North American Classic Climbs

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Half Dome

Snake Dike

Beta Images Slide Show

When this route was discovered and first climbed by the legendary American climber Jim Bridwell and his partners in 1965, Valley regulars living in Camp 4 reacted with disbelief. A 5.7 route to the top of Half Dome? This singular granite monolith presents steep, seemingly featureless sides to all points of the compass, leading the 1865 California Geological Survey to declare its summit forever unreachable by man. It might have remained so for a long time thereafter had it not been for an enterprising individual who painstakingly drilled holes in the exceptionally hard granite of the East Face to allow installation of steel cables for handrails. The cables are maintained to this day, and herds of hikers make their way up them for the experience of standing atop this monolith that is Yosemite's icon. You'll find as you descend the cables that the route chosen for the cables, albeit the shortest possible, is neither the most natural nor the easiest - the same discovery made by Bridwell and his partners. A group of dikes seem to crawl their way up the Southwest Flank like so many snakes, providing climbing of very reasonable difficulty. Exposure is not in short supply, and neither are the scenic views, but anchors and protection are. The first ascensionists did this route in a day with quickly drilled shallow 1/4" bolts that were accepted anchors in that time. Modern double-bolt anchors are now available at all belay stances, but the climbing between stances can be, shall we say, stimulating. However, the crux pitches are fairly well protected, so a solid 5.8 leader should have little concern with the 5.4R pitches higher up. This is a unique and beautiful route, but you'll have to earn it with a long approach. If you bite it off for a single day, you'll be chewing on about 6000 vertical feet and 16 miles of hiking. For a more liesurely ascent, consider using the campground south of the Dome - you'll need a backcountry permit for this, of course.


Lowland Rock




Yosemite Nat'l Park, California, USA



G5, G28, G35, I2, I3, W9, W32


III, 5.7


Route Descriptions & Maps:

route diagramUSGS topographic map

First Ascent:

J. Bridwell, E. Beck, C. Fredericks, July, 1965


Trip Reports:

Clark 09/02