This route is surprisingly good. Reid’s book only gives it one star, but most people who have climbed it consider a hidden gem. You’ll encounter solid rock decorated with slabs, face, cracks, corners, chimneys, no fixed gear, exposure and amazing views of Half Dome the entire way. Although rated 5.7 there are some thought proving sections. Personally, I felt that the 5.7 rating was a sandbag and you could easily argue that some sections are closer to 5.9. Climb it for yourself and decide. Linking this with Royal Arches will give you 23 pitches of trad climbing in one day. It is hard to beat that.
P1: Up the slabs (5.6R) to a crack. Take the crack to tree with slings. 160’
P2: Go up and right into the corner (5.5) and belay about 50’ below slings that are hanging high up in the corner. These slings are off route. 100’
P3: Probably the crux of the route (5.7 sandbag). Again, do not go to the slings in the corner as they are not part of this route. Continue up the corner a little ways until you see a ledge that goes right and around the dihedral. There is a large hole with an undercling in it. The problem to figure out is how to get your foot in the hole while using the undercling that will be at your feet. There is pro before the move that you need to add a sling to in order to avoid rope drag. Consequently, if you fall you will likely hit the slabs below. All the moves are there once you commit to it. Continue traversing the face (stopping to admire Half Dome) until you reach a shallow crack. Head up the crack to a bush and set up a belay. 160’
P4: Up the crack (5.7) with a little bit of face climbing (5.6) near the top. Belay below the chimney at a ledge. 165’
P5: Maybe the best pitch on the route. Up the chimney (5.7) with right side in so that you can use holds on the outside of the chimney to help you advance. When the chimney pinches down head out and then up an amazing perfect low angle splitter hand crack (5.6) in a right facing dihedral. At the top you will encounter some bushes. Break left and set up a belay, again at the bottom of the dihedral. 160’
P6. A little bit of chimney then up and right into the corner with the splitter 1” crack (5.7). Layback this low angle crack until you’re almost out of rope and set up a hanging belay. 190’. You could also stop lower at a better belay stance. However this will likely add another pitch to the climb.
P7. Continue up a bit more of the layback. Two options now exist. Option A (5.9R): Go up the crack until it ends, place a few piece of pro (small cam and med nut) then run it out up progressively easier slab climbing. The harder moves are with in 10’ of the pro. Option B (5.7): go right along a small roof until it ends then go up. I did not do this option, but it probably the original line. Either way head up the summit slabs as far as you can until you find a suitable belay. 100’
North Dome Gully Descent: Walk north along the top of the dome looking for a trail that eventually heads west. Follow this trail down hill heading slightly away from the dome. If you lose the trail (which I found likely) you will have serious bush whacking good times. Eventually break east crossing the slabs that were seen during the approach. Continue down the slabs until you reach the trail on top of Royal Arches. Follow this trail east going up and over Washington’s Column. At one point you will have an easy class 2 descent on a sandy 2 foot ledge with a significant drop to the right. Soon after, the trail seems to dead end. If you’ve reached this point, back track a little. Go up hill a bit and cross a steep slope. Continue east for another half mile to a mile. Looking to the right you will eventually see the decent through the sandy boulder field. Follow this down to the valley floor. One of the major problems I found with this decent are the numerous trails that begin and end. From the top of North Dome to the Valley floor is likely 4 hours for someone who has not done the decent before. Here are a few tips to help you through this. First, keep in mind that there are no rappels necessary, so if you are thinking about setting one up just keep on going. Secondly, if you go to the east side of Glacier Point Apron (near Grack) and look across you should see the decent. This will help you understand how far from Washington’s Column the gully is. Lastly, doing this in the dark in for the first time could have some serious negative side effects. I saw several bivy sites on top of Washington’s Column that are likely from climbers who have decided to wait until morning before heading down. If in doubt, pack a space blanket,lighter to start a fire and hunker down.
Approach: see approach options under North Dome. However, note that this route begins on a ledge that splits the lower quarter of the dome. This is higher up and west of the start of Crest Jewell. You can see the entire route when walking up to dome. Look for the long left facing dihedral with a long right facing dihedral on top of it. You will not have to pass the start of the climb on the decent (if descending the north dome gully) so bring everything with you.
Standard Yosemite rack up to a #3 Camalot (#4 friend is optional). You may want doubles from #.5 Camalot to #2 Camalot. About 6 runners and several quick draws. This route is in the sun most of the day so bring a good amount of water (make sure to have some for the long decent). If you are linking this with Royal Arches there is spring on top of that route to refill from.
BETA PHOTO: Royal Arches is the lower cliff and North Dome is ...
Looking down P3 on South Face
2nd chimney/lieback pitch
|Comments on South Face Route
|By Tom Fralich|
From: Fort Collins, CO
Oct 16, 2007
I found that the key to the step-across on Pitch 3 is to AVOID the undercling in the hole. It is very awkward to stand up under the bulge using this undercling and the fall potential is bad. Instead, climb up a bit higher to the left of the ledge and place an obvious #3 Camalot, then step across to the ledge with a right foot in the area where the hole is. It's balancy, but far less awkward and with much better pro.
Also, on the last pitch, I wasn't able to find any 5.5 slab climbing, even after traversing right under the roof. Still felt like 5.9 where I went up.
|By Doug Hemken|
Feb 28, 2008
The first two pitches are non-descript, but OK. The rest of the route is great!
Tried to undercling p3 and backed off. Dave went up and stepped across - definitely the way to go.
|By John Ely|
Oct 8, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c
I had a great time on this route (sept 09). There are a couple of totally smushed old stoppers on pitch 4, which makes me wonder if someone took a ripper or two on the 5.5 friction? Strongly recommend doing this one. Its worth the hike. The views of Half Dome and the valley are stunning. The beta above seems just about right, though we had 70m twins and were able to run pitches together.
Mar 7, 2012
FA: Mark Powell, Wally Reed, 8/1957
FFA: Mort Hempel, Irene Ortenberger, Steve Roper, 1960
|By Colin Schour|
From: Big Bear Lake, CA
Apr 30, 2012
My god this was fantastic. Either bring doubles in the .5-1.5 range or be prepared to run it out on the liebacking sections.
May 12, 2012
I found this route to be pretty stout for the grade. Tons of fun don't get me wrong, but maybe a little much for a leader with a 5.8 limit. I managed the tricky 3rd pitch move by starting on my left knee, then working to my right knee while utilizing the undercling. Painful, definitely not graceful, but it felt secure enough that way. If I ever went back I would do the step across. I thought the runout on pitch 4 felt pretty tame compared to the first pitch run. Liebacks forever and ever and ever...You better love liebacks if you wanna do this route. The 5.8 crux lieback pales in comparison to the 3rd pitch move. Last pitch felt harder than 5.6 to me, but only for a move or two. Supertaco users beware!!!!!
Oct 9, 2012
that overlap on P3 is 5.7?
Apr 16, 2013
BEWARE OF ANTS!! I linked the first 2 pitches and all 3 trees on the pitch were swarming with red ants. I got bitten all over my arms and legs and ended up bailing. I'd suggest not belaying at the trees. Either save pro and climb above the last tree or set up a hanging belay in the crack before the 2nd tree. Either way, you'll probably get some bites, but hopefully you'll anger them less than I did (who knew the smell of ant pheromones could be so potent??).
Also, the Supertopo mentions a 5.6 hands section before the 2nd pitch anchor. I didn't find anything there that could be considered hands. For me, it was a 2-inch deep insecure finger crack with wet munge in the back. Maybe I was one of the first people on the route this season so the crack was filled with residual dirt (or off route), but in any case, the insecure and slippery liebacking definitely felt harder than 5.6 to me.
So yea, other than the ants and the dirty final crack, the first pitch was nice. Can't say anything about the rest of the route, though. Will have to come back and send it during non-ant-season.