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El Capitan
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Zenyatta Mondatta 

The Shield 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c A3 PG13

Type:  Trad, Aid, 30 pitches, 2900', Grade V
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a A3 [details]
FA: Bocarde, Porter 1972 FCA: Charlie Fowler, Xavier Bongard, 1993
Page Views: 6,714
Submitted By: Karsten on Jan 7, 2012

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (14)
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Looking down at the Bivy on the bolts between the ...

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Despite beat out placements & seeing 100s of ascents the Shield is about as quintessential of a big wall as you could imagine. Gone are the rurp seams that Porter encountered on the FA but the overhanging headwall and spectacular position remain and make this a memorable ascent.

The route breaks away from the ledges of freeblast with a few lack-luster pitches up through the grey ledges section. A protected bivy lies below the steep roof above. The climbing really begins with the Shield roof pitch. It looms ominous & steep however concedes with a series of bolts with the rest fixed.

The route seems to go from mellow to extreme and in an instant when you turn the lip onto the windy, overhanging headwall. A single crack splitting the amazing granite face above is why you're doing this route. One C1 pitch and then you're ready for the business. The Groove and Triple Cracks pitches go up this amazing section of rock. Insecure and steep, they are considered the cruxes of the route. While they have gone clean most still feel the need to hammer at least a few pins. Being creative here will save using the hammer too much. Beaks, hand-placed sawed-offs, and offset cams & nuts can make the offensive holes climbable. The headwall finally eases with several sections of bolts and a fat ledge. Above the headwall there is still some ground to cover but the climbing eases as you merge onto the final pitches of Magic Mushroom.

Clean ascents, while coveted, are rare but minimizing nailing will protect this route from further damage.


The route breaks away from the Salathe(freeblast) above Mammoth Terraces and continues up through the grey ledges of Muir. Next it juts straight up and out the roof and up the large, sheer, and overhanging headwall on the left side of El Cap's prow. Finally it rejoins Muir for the topout pitches.


A typical bigwall rack with emphasis on larger sawed-off angles (1"-1.25"). The new large offset cams are useful & as always beaks as well.

Anchors have at least one good bolt and most allow for 2 portaledges.

Photos of The Shield Slideshow Add Photo
Looking down from the Belay at the top of the Trip...
Looking down from the Belay at the top of the Trip...
Free Blast.  Most of the Route is visible in this ...
Free Blast. Most of the Route is visible in this ...
Belay from the top of the Pitch above the Triple C...
Belay from the top of the Pitch above the Triple C...
Belay on the Triple Direct at the start of the Shi...
Belay on the Triple Direct at the start of the Shi...
Ed Kauffer starting the lead up the Triple Cracks ...
Ed Kauffer starting the lead up the Triple Cracks ...

Comments on The Shield Add Comment
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By Karsten
From: Sacramento, CA
Jan 8, 2012

I would also note that this route gets very windy and cold. I did it in the middle of summer in 90 temps. We were wearing puffy jackets all day on the headwall pitches.
By rex parker
From: las vegas n.v
Jan 11, 2012

Nice page karsten.
By Jacek Czyz
From: Denver, Chicago, Lexington; PL
Jan 15, 2012
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a A3-

My 2c...the Shield finished with Magic Mushroom. Muir going 300' to the right.
By Osprey Overhang
From: ...
Jan 21, 2012

FCA: Charlie Fowler, Xavier Bongard, 1993
By Ed Kaufer
Feb 20, 2012

Did the Shield in June 1980 with Dana Brown. We found that most of it was tied off knife blades, consisting of mostly A2-A3 but a couple of sections that were then still A4. Keep in mind that friends had just come out and small cams were only a dream. I'm not sure I'd call it a Grade V though.
By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jul 18, 2012

Re climbing this as cleanly as possible: I did it in '91 and we had only six sawed offs, only half of which we actually used per pitch, and even then only on a few pitches on the headwall. They were handy when needed, but even old school TCUs worked pretty well in most pins scars. I imagine Aliens, C3s or Totem cams would be the ticket.

I've heard stories of much more recent ascents where folks nailed, though admitted that they did so more because they kind of freaked with the exposure. Follow Charlie Fowler's example and, if you hammer, do so sparingly. You'll be more than rewarded when climbing this awesome piece of stone.
By Mickey Sensenbach
From: San luis obispo CA
May 16, 2014

Karsten is right... That head wall gets real windy!

A bivy on the head wall is recommended by me... Way freaked cool bivy at the base of triple crack or groove...
By Dustin B
From: Steamboat
May 21, 2014

As of May '14 the route is in great condition, hardly any fixed mank on it, all anchors are bomb.

Every single pitch of this climb is great! DO IT!
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