Bigwall Route Descriptions / Beta – Routes by Difficulty

Beginner

Beginner Routes (easier to harder)

 

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  • South Face of Washington ColumnThe only truly novice bigwall in the Valley, the South Face is incredible. Thin, stopper-eating splitter cracks, only a few of which need to be aided if you can freeclimb 5.10a, abound. South Face is like a favorite book that you can read over and over. The last pitch is a loose gully from which pebbles and small stones can shower down at any time, so wear your helmet even while resting on Dinner Ledge if there are people climbing above).
    *Plan: Most folks spend a day getting to the climb and climbing to Dinner Ledge. If doing South Face in two days you will need to fix one or two pitches off Dinner Ledge. If time allows it can be much more enjoyable to give yourself an extra day for fixing off Dinner Ledge and enjoying the views.
    *Ledge: Dinner ledge, which has two tiers, is a palace for 6-8, squeezable to 12+.
    *Descent: Rapping the route has become popular, but is not the best option when there are crowds. It is often very windy in the afternoon which makes rapping difficult. The nice thing about rapping the route is you can leave your bivy gear on Dinner Ledge and rap back down to it, maybe spending an extra night if you have time. The downside is the summit of the Column is an outrageous fin of rock, with sweeping views back beyond Clouds Rest, the Clarks Range, and down the Valley to El Cap; a true spot to savor. The rap route starts from the top anchor of Skull Queen, and raps back to anchors 10 and 9 on South Face, before leaving the South Face route and rapping straight down using two independent rap stations, before reconnecting with the South Face route for the final two raps to Dinner Ledge.
    *The Elements: South Face is in the Sun most all day, though it is often windy and much cooler in the afternoon.
  • West Face of LT
    West Face of LTIncredibly steep and moderate, with fantastic Awhahnee Ledge 350′ up, Leaning Tower is a fun first wall for folks who like their rock steep. For many, the radical overhanging nature and the fact that the route starts off a  3rd class ledge 400′ off the ground which adds instant exposure, can be too much for a total wall novice. The cruxes are more awkward, or flaring placements, than super thin. The rack is light because most pitches contain many bolts or fixed pieces, or the cracks take a nice variety of gear. As of 2015, the popularity of free climbing on the route had made aid climbing the pitch to Ahwahnee and the first pitch afterward more challenging as fixed pieces were periodically removed for handholds–no big deal for someone with at least one wall under their belt but sometimes challenging for total beginners.*Plan: There are many equally-viable strategies for climbing the Tower. The good news is the approach trail climbs out a beautifully exposed ledge, which is technically on the mountain and legal to bivy on, so this gives you leeway if you find the going slow at first or run into a lot of other folks. Most parties make it to Ahwahnee Ledge their first day, and spend a long second day getting to the top.*Approach: The trail which starts from the bathrooms at the Bridaveil Falls parking lot can be vague. There is an apartment-sized boulder just behind and toward the Leaning Tower from the bathrooms, so if you head over to that boulder and look for a small trail on its far side and continue up this toward the wall you’re on the right track. It is difficult to avoid doing some boulder-hopping on the approach your first time, so break your loads up accordingly or consider taking a hike up to the Tower on a rest day to get the trail dialed. The last 100′  of the 3rd and 4th class ledge to the base of the route definitely feels more like 5.5 with a haul bag. Most parties fix a line for this last section of the approach, from tree to tree, and clip into the line as they shuttle their stuff over to the base of the route.*Ledge: Ahwahnee is a palace for 3, comfy for 4 or 5. While the Tower is radically overhanging rain or snow does hit Ahwahnee enough to require bivy sacs during a storm. Dano Ledge, just below the Summit is an awesome bivy, and there is also a nice flat spot at the top of the Notch, where the rappels enter the gully/chimney.*Descent:From the top of the Tower you rap/rap+downclimb two pitches of low angle slab to the notch above the chimney/gully that splits the Leaning tower and B.O.L.T. walls. From there you can’t get lost, rapping down the chimney several times to the ground which comes out a couple hundred feet above where the 4th class approach ledge departs the trail. Depending on the conditions, and how much stuff you’re carrrying, it is possible to rap with one rope (with short sections of 4th class(more like canyoneering) downclimbing until the last two rappels.*The Elements: Leaning Tower gets Sun mid-afternoon to sunset. While outrageously steep, water does blow in in places and also run down the mountain so the route is not totally dry in a storm. The descent is very tricky/dangerous in a storm as you must descend low-angle slabs first and then a loose chimney/gully system.West Face of Leaning Tower
  • Gold Wall, Ribbon Fall V 5.9 C2+ 11 pitchesGold WallGold Wall/Silent Line climb a single crack system of impeccable golden rock. Nonetheless, if you don’t comfortably lead 5.10a/b in the Valley it is tough for a first wall. The first pitches follow flaring cracks that are difficult to aid, and the splitter cracks higher up are pumpy, deep hands. Gold Wall is the perfect first wall for a team of comfortable 5.10 climbers. The hand crack pitches in the middle of the route would be overflowing with climbers if they were closer to the Valley floor. The camping at the base of the wall is beautiful alpine Yosemite(permit required). Bonus: In spring(usually into June) you can get water from nearby Ribbon Creek.*Plan: Most parties hike to the base of the wall and fix a pitch or two their first day, filtering water from Ribbon Creek if it is available, and then spend a long second day climbing to the Summit and rappeling to the base.*Approach: Allow a solid 1.5-2 hrs for the approach, which can be very vague in places and easier to do as a day hike or without much stuff the first time to find the best route.*Ledge: There is a ledge for one at the top of the 4th pitch of the Gold Wall, which most parties skip by doing the (much more classic)splitter handcrack Silent Line variation, so no real ledges on the route. Hauling would be fine on this route but the approach is so steep and long that most folks fix and blast instead of carrying the portaledge up to the climb.

     

    *Descent: Most parties rap the route, though there is separate rappel route to the west of the climb that was commonly used until the mid-2000s when anchor bolts were replaced. Over half of the anchors on the route are now bolted making it the faster/safer descent option. The rappel route to the west does afford you the luxury of scrambling through a lot of Manzanita, and gaining a more true Summit than you are able to climb to if you plan on rapping the route, but the rappel route involves rapping down a long gully with many dubious small bushes as anchors. This rap route is easily found by hiking up and west along the obvious Summit/Ledge
    system that ends at a bolted anchor. Rap west into the gully from
    there.

     

     

    *The Elements: Gold Wall is in the Sun all day. In Winter/early Spring mist from Ribbon Falls blows around the corner and can make the shady base and first pitch a little damp.

Intermediate

Advanced

Expert

 

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