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BETA PHOTO: Annotated Topo for Golden Years
This route is a tour-de-force in Yosemite face and slab climbing. I've never been on another route that has such high rock quality, stunning movement and exciting holds.
This route would be popular if it wasn't so difficult. I was unable climb the route clean but wanted to share some details to encourage more people to give it a go. Each of the first five pitches has a well defined crux that make this an overwhelming challenge. You can climb over 80% of the route clean at 5.11a/b
The hardware on this route is good and every belay is setup for rappel. The first ascentionists envisioned rapping with two 50m or 60m ropes, but I think you could get away with one 80m rope. None of the pitches are particularly long and the whole route is about 900 feet long.
You can top out and then descend the east ledges if you prefer. This might be a faster way to go if you didn't leave any gear at the base of the route. The last pitch is not shown in the Reid guide or topo.
P1 - 5.11b - 40m A decent warm-up and the easiest of the of the first five. The first bolt is easy to spot and move past. A section of gear protected climbing leads to the first crux on golden rock where the holds disappear. Keep climbing up the corner system with more opportunities for gear until you reach a high bolt on the face out right. Some thin moves up a corner system set you up for the final two bolts and the crux of the pitch. Tech your way up the low angle face and you will be rewarded with a great belay ledge.
P2 - 5.11c - 30m Thin moves lead off the belay to a series of much better holds. When the holds run out, balance your way across the face to the left. Weave around the face connecting tiny crimps, underclings and even a few pockets! Higher up a second leftward traverse leads to an obvious left facing layback. Follow this into a section of blocky rock. Some cruxy moves take you to an amazing incut crimp out left and the grand finale of the pitch. All the holds turn to fingernail edges and you must float up to the belay. Good luck!
P3 - 5.12c or 5.12a A0 - 20m The story goes that an important hold broke on this pitch after the first ascent. As far as I know it has been repeated on TR but not on lead. Desperate!!
The most common option will be to A0 straight right from the belay to the further most of three bolts. From here you can get established and climb the rest of the pitch at about 12a.
Crimp hard and work in to a good undercling flake. A thin fingers cam could go in here. Follow the flake back to the left with difficulty since the crack often pitches out. Clip a pair of bolts and don't let your biceps flame out. A final long reach gets you established on a good rail directly above the belay. Another cam protects the easy climbing onto a good ledge. Climb past a final bolt to a great stance where you will find the anchor.
P3 Left - 5.13
A variation to the crux pitch was established out to the left. From the P2 belay traverse 20 feet straight left on a positive flake. Gear easily protects this easy section. Place one more piece of gear before climbing past 4 bolts. The first section of face climbing, 5.11+, follows good edges to a positive right hold at the end of a rail. From here you must power through a 5 move V8/9 on spaced but well defined holds. Once an obvious ledge is reached you can clip a high bolt and work up to a no hands rest. From here you must traverse 20 feet back to the right. A small cam up and left can be placed to protect follower
P4 - 5.11c - 20m A short but challenging pitch. Step left from the belay and follow a series of sculpted knobs up the steep face. Gear protects a fun move over the roof before you can reach a high bolt. Another tricky roof pull leads to the first, and easier of two mantels. After getting established on the first knob clip a high bolt and power up to the second knob. Manteling this second knob is the cru of the pitch. After you get your feet on the second knob you are rewarded with another bolt and a long traverse to the right. The anchors are below the steep black wall.
P5 - 5.11d - 25m Another stunning pitch with a baffling crux right off the belay. Climb up the steep wall past closely spaced bolts on incut holds. Unfortunately these holds are very far apart! Once you make it to the third bolt you are home free and can romp up even bigger holds! A few gear placements take the spice out of this pitch and you will belay at an okay stance out right. This pitch is part of the black streak so it can be little dirty and/or wet.
P6 - 5.10a/c - 40m The easiest pitch on the route. The climb is still high quality and you will have a blast. The biggest challenge is figuring out which knobs are positive and which are slopers. Follow the path of least resistance which goes almost straight up. This pitch is still quite vertical so going the wrong way can get you in trouble fast. Look for pair of thin cruxes are in the middle of the pitch. Belay at better stance before a small roof.
P7 - 5.10d - 22m Climb straight up from the belay and make a big reach to get established below the small roof. Climb over the roof on big knobs and cop a rest. An off-balance crux past two bolts leads to another section of good knobs. A traverse back to the right provides the final crux. Traversing high seems like the best option. Once out right follow big holds for 30 feet to the anchor. You might be able to get in a cam here, but the runout is manageable at this point.
P8 - 5.10d Steeper than the last pitch with a more powerful crux. Take a rising traverse to the middle of the wall out left, aiming for a flake/crack system. A few tricky moves on knobs get you established below the crux. A hard friction sequence leads to a loose tooth that is your only option. Climb this with a few other holds to a good stance. From here step left and climb up the angled flake system. Fun and cruxy laybacks lead to a series of hero knobs and eventually the anchor.
This is the last place you can rappel down the route from bolted anchors.
P9 - 5.10 Climb up past a bolt before the angle kicks back and you can romp up easy slabs to the summit. You will have to build a gear belay if you want to do this pitch, and will need to descend the east ledges.
Technically this is not on Slab Happy Pinnacle, but it seems like the best place to put it. Take the same approach as for Slab Happy but look for the wall to the right of the black streak. Golden Years starts on a slab on the right side of the amphitheater. Good overview photo:
Photo showing long routes near Slab Happy. Credit: Clint Cummins
14 slings and quickdraws.
Single Rack from Green C3 to .75 camalot.
You could place bigger gear, but it doesn't seem worth bringing.
The long sixth pitch of Golden Years
BETA PHOTO: Photo Topo of Golden Years.
Looking up at the crux section of Pitch 7
Looking up at Pitch 8 from the belay.
BETA PHOTO: The crux of Golden Years on pitch 3