Phobos and Deimos are the two moons of Mars but the names originate from the Greeks as gods of battlefield panic and fear respectively. The Phobos/Deimos Cliff, as it is referred to versus the typical “dome” feature in Tuolumne, is a rather obscure cliff located on the north side of the road directly across from Pywiack Dome (just north of Tenaya Lake). Although an obscure feature, this cliff is home to three of the finer pure crack lines in Tuolumne Meadows at their respective grades: Phobos (5.9), Deimos (5.9) and Blues Riff (5.11b). Both Phobos and Deimos were established by Tom Higgins in 1970! In his guidebook for the area, Chris McNamara and company describe Phobos’ second pitch as the “best steep cracks at the grade in Tuolumne”. Deimos’ first pitch is of similar quality for the grade. He dedicates a full color photo in the guide to Blues Riff.
Just like Phobos, all three pitches on Deimos are rated 5.9. The first pitch is the best pitch of Deimos, pulling the obvious wide crack roof above and continuing up the hand crack to below the twin cracks (that a huge chock stone forms). The second pitch is not as good. It starts out with fun hands up the left crack, but you need to traverse out right and into a chossy, but relatively easy, wide crack. Use long slings during the second half of this pitch. You end up traversing back left at the top on a ledge and set up a comfortable gear belay below a face. The last pitch actually has the crux move of the route, where the bolt is. I can remember wondering why they marred such a good gear route up with a singular bolt, but once you get to the bolt, you appreciate it. It protects a fingery face (reach) move from the ledge below.
Park across from Pywiack Dome on the north side of the road at a small pull out with a climbers' trail heading up from it. Follow the switchbacks for about 500’ of gain and angle back right to the base of the wall. The trail dumps you into a drainage that you follow up to gain the broad ledge directly below the wall. Phobos and Deimos are separated by about a 15 minute walk. Blues Riff is in between the two at a huge corner.
Route DescriptionDeimos, 250’+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 30m- 5.9/ Although it looks like you should go straight up the large boulders (what the topo calls a cave) directly below the route, for some reason the FAers have you going around to the right. Neither approach to the base of the main crack involves much climbing. If going around right, pulling one 5th class mantel to reach the large ledge below the stellar wide crack/roof, either solo it or pull your piece so you can avoid rope drag as you traverse back left. To reach the wide roof portion of the crack follow nice jugs to the right of the crack and enter the small box chimney. A few great physical/awkward moves for the grade pulls the roof above; stemming, chimneying with a bit of hand crack at the end. The topo in the guide book shows setting the anchor fairly immediately. However, the most comfortable belay is right below the twin cracks (huge chock stone) above.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.9/ Start out in the solid hand crack out left. When it peters out, you need to traverse out right and into a chossy, but relatively easy, left angling wide ramp/crack. Use long slings during the second half of this pitch to avoid severe rope drag. You end up traversing back left at the top on a ledge and set up a comfortable gear belay below a face.
3rd Pitch- 20m- 5.9/ The last pitch actually has the crux move of the route, where the bolt is. It protects a fingery and balanced face (reach) move from the ledge below. Climb the right side of a large flake and traverse to a thin crack to the left. Make a balanced move up to the bolt. Once through the bolt, run up the easy corner and belay about 30’ from the edge by slinging a boulder. Just 4th class it to the top from there.