Mountain Project Logo

Possible Snake Dike climb?


Original Post
Andrew G · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Hi Everyone,

I have been climbing regularly for 3 years. I have experience leading trad in the Gunks, ADKS, and Blue Mountains (Australia).  I have been debating climbing the Snake Dike in Yosemite.  I have a full rack, and all the gear, but i am wondering about the nerves, especially for being R rated. Any advice?

Abram Herman · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20

The 5.7 parts are pretty well protected, but you need to be comfortable climbing an entire pitch at an easier grade with literally no gear between you and the next anchor. It was several years ago that I did it, but if my memory serves me none of these super runout pitches were harder than maybe 5.4. Hopefully someone who's done it more recently and is more familiar with the route can chime in with a more accurate account.

Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 386

Also interested in more info on the runout/people's relative experience before leading this route. 

Max Rausch · · Monterey, California · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 125

5.7 friction in Yosemite can feel very different than what you're used to at your home crags. The severely runout sections on the dike can be terrifying, but you would have to try to fall. My advise.. If you normally sew up every trad route you climb, and want to feel 100% safe... stay away. But, know that many people, with much less experience than you have climbed the route, and survived. 

beaki · · San Jose · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 100

well, for starters you don't need a "full rack" for snake dike. actually, I strongly suggest you go (very) light. on the first pitch you want one 0.75 bd cam which you put in before you traverse to the left. that piece makes sense for most people and after that there is little opportunity for trad gear. snake dike is bolted and you run it out from bolt to bolt. belays are all bolted. 

of course, I can not tell you about your nerves and how you would feel about snake dike but if you can do e.g. eternity at mt piddo I would assume you are fine.

Ronald B · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

I was also concerned about this until I did the climb earlier this year. You do have to be comfortable essentially free soloing 5.4, but the 5.7 sections all seemed relatively well-protected to me. I think we only brought 6 cams and placed 4 of them since there are not that many places where protection can be placed, and most of the time you'll be clipping bolts. I would recommend being comfortable on friction slab before attempting it, but there are only a few short slabby sections (these are the cruxes, however). The really run out sections felt like ladders to me.

Ben Horowitz · · Berkeley · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 123

My normal recommendation to people who aren't super-confident is to climb some harder friction slabs the day before (Grack Marginal is great), which will make the 5.7 traverse feel very casual. The super-runout 5.4 pitches after that are not a problem for anyone who has experience climbing outside.

Edit: Grack Marginal can be TRed after climbing the Grack ;)

Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 386

What's the earliest in the year that anyone has climbed this route? (or in the valley, for that matter). I know that the High Sierra will likely still be socked in during the Spring, but I'm assuming that Half Dome is possibly climbable in March, albeit probably damp in places? 

Ronald B · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

It will be hit or miss but I wouldn't plan to do it in March. You might get lucky and have great climbing conditions, but you might also get snowed on. It also doesn't really seem like the best climb to do when wet considering the runouts and the fact that the cruxes are slab moves. 

I would at least count on a good percentage of the approach being through the snow in March, so you'll have to bring appropriate approach gear to get through the snow, and then you'll have to climb with that gear on your back. 

The snow lasts a long time up there. There was still a big patch of snow on the top of Half Dome itself when I was there in June. Granted it was a high snow year and that patch on top wasn't hurting the climbing at all, but it just goes to show how the top of Half Dome basically is the high sierra despite how close it is to the valley floor in horizontal distance.

Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 386
Ronald B wrote:

It will be hit or miss but I wouldn't plan to do it in March. You might get lucky and have great climbing conditions, but you might also get snowed on. It also doesn't really seem like the best climb to do when wet considering the runouts and the fact that the cruxes are slab moves. 

I would at least count on a good percentage of the approach being through the snow in March, so you'll have to bring appropriate approach gear to get through the snow, and then you'll have to climb with that gear on your back. 

Thanks, I figured as much. I've spent quite a bit of time in the Sierras but never until late May or June. Have a psyched pal from Cali trying to talk me into doing the climb during March but I think it's safe to say it's out of my safety margin with that much potential for residual snow. Not worth the hassle or the risk. 

Freezing Drizzle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

My normal recommendation to people who aren't super-confident is to climb some harder friction slabs the day before (Grack Marginal is great), which will make the 5.7 traverse feel very casual.

Hahaha ...is like suggesting the Dike Route to those who aren't super confident and are inquiring about the "run-out" on Bunny Slopes. Kind of. That being said, both Marginal and Dike Route are super awesome if slab is your thing : ]   ( Though if one has to ask about the "run-out" on both, he/she has no business on neither... )  

Re OP:  4 Alpine draws, 3~4 (small) cams, and a bolted anchor set ( doubles with lockers ) are what is needed for Snake Dike.   

Seth Derr · · harrisburg, pa · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 2,020
Jess Arnold wrote:

Thanks, I figured as much. I've spent quite a bit of time in the Sierras but never until late May or June. Have a psyched pal from Cali trying to talk me into doing the climb during March but I think it's safe to say it's out of my safety margin with that much potential for residual snow. Not worth the hassle or the risk. 

I climbed it in March but it was an abnormally warm/dry year.  2015 I think.  The biggest issue was that the cables were down, which made the descent from the summit the crux of the climb in my opinion.  It was snowing very lightly and laying back those cold damp cables with a pretty long shitty fall as a consequence was a bit harrowing.  We did make it back to the valley floor before the beer store closed though, so it was an all around winner of a day. 

Andrew G · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Does anyone know if the cables are still up?

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350
Andrew Green wrote: I have a full rack, and all the gear, (for) climbing the Snake Dike in Yosemite.

Should post a pic of all that gear over in rack envy

Ben Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

The Half Dome cables usually go back up the Friday before Memorial Day (conditions permitting) and come down the day after Columbus Day.

Columbus day is October 9.

It's not bad descending the downed cables, just rig up some sort of safety system that works for you (Friction hitch on the table, clip in to the cable, etc), if you are not comfortable descending simply by holding on to the cable. Keep in mind that the cables have lots of intermediate anchors.

Once you get on the main dike it really is like climbing a knobby, low-angle ladder. I don't remember any totally unprotected pitches, I believe all of them had at least one bolt besides the anchor, although we did some linking of pitches.

The scariest part for me was the 5.7 traverse onto the dike on P2 for us (P3 supertopo). I traversed too early and completely missed the bolt (By the time I saw it, it was 20ft above me). Then I had to start climbing up the dike (much more secure) while still facing a massive pendulum fall. Make sure to stay on route. 

Chris D · · the couch · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 2,230

Snake Dike's crux is neither the well-protected 5.7 slab nor the long easy runouts on the dike. 

It's descending the cables, which is a complete shitshow. Not even trying to be funny. You'll see. 

Thomas Claiborne · · San Diego · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 5
Seth Derr wrote:

I climbed it in March but it was an abnormally warm/dry year.  2015 I think.  The biggest issue was that the cables were down, which made the descent from the summit the crux of the climb in my opinion.  It was snowing very lightly and laying back those cold damp cables with a pretty long shitty fall as a consequence was a bit harrowing.  We did make it back to the valley floor before the beer store closed though, so it was an all around winner of a day. 

I climbed it around the same time in 2015. We just rapped off the cables through the giant eyelets (don't know the actual term) that hold the cables up. 

Just double-check the cable status before going up before so you know what you are getting yourself into.

I had never climbed anything truly "run-out" until Snake Dike. Honestly, it's stupid mellow. There is nothing cryptic about hiking up the dikes. Oh, don't botch the approach beta like I did to get to the climb. It made for a MUCH longer day.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 13,859
Andrew Green wrote:

Hi Everyone,

I have been climbing regularly for 3 years. I have experience leading trad in the Gunks, ADKS, and Blue Mountains (Australia).  I have been debating climbing the Snake Dike in Yosemite.  I have a full rack, and all the gear, but i am wondering about the nerves, especially for being R rated. Any advice?

Really depends how dialed in you are on friction.  You'll be climbing for great distances above your pro.  Yeah, its easy, but, its very helpful to have led some "trad"-esque friction.  

I think I took 2 cams and 5 nuts is all (plus a few draws and shoulder length runners).  You really shouldn't need "a full rack" of gear.

If you've led multi pitch in the 'daks that's runout at near the same grade, you might have enough experience to be ok.  You really want to be able to step up and rally.

If you're local to the NE, go to Whitehorse and lead some of the classics in the 5.5-5.8 grade range.  That'd work.

Best to find out you have the stones for run out friction prior to hiking all the way up there...

Justin Meyer · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2012 · Points: 51

I just bailed off this a couple of weeks ago so I'll give a few general thoughts. Maybe it will help someone.

The hike in is very long with a lot of elevation gain. We chose to use the John Muir trail instead of the Mist trail to make it somewhat longer but less steep. OpenStreetMaps has the climbers trail: http://www.openstreetmap.org/search?query=snake%20dike#map=19/37.73848/-119.53810 though it isn't perfect. DON'T FOLLOW IT BLINDLY. We started at 3:30 am from Upper Pines campground (a convenient place to start from as you don't need to get in the car).

I brought a water filter so that we could refill from the river rather than carrying all the water from camp This worked well for me. Don't count on getting more water at lost lake though, it was more of a marsh and it looked like a challenge to get to the water.

We got turned around on the approach up the base to the route and again on the retreat. The approach probably isn't hard to navigate (there are some cairns and an intermittent trail) if you've done it once or twice but we burned up an hour or two making mistakes on the approach.

On the route itself I found the climbing up to the big tree to be no problem with lots of gear. We made that our first belay because I was worried about rope drag on the traverse and to get all my cams back. The friction traverse under the roof also was no problem with plenty of placements for gear if you bring plenty of cams (I brought singles up to BD #2, the roof had one placement where the #2 barely worked and a #3 likely would have been more confidence inspiring), alpine draws, and sticky shoes (tan Anasazis were great). The corner system above that also was protectable and fun. I don't remember placing any nuts but I didn't climb the whole route.

After that the slab and runouts start. As someone who has limited experience with slab and runout climbing I was ok with it until the perfect weather unexpectedly changed from a calm, sunny day to clouds and very strong wind from the side. We continued until the bolted anchor just below where the dike starts. It was getting late in the day (2pm) and it looked like it could rain at any time. I started to think about what it might be like to climb on wet slab with a huge death-fall runout. Given that we were only 1/4 of the way up the route proper (with 1000' of 3rd class remaining at the top as well as the cables down) and it was looking like rain, we decided to bail.

We had brought two ropes for bailing but only needed one 70m from that point. I think bailing after that requires two ropes due to the long pitches but I could be wrong.

My take on this climb is that it is to be respected a lot more than some of the online comments would indicate. Yeah, it's only 5.4 and people routinely solo it but for me the time pressure, the runouts, the weather, and the distance from help (we never saw anyone else out there) made it a very serious climb. I had gone into it thinking it was comparable to the Direct Route on the First Flatiron (easy for me) but Snake Dike was a notch or two more serious despite the similar grade. I think if I spent more time in Yosemite I would get used to routes like this but for someone from Wisconsin where the tallest routes are about 100' and the longest hike in is 20 minutes Snake Dike is a tough one to get right on the first try, even with a fair amount of multipitch experience.

Jarmland · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 0

Hi! I climbed Snake Dike in June of 2016. I'm not easily scared and I have 15 years of climbing experience. My partner was very experienced and solid as well but I still thought it was terrifying.

Not because of the climbing but because of other climbers!!!

There were serveral friendly but slow teams of three above us, so we spent most of the day waiting patiently behind them.  I kept seeing images of myself getting hit in the face by a water bottle from high up while waiting on sweaty slab holds with a 100 foot run out below my feet.. Sun was baking, I just wanted to get the hell off the mountain..

But I couldn't because there was a team of 20 (Yes 20!) Koreans climbing below us. They were climbing Snake Dike in a sort of siege style that I've never seen before. One climber would lead a pitch. Clip himself to one bolt with a PAS and clip a locker, with four or five ropes tied to it, to the other bolt. No redundancy. Then four or five followers started jumaring the ropes at the same time. One of them carried another four or five ropes and so it went on until they had a web of ropes and 20 people jumaring all over the face..

The only good thing about that day was that I could check Snake Dike on my ticklist.

Sorry for the negative post. Just wanted to point out that other people can be a big factor when considering how scary the run outs are.. If not for the shit show it could have been a sublime day out.

Jess Arnold · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 386
Jarmland wrote:

But I couldn't because there was a team of 20 (Yes 20!) Koreans climbing below us. They were climbing Snake Dike in a sort of siege style that I've never seen before. One climber would lead a pitch. Clip himself to one bolt with a PAS and clip a locker, with four or five ropes tied to it, to the other bolt. No redundancy. Then four or five followers started jumaring the ropes at the same time. One of them carried another four or five ropes and so it went on until they had a web of ropes and 20 people jumaring all over the face...

that sounds

uh,

terrifying

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply