Minor traffic jam on NW face of Half Dome, 1990

Minor traffic jam on NW face of Half Dome, 1990

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 80.76061°S / 172.61719°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Oct 2, 1990
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Fall

Climbing Half Dome in 1990

A little video of our ascent in 1990, the first year I had lace up slippers for granite and never went back.
John McCallum from New Zealand and myself arrived at the bottom of the route at the crack of dawn to find the only climbers were at the zig zags.We though great, clear sailing. Well when we got to the zig zags we could hear them and caught up to them on Thank god ledge.
You can see a climber belaying behind John at 2:16. While belaying John up to the ledge I started talking to the this climber about letting us pass,he seemed ok about it but the lead climber shouted down."No f*#king way you guys are passing us. It's our third day and we have to get off ! "
Well I look at John and think wait a minute we have to get off we have no bivy gear!So John heads off right behind this guy who quickly makes a wrong turn.John quickly passes and thats all we needed to get by and avoid fisticuffs 2000' up the side of Half Dome.
As I climbed up the 5.11d pitch this same guy who 2 minutes earlier had basically threatened us with bodily harm is now pleading for John to take their rope and fix it at the top of the pitch for them. Well,we felt sorry for the nicer guy so we fixed their rope and made it off before dark. They did not make it up before nightfall.

All in all a fantastic trip that I will never forget. In 12 days we climbed the DNB on Middle Cathedral, West face of El Cap, Hotline on Elephant Rock, the Rostrom, Astroman, Half Dome, the Nose, some cragging and I even think we squeezed in a shower or two. A good outing but nothing compared with what Peter Croft and John Bachar were doing at the time and Alex could probably do all these climbs in a day. Nevertheless considering our mere mortal status we were happy with what we had done. We didn't really have a plan we just picked climbs the night before and got on a roll. Not hard to do when everyday is perfect weather unlike Squamish.

The Nose was an after thought,after coming down from Half Dome we got back to an empty campground and an empty valley with empty energy reserves.What was going on? Well it was some kind of government shut down,the campgrounds and everything in the valley was closed. Well, we were bagged from all the previous climbing and were driving out the valley to leave. When we passed El Cap we saw NO ONE on the Nose. We looked at each other with that look and decided then and there that we would never have a chance like this again and went for it.
We had done a ton of long routes together in Squamish that summer in preparation and I had just spent 2 weeks in the Bugaboos right before we got to Yosemite so we were granite ready.

That was my 5th trip to the valley so I feel I did my Yosemite apprenticeship although I have to work on my bomb-bay chimneys as I took a fall trying to get into the Harding slot on Astroman. After battling my too big for slot body up that thing I was really looking forward to watching John squirm,thrash and grovel his way up only to be deflated when he laybacked the outside. No fair!

He was a very talented and easy going partner who made the whole experience even more fun and enjoyable.I think most Kiwi's are like that. He is still cranking today back in New Zealand up at his home bouldering area, Castle hill.

My only regret is they didn't have high definition video cameras in 1990 and I wish I had taken more video.

Yosemite and the Sierras are world class with good weather to boot,you Californian's don't know how good you have it.

Hope to make it down there soon as 50 is the new 40!
Halfdome MOVIE West face of El Cap MOVIE


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JoelSkok - Sep 13, 2012 9:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Love your story

You have a lot of experience to share with us, the video was excellent too, even the brief where someone was talking like a bandelier. Post more pictures, stay safe 10/10

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