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By Bryan G
May 11, 2011
Yosemite Valley Guidebooks that are currently available (and also a few notable ones that are no longer in print):
Yosemite Bigwalls: The Complete Guide - $30
The new comprehensive bigwalls book is finally here! It doesn't have the long history sections of the Supertopo, but boasts about five times as many routes. If you want to climb a route on Porcelain Wall, Sentinel, Middle Cathedral, or any of the other formations that aren't in the Supertopo then get this one. At $15 the eBook is a steal. 376 pages. Color.
Supertopo Bigwalls - $30
64 of the finest Bigwalls in the Valley. Highly accurate and detailed route information, a first ascent history for every climb, good logistic and "strategy" info on where to bivy, what to fix, ect... It focuses mostly on El Cap, has several route on the Column, but just briefly touches a few other formations. Now in it's 3rd edition, with updated "free" grades for most pitches. 208 Pages. Full color.
Supertopo Road to the Nose - $15
More of an training/instructional guide than an area guidebook. It does include topos for the Nose and a handful of other wall routes in the Valley, in addition to some cragging. 60 Pages. Full color.
Supertopo Free Climbs - $30
Accurate route information and interesting history. With only 230 routes, this is really just a "select" guide. Folks visiting for the first time will likely want to pick this one up. 209 pages. B&W.
Supertopo Sport Climbs and Topropes - $20
The Valley isn't known for it's sport climbing and there's not many places to set up a toprope without leading something first. But if you're just in the Valley for a few days and want to clip bolts, then I guess this is the book for you. There's a few areas in here with new or previously unpublished routes, mainly at Parkline, the Cookie Sheet, and Mecca. Unfortunately a sizable chunk of the material in this slim book was copy & pasted from "Yosemite Free Climbs". 120 Pages. Full color.
Supertopo Bouldering - $28
Many people overlook the bouldering in the Valley, but it's truly world-class. This is the best (and only "in print") guidebook for the Valley's bouldering. 160 pages. Full color.
Falcon Guide Free Climbs - $25
aka the "Reid guide". Currently the most comprehensive guidebook to the Valley, and the guidebook of choice for locals. Route information is often vague and somewhat suspect (beware the "pro to 3"), but with more than 10 times as many routes as Supertopo's, this guidebook is what you need to escape the crowds. This recently went out of print and is becoming increasingly difficult to find. 432 Pages. B&W.
Falcon Guide Free Climbs Select - $15
At only a marginally reduced price from the regular guidebook, this gutted version isn't really worth it. If you want a select guide, get the Supertopo. This is, however, the only book to feature "The Blowhole" sport crag at Wawona tunnel. Now out of print. 144 Pages. B&W.
Yosemite Climbs: Big Walls - Don Reid
The 3rd edition of this book has been out of print for a while and is difficult to find new. This book covers way more routes than the Supertopo Big Walls, and if you want to get on some less popular aid routes, especially on formations other than El Cap, then seek this book out! 216 Pages. B&W.
A Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley - Steve Roper
A copy of this historic guidebook will most likely cost you a pretty penny but it details loads of older routes that can't be found in anywhere else. Many 4th and easy 5th class climbs and adventures to seldom visited pinnacles and formations, as well as obscure aid climbs can be found within these pages. Roper's written route descriptions often surpass, in detail and accuracy, the topos for those routes found in the Reid guide, but the (piton) rack beta is a bit dated. The one with the green cover is the most recent edition. 304 Pages. B&W.
A Climber's Guide to Yosemite - Richard Leonard & David Brower (1940)
From the Sierra Club Bulletin, basically the Valley's first guidebook. Click the link to view a scanned copy of it.
From: Santa Cruz, CA
Jul 9, 2011
|A literal mecca? Thousands of climbing days a year?|
From: Atascadero, CA
Jul 10, 2011
|That's thousands of "climber-days," not climbing days. Which is different. If that clarification is necessary!|
By tobin sanson
From: Carbondale, CO
Jun 12, 2012
Here's a little video I put together after my first visit to the Valley:
By Colin Coulson
Sep 25, 2012
I haven't seen this amazing resource up on MP yet, so here it is - super hi-res panoramas from Yosemite's most striking summits: The Yosemite Extreme Panoramic Imaging Project
Zoom in/out on the images and you'll be able to explore the most stunning route finding resource available.
By Bryan G
Apr 24, 2013
When to Climb
Yosemite Valley is a year-round climbing destination, but depending on what you're looking for, some months are better than others. Here's what you can expect...
Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb)
Winter days are short and frigid on the Valley floor. Walls with a southern aspect get more sunshine and typically warm up to perfect temperatures. Any climbing on the south side of the Valley (north facing) is out of the question unless it's one of the Valley's rarely done ice climbs. Longer routes will typically have a few wet sections from runoff, similar to spring conditions. During the winter, climbers will flock to the excellent cragging in the Lower Merced Canyon (Arch Rock, Cookie, Pat and Jack, Reed's Pinnacle, ect..) which are at lower elevation where the snow doesn't stick as much. If the sun is shining, you can count on climbing in a t-shirt.
Winter is also the perfect time to send your bouldering project, however winter storms can dump a lot of snow that can stick around the Valley floor for weeks. The crags typically dry out much faster than the boulders - usually within a couple days. Also watch out for falling sheets of ice that form at the top of some bigger cliffs and break loose in the AM. Overall, the weather is usually clear, but you do run a higher chance of it storming which makes planning a trip from far away more risky. The campgrounds are empty, and you will have your choice of sites at Camp 4 or Upper Pines.
Spring (Mar, Apr, May)
Spring brings longer days which means more time for climbing. And with the sun higher in the sky, the snow doesn't stick around nearly as long after a storm. Spring brings it's own set of challenges however, mainly in the form of wildlife. The falcons are the first on the scene, with many route and cliff closures for their nesting season beginning in March and extending into July. The ants start showing up in late March, and they can absolutely overrun belay ledges, rappel trees, and bouldering problems. In April the poison oak blows up the Lower Merced Canyon, so make sure you know what it looks like before you head down-valley. Then in May, the mosquitoes hit, and if it's been a wet winter, they will be absolutely miserable. Also in May, start watching out for yellow jackets which make their hives on the sides of crags, sometimes on very popular routes. Each year a few unlucky climbers get stung a whole bunch of times.
Aside from all that, the weather is typically good, starting out cool and crisp in March, and progressing to warm in May when you will likely start chasing shade. There's issues with runoff on some routes, and the descent gullies on the south side of the Valley are usually still full of snow. But if the skies are clear, you should have plenty to climb, and the skies are usually clear. Overall this is a great time to plan a trip to the Valley. Camping can be secured with ease in March, and gets more difficult and crowded as you head into May. From May 1st to September 15th, there is a 7-night camping limit in Yosemite which is rigidly enforced in Camp 4. Leaving the Valley and coming back does not "reset" this stay limit during this time.
Summer (Jun, Jul, Aug)
Summers in the Valley start out warm in June, and get oppressively hot in July and August when the mercury will regularly push triple digits in the sun (or 38 C, for non-Americans). Chasing shade is made difficult when the sun is directly over-head for much of the day. Many north facing formations (such as the GPA, and DNB) broil in all-day sun because they aren't vertical. A common strategy is to climb in the mornings on a west-facing cliff, then take lunch by the river before getting in a few more pitches on an east-facing cliff in the evening. Also if you can get elevated a few pitches above the Valley floor you will find cooler temperatures, and if a wind is blowing, then you'll be in business. Half Dome is typically packed with climbers during these months.
The mosquitoes, yellow jackets, poison oak, and falcon nesting closures persist through the majority of the summer months. Tioga Pass usually opens sometime between end of May and end of June, and provides an escape to the cool, elevated, and less crowded destinations of Tuolumne and the High Sierra. Valley camping in the summer requires an alpine start to get in line, and then a grueling wait to secure your seven nights in Camp 4. The summer is my least favorite time in the Valley, but big wall climbers often have a more favorable opinion since they can get around the ridiculous camping scene by bivying on the wall (plus getting offsets to stick in a C2 seam isn't affected by temperatures in the same way that getting your hands to stick in a 5.11 crack is).
Fall (Sep, Oct, Nov)
Autumn in the Valley is similar in temperatures to the Spring, except it's more dry, less buggy, has less frequent storms, and also the days are shorter. It starts out warm and crowded in September, and then progresses to cool and serene in November. Pretty much all routes are "in condition" during this period, and some formations which require crossing the river are finally made accessible by low water levels.
While September is quite warm, it's easier to chase shade because the sun is lower in the sky, and a Valley trip can be accompanied by a trip up to Tuolumne which is also excellent in this month. If you're going to be in the Valley at the end of September, consider joining in the trash clean-up and festivities of Facelift. October typically offers perfect temps in either the shade with a sweatshirt, or the sun in a t-shirt. The first big storm usually closes Tioga Pass sometime in November and also ejects most of the climbers and tourists alike, but November still usually sees many clear and crisp days, perfect for climbing hard boulder problems or sunny climbing.
Camping is still difficult in September, but gets much easier by October when all the tourists leave and Camp 4 truly becomes the "climber campground". Overall, the Fall is the best time to climb in the Valley, with the only disadvantage being the shorter days compared to April and May, so don't forget the headlamp if you're heading up something long.
By Chad Lawver
From: Yosemite Village, California
Sep 1, 2015
I created a mobile guide book app for Yosemite, similar to MP, but with more accurate descriptions, photos, and GPS... you can download it for iPhone here...
or Android here...
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the app!