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Climbing in Yosemite National Park

10/7 to 10/20/98

Author: Mike Sullivan

Participants: Mike Sullivan and various partners

I sometimes wonder if, in the course of writing all these different trip reports, I am giving useful beta and encouragement for other people to go out and try these things, or if I'm only spewing about all of the incredibly fun stuff I've done...

Anyway, I'll try to minimize the spray factor (this time?), and just give some beta that is hopefully relevant to folks who aren't all that familiar with the climbing in Yosemite.

General Beta on Life in Yosemite

The unanimous choice to stay for climbers on a budget is Camp 4, officially known as the Sunnyside walk-in campground. For $3 a night you get a more-or-less flat spot to pitch a tent, a bear box for food storage, a share of your campsite's picnic table, and a short walk to bathrooms and cold running water. The catch is that there are time limitations on your stay, and you must line up early in the morning to snag one of these first-come-first-serve sites. (Clever climbers who don't mind a little rule-bending can easily avoid these obstacles, or else duck the rangers and sleep for free in their vehicles or in the woods - not that I would ever endorse such behavior myself...) The best thing about Camp 4 is that you will probably share your 6-person site with climbers from all over the world, most of whom are even friendly. It's basically a huge, international climber's ghetto. There's also good bouldering if you can crank V7 and harder. That's a spectator sport for me...

So Camp 4 is where you sleep, but not really a wonderful place to hang out for very long. On rest or weather days, good places to loaf include the amazing Ahwahnee Hotel (huge fireplaces and lavish decor), the library in Yosemite Village, the bar or reading room in Curry Village, or maybe the lounge at Yosemite Lodge. El Cap Meadows is a cosmic place in good weather, too.

For food, the best store is the supermarket in Yosemite Village, but the little store behind Yosemite Lodge is only a 3 minute walk away. (The Lodge is also where the nearest bus stop is located. The buses run every 20 minutes, they take you all the places I mention, and they are free.) To dine out, my favorites are the all-you-can-eat buffet behind the Lodge, the Italian food place upstairs at the Village shop area, or the pizza place at Curry.

Other stuff: best showers are at Curry Village... walk in confidently (bring a towel in your pack) and you won't have to pay. Other (maybe less crowded) showers are at Housekeeping Camp, next to the public laundromat. A climbing shop is located in Curry, and the folks there are pretty good with beta, if you can't find all the beta you need at Camp 4... There are free yoga classes every week at the elementary school, which is in the residential area north of the Village.

Climbing Beta

During this trip, the weather was too cool for me to want to do any of the great routes on the north-facing walls (Cathedral Rocks, Glacier Point Apron), especially when there were plenty of sunny climbs to choose from. All of the following routes are, uh, warmly recommended:

Snake Dike (Half Dome) - 5.7R, 8 pitches. Awesome route... the views and the rock are equally amazing. Plan on 3 hours for the approach and maybe 11 hours for the round trip. Be prepared for big-time runouts on the easier pitches. Entire rack is a few medium stoppers, a pair of runners with biners, and maybe 4 quickdraws.

Royal Arches - 5.7 (with one point of aid), up to 15 pitches, normally done in much fewer pitches by third classing or simul-climbing easier terrain. A fun route, but extremely popular. You can do some nice 5.8 variations to make the climbing more challenging and to bypass some of the inevitable gumbies. The rappel descent (about 9 raps with double ropes) is much more safe and straightforward than the North Dome Gully descent.

Serenity Crack - 5.10d (or 5.10a A1), 3 pitches. A beautiful crack line, which is only free-climbable due to the large number of pin scars left over from the golden years. Kind of a scary start on the first pitch. The thin-fingers crux on the 3rd pitch is only about 20 feet, and can be easily aided. The best thing about this climb is that it leads you to the start of...

Sons of Yesterday - 5.10a, 4 pitches. Starts just above the finish of Serenity Crack, and provides even more superb crack climbing. Very sustained, with two pitches of 9 and two of 10a.

East Buttress (El Capitan) - 5.10b, 13 pitches. Essentially the easiest way up El Cap... incredible profiles of The Nose and North America Wall. Lots of hard climbing - I personally thought several of the pitch ratings were sandbags. The 10b crux is a face move past a good bolt and can be aided. (Not that I would ever endorse such behavior myself...) This leaves you with lots of stiff 5.9 to climb. There is also a bit of loose rock on a couple of the easier pitches, and maybe a manky belay or two. But the 11th pitch is phenominal, and several of the others are also excellent. And you can't beat the neighborhood!

Water Cracks and Elephant's Massacre (Lembert Dome, Tuolumne) - each is 5.8R, 1 pitch. A nice assortment of slab climbs. The Water Cracks (actually unprotectable flared grooves) are on the south side, E.M. is up on the east side. Good for your head...

Nutcracker (Manure Pile Buttress) - 5.8, 5 pitches. Another very popular route, and deservedly so. The 5.9 variation on the first pitch may allow you to sneak past a party or two stuck on the standard start. It has one greasy 9+ move, the rest is more in the 5.8 range. By setting the 4th pitch belay in the pod 10' below the big mantleshelf, you can stretch the rope out to finish in 5 pitches. There's a nice write-up of the route in issue #67 of Rock and Ice.

Munginella and Selaginella (Yosemite Falls area) - Link these two routes to form a 5 pitch 5.8. Good route with a nice walk-off. The right-facing dihedral variation to the 1st pitch of Selaginella was sustained, fun, and maybe a bit of a sandbag.

Short Stuff: All of the following routes are one or two pitches, good for in-between days, sizing up a new partner, or just for some fun cragging...

Church Bowl: Bishop's Terrace, 5.8. Great hand and fist jams, 2 pitches (skip the 3rd), 1 double rope rap.

Manure Pile Buttress: Jump For Joy, 5.9PG, creative pro. Just Do-do It, 5.10a face with 2 bolts, up to a 5.9 crack. After Seven, 5.7 crack with a bit of 5.8 face. Hayley's Comet, this unlisted route is a bolt line on the arete left of Jump For Joy. 5.10b, take a very light rack up to #1 camalot for upper half of pitch.

Swan Slab: Lena's Lieback, 5.9, great dihedral/lieback. Penelope's Problem, 5.9R, wide crack up to some thin and marginally pro'd face moves. Interesting. Goat For It, 5.10a, a little bit of everything, with bolts on the face.


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