2 weeks in Yosemite: Half Dome, Sentinel, Middle Cathedral, and more

2 weeks in Yosemite: Half Dome, Sentinel, Middle Cathedral, and more

Page Type: Trip Report
Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 10, 2007
Activities: Trad Climbing
Season: Spring

Some classic long routes in Yosemite

In June 2007, I went on a month-long climbing adventure with my friend Ross. After climbing two days in Red Rocks (Nevada), we climbed for 2 weeks in Yosemite (California), and then stopped by Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) where we stayed with Ross’s friend Lizzy and did a few days of fun climbing.

The following page details our 2 weeks of climbing at Yosemite. We climbed some stellar multipitch routes. Click on the links below or scroll down to read trip reports and see photos for our climbs.

June 5SERENITY CRACK (3p 10d)
June 6 GRIPPER (2p 10b) and NEW DIMENSIONS (4p 11a) at Arch Rock
June 7 CENTRAL PILLAR OF FRENZY (5p 5.9) on Middle Cathedral Rock, HIGHER CATHEDRAL SPIRE REGULAR ROUTE (5p 5.9), and REID'S DIRECT (3p 10a) on Reed’s Pinnacle
June 8 STECK-SALATHE (15p V 10a) on The Sentinel
June 9 Rest Day
June 10 HO CHI MINH TRAIL (20p V 5.11) on Middle Cathedral Rock
June 11 Rest Day
June 12 Aborted attempt on GOLD WALL (p1-5 5.10c A0)
June 13 Rest Day
June 14 Hike up to the base of Half Dome
June 15 HALF DOME REGULAR NW FACE (24p VI 5.10d C1)
June 16 Drive up to Tuolumne
June 17 LUCKY STREAKS (6p 5.10d) on Fairview Dome and OZ (5p 5.10d) on Drug Dome
June 18 Drive out of Yosemite National Park on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park.

June 5 – Serenity Crack

400 feet / 3 pitches: 10a, 10b, 10d

We arrived at Yosemite on the morning of June 5 after leaving Red Rocks the evening before. We decided to begin with a Valley classic – Serenity Crack, a 3 pitch finger crack with a 5.10d crux on the 3rd pitch. We had wanted to do the link-up with Sons of Yesterday, but weather and a slow party caused us to rap down from the top of Serenity Crack.

Below are some photos from our first day in Yosemite.

Ross leading up pitch 2 of Serenity Crack – bomber jams! (Crux 10d section is on Pitch 3 above the tree.)
View of the Valley from Serenity Crack. There was some weather developing, and it started to rain soon after we rapped the route.
Getting settled into our site at Camp 4 after the climb.

June 6 – (1) Gripper and (2) New Dimensions on Arch Rock

(1) 300 feet / 3 pitches: 10b, 5.8, 5.9; (2) 300 feet / 4 pitches: 10b, 10a, 10a, 11a

For our second day at Yosemite, we decided to get some practice on wide cracks, since we had ambitions for the Salahe route on El Cap, which has a lot of wide crack. We drove over to Arch Rock at the end of the Valley and climbed Gripper (3 pitches, 5.10b) and New Dimensions (4 pitches, 5.11a).

Below are some photos of the climbs.

Arch Rock – Gripper and New Dimensions are on the right side.
Steph climbing up the first wide crack pitch of Gripper.
Ross leading up New Dimensions – wide and funky.
Steph stuck on New Dimensions – wide cracks aren’t exactly my forte!
Ross on the exposed upper pitch of New Dimensions before beginning up yet another wide crack.

June 7 – (1) Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral Rock, (2) Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire, and (3) Reed’s Pinnacle Direct

(1) 550 feet / 5 pitches: 5.9, 5.9, 5.8, 5.8, 5.9; (2) 300 feet / 5 pitches: 5.5, 5.9, 5.9, 5.9, 5.9; (3) 300 feet / 3 pitches: 5.8, 5.9, 10a

We began our third day by climbing the classic Central Pillar of Frenzy (5 pitches, 5.9) on Middle Cathedral Rock. We then hiked up the trail to climb the Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire (5 pitches, 5.9). After deciding that it was not worth the effort of hiking down and then back up to climb the Lower Cathedral Spire, we headed for Reed’s Pinnacle to finish the day of on Reed’s Direct (3 pitches, 5.10a).

Below are some photos of the climbs.

The 400 ft route of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Pitch 1 of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Steph climbing up Pitch 2 of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Pitch 3 of the Central Pillar of Frenzy. A fun roof.
Pitch 4 of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Pitch 5 of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Nice view of of El Cap across the Valley.
The Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire.
5.9 crack climbing on the Regular Route of Higher Cathedral Spire.
View of the Valley from the top of Higher Cathedral Spire.
Reed’s Pinnacle Direct route. Three pitches.
Second pitch of Reed’s Pinnacle Direct, a fun wavy 5.9.
Third pitch of Reed’s Pinnacle Direct, a 5.10a chimney with an awkward squeeze near the top.

June 8 – Steck-Salathe on The Sentinel

1600 feet / 16 pitches: 5.6-5.10b

The 2000 foot sheer face of the Sentinel was hard to miss as we drove through the Valley each day. We knew we had to climb it – it was just a matter of which route? We decided on the 16-pitch Steck-Salathe route, one of the Fifty Classics, feared for its daunting wide cracks and chimneys. It was quite an adventure!

Below are some photos of the climb.

Steck-Salathe route on the Sentinel. Wide and burly!
Valley in the morning light with the shadow of The Sentinel below.
First pitch of the Steck-Salathe route.
Some fun climbing here.
Squeezing through a crack to get to the short rappel before beginning the upper headwall of the Sentinel.
Doing a short rap to begin climbing the upper wall of The Sentinel (first pitch on the right).
Chimneying fun just before "The Narrows" pitch. This chimney was awkward.
Chimneying fun with a heavy pack – by the end of the Steck-Salathe route, I had sworn off wide cracks and chimneys!
"The Narrows", one of the final pitches of the Steck-Salathe route. It’s about 1 foot wide and you have to worm yourself up vertically – somehow I made it up….
"Ross entering "The Narrows."
"Ross making upwards progress in "The Narrows."
Evening light on the Valley from near the summit of The Sentinel.
Me on the top of The Sentinel after climbing the Steck-Salathe route.
Ross on the top of The Sentinel after climbing the Steck-Salathe route.
Descending down the gully after the climb – think I got some chalk stuck in my lens….

June 9 – Day off.

0 feet / 0 pitches

After 6 days of climbing, and beating our bodies through the offwidths and chimneys of the Steck-Salathe route the day before, it was time to take a day off.

After sleeping in, I walked around taking some photos of birds.

Robin cooling off in the stream.
Brewer’s Blackbird (female) - Lots of these kinds of birds at Yosemite.
Brewer’s Blackbird (male)- Lots of these kinds of birds at Yosemite.
Lots of monarch butterflies too. /font>

June 10 – Ho Chi Minh Trail on Middle Cathedral Rock

1800 feet / 20 pitches: 5.6-5.10c

After climbing The Central Pillar of Frenzy a few days before, we wanted to tackle the striking north buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. We chose to climb the Ho Chi Minh Trail route, which looked like it had a fun variety of great climbing ranging from 5.7-5.10c. The route is 20 pitches, and quite a fun adventure!

A note on the descent: we chose to do the rappel route, since we were encouraged by some shiny new rap rings we had occasionally seen. However, these rap stations quickly disappeared, and we had quite an epic descent, involving loosing a 60m rope, leaving about 10 slings and biners behind, and making several blind rappels into the dark before we reached the ground several hours after we started. My advice would be to do the walk off!

Below are some photos of the climb.

The route, up the north buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. This route is climbed enough that it has some chalk marks and slings, but not enough that the lichen and grit is worn off the rocks.
Starting up from the base of Middle Cathedral Rock – 20 pitches ahead!
Looking down at a rad climb.
Steph traversing a 5.10 undercling midway through the route.
The "grab the tree" pitch.
My fingers took quite a beating.
Beginning an epic 1800 ft rappel...
One of our many tree rappels – we lost a 60m rope, and had to leave numerous slings and biners to get down. I would advise the walk-off descent instead….

June 11 – Rest Day.

0 feet / 0 pitches

After a somewhat epic descent off the north buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock the day before, and my raw and bloody fingers, we decided it was time for another rest day.

I dealt with computer issues, took some more photos, and read a book in the sun by a creek.

Lots of stellar jays that like to steal your food when you are not looking.
Western wood pewee?
A squirrel.
Yosemite Creek.
Half Dome towering above the Valley floor. Don’t be deceived by the tranquility of this shot – there were hundreds of tourists taking the same shot right next to me.

June 12 – Aborted attempt on Gold Wall.

500 of 1300 feet / 5 of 11 pitches: 5.10c C2

Most of the routes we had climbed so far were awesome, but had pushed me to my limit of climbing difficulty. I am an alpine climber at heart – I love long, aesthetic routes where routefinding, weather, length, etc. pose the main difficulties rather than an actual difficulty in the technical rock climbing. So, I was ready to climb something long, but rather easy.

So we headed for Gold Wall.

Needless to say, it wasn’t easy.

We climbed the first 5 pitches on the route (out of a total of 11), and then decided to rappel down. It was pretty hot, the cracks were kind of flaring (although there was a splitter hand crack on the 5th pitch), and an ice cold pepsi was sounding pretty good, at least to me. Seems that bailing on the route is not too uncommon, based on the 4 slings, 1 quickdraw, 2 biners, and 2 nuts I collected off just the first 5 pitches! Booty, yea!

Below are some photos from the day.

Gold Wall from the road. It’s the 1300 foot wall in the left-center of the photo. El Cap is the massive on the right of the photo.
Climbing up a flaring groove on the second or third pitch.
A nice profile view of El Cap from Gold Wall.
Rappelling down after climbing 4 pitches on Gold Wal.
We decided it was a good time to refill the gas tank, since you can’t get gas in Yosemite Park (don’t know why, there’s no lack of clientele!). Gas was expensive! And a month ago I was complaining about paying $3!

June 13 – Rest Day.

0 feet / 0 pitches

After a week in Yosemite, it was time to regroup and discuss the plan for the next couple of weeks. We decided that the next climb we wanted to do would be the NW Face on Half Dome. We planned to climb the route in a day, so this would be a test of endurance and speed. So we decided to take a couple of days off climbing, to lounge around in the beautiful Yosemite Park. Naturally, I took the opportunity to get out my telephoto lens again.

Here are some photos from the day.

Yosemite Caterpillar. (Used my macro lens for this photo.)
Adolescent robin.
Acorn woodpecker.
Stellar Jay.
Western wood pewee?.

June 14 – Hike up to base of Half Dome.

few thousand feet up / 0 pitches

We spent a morning in the Valley (I hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls, and took photos of course), and at 2pm we started hiking up the 8 mile Mist Trail to Half Dome. To get to the base of the NW face, we turned off the trail just before it headed up the stairs and cables. Half a mile along a climber’s trail brought us to the base of the NW face, where there is a convenient spring (flows October – June usually) and nice flat bivy spots. We enjoyed the spectacular evening views of the valley as the 2000-ft NW face loomed above us.

Here are some photos from the day.

Creek below Yosemite Falls.
Juvenile Squirrels.
Great Horned Owl.
Organizing gear for the bivy and climb. We hiked up the Mist Trail, and plit off before the cables to bivy at the base of the NW face route. We left our bivy gear at the base during our climb and made the 0.5 mile side trip to pick it up on the way down the next day.
Vernal Falls on the way up the Mist Trail.
Profile of Half Dome on the trail up. The NW face is the steep 2000 foot face on the right side.
A climber’s trail takes you 0.5 miles along the base to the bivy at the base of the route.
A convenient spring at the base of the route at the bivy site. It flows October – June usually..
Looking up the route from the bivy.
Taping the hands the night before.
A nice spot to read a book.
Evening light on the NW face.


2000 feet / 24 pitches: 5.12 or 5.9 C1

I had wanted to climb the 2000ft NW face of Half Dome ever since my first time in Yosemite in 2003. Ross was psyched to climb it, so here was my chance!

The Regular NW Face route is a popular climb, for good reason. The day we climbed the route, there were 3 other parties. One party was hauling and planning on staying at Big Sandy Ledge overnight, and the rest of us were attempting to climb the route in a day. The first party started off at 4am, jugging some fixed lines they had set the night before. Ross and I began climbing after them, at 4:45am (it was dark for the first pitch, so we climbed with headlights). The third party (two friendly English dudes named Ian and Matt) started up right after us, and the fourth party began soon after them, falling quickly behind since they were hauling. Ross and I passed the first party by simulcliming the 7th, 8th, and 9th pitches, and from then on had the rock to ourselves.

It took us 14 hours to get to the summit. Ross did a stellar job leading every pitch. Mostly we free-climbed (besides for a few bolt ladders), and I jumared about 5-6 pitches to speed things up. The climbing was amazing! We also got some booty: a couple of nuts, a tricam, and a new C3 camelot. Score! (Although we lost a brand new 6mm rap cord when it got stuck just 2 pitches from the top – no score!)

Here is a brief pitch description outlining our climb (Pitches as from SuperTopo Guide):

  • Pitch 1: 4:45am. Headlights required.
  • Pitches 2 and 3: 5:34am. Linked these pitches.
  • Pitch 4: 6:18am. I practiced my jugging on this pitch, since I had never used jumars before (what better place to learn than on Half Dome!)
  • Pitch 5: 7:13am.
  • Pitch 6: 7:33am.
  • Pitches 7-9: 8:10am. Simulclimbed these pitches to pass a slower party.
  • Pitches 10-11: 8:54am. Bolt ladder on pitch 10 (I jugged). Pitch 11 is the airy Robbin’s Traverse. Linked these pitches to make a wild pendulum (I did a cool little unplanned flip, testing the usefulness of my helmet).
  • Pitch 12: 10:12am.
  • Pitches 13-14: 11:02am. Linked these pitches. I jugged these pitches, since chimneys aren’t my forte…
  • Pitches 15-16: 12:21pm. Linked these pitches.
  • Pitch 17: 1:20pm. The top of Pitch 17 is the comfortable Big Sandy Ledge, where we stopped for a brief break. The sun had finally hit the NW face.
  • Pitch 18: 2:11pm. Ross aided on gear, and I jugged.
  • Pitches 19-20: 3:29pm. Linked these pitches. Ross aided on gear, and I jugged.
  • Pitch 21: 4:53pm. Thank God Ledge – exposed, steep, and 1-ft wide. But can be protected by 1-2 inch cams the whole way. We both ended up on our hands and knees, and the gear attached to my gear loops almost knocked me off when I got to the really narrow section!
  • Pitch 22: 5:37pm. Bolt ladder (although some bolts seem to be missing, making for some sketchy gear pulling). I jugged.
  • Pitch 23: 6:26pm. Class 4 traverse. The brand new rap line I had been dragging got stuck somewhere and I had to leave it behind.
  • Pitch 24: 6:45pm. We were both on the summit at 7:07pm, about 14 hours after we started.
  • Car: It took Ross 3 hours and me 3.5 hours to hike in the dark back to the car.

Here are some photos from the stellar climb. What a great way to end our climbing in the Valley!

Regular NW Face route on Half Dome. 2000 ft, 24 pitches, 5.9 C1 or 5.12.
Looking down from the top of the first pitch.
Morning shadow of Half Dome in the valley.
Ross surrounded by rock at the top of Pitch 9 (we simulclimbed Pitches 7-9 to pass a slower party).
Ross beginning up the bolt ladder of Pitch 10. We linked Pitch 10 with the Robbin’s Traverse of Pitch 11, and I took a wild pendulum swing off the top of the bolt ladder, and did a flip on the rock. I torqued my ankle a bit, but it was okay to climb with.
Looking down from top of Pitch 11. There are 3 parties below. Pitch 11 is the airy Robbin's Traverse.
Nice 5.11 crack on Pitch 12.
Ross in the chimneys of Pitches 13-14.
Ross climbing the 5.9 offwidth below Big Sandy Ledge (Pitch 17). Great exposure!
Big Sandy Ledge at the top of Pitch 17. Lots of people bivy here.
Steph jumaring up Pitch 18 (5.11d or C1), one of the few pitches that we did not free climb.
Looking down from the top of Pitch 20, the ground almost 2000 feet below.
Thank God Ledge on Pitch 21. We both ended up resorting to crawling (I renamed it Thank God I Didn’t Fall Ledge). Fortunately, the entire length of the ledge can be protected with 1-2 inch cams.
Evening summit views.
Heading down the cables after the climb.

June 16 – Rest Day.

0 feet / 0 pitches

After a long day the day before, it was nice to sleep in and lounge around for a day. In the evening, we drove up to Tuolumne, since we wanted to climb Fairview Dome before we left Yosemite.

I didn’t take any photos on this day! Must have been tired!

Ross took a photo though. Classic – 2 guys with their GPS and map, standing in the Yosemite Lodge parking lot, trying to find a climb…Hope they had a fun climb, wherever they ended up going!

Where’s the climb, dude?

June 17 – (1) Lucky Streaks on Fairview Dome and (2) Oz on Drug Dome.

(1) 700 ft / 6 pitches: 5.9, 5.10b, 5.10a, 5.9, 5.9, 5.8; (2) 600 ft / 5 pitches: 5.9, 5.10d, 5.10a, 5.10c, 5.10a

On our way out of Yosemite National Park, we stopped to climb a day in Tuolumne. This is a beautiful area with lots of great granite. The routes are shorter than the Valley, but there are a lot less crowds!

We had planned to climb the popular Regular Route on Fairview Dome, but this 50 Crowded Classic was, well, crowded. So we opted for the slightly more difficult but equally stellar Lucky Streaks. Fun climbing on big feldspar crystals. Pitch 5 was quite an adventure, since it climbed right over a raven’s nest, and the mother raven was none too happy.

After Lucky Streaks, we headed over to Drug Dome to climb Oz, a fun-looking 10d we found in the Tuolumne Climbing guidebook. This was another great route, with a stellar layback/stem crack under a roof.

Here are some photos from the day.

Lucky Streaks (6 pitches, 10b) on Fairview Dome (taken from Drug Dome).
Fairview Dome has a lot of large feldspar crystals that are really fun to climb on (although I wouldn’t want to fall on this stuff!).
The first pitch of Lucky Streaks.
The climb went right over a raven’s nest – the mother raven was not happy!
View of Tuolumne Meadows from the top of Fairview Dome.
The view from the top of Fairview Dome.
Route overlay of Oz (5 pitches, 10d) on Drug Dome.
Spicy 10d face climbing on large feldspar crystals on the 2nd pitch of Oz. The amazing corner pitch stretches above below the roof.
Steph on the stellar 10d crack on the 4th pitch of Oz.
Ross on the final traverse pitch on Oz on Drug Dome.
Half Dome in sunset colors from Olmsted Point.
Tuolumne Meadows in evening light.
Long exposure in Tuolumne.
Cars driving by while I was taking a long exposure in Tuolumne Meadows.

June 18 – Rest Day. (Last day in Yosemite National Park)

0 feet / 0 pitches

This was our last day in Yosemite National Park. I really love that place, and it was sort of sad to have to leave, although there was more climbing ahead!

We didn't climb anything this day. Ross met with his friend Eric to go climb The Incredible Hulk in the Sawtooth Range of the Sierras (California) the next day. I relaxed in Tuolumne, and ended up in Reno that night (that's another story...).

Butterfly in Tuolumne Meadows.

Our climbing adventures continue…

Our 2 weeks in Yosemite were over, but our climbing adventures weren't. Ross and I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for some more climbing.

More on my website

This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-2 of 2

pvalchev - Dec 15, 2008 1:22 am - Voted 10/10


You got a lot done for 2 weeks!! Nice


StephAbegg - Dec 15, 2008 1:33 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Wow

Ross is an amazing climber, who can climb pitch after steep pitch and seem to never tire. For me, it was the fingertips that seemed to wear out the fastest for some reason. But the climbing was too good to take much of a break!

Viewing: 1-2 of 2