During a moderate week in Yosemite which included the Third Pillar of Dana, West Crack of Daff Dome, etc., On the Lamb was the most interesting route we climbed. The never ending horizontal break across the top of the west face of Lamb Dome is truly a unique feature. The best way to finish this climb is to combine it with Jailbreak, a relatively new two pitch bolted line to the summit. By climbing Jailbreak, you miss the short exit pitch of On the Lamb which looks to be fairly nondescript and trade up for a summit climb.
Much is made to do via summit logs about getting started at the correct point on this route which surprises me. I can think of fewer more straight forward approaches and/or climbs. Don’t over think it by what you read. The third roped pitch for us, fourth official pitch of the climb, is by far the crux pitch which includes a full 40’ of no feet as you traverse a positive hand rail across the steep face. What adds to the exhilaration of this exposed pitch is that the crux starts on the other side of a blunt arête, so you have no vision of it until you are already on lead and moved out from the belay a good 80’ or so. Jailbreak starts at the end of this pitch. The exposed face climbing on Jailbreak’s second pitch is pretty decent in its own right. Brossman and Stephans established On the Lamb in ’74.
Again, a lot seems to be made about this approach. First of all, in typical Yosemite form, it takes only minutes from the road to reach the base of the route. Second, the main feature that makes up this climb is unmistakable when staring at the wet face of Lamb Dome. It is the horizontal break that covers the entire west face at about 2/3rds height. You can climb the route from either direction, but if you want to take the recommended Jailbreak finish, you need to climb On the Lamb from left to right. The first vertical 300’ is soloed by most, but you might as well put your climbing shoes on, it is pretty much all 4th-5th class to the top of this pitch.
On MP.com they reference parking one mile east of Fairview. What they meant to write is approximately one mile west of the parking for Fairview Dome. At a corner in the road there is a decent sized parking area on the south side. Drug Dome is straight ahead, Lamb Dome is due east of Drug Dome. They sort of almost share a col. In any regard, hike up the well-established trail south from the parking area. Turn left on another well- established trail that cuts back northeast. When at the northeast end of Lamb Dome, hike straight up to the base of a tall corner.
Route DescriptionOn the Lamb, 700’, 5.9
1st Pitch- 80m- 5th/ We soloed this pitch and most climbing this route will be comfortable with that. I solo this grade a lot but still appreciated having my climbing shoes on versus trail runners. This corner is plenty steep on a bit of flaky granite. Some summit logs go on about a “cave”, “trees vs bushes”, etc. It is actually really simple. Climb the corner to its top, traverse right onto a nice ledge and set up a belay for the first pitch. You can’t see the horizontal crack that makes up the majority of the route until you turn the west face. There is not much of a north face, you pretty much turn from east to west crossing the first arête to the west on the third pitch.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.5/ Traverse straight out right over run-out slab and up a short distance to reach a right facing corner. Don’t climb this first corner. Down climb a bit and keep traversing to a much cleaner and smaller right facing corner with a variety of comfortable belays to choose from.
3rd Pitch- 30m- 5.8/ Climb the corner above to meet the horizontal feature that makes up the majority of this climb. Climb right over one arête (can be windy) and continue along to a small gear belay with a comfortable stance or a few more meters and down climb to a fixed belay.
4th Pitch- 60m- 5.9/ Continue on the traverse. When you get to another blunt arête and check out the other side, you will see the crux 40’ hand rail section with blank slab below it. Place a solid .75" at the arête and keep your arms straight to avoid pumping yourself out for no reason as some do on this section as you hand-over-hand the rail to the next foot rest. If your 2nd has limited experience, you might want to plug a piece or two along the way, but you will be hanging by one hand as you do it unless you aid it. A competent second can plug gear back in that they cleaned if they need a rest. Once you get through this crux, the climbing is still enjoyable for a bit. When it starts to really ease up, look for a short left facing corner and bolt above. This is the first pitch of Jailbreak. Set up a medium gear belay in the base of the corner with a comfortable stance.
5th Pitch- 20m- 5th/ If you are not finishing on Jailbreak to the summit, which is what I recommend you do, then finish off the horizontal to the western shoulder of Lamb Dome and walk off.