ApproachAcross the street from the Northern end of El Cap Meadow pick up the trail heading toward the Nose of El Capitan. Stay on this trail and follow it to the left (West) along the base of El Capitan. CAUTION: all sorts of stuff (rocks, gear, trash) comes flying from above! Follow the base several hundred yards, passing a huge golden slab (Dihedral Wall, etc.). Drop down along the base for about 30' (this is the first significant drop as you're working your way along the base of the SW face) and continue to just past a short flat section.
At the end of this flat section scramble diagonally up over 4th/easy 5th class terrain. There may be a fixed rope of questionable quality here. Continue up past a mungy open section and climb up further through a loose section under tree cover. You may pick up a faint trail. When possible work your way up toward the base.
There should be 2 flat bivy spots below toward the South and a big, left leaning arch (East) and right leaning ramp (West) up above. This is the start for Lurking Fear.
Route DescriptionLurking Fear can be divided into 3 distinct sections:
P1 to 10: stellar, clean crack and face climbing. There is a fair amount of awesome free climbing even if you're only freeing stuff up to 5.10-. Climbing sections free into the mid-5.11 range enhances your options greatly. The aid is clean and fun.
P11 to 19: still decent climbing, but the character of the route changes a bit: there is more dirt/munge (especially past P13) and midway through P13 the angle kicks back and hauling becomes more of a chore.
P20 to top (roughly equivalent to 5 pitches): this is low angle slab crawling and absolutely not fun with a haulbag!
P1- climb up the ramp to 2 bolts, then follow the bolt ladder up and over a small lip to a ledge with a 2 bolt anchor. Hooks (C1) and/or 5.9 free moves between bolts. There is an alternate (original) start in the arch/corner on the right. It is rarely done and would require some bigger cams.
P2- short traverse left, then mostly bolt clipping (A0). Stop at first set of double bolts if you plan to go left on the 3rd pitch (recommended). Continue up and right to the base of the corner below Window Pane Flake, passing a blank spot with a bat hook.
P3- move up then left to widely spaced bolts. A cheater stick and hooks definitely help here. Continue up to some moderate free climbing at the start of a shallow corner. Pass 2 bolts, cam hook up and free the 5.9, 3" section just before the anchor. Long pitch, good stance. The original route goes up the corner below Window Pane Flake (C2), traverses under the flake, and follows up the left side to a couple of bolts on the face to the West. Pendulum from the 2nd bolt into the corner on the left and climb the 3" crack to the stance/anchor. Think of the second!
P4- terraced moves up and right via greasy 5.10 free or hooks (C1). Pass a bolt and enter the right hand crack. Continue up (TCU's, sm. aliens, brass, cam hooks) to a fat section (3-4"+) just before the anchor. Hanging belay.
P5- continue up the crack (many .33 to .75, cam hooks). Small stance.
P6- continue up the beautiful, slightly left-leaning crack (many .75, lg. cam hooks), come around to the right and up to a belay in a corner.
P7- traverse out East and down, then level across many rivets, some bolts, and a few easy hooks (C1). Go up a corner past several bolts and a pin to a sustained 3" crack (5.10). Follow the crack to a broken stance in a corner and belay.
P8 - move up in the corner to a 3" crack, pass a lip and continue up on the steep, continuous 4" crack (10+ or C1 with #4 Camalots) to the belay.
P9 - climb the easy fat crack to perfect hands (5.7) and continue up a great lieback (5.8/9, awesome free climbing and position) to where it thins out (5.10 or C1). Step across to the left and up to a ledge. Climb the outside of the Pillar of Despair to the West and scramble up a slot to the anchor on top (sitting bivy). This is one of the best pitches on the route for clean/moderate free climbing.
P10 - head up the corner on TCU's and camhooks. Stay left at the pointed lip (thin) and aid to the hanging belay.
P11 - continue up and slightly left, then traverse out right at the lip. Do not go up the first crack, but continue traversing out right past a couple of bolts. Move up into a thin crack/flare past manky fixed heads to a dirty section (full range of cams) to a lip with fixed pins and a bolt on the face to the left.
P12 - move up under the arch and move out left (C1, some fixed pins), take a crack up to a bolt and traverse left on a horizontal crack/rail to another bolt. Hook (C2+) up and left to a ramp. Follow the short ramp to the belay.
P13 - aid up the slightly leaning, shallow corner to a fragile 5.8/9 lieback section, followed by 15' of perfect hands in a corner. Climb up the easy 5th class, low angle ramp to a large sloping ledge and the belay.
P14 - gain the small ledge above the anchor via a bolt. Watch loose boulders! Traverse up and left and follow a chossy groove to a chimney/lieback/jam. Move out left and move up past a bush. Continue up past blocky ledges to a large flat spot (good bivy) at the base of a left facing corner system. Gear belay (mostly small nuts and cams in thin crack). Second needs to help on haul.
P15 - climb up the left facing corner (5.10 and/or C2, many .5-.75) to a left curving, wide (3-4") section. Aid up in a flared groove, using pin scars (TCU's, Aliens).
P16 - continue up a corner (easy 5th to 5.8 lieback) to an easy chimney, followed by a wide (3"), then thin (5.10 or C1) section in a flared corner. Save a couple of small to medium cams to back up a bolt and pin at the belay.
P17 - climb up to a wide (#5WC/#4.5Camalot, #4 Camalot barely fits in some spots), steep, and leaning crack. Watch for loose rock at the exit! Continue up and East over easier ground, climb up past another steep section (easy 5th) to more easy ground and a final steep (5.7) section before standing on Thanksgiving Ledge near the cave. The cave can accommodate 4-6 people and there is plenty of flat space immediately outside for another 4-6 people.
P18 - move the belay approx. 100' to the East along Thanksgiving Ledge past a tall tree and to a big boulder near the wall. Looking up you should see a left curving, lieback (5.10-) crack leading to a corner. CAUTION/WARNING: the traverse across Thanksgiving Ledge is technically easy (4th class), however an unroped fall here means certain death. It would be wise to rope up, belay, and place a few solid pieces/slings. There are many loose rocks/boulders along this stretch. Anything dropped from here will fall a good 1500' before exploding at the base, possibly among other climbers. WATCH YOUR STEP, YOUR ROPE, AND YOUR HAULBAG!
P19 - climb up the 5.10- or C1 lieback and move left into a steep corner with a hand sized crack (5.9). Move up just past a 3-4" pod (5.10 or C1) and face traverse left (5.9) to another thin crack (.75 - 1"). Climb up to a ledge with a small tree and bolted belay.
P20 - climb up to a low angle arch, then head up and over, and slightly left to a crack which leads to a 2 bolt belay. Low angle, poor hauling.
There are many ways to go from here. Most climbers work up and slightly right to a huge boulder and then continue up over easy 5th class slabs for the equivalent of 4 pitches. This section has some runouts. If you've got a heavy haulbag it is tedious, frustrating, physically challenging, and time consuming.
Essential GearObviously this depends on how comfortable you are being runout.
We took and used most of:
.25 -.75" = 4-5 each (incl. Lowe Balls)
1-3" = 3 each
BD #4 (old) = 2
WC #5 = 1
Bat hook = 1, Cliff Hanger = 2, Grappling Hook = 1, Flat Leeper = 1
HB brass offsets = 1 set
WC/BD/HB Rocks/Stoppers/Alu Offsets = equivalent of 2 full range sets
1 set medium + 1 set large
Rivet hangers = 6 or so for P7
Portaledge (or sitting bivy on P9, nice bivy on top of P14 and P17)
Miscellaneous InfoThe climb can get very crowded and ethics vary widely. A case in point. In May of 2004, I fixed P1+2 in the early evening hours, rapped, and bivied at the base in order to wait for the Gazelle who would arrive sometime the next morning. Another group pushed on to the top of P3 with a portaledge around the same time in the evening. We talked briefly about our plans and came to a mutual consensus. Early next morning, a group of 3 showed up for a 1-day ascent and started up P1, moving slowly. About 15 minutes later another 1-day ascent group showed up. After watching the group ahead of them for a bit they started jugging my fixed lines in order to try to pass the other group. Essentially, we now had 4 parties climbing the first 3 pitches. The last group to show up did not try to communicate with any of the other groups before jumping on my fixed lines.
You may have to wait to get your turn, possibly even spending a day or two. Having a few friendly words with others around you will usually take you much farther than selfish and unilateral action.
There is a creek to the West of the base of Lurking Fear. In an average year it may still have water in early May. Don't rely on it. A filter or iodine tablets could help. I remember using an empty can to scoop murky water from a shallow puddle that would take minutes to refill after each scoop. Filtering 6 gallons through a shirt took hours the night before a planned ascent. After all the effort we were left with a protein loaded, mineral enriched brew that looked like it had come from a sewer...
A handful of copperheads (#1-3) and a hammer would be good to have in case some of the heads on P11 get 'cleaned' or blow.
Rappeling the route from any point past P6 has serious epic potential.
If you have a haulbag and/or haven't done the route it would probably be significantly better to spend the night on Thanksgiving Ledge, rather than push the equivalent of 6-7 pitches to the top in the dark.