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Leaning Tower
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West Face 
Wet Denim Daydream 

West Face 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b C2

   
Type:  Trad, Aid, 11 pitches, 1000', Grade V
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b C2 [details]
FA: Warren Harding, Al MacDonald, Glen Denny (with help from Les Wilson, Chris Westphal, George Whitmore) - 1961
Page Views: 12,816
Submitted By: Jordan Ramey on Jun 20, 2008
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looking back toward awahnee (spelling?) ledge.
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Description 

11 Pitches of overhanging exposure! A continuously steep and strenuous route with some of the best exposure around. The route is technically easy, but can be mentally wearing due to the nature of the climbing. From the very start there is instant exposure. An awesome wall to cut your teeth on.

Every pitch can be linked with a 60m rope and the hauling is really easy since the bag is almost always free hanging. Link pitches 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 for sure and it's much quicker. These take very little actual gear. The route goes completely clean unless any fixed heads blow.

P1: C1F 120' - STEEP! Follow the bolt ladder straight up to a short C1F bulge that requires some small gear (cams, nuts, cam hooks, to 1"). Continue up the bolt ladder to a hanging belay.

P2: C1 80' - STEEP! Continue up the bolt ladder with a few 0.4-1" placements to an OK/poor stance belay.

P3: C2F 5.7 80' - Follow the crack past a few random bolts to a great small ledge belay. Mandatory free move to get onto the ledge itself or a hook move or two. Not to bad, just awkward.

P4: C1 5.6 80' - Continue following the crack up off the right side of the ledge and finish up on a bolt ladder that curves left to a mandatory 5.6 free finish onto Guano Ledge. If bivying on Ahwahnee Ledge, move over there and haul from those anchors. If continuing straight up, haul from Guano Ledge. Ahwahnee is a great ledge that slopes into the wall slightly with several good bolts along it for fixing a line. PLUSH

P5: C2 100' - From the Guano Ledge anchor make a free move up to clip a high pendulum bolt. Swing right around a corner to aid up a C2 crack. Follow that up to a right leaning small ramp that joins a vertical C1 crack. Follow that straight up to the belay. Don't haul here!

P6: 5.7 C1 - Mandatory 5.7 moves off the belay for 20-30' no pro. Not hard, but can be scary in aid boots. Can't bypass with cheat stick unless you've got an extended "Lovetron" (ha!). Follow the bolts as they curve left to a hanging belay. No cams needed on this pitch. Do a single haul from Ahwahnee or Guano Ledge.

P7: 5.10 or C1 140' - Longest pitch on the route. Straight up the crack off the belay. Gotta back clean a lot or you'll never make it. Only 1 bolt on the pitch and it's sorta shady. Finish on the slab at a poor stance belay.

P8: C1 50' - Follow the crack up to the slab to the roof and follow up to the nice anchor. Easy and short

P9: C1+F 90' - STEEP and strenuous. IMHO the best / most fun pitch of the wall. Follow the fixed gear straight up a crack and up the roof. Finish on some mandatory 5.6 after clipping some semi hidden pins to get into easy terrain. Finishes on long sloping poor bivy ledge.

P10: C2 80' - Break out the 4.5" (#4 and/or 5 camalot) and be ready to backclean it. This pitch takes all size gear from micro to huge. Finish on a horizontal roof traverse and keep your rope extended so it doesn't wedge in the roof for your second. Finishes on an awesome bivy ledge for 3+. Fix the rope well for your second. The good anchor is 30' from the roof, but there are some intermediate bolts and pins to clip so no one takes the big pendulum ride.

P11: 4th class 40' - Easy scramble up and right to the top. Wonder around and find the rap slings off the back after any Hero Shots have been snapped.

Other info:

  • The bolt ladders are NOT reachy (Harding was a short dude)
  • It is 430' from the start of the route at the dead tree to the ground (the Supertopo is incorrect and undershoots it by 30'). You'll need a minimum of a 60m + 70m rope and that will just barely make it (so I'm told)
  • Many cracks are filled with birds and nests (swifts?), hence the guano on Guano ledge.
  • If you hang out on Guano Ledge, you WILL be pooped on.
  • The birds are in their cracks at night, dawn, & dusk, which adds a degree of excitement while climbing past them. They mostly just squawk at you though. Don't smack them around!
  • The route is mostly sheltered from storms, except Ahwahnee Ledge.
  • Rapping the route is not that hard, but requires some down aiding and swinging (mostly the first 2 pitches)
  • This is a VERY popular wall, so expect other people.
  • The route goes mostly free at 5.13b (gotta aid the first 2 pitches) - Freed by Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles in 2001
  • Most "mandatory free" sections can be skipped with hook moves, but those would be substantially harder than freeing 5.7
  • portaledges are generally unnecessary

Here is an old Fish Products topo and info (by Russ Walling):
www.fishproducts.com/topos/yostopos/leaningtower.html


Location 

The West Face starts right at the dead tree and the super obvious bolt ladder just after the 4th class on the catwalk. Just follow the bolts, heads, fixed mank, and such all the way to the summit, heading right off of Guano Ledge.


Protection 

This route has TONS of fixed gear on it, so free biners really speed things up.

Standard big wall rack:
Cams: 2-3 each 0.5"-1"
2 each 1.25"-2.5"
1 each 3-4.5"
nuts: 2 each (offsets helpful)
Micro Nuts: 1 each of the 3 biggest sizes (not mandatory, but helpful)
Hooks: 1 cliffhanger or grappling (talon works, but not ideal)
Cam Hooks
3 Heads: 1 each #2-4 in case fixed ones blow (or a cheat stick)

Lots of free biners for linking pitches and clipping fixed gear



Photos of West Face Slideshow Add Photo
Ryan Cutshall jugging the haul line on the last pitch
Ryan Cutshall jugging the haul line on the last pi...
Adam Sinner rapping the first pitch on 5/20/10.
Adam Sinner rapping the first pitch on 5/20/10.
Seth chillin on the last big ledge at the top of the West Face.
Seth chillin on the last big ledge at the top of t...
Randy Baum Leading the P5 Ramp
Randy Baum Leading the P5 Ramp
Plush bivy 20 ft from the top.  Well worth an extra night.
Plush bivy 20 ft from the top. Well worth an extr...
Hillary getting some massive exposure on pitch 9
Hillary getting some massive exposure on pitch 9
The overhanging pitch 9 is the most fun I've ever had aiding.  Photo by Adam Sinner. 5/21/10
The overhanging pitch 9 is the most fun I've ever ...
Tim leading the awkward pitch 5 ramp.
Tim leading the awkward pitch 5 ramp.
free hanging jug on pitch 7, I think... wild.
free hanging jug on pitch 7, I think... wild.
Tim Triche in the haulbag bivy on the Ahwahnee ledge.
Tim Triche in the haulbag bivy on the Ahwahnee led...
Great final bivy ledge before the easy fourth class to the raps.
Great final bivy ledge before the easy fourth clas...
Enjoying a tasty brew on the plush ledge on pitch 4.
Enjoying a tasty brew on the plush ledge on pitch ...
Guano Ledge?  What an odd name... Ohh, probably from that piece or two of guano or something.   <br /> <br />A poor sloping ledge that I was pooped on several times by angry birds while Tim linked P4-5
Guano Ledge? What an odd name... Ohh, probably fr...
West Face of Leaning Tower.  I'm not 100% about the accuracy here since this picture is at an angle, but it's the best I had to draw on.
BETA PHOTO: West Face of Leaning Tower. I'm not 100% about th...
Tim Triche starting up the bolt ladder at about 7pm on our "push"
Tim Triche starting up the bolt ladder at about 7p...
4 am whiskey visions on Ahwahnee ledge.  A present left by a previous party.
4 am whiskey visions on Ahwahnee ledge. A present...
first big wall. first aid lead. scared me silly
first big wall. first aid lead. scared me silly
What a cool place to spend the night. Travis Strong enjoying the view.
What a cool place to spend the night. Travis Stron...
Ryan topping out pitch 9.
Ryan topping out pitch 9.
Snapped this shot of a guy on p.5 while climbing WDD with a couple friends.
Snapped this shot of a guy on p.5 while climbing W...
Staying in my bag while the party ahead of us leads out pitch 5.
Staying in my bag while the party ahead of us lead...
uber scary "4th class" traverse to the start of the climb.  the most frightening part of the climb in my opinion.  Scott carrying the pig
uber scary "4th class" traverse to the start of th...
Looking up at Pitch 3
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at Pitch 3
Comments on West Face Add Comment
Show which comments
By Sirius
From: Oakland, CA
Jun 24, 2008

Thank you, Jordan, for taking the time to give such a thorough description.

I'd only add that pitches 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 link without much effort.

By Travis Hibbard
Aug 15, 2008

Be Careful on the Approach!

In the Talus about 1/2 the way to the bivy I had a loose rock fall and dislocate my ankle. Absolutely devastated any chance at the ascent so be very careful with the bags.

By Entropy
Feb 18, 2009

Generally there are fixed lines between guano and Awanhee ledges, and at the base through the 4th class which if you fall, you ain't gonna stop for a few hundred feet.

I would suggest linking 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9. Fast and an easier way to link in my opinion.
good ledges for belays this way too.

By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
May 31, 2009
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b C2

This route is only a grade IV for a competent party. You can link 9 and 10 also and do it in 5 pitches.

By Ryan Kosh
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jul 7, 2011

Was able to lower from the dead tree anchors to the ground on two 60m ropes.

By aSteel
Sep 24, 2011

The 20-30' of 5.7 looked more like 30+' of unprotected climbing to me. As I was fully in aid mode at that point, I hooked up to the bolt ladder. With about 4 aid moves on hooks or bad/small gear it felt like C3. It was very easy and secure, though one hook placement was less than incredible (hooking on a dead horizontal ledge instead of over a nice lip). I also feel that no #4 camalot is needed. We brought two but only placed one on pitch ten at the top and that could have been skipped. Great route.

By Jeff Edge
Mar 13, 2013

Linked every two pitches, including 9 and 10 (Holy rope drag! Words can't express the emotional journey it was slogging through the last roof traverse onto the slabby ledge and then to the belay). Backcleaned perhaps less than safely, but man that drag was still terrible. Great memories though.

By Murdo
Oct 31, 2013

What a wall! Linked 1+2, 3+4, 5+6, 8+9 with a 60m. Lots of fixed gear, especially on the upper pitches. Used the cliffhanger hook a few times, sometimes just for fun, but never used the cam hooks. I would recommend bringing doubles in the really small cam range....green/purple C3, black aliens and smaller. Zeros, the tiny grey metolius TCU, and offset brassies were very helpful. Don't forget to give the 2nd enough slack for the lower out on 6 before you fix the line. We also found it expedient for the 2nd to re-aid the roof on 9 and the final traverse on 10 (a few moves each at most). Otherwise you can muscle it. And yes, you can rap straight to the ground with two 60m's from the chains at the end of the chimney system.

By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 31, 2013

This route is great training for El Cap, especially if exposure wigs you out. This way you can get most of your wigs out before you jump on the Big Stone.

By Zachary W
From: San Francisco, California
Mar 13, 2014

Great topo and beta on the Yosemitewall.com site: yosemitebigwall.com/west-face-1