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Half Dome NorthWest Route Training
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By Hand.jammin
Dec 2, 2013

hi everybody,
So me and my buddy live in san diego area, we frequent josh and tahquitz but are looking to knock out the nrothwest route of HD this upcoming summer or the next, I was looking for any recommendations on training for this endeavor, whether it be techniques that can be applied in the gym or at home or routes around my area that wouold properly prepare us for what we face. Any feedback or insight would be awesome, I know for alot of people the NW route is childs play but for us its a big deal so any info would be appreciated, thanks much

By Hand.jammin
Dec 2, 2013

Also feedback on strategy would be nice, we were thinking a one night bivy on big sandy, any insight appreciated.

From Englewood, CO
Dec 2, 2013


That is a worthy goal! I just did the route a few months ago. As with you, it was a BIG deal for me. Biggest, most committing thing I've ever done.

I started training in January for our climb in mid-September. Our goal was to do the route in a day so I knew I would need some killer cardio and endurance. I got on a half-ironman training program along with lots of long days out climbing. The running, biking, and swimming were actually a pretty fun way to mix things up and keep it interesting. I also focused on getting as many laps in the gym as possible. This eventually led to an over use injury in my elbow. Be careful in the gym it is a dangerous place!

My buddy and I would climb a few days a week together and focus on different things on different days. A few days we would go for mileage, trying to replicate a 24 pitch day as best as we could at our local crags. Some days we would just try to climb as long as we anticipated being on the route. We did a fair amount of night climbing too, just to get used to it. We would also plan a few skills days in there as well. We practiced self-rescue, short fixing, jugging, aiding, and LOTS of french freeing.

My biggest recommendation would be to be as efficient as possible with every skill you will need on the face which is a little bit of everything. Get your belay exchanges dialed. French freeing and aiding short sections quickly is the ticket! Lots of endurance and the ability to suffer it out can't hurt either.

When I thought about doing the route a few years back I always anticipated doing it in two days and bivying on Big Sandy. A friend planted the idea of bumping up the training and just doing it in a day. This sounded like a good challenge at the time so I took it. In hindsight I'm sooooo glad we did it this way. In the end, spending two days on the face would be way more work than getting up it in one. Not saying that a two day strategy is a bad one, but it does change your training and preparation. If we had planned to do it in two days I'm not sure we would have made it. I don't think I would have hung in there and may have bailed. Climbing or jugging with a big backpack would suck! A two day team started after us and we never saw them again the rest of the day and assume that they bailed low on the route. I know their seconds bag was pretty heavy. Hauling on this thing will crush your spirit for sure. My hat is off to anyone that does that. You are WAY tougher than me!

We did the slabs approach on day one. Slept at the base and blasted before sun up the next morning. Summitted after it got dark and hiked back to the base and slept. Hiked out the next morning. My buddy went down the slabs and I opted for the hikers trail around back. When we met up back at camp my buddy said he wouldn't go down the slabs and would prefer to go down the mist trail if he ever did it again. I know plenty of people go up and down the slabs all day, but it wasn't for me. I had a pretty big pack and would have been terrified to go down the slabs. The hike out on the mist trail was super relaxing and BEAUTIFUL! A great reward after the climb of my life!

I could go on, and on, but I'll spare you to read the rest of the comments I'm sure are coming. There is a TON of great info online. Look at everything. Just know that that rock is way bigger and harder than it looks. I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after doing a TON of research. Nope. It was way bigger and way harder than I anticipated. A great climb, but one to be ready for!

Here is the main trip report we used to get ready:

HDIAD Report

This guy breaks down the route pitch by pitch giving some GREAT info and tips. I'd look at it even if you are doing it in two days. I'm happy to share more info if you want it, just shoot me an email.

Best of luck with training and with the climb! It's a classic for a reason!

By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Dec 2, 2013
Mt. Agassiz

This may help: www.mountainproject.com/v/regular-nw-face-of-hd-in-a-day---->>>

By Joshua Reinig
Dec 2, 2013
Last pitch of The Nose!

My Brother and I went for this Ultra classic a little over a year ago and did it in 16 hours our first go. Planning a bivy on BS is not a bad idea and/or contengancy plan. We brought light weight emergency bivy gear, 6 liters of water and waited for a nice high pressure. In June the spring at the bottom was gushing. Death slab approach was quite mellow only took about two hours but would be gnar if you got off route.

Best training for me was to get to where we were efficient at doing Whodunnit at Tahquitz three times in one day.

By Chris I
From Fresno, CA
Dec 2, 2013
First trad lead.

My buddy and I did it last June in two days using the "large backpack strategy". We pitched it out roughly in blocks of five and had one climber lead the block, usually free or mostly free, and the second would jug the hard stuff and free the easy stuff carrying a large backpack with him. It was good because we brought food, water and bivy gear for a comfy stay on Big Sandy (which was awesome and maybe a highlight), but bad because the follower would jug past some cool free terrain that is just too much to try to follow with a big backpack on. Also, jugging some of the chimney sections with a pack on was a nightmare.

It was nice to not to have to rush too much, knowing we had all day to get to Big Sandy and the whole next day to top out. Technically I would look at what each pitch you plan to free consists of and get that technique down so you can smoke those pitches. Also, for the Zig Zags, have your french free down and bring extra draws or biners for all the fixed gear. If I had been better at this section it would literally have saved us hours. It's a super climb and surprisingly moderate. Sleeping on Big Sandy was rad, but we had it all to ourselves. Add another party or two and it could get crowded fast.

Let me know if you want more specifics. Have fun and be safe up there!

By Sheets
From Livermore, CA
Dec 5, 2013

A buddy and I are going to do NWHF route next Spring.

I'd prefer to do it in a day but I doubt my buddy has the fitness & speed. With a lighter, smaller haul bag do you think the hauling would be so awful? Sounds like a lot of people just take a backpack but I really hate climbing with a backpack.

By PatCleary
From Rohnert Park, CA
Dec 5, 2013

While climbing with a pack sucks, it sucks less than hauling a haulbag with you. Plus if you're looking to get it done fast, the quickest way is (generally) for the follower to be on ascenders, not freeing stuff.

By SirTobyThe3rd
Dec 5, 2013

Do some long multi-pitch climbs to get used to climbing many pitches in a day.
Practice aid on one pitch climbs. You can aid any crack that takes gear all the way. Like aid some 5.11-12 crack that takes gear.
Do a smaller wall to try out hauling and your systems. And see if this wall thing is enjoyable to you.
Than get psyched and go big!

If you want to do it IAD, than do some long routes around Sierra. There are many. Do Ho Chi Minh trail in Yosemite Valley. If you do it in a day and don't epic, you are pretty much ready if you know how to do basic aid.

Good luck.

By Matt Desenberg
From Wells, Me
Dec 5, 2013

-It's worth hiking up the day before and sleeping at the base. That we you can fix two and geta jump in the AM.

-Be solid on 5.10 crack. Most of the mandatory free is easier and will subsequently go faster if you free 5.10

-DON'T HAUL: We carried a space blanket, down jacket and rain shell each, plus 8 L of water, some energy bars and headlamps. That was it. The second jugged with a backpack and it worked well as the pack was light. We did it in July and that was perfect.

-You can easily fix the first zig zag off of Big Sandy

-Leading in blocks is the way to go for sure, it vastly reduces changeover times. We split them into ground to Robbins, Robbins to Big SAndy, Big Sandy to Thank God and then swung from there.

There are several options on the first chimney pitch, a section of C1/hard 5.11 or a 5.9R chimney. I have yet to hear a good thing about the chimney pitch. There is also a keyhole variation to the chimney that looked cool but we decided to stick to the C1 corner and that worked well.

-We didn't have one, but you could most likely link the entire chimney section after the above pitch with a 70m.

-Second should plan on jugging, much faster.

Have fun!

By cjdrover
From Somerville, MA
Dec 5, 2013
Taken at MWV Icefest 2014.

We shot for a day but planned for (and ended up) taking two.

one 70 m rope
regular rack
one jumar, one grigri, one single step aider for follower
one single step aider for leader
5 L water (leader carried 2, follower had 3 L camelback)
energy bars
two space blankets, puffy jackets

We freed/french-freed all but zig-zags and robbins traverse, follower only jumared on three or maybe four pitches. We weren't quite fast enough for IAD (at least not in daylight, we climbed first week of Sept) - stopped at Big Sandy at 5:30 PM and finished in the morning - much nicer, IMO, than finishing in the dark. We slept at the base the night before and took the hiking trail down. We did not do any fixing mostly because we were sleeping on the rope. We passed a party that was hauling and suffering immensely.\

Having the second jumar, while probably a bit faster, would be disappointing, IMO. 95% of it is awesome free climbing.

By john strand
From southern colo
Dec 5, 2013

I agree with a lot of what cj said. If you PLAN a day ascent, then do a bunch of valley moderates with varied climbing
NE Buttress Higher
East Butt El Cap
Central pillar
Sentinal, any route

For a two day ascent, remember it can get crowded in spring. another option is to camp in little yosemite and do the route back to your gear.

Very much a 5.10/AO climb

By Hand.jammin
Dec 6, 2013

Thanks for all the advice everyone this helps immensely

By R-Dubz
From San Diego, CA
Dec 8, 2013
What we thought was a new route in Chapada Diamantina national park in Bahia, Brazil. After climbing 3 pitches of death blocks, we found a footprint on a ledge. Damn.

Hey Hand! I recently moved out to SD, and did RNWF in June in a blisteringly slow 25 hours. I also tried it several years ago and got my ass handed to me (with the same partner), and I'm planning on going back to get it in a more reasonable time, knocking out a number of mistakes we made.

Plenty of good advice above, but I'll tell you what worked for us. First of all to give you an overview of where we are at when starting the climb - we've done Triple Direct on El Cap and climbed a LOT of free trad - I can usually on-sight to mid 11 crack and face on gear, and my partner climbs a little easier on crack and about the same face, but has much more aid climbing experience than I do.

Essentially, we followed the beta that Ryan Nevius links to (Kroese's strategy) above. That thing is excellent, and I'm essentially adding my two cents to his strategy below.

1) Definitely a free(and French free) climb. Being totally solid on leading 10 cracks will help immensely. Also, one thing that killed us coming from the East Coast the first time were the chimneys - only like 5.8 but definitely slowed us down too much. The 10 foot 8ish chimney at the end of Thank God Ledge is definitely kind of a bitch, and you probably don't want to lug a #5 all the way up there, so you're going to be doing it unprotected. Be aware of that.

2) I don't think you would want to jug any pitches except possibly the zig-zags (with a gri-gri and a prusik or something - don't bring ascenders just for this). If you're both solid on 10, you should be strong enough to follow the lower pitches without concern. While the jugging in theory is faster it rarely is for someone starting out on a wall - we tried to jug/short fix the first time we were on the route, and that just massively complicated the route. Plus, as mentioned above, this is an awesome free climb, so why would you want to miss having your hands one of the most featured big walls out there?

3) I'd bring his recommended rack, with the following extra pieces - I'm a gear minimalist, but next time am absolutely taking the following:

- 4 in total (that's right, four) .5 (purple) camalots. Next time I'm totally doing this - the 11c finger crack on the 12th pitch has some fixed but in terms of my own gear I could only place .5s. Maybe .75s would go somewhere but I couldn't find them, so ended up having to backclean, which was a waste of time, and made it harder for the second to follow. Next time I'm going to place two .5s as gear while working up this thing and leap-frog and French with the other two to move as fast up this crack as possible. I feel having these would probably have knocked 30-45 mins off our time.

- I'd love to hear other folks opinion on this, but I really think that it would be worthwhile to bring two cam hooks to speed things up on the first zig-zag pitch, cause my partner ended up fiddling with all kinds of stuff to get up there, which was aggravatingly slow. I feel we could probably have saved an hour here.

- Finally, bring some two alpine aiders or several extra long slings to use to aid in the zig-zags for the leader - but note I'm saying alpine or slings - bringing full aiders up for this would be a serious waste of weight. We ended up daisy chaining some slings together which ate up valuable slingage and is just annoying to use.

4) Definitely head up the day before. I really don't think fixing any of those pitches is going to save you much time if you do it the day before. Also, bring a bear canister - bears aren't much of an issue up there, but the squirrels definitely are - they will get your food without a doubt unless you hang it like 50 feet off the deck on the cliff - which is another unnecessary waste of time. The garbage I'm starting to see around the bivys at the base of the route due to squirrels getting into peoples food while they are on the wall is definitely not cool, and I'd also be worried that it could become an issue with the rangers - plus it sucks to come down from the route famished only to find that squirrels have eaten all your sandwiches.

5) I'd definitely hit up Woodson a lot to just have your crack skills dialed, and Tahquitz to get your mileage and belay change-overs all set as well.

Good luck dude! If you ever want to get more beta in SD or go climb just message me.

- Ryan

@ Sheets - hauling would be AWFUL on this route. It traverses a lot in the first half, and there are tons and tons of low angle, corners and flakes all over the route that would make you wish you never learned the word "haul". Definitely better to have the second climb with the bag.


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