Park at the Lembert Dome lot just east of the bridge that crosses the Tuolumne River. Hike up onto the slabs for five minutes or less towards the right side of the big roof.
The Left Water Crack is somewhat eponymously named. Perhaps more than somewhat.... It ascends the left of two obvious water cracks that lie immediately to the right of a huge roof on the southwestern side of Lembert Dome.
The slabs steepen gradually once you are on them. Most parties will want to rope up before they actually get to the first bolted belay. There are some good stances just below the cracks to sort out the rope and get ready.
The leader should climb up the last bit of slab to a bolted belay that lies between the left and right water cracks. There isn't any pro on this section, but if the follower is less experienced then they will get some peace of mind from having a toprope.
Left Water Crack is a bolted, one-pitch climb and goes as follows:
From the bolted belay, traverse left into the water crack itself, then start heaving yourself up the awkward bulges and waves of granite, stopping every now and again to clip a bolt. Imagine yourself climbing a very steep stairwell, but all of the stairs are five feet tall and two or three feet wide. Now imagine that those stairs are thinly bolted, highly polished granite, and you get an idea of what it is like to climb the Left Water Crack. I have heard people say that you need off-width and chimney technique to get up it, but I found that it is kind of in its own world. You probably won't climb another route like the Left Water Crack, unless you go do the Right Water Crack (which goes at 5.8). Climb past a few bolts to a bolted belay and rap station at the top.
Descent: Double-rope rappel down to safety on slabs below or walk off right (east/south-east) towards a dead tree, at which point it is safe to cut back towards the parking lot. You can also use the rap station to toprope Truck & Drive (9) or Cucamonga Honey (10b), both of which lie between the water cracks and the roof.
Eric Sandbo writes: It's two pitches, isn't it? It will be 20 years this summer since I climbed it, but I remember one reason we picked the route was all the bolts on the topo in our book. Then we found out seven bolts on a 2-pitch route isn't exactly sewn up. Had a heck of a good time, though. I've been on a lot of glacier polished granite, but never stuff so glossy before!
Andy replies: It would be technically be two pitches if you roped up on the slabs below the first belay--as I recommended. Unless my memory is completely failing me (which it might be), the water crack proper is between 100-150' long. Anyone else care to comment?
8 draws, or a few less plus some cord to set up the anchor.
Two ropes if planning to rappel.
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