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South Face

5.8 C1, Trad, Aid, 1200 ft, 11 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.5 from 270 votes
FA: FA: Layton Kor, Chris Fredericks, 6/1964 FCA: Bruce Carson, 6/1973 FFA: Matthew Wilder, 10/2002
California > Yosemite NP > Yosemite Valley > Royal Arches Area > Washington Column
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


The South Face of the Column is the first wall experience for a lot of aspiring big wall climbers in the Valley. A few pitches of free climbing and easy aid make it a straight-forward, two-day climb for most teams. Bear in mind that this also makes this route the BUSIEST wall route in the entire Valley.

The general approach is to climb to Dinner Ledge the first day, fix a couple of pitches from there, then head for the top on day two.

P1) Climb up 5.8 corner, traverse out across the slab left of the corner and belay on a ledge at the top.

P2) Go left across to the first nice corner and aid that to the anchor. There is a free-climbable (10b) corner left of that, but don't go too far or the climbing will get way hard and you'll have to penji back right to the anchors at the top.

P3) Free climb up cracks and corners to the right end of Dinner Ledge. The good bivy spots are all out to the left below the Kor Roof.

P4) Kor Roof pitch. Easy free climbing up a ramp takes you to bolts. Aid bolt-to-bolt up the roof to a crack that leads up and right. Aid this crack to belay anchors. MAKE SURE NOT TO BACK CLEAN TOO MUCH IN THIS CRACK OR YOUR SECOND WILL KILL YOU UPON ARRIVAL AT THE BELAY!

P5) Crux pitch. Head up and over the small roof above the belay. A tricky move into the crack above, then continue aiding up the left along the arch. A short penji will get you to the anchor.

P6) Continue aiding up and left, then up crack to anchor.

P7) All time stopper pitch! Nuts are bomber here. Go straight up cracks to the anchor.

P8) This pitch is free-climbable at 5.9. Climb up and cut right to chimney. Continue up to a belay in the chimney above.

P9) Tricky pitch of mixed free climbing and aid goes out right and up from the chimney, then up some more to belay in a big tree. Nice!

P10) Hardest free climbing pitch here, or aidable up and over roof back left to belay.

P11) Go up loose gully taking care not to dump tons of death on the parties below. Belay off tree above. Carry the haul bag!!!

Yer done! Scramble to the top of the Column from there, pack up and descend the North Dome Gully. Do a little research on this to suss the line of the descent.


The Column is located east and a bit north of the Ahwahnee Hotel. Take a dirt road east for about half a mile, then join the bike path for about a half mile. Keep your eyes open for a trail off the left side of the path that takes you to the Column.


Standard big wall rack. Kitchen sink.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Alpine starts are absolutely imperative on walls.
[Hide Photo] Alpine starts are absolutely imperative on walls.
Fixed to 6 then enjoyed the sunset against half dome on dinner ledge. Unforgettable.
[Hide Photo] Fixed to 6 then enjoyed the sunset against half dome on dinner ledge. Unforgettable.
Al Torissi on Lake Dinner Ledge, Spring 1996.
[Hide Photo] Al Torissi on Lake Dinner Ledge, Spring 1996.
Ptim ascending a fixed line on the Kor Roof.
[Hide Photo] Ptim ascending a fixed line on the Kor Roof.
Room with a view.  View from Dinner Ledge.
[Hide Photo] Room with a view. View from Dinner Ledge.
Tim turning the Kor Roof in a stout wind.
[Hide Photo] Tim turning the Kor Roof in a stout wind.
On the S. Face
[Hide Photo] On the S. Face
Jugging before sunrise on the South Face.
[Hide Photo] Jugging before sunrise on the South Face.
Settin off into P5
[Hide Photo] Settin off into P5
Washington Column, high up on the South Face.  This is the "awesome 5.9 crack" that leads to the chimney above (and right).
[Hide Photo] Washington Column, high up on the South Face. This is the "awesome 5.9 crack" that leads to the chimney above (and right).
Dinner Ledge Bivy.  Photo by Russ Walling
[Hide Photo] Dinner Ledge Bivy. Photo by Russ Walling
Dinner Ledge is great for that morning tea in your 0deg sack
[Hide Photo] Dinner Ledge is great for that morning tea in your 0deg sack

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] Stunningly beautiful and a perfect first wall. Goes faster than West Face of Leaning Tower due to the large amount of free climbing on the SF. If you have ever climbed a wall before and free up to low 5.10, this goes easily in a day, and you won't have to deal with a bag.

Take lots of small/medium stoppers for the nut pitch, or cam hooks would really speed things up.

Don't back-clean the crack above the Kor roof, but do back-clean the bolts going out the roof. If you just leave the last bolt clipped on the roof your second can just jug straight up to the lip. There will usually be a fixed climber under the roof. Sep 15, 2006
[Hide Comment] Super fun route. Not much to add except that you can pass slow parties that are stuck on the roof. If you traverse left at Dinner Ledge and get onto Southern Man, then you can be to the top of P5/6 (hard to remember) directly above you real quick. The first pitch is a quick bolt ladder and the second one follows an ever narrowing seem with some grass toward the top (cam hooks are nice) and ends up linking with S. Face near the top of P5/6. I remember some creative climbing at one point, but nothing too difficult.

Lastly, if you are dehydrated and find a huge bottle of Red Gatorade hidden between some boulders at the top of the Prow, don't drink it. The next morning in the cafeteria sucks if you do. Jan 13, 2007
Oakland, CA
[Hide Comment] I'd say doing the SF in a day is really hard to pull off, not for the climbing but for the inevitable cluster of humanity that you will find there.

Great route nonetheless. Jul 10, 2007
Oakland CA
[Hide Comment] Great intro wall climb.

To make it faster and more enjoyable, leave your haulbag on dinner ledge. Climb to the top, then rap back down to dinner. Saves you the work of hauling and the walk off, and you won't be threatening parties below you with loose stuff in the funnel at the top as you haul.

There is a lot of loose stuff up there, the guys above us who rapped down sent lots of little rocks at us. Lots.

Also, you get the bonus of a 2nd night on dinner ledge, which is a bitchin' spot! Oct 24, 2007
Jordan Ramey
Calgary, Alberta
[Hide Comment] Beware of the "biting" ants around the tree atop the pitch 1 ledge. There is a very stinky smell right before the biting starts. Oh, and they REALLY come out at night. Just don't rustle the tree and you'll be fine though.… Mar 27, 2008
[Hide Comment] You are so right about the ants...:< I almost got eaten partner had to basically use me as a punching bag for over 10 minutes just to get all the ants off me...I think the ants got out some rage on me...Its funny that some actually made it up to dinner ledge with me in my draws and they seem to know when your making a hard move... Mar 2, 2010
Joe Forrester
Palo Alto
[Hide Comment] This climb is easily climbed in a day. Do the Southern Man bolt-ladder start if you want to by-pass slower teams going over the Kor Roof. The SM start has a gear anchor seperate from the pitch 5 anchor of SF, which is advantageous when passing. The most gripping part of the day is the descent. Jun 12, 2011
San Diego, CA
  5.8 C1
[Hide Comment] A couple of notes:

1) If you cannot find a parking spot use valet parking at the Ahwahnee, which is free (until all of you read this and take advantage). Tip the guys.

2) If rapelling, rap off the bush in the sandy gully with the rap slings about 120' out if I remember. There is a pine tree higher up but that adds a rap to a long day of double rope raps. Supertopo is wrong about how far you get off the pine tree.

3) There are two rap stations to climbers' right of the chimney to avoid stuck ropes. While supertopo says it is 140' between them it is much less than that and the lower one is not too far down and right from the nut pitch starting anchor.

4) Pulling your ropes from the ledge down to the killer ant ledge (top of 1) your rope has a high change of getting stuck in a pinch in the 11c section so you may try pulling it out over the 10b section instead. Jun 15, 2011
[Hide Comment] FA: Layton Kor, Chris Fredericks, 6/1964
FCA: Bruce Carson, 6/1973
FFA: Matthew Wilder, 10/2002 Mar 7, 2012
Brian Hestetune
Logan, UT
[Hide Comment] A few things...

Try not to stick around the rap tree in the middle of p3 for too long, you will regret it... If you have it in for your second, put the haul line to the right of the tree.

The 10a? Variation on p2 is excellent. If you can free the grade and not the 11c, it is a great alternative to aiding the original corner. Step out onto the face to gain a finger crack. Take this up low angle terrain to a glorius steeper hand crack splitter. Pull an offwidth move or two ( or not if you have the length) and you'll rejoin the original 10b lieback corner to the finish. There is amazing protection through out this pitch.

You can rap from dinner ledge using a single 70 m. Just make sure you knot your ends! The first rap from dinner just barely gets you down to the top of pitch 2. You can rap the route from there. Jun 8, 2012
patrick donahue
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] how big is the dinner ledge? im planning on doing this route in early may with my climbing partner. will it be to crowded? Jun 11, 2012
[Hide Comment] Can anyone give me some good gear/pro beta for this route? Im planning this for my first wall and my budget is tight. I dont want to have to hurt myself or bail because I didnt have the right tools for the job, but can't afford to buy a whole rack of offset cams if I only need to place one or two.

Ive currently got a double rack of cams from Metolius #1/ BD #.3 to BD#4, one set of standard nuts, and all the gear for jugging.

Basically what nuts cams and aid gear will i need? Smaller cams? which size(s) offsets are necessary if any? cam hooks?

Thanks Mar 12, 2013
[Hide Comment] I would definitely suggest some smaller cams, particularly for working your way up the awesome 7th pitch. I did the route yesterday and found the green and red c3s to be perfect. A 0 Metolius would also fit the bill. Offsets would definitely be nice, but I don't have any either and made it up just fine. Have an awesome time! Mar 12, 2013
[Hide Comment] A video of pitch 3, unedited:… Jan 22, 2015
Chad Lawver
Yosemite Village, CA
Nathan W.
Sequoia NP, CA
[Hide Comment] Considered giving the V10 variation on the Kor roof a try, but we forgot the crash pad.

I recommend triples or more of cams around the finger sizes. I would leapfrog the cams I needed and leave nuts and Tricams. Offset micro nuts were a bit helpful and a narrow cam hook helped in a couple spots. Apr 23, 2015
Russ Walling
Overlord @ FishProducts
[Hide Comment] i'm curious to why there are still dozens of button-heads on this route. i would think that one of the most popular walls in the valley would be up to date by now. No matter how large the head is, button-heads only go 1" - 1 1/2" deep. and the one on the Kor is hanging half way out.

Because it is C1, not C0. Keep the radness alive! Oct 16, 2015
Mike Holley
Boone, NC
[Hide Comment] Superb Introductory route to Big wall Climbing in the valley! Easy enough approach, logistically simple, and an overall beautiful line up Washington Column. The bivy ledge is HUGE, so with proper planning you should have no worries in regards to a place to lay your weary head after crushing those first couple pitches. Either start early and fix as high as possible above the ledge, or nurse that hangover and start late making your way up to the bivy for a casual next day. Hauling was pretty straight forward most of the way, but can get a little sticky on the upper pitches with the chimney and low angle climbing. Don't bring a ton of stuff, not necessary! Enjoy the walk off, it can be steep and route finding can be a bit of struggle, would not recommend trying it for the first time at night. Overall a stellar route and an fun first in the valley big wall haberdashery!!!! Dec 3, 2015
Max McKee
Monterey, CA
[Hide Comment] Partied on Dinner Ledge for my birthday a couple weekends back (weekend of 4/15). 12 fucking people up there! We drank tequila and beers, smoked some herb, watched Ryan lead the Kor Roof at night. It was fucking awesome! Apr 27, 2016
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
[Hide Comment] Do yourself a favor and leave the haul bag at home. If this is your first wall just practice up so that you can move efficiently through C1 (be comfortable leap frogging pieces and you will should be OK). C1 comprises about half the route and the rest you can free. Jul 7, 2016
[Hide Comment] This was my first Grade V! Total blast. Here's a detailed TR with photos from our ascent: goodlooksandcamhooks.wordpr… Jul 23, 2016
[Hide Comment] You can almost rap this line with a 70 meter line. You will be just short on the pitch 7 to 6 rappel by about 4-7 meters. You can down aid it as it eats up #1 camalots. Once you get to thepitch 5 anchors left of the Kor roof you can fix the rope down to the dinner ledge and then you can tie in a 60 meter rope for your partner.

Leave the pig at the dinner ledge. May 16, 2017
Alex Zucca
Salt Lake City, UT
[Hide Comment] Pitches 4-7 are the technical challenges of the route. Some 150 foot aid pitches where efficiency can save you a lot of time.

That being said, my partner and I were able to complete this route with very few issues and essentially no prior aid experience. Aug 28, 2017
[Hide Comment] PSA: There is a very loose block about 2/3 of the way up the long, straight-up C1 aid pitch before the 5.9 handcrack and 5.8 chimney. When passing it this weekend, I made sure it was lodged in well, but that thing is ready to go. Wouldn't take much more than a freeze-thaw cycle to send it onto the upper left edge of dinner ledge (or onto the heads of those leading that pitch). Jan 30, 2018
Natalie Nicole
San Francisco, CA
[Hide Comment] My partner accidentally went too far left for the second pitch; his variation started with a finger crack and continued to follow the widening crack. To get back on route he ended up just doing a pendulum off a bunch of tat left over from previous parties that also went the wrong way. Just curious - anyone know what grade at which that variation would go free? Apr 23, 2018
Tim Maas
Santa Barbara, CA
[Hide Comment] Two 60 meter ropes will get you from Dinner ledge to the top of pitch 1 Sep 21, 2018
Dom R
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] If you do this in a day the first three pitches go really fast if you take the free variations and have your follower jumar after you (lead in blocks with one leader doing this whole part). The 10b second pitch is straight forward with a short crux and stellar handcrack climbing. It took us about 45 minutes to get to dinner ledge climbing this way. From there pitch it out as the guidebook says. Some re-aiding on the Kor Roof helps the follower get through the awkward roof turn faster. We found a double rack to 3’s and one number 4, one set of Metolius offset cams, 2 stopper sets, and an offset stopper set to be more than enough for this route. As compared to the complete big wall guide which calls for a triple rack and double offset cams/stopper racks, and cam hooks. Oct 8, 2018
Nathan Stegenga
Spokane, WA
[Hide Comment] We were able to do it in a day, but if there had been anyone else on the route I could see that being hard to pull off. Was helpful to scout it the day before to see if anyone was already up there. If you're dialed on C1, can free 5.9, get an alpine start, and there's nobody in front of you, it's a worthy day objective. Would have been a little frustrating to do it in two days as it's really not that long and hauling would be awful at the beginning and end. Similar to Dom R, our rack consisted of triples in tinies to fingers, doubles to 3 and single 4, single set offset metolius cams (so money for pin scars- back cleaned and leapfrogged them like crazy), double set of nuts, and single set dmm offset nuts. No need for hooks or offset brassies etc like guidebook suggests. Didn't place anything smaller than #4 BD stopper. Most of the C1 pitches take finger sizes. Lots of fixed gear on this route, especially p6 and below.

Echoing other comments about P2, don't get suckered into the far left dihedral - you will have to do a short penji and lower out off old tat. The 10b line looks improbable from the belay, but look for a small crack in the slab that leads to a big open book feature above. Oct 18, 2018
[Hide Comment] The tree on dinner ledge fell :( makes a decent bench now though.. Feb 24, 2019