I had climbed over 30 5.9-5.10 multi-pitch trad lines in Yosemite before experiencing this obscure line with little to no beta. Of all the hype regarding Yosemite grading, I never felt a route was sandbagged much before this route, at least in comparison to the desert climbing I do in Zion, Moab, Jtree, etc. I noticed Chris kept this route out of the latest edition of his guide book for Tuolumne. He mentions it by name on the topo with an arrow regarding the approach, but does not list the route nor show a topo of it. As good and obvious a climb as it is, I can only speculate he might have left it out due to the FAer’s sandbag description of the route. The beta I scoured in an older guide book sandbagged the grade, the gear requirement and the length of the pitches. The Yawn was established via aid in 1965! and went free in 1969 by Bircheff and Ebeltoft.
I am an off-width aficionado at the moderate grades. I have done my share of 5.10+/5.11 desert off-widths, Ixtlan, Unfinished Symphony, Adventure Punks, Kung Fu Fighter, North Face of Castleton, Poseidon Adventure, etc. The Yawn’s off-width section is definitely of the 5.10a variety. The 5.7 hand crack that “climbers dream about” mentioned in an older guide book is truly 5.9, long and sustained. On that pitch covering 200’, I placed two 1” pieces, two 2’s, my single 3” and 4” which left me with little to set up belay with at the first stance (200’) which would safely only take 3’s and 4’s. I dangerously traversed up and left via face climbing with 40’-50’ of run-out below me to place a .3” and .4” in chossy rock. Needless to say, this route is an adventure. I led it in five pitches. The first pitch follows chossy and wet (late July) discontinuous cracks out right and parallel of the massive corner. I belayed at a decent stance below the crux of this section, a fun roof pull via lay-back. I did this to avoid rope drag. I then led two sections up the wide corner. The first is not off-width but rather a chimney full of large chock stones that you mantle and jam up the steep corner with little rest. I belayed right below the true off-width section (hanging belay) which is void of these chock stones. The off-width of the third pith protected well, using chicken wings to ascend the outside and going in for hand jams to place medium gear. You reach a decent stance below the tall large crack-corner. Although you can use hands much of the time, the corner is steep and stout and the crack is wider than hands 50% of the time.
The parking for Medlicott Dome is just west of Lamb and Drug dome. The trail-head parking is a fairly large spot on the south side of the road. There is a smaller one that you pass first if heading westbound, but this trail-head is right next to the boggy meadow mentioned as a sensitive area. It is best to use the larger trail-head to avoid mosquitoes and the bog. Head south on the well-traveled trail and turn left when you intersect an east-west trail. Take your first right up the hill on a decent climbers trail to the east end of Medlicott Dome. The Yawn is one of the more obvious features in Tuolumne, particularly if you have climbed Stately Pleasure Dome looking back southeast. It follows a massive corner up the east end of Medlicott. Turn left when you hit the dome and start just right of the huge corner in the bush filled crack system. You do not enter the corner until you break through the large roof above on its right side.
Route DescriptionThe Yawn, 650’+/-, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 40m- 5.9/ The first pitch does not look that likely. It follows discontinuous cracks that parallel the huge corner to the right. Some awkward moves up bushy, wet and sloppy slabs with good protection in multiple cracks land you below a wet and dirty short corner with water-worn slab. Although you might be tempted to use the run-out slab out right, I preferred to stay with the dirty and wet corner that protected with large gear to a decent stance below the roof.
2nd Pitch- 35m- 5.9+/ Follow the fun cracks above as they break through the right side of the roof. Some well protected layback moves get through this section fairly easy. Move into the chimney-like corner littered with huge blocks. Jam and mantle up the multiple blocks on steep unrelenting ground. I set up a hanging belay right below the off-width section which is obviously void of blocks. There is one fixed hex on this section and several chopped bolts.
3rd Pitch- 40m- 5.10a/ Climb the off-width to the top. You can go into the corner for medium protection when you want it. Otherwise stay out and use chicken wing technique to inch up the more difficult sections. Once out of the off-width, traverse up and right to a comfortable belay stance just below the tall corner above.
4th Pitch- 60m- 5.9/ Climb the sustained wide crack above. You get hands when you need them, but the ground is unrelenting and steep, making you turn out and back in a variety of times. You could place a ton of gear here from C4#1 through C4#4, but make sure to reserve one 3” and 4” piece for your belay above. Climb the corner for a full 200’ until you reach an obvious stance with a wide crack section above.
5th Pitch- 30m- 5.7+/ Finish the corner as it breaks through the wide stuff above and starts into a lower angle. Belay from a tree up on the flat shoulder.