If you avoid the Direct Crack (5.9), you can keep the level at and below 5.6 for the entire climb? Is that right? That is what "Climbing California's High Sierra" claims. How many pitches total?
If the Direct Crack is avoided, the hardest move becomes the off-width crack at the top of the Staircase (5.6-5.7). When Barry and I did the East Face, we only roped up for 4 pitches, but I think the total would be 16(?).
Agreed - just did it and used the rope for only 250' total - four places:
The solo the washboard up and over and down.
The fresh air traverse
The chimney above the fresh air traverse
Solo the Grand Staircase.
Take off pack - leader free solo the crack with rope on and then pull up packs.
Belay up second then solo to the top on 4th class big blocks.
there's some pretty useful info. in these comments I think - would be nice if it could be added to the main route description page before some of it gets accidentally deleted.
I've climbed the East Face a couple times. The last time was a free solo of the entire route. One day push: 13 hours car to car. My guide book states 5.4 but more like 5.7 due to exposure, length, and altitude considerations. I got a little altitude sickness because I ran the trail section to the base of the East Face and then climbed the route a little too fast. By the time I reached the Grand Staircase, I was feeling nauseous and had a big headache. I just pushed through the summit blocks and after a 10 min rest on top headed down the hikers trail expediently. As soon as I hit 9500 feet, I was almost back to normal and then ran the trail back to the Portals. It was truly an awesome day.