and it was so surreal being on the summit of Half Dome at 3am. To anyone wondering about climbing it in the dark, if you are a confident leader and don't mind runouts, this is a great climb to do at night. The only part I found difficult was the first pitch (finding the proper spots with higher friction), but nothing too bad.
|By David "Carl" Fish|
Sep 24, 2013
Is trap pro recommended or necessary? I only have sport pro and cant afford trad pro. But i would hate to have that keep me from climbing this wall.
|By Tyson W.|
From: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Oct 27, 2013
I couldn't find much of any beta on descending the cables route when the cables are down (Columbus Day thru the Friday before Memorial Day) so here it goes, hopefully this will help a few weary people out:
(skip to the bullet points if you don't want to read my TR/rant)
I always wanted my first time on top of Half Dome to be when no tourists were up there, I thought the solitude up there would just be fantastic... and I was right. This is the way to do it!
We had the summit to ourselves and only one other party. Very surreal at sunset.
Anyway, before we went for it, I asked around Yosemite (mountain shop and ranger station) and very quickly shopped the internet about the beta when the cables were down, and pretty much got nothing solid. In my mind for some reason, I was envisioning the cables being just one long continuous cable system, anchored only at the bottom and the top. In hindsight, this is quite a retarded assumption.
Obviously one long continuous cable is not the case. There are giant intermediate eye bolts every so often, with smaller cables connecting these points to the main cable, as well as a few junctions of separate cables. Despite these facts, when I was asking how to descend these safely at the mountain shop and got, "uh, I mean people definitely do it..." and not much of any other relevant info, to which I probed, "...so do people just use a Prusik?" To which he said, "...ya." The ranger station was less help, providing the same, "people do it..." along with a disclaimer that the parks service didn't recommend it.
I was taking my girlfriend up this route, and the cables, with the knowledge they would be down, scared the shit out of her. My only option was to find the absolute safest way down these things, or I would not be sending. I thought Prusik was my answer...
When we arrived at the cables, due to the dome shape, I could only see about 30 feet of cable. So we set up Prusik's along with a PAS locked onto the cable, for some redundancy. We began the descent and quickly ran into a cable support described above, so we were forced to untie the prusik and retie it on the other side of the support. Then 20 feet later it happened again. And again.... I could see this was becoming a continuous theme, and finally decided this prusik system would literally take hours and could not continue.
The giant eye-bolts were pretty frequent, and provided a perfect rap anchor. We had a single 60m, and only in one spot was it not long enough to rap to the next eye-bolt, to which we then employed the prusik system I originally devised and slid down to the next eye-bolt and continued our rap. If you had double ropes, you could very easily make it in 3-4 raps, with no prusik shenanigans.
So, these are the scenarios I can see in order from quickest to slowest (and sketchiest to safest) for descending the cables when they are down for the season:
- Just go hand over hand on the cables, solo, no pro. A guy in another party did this in front of us and descended them in ~5 minutes. X rated.
- Go hand over hand on the cables, but clipped into the cable Via Ferrata style. R rated. If I did this again, (not with my girlfriend or other equally weary 2nd), this would absolutely be the way to go. You could still take a nasty R rated fall, but being clipped into the cables, you would be stopped at the next junction. Descending in this way would almost be as fast as doing it solo. Via Ferrata would ensure you would always remain clipped in while changing over at cable junctions/supports. The cables route is very slick from the 1 million+ ascents of tourists, so as mentioned above, better to walk on the outside of whichever cable you choose to clip into.
- Rappel the cables. G Rated. As mentioned above, there are giant eye-bolt supports all over this thing, which makes rappelling a very doable scenario, even with a single rope. Double ropes would make quick work of it, and with a single rope there is one section (unfortunately the steepest part) where your rope doesn't get you to the next eye-bolt. Be sure you've tied knots at the end of your rope, and when you reach this point, Prusik into the cable, preferably backing it up with some form of PAS (personal anchor system). Hand-over-hand down the cable until you get to the next eye-bolt, then pull your rope and continue the series of raps. This took us awhile, as rapping does, but it was an absolutely solid way to descend these with very little sketchiness. For anyone taking someone up Snake Dike that is not willing to risk any form of fall, this is the way to go.
Hope this helps a few people out. (drops the mic and walks away)
|By Gavin Bridgeman|
From: Tustin, California
Oct 28, 2013
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b R
Very mellow. Did it last week and it was packed with people. Luck is the only way to beat crowds in the valley.
|By Pink Thunder|
From: Colorado Springs
Mar 5, 2014
One of my favorite routes of all time. I've done it three times, with three different people, including one non-climber girlfriend who had a blast. All you need is a 60m rope, a half-rack of cams, and about six draws, and you spend all day on the wall with unbelievable scenery.