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Training for Steck-Salathe


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Dave Oakden · · St. George, UT · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

I am planning on climbing the Steck-Salathe but am scared of Yosemite given what I have heard about the difficulty level. I've climbed a bit in Zion and RR and live close enough to both to visit and train. Are there any suggestions regarding training that will help me be well prepared for this particular route? I have almost no experience on granite which may be a starting place. Thanks ! 

Nate Nate · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10

I’m just curious. What appeals to you about Steck-Salathe for your first Yosemite trip? I haven’t done it so I can’t give you any training advice. It is on my list. 

Dave Oakden · · St. George, UT · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

I'm not an aid climber so that rules out alot of things that might be otherwise cool to do. The history of the route is part of the draw - also I'm quite a Salathe fan in general. 

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 2

steck salathe as your first granite, first yosemite route might be a bit ambitious? Not sure how hard you climb.  Perhaps try some of the easier yosemite wide routes before jumping on steck?

as an FYI-- red rock grading is quite a bit softer than yosemite (1-2 full number grades, often...)

I love the sentinel, love steck salathe!

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 720

Just climb exclusively on routes named for any two legendary old dads. By the time the S-S rolls around, you'll be fine.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

my guess is that the most applicable training you could do would be to sleep outside in a t-shirt and jeans every night.  hangboarding isn't gonna be good training for a forced bivy...

Highlander · · Ouray, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 255

Climb NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral first, if you cruise it with plenty of day light left, then maybe your ready for some Steck-Salathe. Hope you like chimneys, squeezes and 3 & 4 inch cracks. 

Dave Oakden · · St. George, UT · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

Lots of good advice - and warnings. Thanks! 

Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 302

You don't even need crags nearby to train:

"To practice for the Steck-Salathé, crawl across asphalt parking lots in the summer, on your knees and elbows."

https://www.summitpost.org/steck-salath/503260

This is a sustained wide crack and chimney climb on the North Face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley. It made Steck and Roper’s list, 50 Classic Climbs of North America. It has a well deserved reputation…

"Many have questioned the quality of this sort of achievement, deploring the use of pitons, tension traverses and expansion bolts, but the record speaks for itself. This is a technical age and climbers will continue in the future to look for new routes. There is nothing more satisfying than being a pioneer."
— Allen Steck, justifying the 1st ascent of Sentinel's north face, 1950.

"Al, if only I could have just a little orange juice!"
- John Salathé, while dehyrdated on lead

"Get a garage door and unhook it, lay down on your driveway and have four friends lay the garage door on top of you. Now they each sit on a corner of the door and you try to wiggle out from the center to escape."
-Karl Baba

"To practice for the Steck-Salathé, crawl across asphalt parking lots in the summer, on your knees and elbows."
-Dingus Milktoast

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1634868/Route-Progression-to-Steck-Salathe 

Xan Calonne · · Joshua Tree, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 35

Do lots of manual labor all day long. Then, get a headlamp and do manual labor all night long. Make sure that you have insufficient food and water for the level of exertion.
Also, probably go do Epinephrine. It's close by St. George and is somewhat similar stylistically and in length. If you finish that one with daylight and energy to spare you might enjoy SS. 

Caped Baldy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 110
Dave Oakden wrote: I'm not an aid climber so that rules out alot of things that might be otherwise cool to do. The history of the route is part of the draw - also I'm quite a Salathe fan in general. 

If you want a historical Salathe route, try the Southwest Face/Salathe route on Half Dome.  It won't be as burly as the Steck-Salathe.  I've had 5 go's at that thing and due to some very bad luck have been shut down every single time for one reason or another. 


http://www.climbingyosemite.com/portfolio/half-dome-changing-legacy/

"In 1946 the Southwest Face was climbed by John Salathe and Anton “Axe” Nelson in 20 hours with one night of uncomfortable standing on a ledge until finishing the route at first light. They placed 150 pitons, no bolts, and marked the first time climbers slept on a wall overnight to accomplish a climb."
Mick S · · Utah · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 60

As mentioned above, since you are close, do Epinephrine first and it should feel casual. The start of the S-S is not obvious, so hike up there the day before and find it. Don't underestimate the descent, it is not trivial. It's a memorable route, have fun. 

Nate Nate · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10

I feel like Epinephrine is one of the most memorable and enjoyable climbs I’ve ever done. I’ve always had the impression that Steck-Salathe  is a sufferfest Yosemite Valley rite of passage. From those with experiences with both, are they that similar?

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 720

IMO they are not that similar.  Epinephrine is much easier, devolving into garden-variety crimp cruising after the 500' (?) of fun chimneys. The S-S is hard off the ground, hard in the middle and by the time it's not hard, you're pretty close to the top.  Epinephrine climbs like a Grade III+, comfortably attainable in daylight; lots of folks use a headlamp on the Sentinel.  The NE Buttress advice is standard wisdom- if that goes well, jump on the Steck.

As far as suffering goes, it's better if you have some experience with meat-and-potatoes granite climbing.  And you have no 'right' to expect success- that's what makes it a rite of passage.

Highlander · · Ouray, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 255
Nate Nate wrote: I feel like Epinephrine is one of the most memorable and enjoyable climbs I’ve ever done. I’ve always had the impression that Steck-Salathe  is a sufferfest Yosemite Valley rite of passage. From those with experiences with both, are they that similar?

EPI, is pretty casual in comparison to the SS and can be climbed very quickly with mostly face climbing after the 2 chimney pitches. SS has more physical climbing and the nature of the climbing os just much slower. For me on sighting  the Chouinard-Herbert on the Sentinel climbed much faster than on sighting  the SS even though it has much harder climbing.

Patrick Vernon · · Estes Park, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 960

The chimney pitches on SS by themselves are much harder than Epi.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Dave Oakden wrote: I'm not an aid climber so that rules out alot of things that might be otherwise cool to do. The history of the route is part of the draw - also I'm quite a Salathe fan in general. 

There are many, many historic and high quality long moderate free climbs to choose from in Yosemite, and almost any of them would be a better starting point than Steck Salathe. Go climb some of the fun, happy routes like Braille Book, Serenity/Sons, East Buttress of Middle, East Buttress El Cap, etc. These will give you a good sense of Yosemite long routes, but are way more approachable than Steck Salathe.


If you are still psyched on Steck Salathe after working through the more inviting options, next step is to do some routes on the Yosemite single pitch OW circuit to dial in your wide technique. Then go do Steck Salathe.
Adam P. · · San Jose, CA · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 310

I did the Steck-Salathe in 2011, I think, after training on wide cracks for about three years, and building a resume of many other routes climbed in Yosemite and other locations. I echo other posters comments that there are other routes more approachable, and should be done prior to the SS.

I don't think there's a silver bullet or measuring stick for knowing when you're ready to climb the SS. Instead, I think being ready for the SS involves an accumulation of experiences through years of good practice. This includes being proficient at every type of granite chimney climbing - wide chimneys, flaring chimneys, and squeeze chimneys - as well as granite offwidths, fist cracks, hand cracks, finger cracks and granite slabs. It also involves being proficient and efficient multi-pitch climbing - safe and fast belay construction, carrying the correct amount of water and food, rack, and reading the route and rock. Building all of these skills, over years of perfect practice, will help ensure an enjoyable experience on the SS.

In terms of specific routes, climb the chimneys at Church Bowl, the Camp 4 Wall, the Cookie, base of El Cap, particularly Arch Rock (Entrance Exam and Gripper), and Reeds. Climb the other cracks at these crags before and after you've done the chimneys at them, to build up your fitness and a variety of crack techniques. Climb offwidths as well. While not prevalent on the SS, there are some. I would also sprinkle in some slab climbing practice for the face traverse after the Wilson Overhang (don't do the squeeze on the pitch after the Wilson - do the face traverse to the right) and the face pitch after you do the offwidth above the rappel from the Flying Buttress. The Braille Book and NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral are good training climbs. I haven't done the chimney variation to the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, but I imagine that would be good practice too.

In addition to being confident on a variety of chimney, offwidth, and slabs in the 5.9 to 5.10a range, you want to be physically fit. I'm not talking about a "pretty body" or runner fit, but you want to be aerobically fit to climb wide, physical cracks, all day long. It's the type of aerobic fitness where you can run for five miles and immediately do consecutive rounds of reps of body weight squats, pull-ups, and triceps dips.

I saw someone mention climbs in Red Rock. I've done Epi, Buelah's Book and some other chimneys there. Steck-Salathe is harder than those routes, but they are a good buildup.

Be safe, train consciously, have fun, and give us a TR when you've sent the rig, even if it's years from now.

Cory F · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25
slim wrote: my guess is that the most applicable training you could do would be to sleep outside in a t-shirt and jeans every night.  hangboarding isn't gonna be good training for a forced bivy...

Don't forget to eat dates..  bring lots of dates and little water

Dave Oakden · · St. George, UT · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences and for all of the excellent training wisdom. Also thanks to some for the humor. I'll post a TR at some point down the road. 

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

I've done it twice. First time was a bit epic, there may have been a few tears. On sight sure, only because I dropped the only thing big enough to hang on.

The hike out with weak headlamps might have been worse.

The second time was casual. We were drinking at camp 4 before sunset.

For training, just climb lots and lots of milti pitch and don't avoid wide stuff. It might be an epic. We all need a good epic once in a while, it puts hair on your chest.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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