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Cave approach, crazy run outs, 1,500 feet of face climbing, toiling up and over Half Dome -- Autobahn is a route that takes you places.
I worked on this route with Charles Cole in March 1985, and as I look back on more than thirty years of climbing, lots of first ascents, and countless trips to the crags, I count those days as among the best. We camped out in the improbable cave with fires on long, cold March nights. We pushed a line I never imagined could possibly go. We had to ration our bolts, and we both tested our mental limits. Eventually, we made the big push, and after putting in some taxing bolts, we reached the final headwall. The sun was setting. We rapped. My plane left for the East Coast the next day. Charles recruited John Middendorf to work the crux moves and finish the route. And it was done. The first new route on the South Face of Half Dome since Warren Harding and Galen Rowell.
As you approach Snake Dike, a large piece of rock leans against the south face of Half Dome, forming a dark cave. Crawl through and onto a traverse ledge that narrows. The route continues right past some bolts to a belay ledge. The second pitch takes a left leaning line to gain the very obvious quartzite dike that shoots up the face. Pitch three is admittedly insane. Grasp the dike and climb it (easy) to a bolt 75 feet above the belay -- you can't see it from the belay, but it really is there. As I recall, Charles led this pitch. He kept hoping that the next move would reveal a horn to sling (as is the case on the Snake Dike). There is a hole for a large cam higher up (3"). Pitch four continues up the dike, as does pitch five. Pitch six finishes the dike and begins the upper face climbing. Pitch seven works its way upwards, past bolts that are very widely spaced (bolt rationing!). Pitch eight continues with thin face. Pitch nine works is way up a ramp. Pitch ten tackles a hollow sounding friction slab. My recollection is that I pushed the lead on this pitch, and the one bolt on the friction slab is a unpleasantly far from the belay. Sorry. Time was running out, and my shoulder was burning from pounding the bolts on pitch eight. Pitch eleven surmounts the crux overlaps -- hard but well protected. Pitch eleven works its way up a roughly surfaced face. From the final belay, front point up the low angle slabs to the top of Half Dome.
The two prominent, parallel dikes on the western margin of the south face of Half Dome are very obvious. Autobahn takes the right dike.
Take a light rack to supplement quick draws.
From: Oakland CA
Apr 3, 2007
A friend of mine was trying to talk me into this route. He called up Charles for some beta... which was that the bolts were 1/4", and some belays were single bolts. Take care!
|By Rusty Reno|
Nov 29, 2007
I'm not convinced the Charles is right. We were bold, but not stupid. If there are single bolts, then it must be possible to get in a piece of gear as well. But we did put in quarter inch bolts, and it has been more than twenty years for them to rust up there. I recall doing routes in New Hampshire ages ago and clipping twenty (maybe only fifteen) year old quarter inch bolts and feeling that they looked pretty darn old and rusty. The California climate is kinder to metal, but there is good reason to approach this route with an appropriate caution.
|By Stu Ritchie|
Apr 8, 2009
I climbed this route in the 80's with Eric Goukas. I recall it being very sustained and excellent! Back in those days, it was all the rage to climb using a 2" tubular swami belt and no leg loops! I shudder to think what would have happened if one of us were to have taken a long fall! As I think back, this route was quite demanding and it was only through the supreme confidence and drive of Eric that we succeeded in making what we believed to be the 5th ascent. Unfortunately, Eric was to die two days later while trying to complete the first continuous, free ascent of Power Point.
|By john strand|
From: southern colo
Jan 30, 2010
Just Classic ! About as good as a climb can be. The runouts are not to bad and the crux is well geared. set of wires and some cams to #3
|By Rusty Reno|
Sep 1, 2010
I want to reinforce John Strand's comments. Don't be freaked out. This route was done in the 1980s! What seemed crazy to us isn't all that bad today. Autobahn is one of the classic routes in its grade, sustained and worth doing, but by no means stupid. I've done Greasy but Groovey, as well as Shakey Flakes. Both are more committing than Autobahn.
Jul 16, 2012
I did this route late october '11. The few bolts are good. Except from third- and pitch prior to crux a fall will not hurt. The crux is very crimpy - after some blood shed we built a body pyramid as this is not 'free french able'. Pitches are 40-50m. A true Traditionalist route!