These closures have been lifted as of August 1, 2018. (I leave them here for people to get an idea of the routes that may, or may not, be affected by closures in 2019, typically starting Mar 1 – 15th, 2019 and extending to July 15 – Aug 1, 2019).
Arch Rock Area – All routes at Arch Rock are closed.
B.O.L.T. Wall – Immediately southwest of Leaning Tower. Closure includes all routes on the B.O.L.T. Wall.
Camp 4 Wall – The climbing route “Good Ol’ Boy” is closed. All other routes remain open.
El Capitan, Southeast Face – Closure includes all routes between and including “South Seas/Pacific Ocean Wall,” “North America Wall,” east to “Native Son.” The first four pitches of the closed routes from the base of El Capitan remain open. (effective as of April 26
Mt. Broderick – West of Liberty Cap. Closure includes the entire southeast face of Mt. Broderick opposite Liberty Cap.
Fairview Dome, West Face – Tuolumne Meadows. Closure includes all routes between and including “Heart of Stone” to “Lucky Streaks.” All other routes remain open.
Half Dome, South Face – Overlooking Little Yosemite Valley. Closure includes all routes between and including “Autobahn” east to “Lost Again.”
Hetch Hetchy – Closed area includes Wapama Cliff (immediately west of Wapama Falls).
Rhombus Wall – Above Ahwahnee Meadow. Closure includes all routes west of Super Slide to the Ahwahnee Ramps, including all routes on the Rhombus Wall.
The Rostrum – Lower Merced Canyon. Closure includes climbing routes on all sides of the Rostrum formation. Super Nova and the Jungle Gym areas remain open. Slack-lining is prohibited at the summit and the top of the adjacent cliff.
Wawona Dome – Closure includes all routes between and including “Cream of the Crop” to “Bark at the Moon”. From the base, the first pitch of the closed routes between and including “Lunar Eclipse” to “Bird in Flight” will remain open.
These amazing webcams give you info about realtime Yosemite Valley conditions. They are also a fantastic source of stoke! Check them during periods of poor weather to see what is happening in the Valley proper, as it often rains or snows in other areas of the park but the Valley remains unaffected. These webcams are provided by the Yosemite Conservancy:
Fresno: Located just over 2 hours from the El Cap meadow, Fresno International Aiport(FAT) is the closest airport to the Valley. YARTS bus service is available(only between May 15 – Sept. 15) between Fresno and Yosemite. Click here to view the schedule. After Sept. 15th there is no bus service(at all) between Fresno and Yosemite, so you have to rent a car or be picked up. If traveling by bus during the off season you have to take a bus to Merced, and then switch to a Yarts bus; this usually takes 5-8 hrs (Click here for Yarts schedule from Merced).
Sacramento, Oakland, and San Francisco airports are all about 4 hours from the Valley by car. Los Angeles(LAX) is 7-8 hours by car.
Of course, things are fewer and more expensive in Yosemite, so budget some extra travel time for shopping for groceries and any camping supplies you need before you arrive.
Car:(check road conditions by calling 209-372-0200, or visiting the park’s website)
Unfortunately as of 2019, most bigwall climbers find having a car in Yosemite to be essential. This is mostly because there are no secure lockers in the Valley where you can leave valuables while you are on the wall. Relying on busses is challenging because from most locations you have to take 2 or more busses to reach the Valley (meaning there is not one bus from San Francisco, or Fresno, that goes directly to Yosemite).
When driving, highway 120 is the fatest route from San Francisco and from points north of Yosemite, Highway 41 is the best entry from Fresno and points south of the park (L.A, etc.). Highway 140 is the lowest elevation route so is the best in the winter. Highway 120 East over Tioga Pass usually closes from Mid-November until May or June.
For craggers and people traveling light, bus service could be adequate to get to Yosemite; the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle (which circle the east end of the Valley and run from 7am to 10pm) gets you close enough to most of the walls, and hitchhiking is legal. But if you’re bigwall climbing and are bringing a fair amount of gear, arriving by bus can be taxing:
You typically have to take 3 busses: one from the airport(could be an airport shuttle, or BART train if you are in the sf bay area) to the Greyhound(longer route) bus station; the Greyhound will be your second bus which will take you to Merced; then the Yarts bus will be your third bus taking you to the Valley. The Yarts bus service is limited which can be extra stressful/challenging.
Yarts(Yosmite Area Regional Transport) operates the only bus service into Yosemite Valley from Fresno(only May 15-Sept. 27), Merced, Mammoth Lakes(only in Summer), and Sonora. The bus ride is about 2hrs from Merced and Sonora.
There is Amtrak train service from Oakland or Sacramento to Merced that connects with the Yarts bus. However, the trains run infrequently, go slow, and so are a difficult option for someone flying into the bay area and looking to get to the park quickly. On your return trip, it can be fun to take this option back to the san francisco bay area to fly out.
Yosemite Valley is a year-round bigwall destination. There are walls in the sun or shade ranging from 3,000 to 8,000 ft. That said, storms can hit any time of year (even in July) and can bring snow, ice, and wind. ALWAYS climb prepared. The most popular months for bigwall climbing are May/June and Sept/Oct., but the veterans love summer climbing. In mid-summer the temps at the base, where there is no breeze, can be 120 degrees. However, 4 pitches up, it is often only in the low 80s. On shady walls(like Half Dome, Quarter Dome, etc.) people wear jackets all summer long. April and November often have 70 degree weather.
My favorite weather sites:
Camp 4:(Note: there is a sign on the window of the kiosk at Camp 4 which states the number of spots that will be available to rent the next day. If you arrive and the line is longer than the number of spots listed, for example if it says there are 18 spots available and you count that you are the 20th person in line – don’t wait, there are no reservations, so you will just have to come earlier the next day, or find another camping option).
Camp 4 is the only walk-in campground in the Valley and is a world class hang. It is first come first served(no reservations) with a 7 day limit from May 1st to Sept 15th. The limit is extended to 30 days during off season(Sept 16 – Apr 30). A line of people in need of a site usually forms at the campground kiosk several hours before the ranger arrives at 830am. During peak season, plan on being in line by 5 – 6am to receive a site (meaning you can get up at 5am and get in line for you and your buddies, but by 9am when the ranger is issuing sites your friends will have to be present to receive a site). Every camper must be present and provide identification to receive a site. There are 35 sites each holding 6 persons(often people in the same party get assigned to different sites). It costs $6/per person, per night. There are no showers or laundry in Camp 4, but both are available at nearby Housekeeping Camp.
Pines Campgrounds: There are three campgrounds in the Valley that offer traditional, drive-up camping: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines which are all located beyond Half Dome (Curry) Village. The Pines’ often have site openings when Camp 4 is full. Because you can reserve in advance, and drive right to your site, most folks find the Pines to be better camping than Camp 4 – but there is no climbing in camp. All reservations are handled either online at www.recreation.gov, by phone(1-800-436-PARK), or through the campground reservation office located at the northeast corner of the dirt parking lot in Curry Village. Five people and two vehicles are allowed per site. Cost is $26/night.
What to do when all Yosemite Valley campsites are full?
Distances from Yosemite Village:
From west (Hwy 140)
El Portal – 15 mi/ 24 km (30 – 45m)
Mariposa – 44 mi/ 70 km (1h – 1h30m)
Merced – 80 mi/ 129 km (2h – 2h30m)
From west (Hwy 120)
Groveland – 48 mi/ 77 km (1h15m – 1h45m)
Oakdale – 90 mi/ 145 km (2 – 2h30m)
Sonora – 72 mi/ 116 km (1h45m – 2h 15m)
Modesto – 119 mi/ 191 km (2h30m – 3h)
Sacramento – 162 mi/ 260 km (3 – 3h30m)
San Francisco – 189 mi/ 305 km (4h – 5h)
From south (Hwy 41):
Oakhurst – 47 mi/ 75 km (1h30m – 2h)
Madera – 89 mi/ 143 km (2h30m – 3h)
Fresno – 92 mi/ 148 km (2h30m – 3h)
Los Angeles – 318 mi/ 511 km (6 – 8h)
From East (Hwy 395)
Reno – 249 mi/ 400 km (5h – 6h)
Lake Tahoe – 199 mi/ 320 km (4h – 5h)
Mammoth – 318 mi/ 511 km (6h – 7h)
Bishop – 353 mi/ 569 km (6h30m – 7h30m)
Unfortunately there are not any campgrounds (except the first-come, first-served campsites listed below), that have any availability when the Valley campsites are full, in the Yosemite area. It is a very mountainous area, so any place offering campsites will be at least an hour from the Valley. Bass Lake, an area outside of Oakhurst, Ca which is 80-90 minutes from the Valley, has nice campsites and has the bonus of also being near the incredible climbing of Fresno Dome and Shuteye Ridge.
In summer, there is first-come, first-serve camping within Yosemite at Bridaveil Falls Campground, off the Glacier Point road (half hour from the Valley, off hwy 41). There is also similar camping available at Tamarak Flat Campground, which is off the hwy 120, also only forty minutes from the Valley, and also at White Wolf, which is further along the hwy 120 east toward Tuolomne Meadows.
The main consideration when considering these options is to think about how much time you want to spend searching for a campsite, which may, or may not, be available. Because of this lack of available camping issue, it has become popular for campers to drive down the hwy 140, which is only 20 – 25 minutes to the park boundary from the Valley, and camp by the side of the road. The hwy 140 has tons of pullouts which, while right next to the road, are also right next to the river, and are relatively flat and good – bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper 😉
Housekeeping Camp: Housekeeping Camp is an aweseome set of canvas-walled tent-cabins with a family-camping atmosphere right on the Merced river with sandy beaches that look at Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Housekeeping Camp is more expensive than the campgrounds but is reasonable if you have a big group. Sites hold 6 people and cost $105/per night. Each site comes with a tent cabin with a bunkbed, a double bed, a small picnic area, large bear boxes and concrete floor.
Lodging: There are three main hotel areas in the Valley: Half Dome (Curry) Village (which offers cabins, tent cabins, and rustic bungalows–includes Housekeeping Camp), Yosemite Lodge (large, simple hotel rooms right across from Yosmeite Falls and Camp 4). and The Majestic (Ahwahnee) Hotel (4 star luxury right at the base of the Arches Wall).
Whole House Rentals in Yosemite West and Forresta:
If you are a family, or a small group, renting a house near the Valley can be a decent option. Yo West and Forresta are 30 and 20 minutes from the Valley. Most rentals are $400/night with a two or three day minimum.
This is an awesome spot:
Hotels Outside the Valley?..uh, probably not good
The hotels outside the Valley, with the exception of Yosemite View Lodge(which is 20 minutes down canyon, and near tons of great climbing) tend to be much, much further away from the Valley than people realize, and still pretty spendy. The problem is the hotels list the distance from their property to the Yosemite Park Entrance, which in the case of the hwy 120 (from San Fran), and the hwy 41 (from LA or Fresno) is still a solid 75 minutes of windy, not so fun driving to the Valley floor – that’s 75 minutes of heinously windy roads just to get from the park entrance to the Valley, not to mention how far it is from the entrance to your hotel. Then you deal with parking and getting around in the Valley,
The Village Store, located right near the Visitor Center in the heart of the Valley, offers a full selection of groceries at similar prices(government controlled) to the towns right outside the park. The organic/natural food options are not well represented, but the beer and wine isles are first-rate. There are also small grocery stores at Yosemite Lodge and Half Dome (Curry) Village.
Good water bottles for bigwall climbing are rarely available in the Valley. Stop and buy them on your way to the Valley.
The town of Oakhurst, Ca, 1.5 hrs from the Valley to the south via Hwy 41, has a Grocery Outlet(cheap discounted foods), A Vons(Safeway) large grocery store, and a Big 5 Sporting Goods(knee pads, cheaper sunglasses, rafts). Similar stores are also available at Sonora, Ca, 1.5 hrs from the Valley northwest on Hwy 120 to Hwy 108.
(Call 209-372-1001, the Yosemite Operator, to find out if a particular restaurant is open or not). In season the Pizza Deck at Half Dome(Curry) Village is open till 10pm, as are the food options at the Yosemite Lodge Bar, but call to make sure.
There are several restaurants in the Valley that unfortunately all tend to be expensive with only fair-quality food offerings. Locals favorites are the Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village (reasonably priced sandwhiches but little else) or the Mountain Room Restaurant (good American fare dinner) at Yosemite Lodge. The Yosemite Lodge Bar has cold sandwhiches, soup and chili, and has a large fireplace that is lit during the colder months (November – March). Just outside the park dining favorites are the Priest Station Cafe, in Groveland,CA or the Whoa Nellie Deli, at the Mobil gas station, in Lee Vining,Ca (both off the Hwy 120).
Internet is available throughout the Valley, but can be very poor in season when many people are using the aging network. Cell service is provided only by ATT and Verizon in the Valley (as of 2019 there are reports of spotty cell service for T-Mobile). If you are staying in El Portal, Wawona, Forresta, or Yosemite West (limited service at the top of the development) only Verizon offers service. Yosemite Village, Yosemite Lodge, and Wawona offer solid ATT and Verizon service.
As of 2019, only the Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite offers (free!) wifi in the Valley. Woohoo free wifi!
Anchor maintenance in America is provided by motivated locals. When it comes to Yosemite bigwalls, the challenges of climbing bigwalls are so great that few climbers take time to perform needed maintenance.Your help is needed! Since 1997, several thousand of bolts have been replaced, but still only a few of the most popular bigwalls have entirely modern anchor equipment. Free replacement bolts are sometimes available throught the ASCA. If you’re climbing on anything other than the 5-10 most popular climbs, plan on bringing a bolt kit just in case.
Email me and I will happily lend you a bolt kit with all the bolts and equipment you need! email@example.com
The accepted replacement anchor bolt on bigwalls is a stainless steel 3/8″ x 2 1/4″ wedge anchor bolt with stainless steel hanger(Fixe, Petzl, and Hilti are the best).
(2019 should see the opening of the new Camp 4 shower house, but no opening date has been released yet)
Laundry is available only at Housekeeping Camp.
The Yosemite Mountain Shop (209-372-8396) strives to carry all of the gear you need for your climb. With increased baggage fees, it has become popular for folks to plan on buying ropes when they reach the Valley, and then sell them at the end of their trip. The upside of this is you can often find lightly used ropes and other gear for sale at reasonable prices on the Camp 4 bulletin board.
Note: During peak season the Mountain Shop runs out of popular items, so call ahead to make sure they’ll have what you need.
Yosemite Climbing Guides
(I’m not affiliated with Yosemite Mountaineering School, and am not doing guiding at this time). The YMS guides I recommend are:
Top tier: Josh Helling, Josh McClure
Second tier: Mark Grundon, Miranda Oakley, Alan Higgenbotham
(I feel strongly that if you can afford to pay for a bigwall guide, it is much smarter to pay for two – a team of three is awesome on the Big Stone, and the safety level with two guides is much more than double that of having just one guide).
The Yosemite Mountaineering School(209-372-8344) provides all the gear and expertise if you are interested in a guided climb. YMS occassionally offers weekend ‘Bigwall Clinics’ that are taught by seasoned El Cap veterans and are an awesome way to get to know the world of bigwall climbing. YMS is the only legal guiding service for bigwalls in Yosemite. Standard rates are $800-$1200/day for bigwall climbs.
Because of YMS’ high prices there are always folks in Camp 4 who are looking to trade bigwall time for cash. Technically, anyone offering ‘bigwall guide services’ in the Valley can do so only on a ‘by donation’ basis – meaning their services are offered for free and you can donate money to them if you feel so inclined. By Donation guiding is usually in the $300 – $500 / day range.
Be informed: unofficial guiding does not provide you insurance in case of an accident or injury.
Need Help? Email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve started renting portaledges, haulbags, pitons, big cams, etc., as a ‘pay what you want’ kind of service to help folks get up their bigwall dreams. Email me and tell me what you’re looking for, and what you’d like to pay, and I’m sure we can work something out.
While not offered as a service in Yosemite, portering for bigwall climbing has become an accepted practice as climbers with limited vacation time struggle with the logistics of bigwall climbs.
There is no official ‘Porter’ service offered by the Yosemite Mountaineering School in Yosemite at this time. That means that anyone offering porter services does so on a volunteer, or ‘by donation’, basis.
The accepted rate is $1/pound for most approaches, except Half Dome($3/pound). For help getting your gear off the summit the going rates are $3/pound for the SE Face of El Cap(Mescalito to Zodaic), and $4 pound for the SW Face(Nose to Lurking Fear), but this can be dependent on several factors and trades are common.
If you are forced to leave your gear on top of a climb because of airline or work commitments, email me at email@example.com or leave a note on the Camp 4 bulletin board with your phone number. Usually a fellow climber will be happy to help you out. (Because many bears live around Yosemite, be especially careful to remove any trash, food, or scented items from any gear that you have to leave behind).
East Ledges Descent
The East Ledges Descent route is the main way that people descend after climbing El Capitan. It has also become popular with climbers who ascend the trail (including climbing 500′ of fixed lines) to reach the summit, so that they can rappel down and practice some of the harder pitches on the popular climbs, like Freerider, The Nose, and The Salathe. Study both of these pages closesly – the East Ledges can either be casual or epic, depending on how well you pay attention / stick to the path.