Cruising the Zodiac
Chamonix: To Climb
or Not to Climb
Climbing in Autumn
Yosemite Classics For The Rest Of Us
Snake Dike on Half Dome and the East Buttress of El Capitan
[East Buttress 13 Pitches]
If you're tired of reading about ultra classic rock climbs that are
5.11," or harder, you're not alone. Today's modern classicsamazing as
they aretend to require superior fitness and focus. Such climbs are
for those who train regularly and can manage lots of time off, but what
about the rest of us? Here are two timeless Yosemite classics that won't
your knuckles red or your adrenaline brown, but will leave you with
lasting memories of great climbs.
The first, and the easier of the two, is Half Dome's Snake Dike. Many
people call it "Snake Hike" because of the 12 miles of hiking that
along with the five pitches of mid-fifth class climbing (there are a few
moves down low, otherwise it's 5.0 to 5.4).
|"Follow a sea of chicken heads straight up, using a few fixed pins for protection. This is one of the best 5.7 pitches you'll ever do: steep, exposed, but simple..."|
The best way to do the
to start early and get the hiking over with before it gets too hot.
are two approaches: the Mist Trail, which is steep and mindless, and the
direct route. The latter approach requires some very specific
Ask around at Camp IV for the beta, otherwise take the Mist Trail to the
cutoff by Little Yosemite.
Regardless of how you get to the base, the climb is easy to find, and
irresistible. The dike, which is about three feet wide and more than 600 feet long, stands out like the ridge on a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
climbing is pure joy. As you waltz up the dike, you enjoy the security
golfball-sized orange knobs. On both sides of you, the glacier-polished
slab looks like it would require the skill of a 5.11 friction climber.
you're in a different world, a world of abundant, friendly holds in an
endless sea of granite. But, while the holds are abundant, the protection
uh, let's say, sparse. There is an occasional bolt, but mostly it's 5.0
climbing with bolts for belays only. Since the climbing really is easy
(trust me, I'm not sandbagging), the best thing to do is just forget
the runouts and groove on the continuous, rhythmic, aerobic movement.
keep in mind the climbing gets easier as you go up. After four or
pitches the angle kicks back, allowing you to unrope and enjoy what the
calls "Class 2 forever" (key word: forever).
You'll know that you're approaching the summit when you spot throngs of
hikers who are earning their "I Climbed It" T-shirts by ascending
Dome via the famous "Cables" route (your descent). After a quick 7.4
4800-foot drop to the Valley floor, you'll be sipping cold beer and
up at the summit, saying "I was just there." Allow six to 10 hours for the
car-to-car roundtrip. The climb is worth it for the views alone, and
dike is one of the most amazing natural features you'll ever touch.
Regardless of how you do the climbbelaying at every pitch,
simul-climbing, or solo, Snake Dike offers something for every climber. Don't miss it.
The second classic is the East Buttress of El Capitan, the easiest route
The Big Stone. Unlike most of El Cap's nerve wracking nail-ups, the
Buttress of El Cap is a moderate (5.10b) Grade IV free climb that can
be done in a day. You can be up and down the route in the time it takes
average party to advance three pitches on The Zodiac. Even though The
Buttress is not a real El Cap route, it offers something for
everyone. It's a 13 pitch odyssey up the right side of North America's
famous big wall.
The approach is simple: hike up the talus field directly below The
and veer right when you get close to the base of the wall (45 minutes).
route starts on the west side of the ridge inwhat else?a chimney.
unlike most 5.9 Yosemite chimneys, this one isn't too grunty and is
to protect with a standard rack.
The second pitch starts off with a
5.10b crux (bolt protected), then deposits you into a super clean 5.9
groovea very memorable pitch. Easier and somewhat loose climbing (5.0 to 5.6) takes you to the ridge proper, allowing you to gain several hundred
feet in a just a few minutes. As you continue to climb the buttress,
staying as close to the true ridge as possible, you'll find a wonderful
crack that leads to a comfortable belay ledge (end of pitch 7). This is
great spot to take in the view and grab a bite to eat.
down The Dawn Wall (just east of The Nose), a butt-puckering 3000 feet sheer
drop that will either cause you to worship Warren Harding or wish your parents had never met..."
The eighth pitch (5.9) takes you up and left, testing your hand jams and
footwork along the way. At this point, you switch from climbing on a
to a face. The exposure and views are exhilarating. It's easy to avoid
5.9 offwidth on the 9th pitch by face climbing to the left, using fixed
and a bolt for adequate protection. Once you finish the 9th pitch,
got the climb in the bag: the next four pitches are 5.5, 5.7, 5.7 and 5.5,
respectively. Despite the easy ratings, don't let your guard down too
The climbing is still steep, exposed and requires some route finding
The best pitch on the route is the 11th. It starts with an airy
toward a knobby headwall, a great photo opportunity. After heading
for about 30 feet, follow a sea of chicken heads straight up, using a
fixed pins for protection. This is one of the best 5.7 pitches you'll
do: steep and exposed, but simple. Keep meandering up the wall until you
an obvious belay ledge with loose talus. The climbing eases a bit for
next two pitches, and before you know it, you're on the top.
If you've never been to the top of El Cap, and if time allows, ditch
gear and scurry to the top of The Captain. This quick, 15 minute hike
you to peer down The Dawn Wall (just east of The Nose), a butt-puckering
3000 feet sheer drop that will either cause you to worship Warren
wish your parents had never met. In any case, the climb and the
setting will make it a very memorable day. Descend via the East Ledges.
Mark Kroese, MountainZone.com Correspondant
[East Buttress 13 Pitches]
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