Type: Trad, 2000 ft, 15 pitches
FA: Adam, Harris, & Davis - 1936
Page Views: 99,940 total · 656/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Sep 21, 2006 with updates from Euan Cameron and 1 other
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Royal Arches is considered by many to be one of Yosemite's all-time classics. Commonly done at 5.7 A0 with a point of aid off a fixed line, the route is easily freed at 5.10-. While the route weaves its way up an impressive band of rock at a relatively easy grade, there are other moderate climbs of superior aesthetic quality, but perhaps it earns it's classic status due to the history behind the climb, first negotiated in 1936, or the easy approach combined with an accessible grade, or the simple fact that it serves as the most effective approach to North Dome that makes the climb so popular... don't expect to be alone on this route.

Approach Royal Arches from the Ahwahnee parking lot. The most heavily traveled trail, well right of Serenity Crack, is likely to be the correct trail. The start of the climb is in a chimney in the back of a huge left-facing corner. The highlights: Climb up the chimney past a chockstone (5.6). Make a long 3rd class traverse on ledges to the right. Climb a steep, polished ramp/groove (5.5). Once again, traverse right on 3rd and 4th class ground -- do not be tempted to start climbing up the face or corners, continue right as far as possible. Eventually head up on a 5.7 finger crack. At this point, follow the chalk and clean rock up various crack and ledge systems for several pitches, eventually ending up in a left-facing corner system. At the top of this corner system there is a bolted anchor on the face from which a 30' length of fixed line is attached. Clip this for pro, and either pendulum left or climb left (two moves of polished 5.10-) to a ledge system. Follow this way to the left. Climb up either side of a giant hollow flake, then step left to some tree climbing to a belay alcove. Step around a corner to the left and continue up on low angle 5.6-5.7 terrain. Just below the headwall and roof systems, continue traversing left following the line of least resistance. One pitch climbs through some dirt mounds. Shortly after there is another traversing pitch with a two bolt anchor -- make note of this if you plan to rappel. One more traversing pitch finishes the climb -- this one can feel a bit sketchy compared to the rest of the climb. Traverse high for gear in a dirty undercling, or traverse low to clip a lone bolt. Either way beware of pine needles on the slab. This pitch is strange in that it seamlessly merges into an actual trail into the woods... kinda cool.

Other miscellaneous notes:

  • Topping out involves following the trail left and then up.
  • Right where the climb ends there is a great spring with water that is safe to drink -- you can't miss it.
  • Sleep in! There are numerous places on the climb to pass or be passed.
  • The rappel route is fast and effective and can be done with one or two ropes. I highly recommend consulting with the SuperTopo guide for specific details on the locations of the rap stations.
  • The walkoff is via the North Dome Gully. For parties only doing Royal Arches (and not doing another climb on North Dome), the raps are the way to go. For parties continuing on to North Dome (or for climbs on the Washington Column), the Gully would be much faster.


Standard rack.

Pitch by Pitch Description

The start of the climb is in a chimney in the back of a huge left-facing corner.

1. 5.6 100' Climb up the polished chimney past a chockstone to an awkward move up and over a small bulge to a belay stance.

Pick up your ropes and scramble up along the groove until a short steep wall is reached.

2. 5.6 120' Climb the slabby terraced face until a steep move gains a left facing groove. Follow this up to the belay. This pitch is the first of many where pins scars are very evident.

3. 4th 160' A long wandering pitch of easy climbing and scrambling. Belay at the tree to the right of a polished groove.

4. 4th 80' Move left from the belay and start up a wide groove. Move right half way up and move up to the belay at the top of the groove.

Pick up your ropes and move the belay 160' to the base of a pin scarred crack. Now the climbing becomes more sustained and certainly more enjoyable.

5. 5.7 130' Start up the polished pins scared crack with a couple of good finger locks. At the top of the cracks move right then back left up towards a good belay ledge. Make sure you belay on the left end of the ledge.

6. 5.7 160' Move up left from the belay but quickly move back right and continue up perfect cracks and liebacks. This is a great pitch.

7. 5.5 100' Continue up the steep steps until possible to move right towards an obvious off width crack. Belay at the base of the crack.

8. 5.6 120' Climb up the off width. At the end of the off width move directly up the obvious flakes to the large ledge with a tree. The large hollow sounding flake near the top can be disconcerting so plan accordingly.

Note: It is possible to link pitches 7 and 8 with a 60m ropes and good rope management.

9. 5.7 or 5.10b 125' The pendulum pitch! Climb up the chimney and then step right up a crack system. Move back left into the groove and place high gear up right. You now have a choice, traverse the slab leftwards free at 5.10b, or grab the fixed rope and pendulum across. Either way it is fun. Belay on the flake at the end of the traverse.

10. 5.4 110' Traverse left towards the tree and the base of a right facing corner.

11. 5.7 100' This pitch is relatively short, but feels sustained. Start directly above the belay and head up a pleasant crack system. Continue up leftwards into the corner with good face moves before an awkward section allows a tree and belay to be reached.

12. 5.7 110' From the belay make an awkward move left around the arete and then climb directly up the steep hand crack. At the top of the crack make a couple of extra moves on the face to gain a good belay below a shallow groove.

13. 5.6 130' Looks can be deceiving and this pitch is true to the saying. Climb the easy angled grooves to a good belay stance at a large pine tree.

14. 5.4 150' Steep down from the belay and make a delicate traverse leftwards. As the end of the traverse approaches move up to the right of the tree. Continue up and left to belay on the blunt arete.

15. 5.3 150' Delicate slabby climbing up and left eventually will lead to the triple bolt rappel station at the top of the slab.

16. 5.4 170' Move left and then down towards the bottom of the slab. Gear can be found at the lowest point of this traverse. Step up left onto the slab proper and climb the solitary bolt. Now make the crux moves across the slab. Stay low and traverse leftwards towards the pine needles. The traverse gets easier the farther you are form the bolt. It is only 5.4, but it comes at the end of the climb and offers maximum exposure.

Note: Due to the position of the bolt seconding this pitch is scarier than leading.

17. 5.4 170' (optional) If you want to make the rappel descent you must now reverse the last pitch (16) to return to the rappel station. This time the leader has the harder time!


George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
This was literally the first climb I did in Yosemite, in 1983. It is rather amazing that some parties can blast up this route in an hour, while other parties take 12 hours. My first trip up was in the latter category! Many years later I climbed it in a leisurely 4 hours, why the heck did it take us so long the first time? Inexperience, confusion, no sense of urgency I guess. However, in 1983 we were one of the last parties to cross the rotten log. The crux of the original route was the second traverse just before the rotten log. This crux is no longer part of the route.

In the spring this route is susceptible to snow-melt streams (even into July after a big winter). You can still do the route, but you have to navigate some stream crossings for extra fun.

The descent down the North Dome Gully used to be one of the most terrifying parts of the climb (if you went the wrong way). Now that a nice series of rappels have been added it is still one of the most terrifying parts of the climb. Nov 20, 2006
Jeff Dunbar
Charlotte, NC
Jeff Dunbar   Charlotte, NC
I'm considering this for my first long climb in the Valley in just a few weeks. Anybody got advice on trying to take just a single 70M rope for this route? Does a 70M allow you to link more pitches? Can you rap safely to all the standard rap stations on a 70M? Sure would be nice to leave my two 60s at home... Jun 4, 2007
Take 2 60's and do the 7 raps in the dark with one headlamp. That was our strategy..... Jun 28, 2007
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
Jeff, Royal Arches is in the direct sun almost all day. My suggestion would be to start early, go fast, and plan on being back on the ground before noon. Carry one single 60 or 70m rope. In my opinion, carrying a second rope in order to do a few less raps isn't really worth the extra effort. Jun 29, 2007
Jeff Dunbar
Charlotte, NC
Jeff Dunbar   Charlotte, NC
Ok, just did Royal Arches last weekend. Awesome experience (highly recomend taking advantage of the bivy spot with the freshwater spring at the top for a most memorable night in Yosemite). Regarding my previous 2x60M vs. 1x70M rope question, I can now say with confidence that one 70M rope would've made for MUCH faster/easier climbing in the summer heat. We came across two other parties who were able to link more pitches than us with their 70M rope, and I guarantee I would've climbed faster if I wasn't lugging up that damn 2nd rope in my pack. Jun 29, 2007
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
Thomas Keefer and I linked this with Crest Jewel one fine day in 2005 (?) and climbed all day long without seeing another soul until we topped out on North Dome. It's a classic linkup and well worth doing. We started at sunrise and got down just in time to hit the pizza deck. Tom subsequently went back and linked up Crest Jewel Direct, which he said was even better. Either way, you can blast up Royal Arches in an hour or two if you simul, and then gawk at the face of Half Dome while climbing pristine, judiciously bolted slabs for 10 more pitches. Just don't screw up the 'reproach' down North Dome Gully (or back to the top of RA for the raps, which we chose instead). Highly recommended linkup. Jul 24, 2007
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
I think the North Dome Gulley descent is not a bad option. That being said DON'T SCREW IT UP. I have done this descent in like 30 min before but most people will take an hour or so. Take your time and get it right or you'll be facing dangerous cliff-outs. The raps might be a good option if darkness is approaching but for many the descent can provide some of the most spectacular views of half dome. Oct 29, 2007
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
I thought Royal Arches was fun but probably has the classic status more for its history than for the quality of climbing. Super fun to link Royal Arches up with Crest Jewel Direct. We hiked out to Hwy. 120/Tuolumne and hitch hiked back. A competent party should be able to move fast on Royal Arches as well as Crest Jewel and do the linkup no problem. Have fun! Mar 19, 2009
Las Vegas, Nevada
raygay   Las Vegas, Nevada
We started just before dawn on a hot day in mid July and happily discovered that by maintaining reasonable upward progress we could stay in the shade until quite high on the wall. It was approaching 9 am before the sun caught up with us well beyond the rope traverse, making the route quite pleasant in spite of the warm temps. A fast party could beat the sun to the top if climbing on a day near the summer solstice. Though the descent on the North Dome gully trail was brutally hot in direct sun. Jul 28, 2009
What do you who are familiar with this route think of climbing it in the middle of May(16th-22ndish). I understand there is potential for a "raging river" to form, is the climb still climbable, or does it need time to dry?
Just dreaming of what lines Ill be able to do while Im down there.

Thanks, May 4, 2010
Did this route just yesterday (may 9th, 2010).

The only wet spot was crossing the pendulum pitch. We stayed pretty dry. The waterfall is boiling but where you have to cross it there is an obvious crack that you can climb even when wet. We could place adequate protection and the rest of the way was a hoot and dry.

The rappel down can be done with one 70m rope. May 10, 2010
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
Don't let the 5.9 or 5.10a rating fool you.

If you grab the pendulum rope (FUN!) the whole thing goes at 5.7 or less.

Perfect for beginners looking for an adventure! Oct 27, 2010
JonathanC   CO
Single rope raps- can be rapped with a 60 m rope and only one section of downclimbing.
The first rap from a tree (about the 5th or 6th single rope rap) will send you down a 4th class slot to the rappeller's right. When you run out of rope on ledges, look for a tall very dead tree standing on its own. To the (skier's) right of the tree is a hidden bolted station--just be careful on the last move to the station. Nov 4, 2010
Dave Alden
Sacramento, CA
  5.9 PG13
Dave Alden   Sacramento, CA
  5.9 PG13
1st attempt bailed off the large ledge above P3 due to the crowds. 2nd attempt bailed off of P6 due to time and size of group. Haven't given up, gonna make it to the top one of these days. Feb 28, 2011
Did this on Father's day with my son. Please note that the wet sections on the last traversing pitch have turned to slime. I would not recommend soloing this pitch right now. We both slipped (somehow without actually falling) about 20 feet from the woods. Some kind soul has rigged a fixed line for the traverse out of the woods, which is also covered with slime. Jun 22, 2011
Cliff M
Davis, CA
Cliff M   Davis, CA
anyone have any info/rating about the variation - i think its a variation - around pitch 3 or 4, after some 3rd/4th class you can see a really nice right-facing corner with a right-leaning scoop at top, just right of that corner there is a thin seam with a tree in it. going up the left corner, really nice hands and lieback... After that pitch there is a ledge, and then a more tenuous right facing crack/lieback that you take up, then around the corner to the left into the gully... At some points the rock is kinda flakey... probably harder than 5.7... name/rating for this variation? Oct 23, 2011
Colin Schour
Big Bear Lake, CA
Colin Schour   Big Bear Lake, CA
Great way to start the day if you're linking this with North Dome! Pendulum, shoeless waterfall traverse, a few fun cracks, and the most terrifying 5.4 traverse I've ever been on. A classic despite the wandering nature and short pitches. Apr 30, 2012
Berkeley, CA
AdamG   Berkeley, CA
Some of these pitches are better off linked. Use your best judgement on this (read the topo!). The rappels are perfect with a 60m rope, be mindful about the knots at the ends, there are few chance to climb up and untie one if you pull it above you. One of the bottom rappel stations puts you into the 5.5 polished gully (pitch 3 I believe), careful with this, a 60m rope is just enough to put you halfway down the gully but that's it. There is a great stance there for you to pull the rope through and I would suggest this instead of rapping to the top of that pitch. Chimney down it to the 3rd class. Sep 17, 2012
Salt Lake City
JeffL   Salt Lake City
There is a left facing just before the last pitch or two of traversing to the rappel bolts. Do not go up the steep crack! We did two 5.10 pitches to top out, but ended up bailing back down because there was no walk off or access to the North Dome that we could find. Oct 8, 2012
Jan Tarculas
Riverside, Ca
Jan Tarculas   Riverside, Ca
did this route up to pitch 8 on 3/13/14 and had to bail do to time constraints and not really feeling the route.

So now you can bail from top of pitch 8 to the ground because we left 4 bail biners and taped the gates closed. During the rap we only had to sling 1 extra tree and all other raps had slings BUT missing rings. Not sure if people took the rings or left biners and those got stolen. Hopefully people leave these behind for future parties that need to bail.

that being said this route was not fun at all to me. Some good climbing for like 20-30 feet then scrambling, couple feet of climbing then more scrambling and more scrambling. To much scrambling on this pitch. I don't know why it's a classic Mar 19, 2014
Mike Holley
Boone, NC
Mike Holley   Boone, NC
GReat day out!! The original line is simple but I can guarantee you will stray from the original line once or twice. Loads of fun variations, can be as hard or as easy as you want. Great location, full length route with a touch of adventure climbing added in! Easy Rap at the end makes for a totally do able day climb and be back in time for some Pie and Pints!

P.S. The Swing Rules! Sep 12, 2014
I have a hard time believing anyone could safely descend via the north dome gully in 30 min to one hour. For those interested it in it, it could take a few hours if it is your first time. It is far more scary than the climbing. Leave ample time as there are many trails that dead end and you must backtrack. From the last pitch, stay high and traverse across the a 30 ft slab and then climb up and top out. The trail starts from the left of the big boulders. Somewhere around there I've heard there is a spring if you are interested in water.

If it is your first time, do not attempt in the dark! Leave extra time!

But most of all, just bring a second rope and rap the thing. Oct 13, 2014
This route IS one of THE Yosemite Valley Classic climbs. Many who climb in the 5.6-5.9 range will find this to be a terrific, long climb with lots of variety and adventure. It is not a "4 Star" route for those of us who climb 5.10 and beyond, especially when compared to other long free routes in the area, but this does not diminish the virtues of this route.
I first did this climb with Mike Jaffe in the summer of '72, and back then the infamous "Rotten Log" pitch was still in place. This 25 foot, busted up, dead tree spanned from a ledge high on the route (past the second pendulum) over a monster gap to the arete of a dihedral. You had to shimmy up the 30 degree angled log...I even threaded a hole in the log mid-way, which, in retrospect was lame..if I fell I could have pulled the log down onto myself.
I'd left my water bottle on he shuttle, so Mike and I were pretty dry when we topped out. We did not know of that spring on the top, and when Mike found it, we went nuts!! Anyway, just sharing, and I think the route is 4 star for adventure, length, variety and that view! Mar 31, 2015
Back in the 60's a competitive frenzy filled Camp Vi, and one game being played was speed ascents. During this time guide book author Steve Roper soloed the Royal Arches in 47 minutes. Mar 31, 2015
Stefan Griebel
Boulder, Colorado
Stefan Griebel   Boulder, Colorado
It's gone a lot faster since then. Climbing/scrambling splits are in the neighborhood of 20-25 minutes. No new times reported in the last 15 years, but these are pretty crazy! speedclimb.com/yosemite/roy… Apr 6, 2015
Ferris Kilpatrick
Austin, Texas
Ferris Kilpatrick   Austin, Texas
Started at 4:30am to beat the heat. To make things move faster, I ONLY used tree belays! Didn't plug a single piece for an anchor. Leave the cordelette at camp. If you feel SOLID on 5.7, you could moderately protect this route with a single set of nuts and a single rack from .5 to 2". Yes, 4 pieces, a set of nuts, and your happy tree friends! Aug 29, 2015
I second Shingles' comment about bringing a second rope. We rappelled off a single rope and holy cow that took a long time. The ground looked so close but never got any closer. Aug 31, 2015
Walt Barker
Reno NV
Walt Barker   Reno NV
Simul-rap on a single 70; the pulls are way faster and a lot less time spent managing rope, not to mention moving faster without extra rope weight on the way up. Oct 8, 2015
King Tut
Citrus Heights
King Tut   Citrus Heights
(5.7 A0 or 5.10c) To be entirely honest I wish the author of this page would reconsider his trashing of the route in the introduction. Nowhere in North America is there a longer route with plenty of quality climbing (albeit in short sections) available to the fledgling leader or old timer fatty looking to elevate his attitude with a little altitude. In my experience, the relative measure of "classic" is often proportional to the challenges faced (subjective) by one at the time....so this certainly is no solid 5.10 leader's classic unless he has deeper perspective.

Slab crux is very thin on very slick rock. Not 5.9 by any measure, probably 10c.

The Royal Arches is a grand adventure for the grade in a magnificent setting. Take the time to enjoy the view. Some days all you need is some clean rock and good movement to be stoked in the incomparable Yosemite Valley. Mar 29, 2016
Any thoughts on simul-climbing this? That is, are all the ledges and 4th/5th class sections relatively clean? Thanks! May 23, 2016
Vlad S
Vlad S  
I think a lot of people seem to think this route goes at 5.7 and don't realize that the free rating is HARD 10b when there is no water flowing over the miscroscopic crimps. 5.9 might just be an average taken from all the votes cast. The whole route can be easily simulclimbed or even soloed (in which case I'd use the pendulum rope). The only insecure pitch is the last 5.4 slab traverse at the very end, since it often has a bunch of dirt and pine needle covering the slab. Definitely get a solid belay there and make sure to protect the pendulum swing with a good anchor as well. May 25, 2016
current spring water on the very end of the route. taken july 24, 2016 with high temps in the 80s

(13 sec video clip)
instagram.com/p/BITSdTTDwL-/ Jul 25, 2016
Michael Dom  
My partner and I went up instead of left on the 14th pitch and ended up climbing a 5.8-9 corner until he built a belay. From the belay there is a splitter crack that you can lieback until you get to the top of the flake. From the flake you do a lieback move which felt like 5.10. after that you scurry right until you hit a bush with a sling on it. Does anybody know what we did? Thanks in advance! Oct 9, 2016
Safty Third
San Diego, CA
Safty Third   San Diego, CA
So can anybody tell me what the situation is regarding pro for freeing the pendulum traverse? Thanks. Nov 22, 2016
Vlad S
Vlad S  
The natural gear is something like 6 feet off to the right side in the main corner which would make for an awkward fall, but you can always clip the pendulum rope for "pro" as long as you don't weight it. Nov 22, 2016
Andre H.
Andre H.   Boulder
It is my understanding that freeing the rope section requires a sidways dyno.

#whatisyourdawnwall Nov 28, 2016
Ben Horowitz
Tokyo, JP / Berkeley, CA
Ben Horowitz   Tokyo, JP / Berkeley, CA
Note, as of 5/14 the route was closed due to bear on the route... I would love to know what they did about him/her.

Also, as of 5/13 the route was extremely wet... May 15, 2017
Update to bear on route, I spoke with Ranger today and the bear has left the area of its own accord, and the climb is now open. She said they don't know how the bear got up there or how it got down. May 17, 2017
Stacy Bloom
Oakland, California
Stacy Bloom   Oakland, California
No bear on route yesterday (5/19/17). The pendulum pitch is very wet, so be careful! Also the tree you belay at after that pitch is blanketed in ants. Chimney starting pitch is a little wet too. No bear tho! :) May 20, 2017
It's a classic because it's much better than the sum of its parts. No one pitch is great, but the fact that they all pretty seamlessly link together up a beautiful face in place with near-perfect weather, that makes it special.

If you have a #4 you can place it on the off-width pitch halfway up the route.

We thought the crux was the first pitch, the off-width section right before the chockstone. Pretty damn polished! May 24, 2017
Climbed 7/8/2017. No bears or water on the route.

Partner freed the 5.10b tips corner to the left of the pendulum. We both thought it was pretty soft for the grade, also VERY easy to protect. A great option if anybody wants to free the route. Jul 9, 2017
Joshua Burns 1
Yosemite, ca
Joshua Burns 1   Yosemite, ca
Climbed Royal Arches two weeks ago and loved it! We simulclimbed the first few pitches, linked a couple of them and ended up thinking we were a bit lower on the topo than we were. On pitch 13, instead of traversing, we ended up heading up the lie back/widening hand crack. Looks like we weren't the only ones to have made this mistake as the tree at the top of this pitch had slings for rappel. Anyone know any beta for this detour?
We finished the climb and made the rappells instead of taking NDG. We plan on doing this one again, it was too much fun. Aug 25, 2017
Alex Zucca
Salt Lake City, UT
Alex Zucca   Salt Lake City, UT
While climbing this route last week, I knocked off a dinner-table sized flake at Pitch 16. I was following the final pitch, and had just unclipped the bolt, and stepped off the good foot hold (a flake, I later realized), and somehow managed to stay on the slab and not take the pendulum-whip when the massive flake dislodged.

This probably doesn't make the route any harder, but be careful. There are 2 similar looking flakes you use as hand holds to clip the bolt that may come off soon too.

Also, the bolt is basically a fidget spinner. When I come back to do this route again, I will not be doing Pitch 16, and I will be rapping instead of the gully descent. Aug 28, 2017
Brant Hysell
Cincinnati, OH
Brant Hysell   Cincinnati, OH
Can anyone confirm that the spring at the top still has water in it? Looking to link this with North Dome and that would cut down on a lot of water. Aug 28, 2017
Isaiah Foulks
Isaiah Foulks   Monterey
Heads up! There is a large, dead pine tree at the very top of the route, and it looms very ominously over the route base and about half of the rappel route we were on our fourth-or-so rap, a five foot log went rocketing by us with a few smaller branches trailing behind. Only after we returned to the base did I notice all the evidence of semi frequent tree fall all around the route base. Helmets! Aug 31, 2017
Ben Taggart
San Francisco, CA
Ben Taggart   San Francisco, CA
Climbed on Sept 09 and there was definitely water coming from the spring in the Jungle. The last pitch was totally dry and clean aside from the black water streaks, it didn't feel too sketchy. I could totally see it being terrifying early in the season when wet/dirty though. Agreed that the bolt is an ancient spinner.

My partner led the traverse and went slightly upward, such that he was able to get a solid cam in (.4 C4 I believe) at an undercling crack near the end. This made it much less scary for the follower once the bolt was unclipped. It also looked like you could just stay high for the entire traverse and get some solid holds and gear in, the Sloan topo rates this 5.7. Sep 11, 2017
Jaime M
Jaime M  
Did the walk off descent down the North Dome Gully today (following this beta: supertopo.com/inc/photo_zoo…), and discovered there was a fixed line on the 20' horizontal crack - thanks whoever put that in!

GPS tracks of the descent: gaiagps.com/datasummary/tra…

Although if I did it again I'd definitely skip the friction traverse and walk off and just do the raps. Nov 12, 2017
Taylor Lapeyre
San Francisco, CA
Taylor Lapeyre   San Francisco, CA
The climbing on RA is very wandering and low-angle, but it definitely has its moments. Think how you felt on Sunnyside Bench, but with sporadic interesting 5.7 layback pitches, a big fun pendulum in the middle, and some delicate slab traverse pitches. And like 4 times longer! I highly suggest simul-climbing every "pitch" after the initial chimney, up until the first finger crack past the Manzanita trail. Doing so will allow you to easily pass slow parties and likely bring down your ascent time by a matter of hours.

The route definitely feels “old,” for lack of a better word. You can kinda tell that it was put up in the 1930s, it has a “we just want to get to the top as easily as possible” kind of feel to it. But definitely classic, and it’s nuts to get in 14 pitches in 4 hours. Totally worth doing.

The rappelling was not a huge deal with two 60m ropes. Like maybe 6 or 7 raps total, with a little bit of downclimbing. Definitely exhausting and tedious, but not worth avoiding the route over.

The route-finding can be a bit challenging, for instance at one point the guidebook instructs you to “pick up your rope and walk 150’ to the right through a manzanita jungle until you hit a pin scarred finger crack,” and you’re like 4 pitches up! Crazy stuff. Dec 10, 2017
Kanyon Lalley
Spearfish, SD
Kanyon Lalley   Spearfish, SD
any beta on the routes that go straight up/slightly right from the pendulum pitch? the book calls them Super Visor and the Cobra. I can't find any good info anywhere. Feb 5, 2018
Nicole Golden
Melbourne, FL
Nicole Golden   Melbourne, FL
Climbed royal arches on Sat June 2nd 2018- yes the penji rope is still up and in decent condition considering its exposure. Also- there are NEW BOLTS not in the supertopo guide after ‘10th’ rappel- you DO NOT have to do the 5.2 gully slide. We rapped the entire thing with a single 60m and I was sure glad we didn’t bring an additional line. There is one spot in supertopo it says to downclimb 10ft but u can pull the rope and rap from a tree those 10ft to the bolts if needed. There is only one other spot where minimal ‘downclimbing’ on 3rd class is needed and this is pretty safe. Look for the new bolts climbers left when on rappel to the gully slide. Once you’re down here, it’s easier to walk back down to pitch1 and complete the final rap to the ground. Jun 4, 2018
Daniel Nelli  
if you’re doing the royal arches/crest jewel link up, expect a tough hour to hour and a half hike from the top of royal arches up and pretty far right (google pictures of crest jewel topo) to the base of crest jewel, involving some bushwacking, routefinding, and 3rd class slabs Jun 8, 2018
Brooks Andrew
Shenandoah Junction, WV
Brooks Andrew   Shenandoah Junction, WV
Note on the spring, for our tick on 9/9/2018 with temps in the 90s there was no spring at the top. It's possible we missed it, maybe someone who's done the route more times in worse/dryer seasons can confirm the spring is definitely always there or that it's dependent on how dry a season it's been. Sep 11, 2018
Greg Hughes    
Great route. Super fun. Lots of variations to keep it interesting. Little bit of route finding challenges but nothing too serious. You absolutely do not need two ropes for the rappels. We did it with one 60 meter rope with no problem. I think it is actually faster with one rope. Sep 15, 2018
Chris Kang
San Francisco, CA
Chris Kang   San Francisco, CA
Wow, we had a blast! 10/13/2018 - We didn't know what to expect because on the one hand the average grade was a bit easier than we would have liked, so we thought it might not be very challenging. But on the other hand, the longest route we had done up until this point was 5 pitches. So I'd say it netted out pretty good. My partner and I both agreed that the 2 best pitches were 11 and 12, and it's kind of nice that they were back to back. In my opinion, either of those could have been the crux of the climb. Compared to everything else, they were the most sustained and involved more proper crack technique.

We took one 70m rope and it worked out great. We linked P12 and P13 - there were certainly a few more chances to link pitches, but we avoided them because I have rope drag PTSD. What's nice and comforting about this climb is that there are plenty of intermediate belay opportunities. The only downside with the one 70m is we couldn't link up rappels, but I agree with other reports that it's still nicer to go up with just one rope in exchange for a few extra raps. The other thing to note though is that while it's not probable, it's still possible (like in our case, oof!) that your rope gets snagged in a crack when pulling. Luckily we had a party just above us who let it free and made for an easier time. But ask yourself if you can comfortably navigate that situation if you didn't have that luxury.

I hope to do it again soon and try out some variations! Oct 15, 2018
I climbed it in 2ooo at 62 yrs of,didn't lead. At the pitch just before the pendulum made a 5.9 or 5.10- variation On the right and did the pendulum which I wanted to do. It was superb. We did the rap descent.I drove back to l.a. over night really reckless and stayed at my daughters places in l.a. I lost a big toe nail at base of the climb I returned to ny and my wife a few days latterI think I could have done the pendulum pitch free. It was fine I was fortunate.The 5.9 /5.10- variation was about 10 meters right of the pitch just before the pendulum I still climb in some ways i am stronger than 17 yrs ago.My favorite climbing area is still California especially Yosemite jtree and Taquitz.

. Oct 21, 2018
Harumpfster Boondoggle
Between yesterday and today.
Harumpfster Boondoggle   Between yesterday and today.
Thought the new(ish) pitch 11 to be pretty stiff right before the trees, slick and potentially wet/dirty in the spring. There used to be a branch you could yard up to the belay but its broken off and some rounded LB moves have to be done. First pitch slick chimney is still the crux (closer to 5.8) and the thin crack moves on pitch 5 are no give away at 5.7...route remains a fun adventure with these short bouldery sections. YGD™. Oct 26, 2018
John RB
Superior, CO
John RB   Superior, CO
i have done this route more than 50 times and I've never done P1 chimney. Around to the right there is a 5.7 pair of seams to a little ledge about 20' up that your step left on, then reach high into another crack for good holds and it's over. This is much faster and easier than that chimney for sure.

My best time on the route is 32 mins (solo). There are people who have done car-to-car in under an hour, but i have no idea how they could descend that fast. Dean Potter supposedly discovered some uber-sketchy descent around Wash Column that is faster than the ND Gully, but I never found it and always just descended the gully. Jan 1, 2019
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  
Yeah, he jumped off. Jan 2, 2019
Climbed the route again last week. I Confirm that the large rotten tree branch/jug has broken off at the end of what is labeled pitch 11 on this site. I have soloed this route many times and would no longer do so as this pitch is much harder now. This has always been the crux for me but now it’s serious. The resulting lie back moves are often wet and dirty with a number or friable holds but it is easy to aid and grab what remains of the tree. There is a way to traverse left just before this section and do a short 5.9 OW alternative.

All in all a great route and a winter time climb avoids the crowds and the need to carry water. Plenty of water on route and often perfect T-shirt weather Jan 31, 2019
aaron hope
Walnut Creek, CA
aaron hope   Walnut Creek, CA
I've done the 5.9 OW on pitch 11 and its no joke. A #4 protects it, but its insecure. If the 5.9 OW is the better option now that the tree is gone, then the route is now in a different league (although its weird to say that considering were talking about 15 feet of climbing in 1000 feet+) Mar 13, 2019