Type: Trad, 150 ft
FA: FA: Herb Swedlund, Penny Carr, 5/63 FFA: Frank Sacherer, Steve Roper, 5/63
Page Views: 21,239 total · 138/month
Shared By: Jordan K on Oct 6, 2006
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


While it starts with a powerful, thin and technical finger crack, most of your time will be spent with the widening fist crack above. For those with small hands, the upper section will be off-width, but for those with larger hands, enjoy! The crux is right off the ground and pro is thin early on. Watch you ankles falling right off the ground: the base is littered with rocks.


On the west side of El Cap, about 100 yards up the hill (left, facing the cliff) from the toe of the Southeast Buttress (start of The Nose).
Look for a small clearing at the base just to the left of a large dihedral with a gaping off-width crack ("Ahab" 5.10b). The climb starts up a thin finger crack, then widens on the otherwise blank face above


One or two small pieces for the beginning, and a bunch of big ones (#2-#5 Camalots) for the widening upper section. Rap rings on top. Note: requires 2 rope rappel.
nuts: 1 set thin-med.; cams: 1 ea 0.5"-4.5", extra 2.5"-3.5"


C Miller
C Miller   CA  
Nice route with a bouldery start to widening crack with another cruxy section of wider crack up high.

It's nice to have at least two #4 Camalots (or equivalent) unless you feel super solid on the wider bit, or wish to slide your single big piece up the crack with you. Dec 28, 2006
Ed D.
San Francisco
Ed D.   San Francisco
The upper section of this pitch is totally sandbagged unless you like off-width climbing -- I found it to be much harder than the bottom. Definitely bring two #4s, or run it out at your own peril. Feb 9, 2007
Will S
Joshua Tree
Will S   Joshua Tree
Did this yesterday. Just to clarify, the upper half of the crack is mostly fists to off-fist, i.e. old style camalot #3.5/new style #4. Doubles in this size should be plenty. There are a few fixed pins on the right in a seam through the wide section, but they've seen better days. Pro: nuts, singles to #2 Camalot, doubles to #3.5. Maybe save the #2 for the small roof/overlap just below the anchor. Apr 30, 2007
Oakland, CA
Sirius   Oakland, CA
Agree with the post above: didn't find any off-width on this one. The crack takes fists and really good feet all the way up, and for me didn't require the heinous struggle that comes with true OW. If it were 1" wider... May 1, 2007
armand rollice
rancho cucamonga
armand rollice   rancho cucamonga
Done this in the spring time 2006. The start was hard, but blst right through it. the O/W was a little tough. Slide my #4 cam up until I couldn't anymore. Would like to return again to climb this. Now that my O/W technique has improved. Feb 26, 2008
I have huge hands, so I never really considered the upper part as part of the crux, for me it was just getting off the ground. I fell on a #2 metolius cam, right about where the crack opens up enough to jam. I believe two ropes for the rap off the other side, nice and airy. Left side of Moby DIck looks Heinous for the grade.

P.S. I don't remember there being huge boulders stacked at the base of the route! But that was 10 years ago. Apr 3, 2008
My memory is that Mody Dick is not 5.10 but was
always 5.9. The Left Side, however, is probably
minimal 5.10 because it is an endurance problem. There
is no single 5.10 move anywhere, but it (the left side)
goes on and on, with a variety of chimneys and flares,
etc.. The middle route, described here, is 5.9 at
its hardest. Over on the right side is the off-width/
chimney leading to a long handjam, called Ahab,
which is 5.10, led originally by Frank Sacherer. Nov 29, 2009
Pat - Thanks for your talk about ratings. I can see how this climb could be considered a hard 5.9.

I didn't see anyone mention the second pitch though. Its a wonderful continuation with great handjams on perfect granite at a moderate grade. If you take this option rap with two ropes from chains.

If your just climbing pitch one you can rap with only one 70m rope. Do this by first rapping to the blocks at the base of Ahab. Then one more short rap off slings to the ground. Just make sure the slings are there first. Enjoy!!! Jan 13, 2010
Tyler Williams
Flagstaff, AZ
Tyler Williams   Flagstaff, AZ
Thought I was going to puke at the top, although no comparison to Ahab I'm sure Feb 12, 2010
San Francisco
tallmark515   San Francisco
Great finger locks will get you past the .10a section at the start. The real business however is the ever widening fist to offwidth crack on the last 3/4 of the route. If you bring only two #4's be conservative with your placements, consider walking them or just bring a few extra. Mar 29, 2010
Cory Harelson
Boise, ID
Cory Harelson   Boise, ID
This may be my favorite pitch of crack climbing I've done to date. The technical finger crack start is way fun and well protected, and then the fun just keeps going. The wider part up top isn't that bad, just trust those foot jams and walk right up! Pulling the roof on nice jugs was a nice way to finish the climb too . . . May 3, 2010
Hoag Hoag
Littleton, CO
Hoag Hoag   Littleton, CO
This is super fun line but make sure you bring the right pro! I estimated hand sizes from the bottom. In reality, you should rack up to big fist (BD #4). There are a couple of pitons in a pin scar to the right of the widening crack on the second half of the route. I'm sure someone found the oval beaner I left on one of the pitons when I realized my #2's weren't going to cut it.

Enjoy! Jun 11, 2011
Robbie Brown
the road
Robbie Brown   the road
I remember leading this with 1 #4 and it was BOLD! My partner lead this after me with 4 #4s and a #5 using all the 4s but the 5 was useless (too big) Mar 14, 2013
Ryan Grimm  
After walking by this route in the morning and feeling like the start looked quite hard, I got on it in the afternoon without any trouble. Truly a fantastic pitch, the kind that will stay etched in my mind.

Managed to climb it with a single rack from .4 through #4 and a set of large nuts. If you only have a single #4, be confident in your skills at the grade and the size. I set my #3 and #4 below the second lieback section and when looking ahead regretted it. But decided to press on and run out the last 40-50' below the roof.

I can't imagine where a #5 would be set on this route but doubling up on the #4's and singles for everything else would be my recommendation for the confident 10a leader. Apr 4, 2013
Lucian G.
Oakland, CA
Lucian G.   Oakland, CA
Awesome pitch with a little bit of everything! After rapping off and coming back to the base for our packs, we met a girl at the bottom whose friends had brought her to Moby Dick for her "first crack climb". She was getting ready to follow the pitch. Not wanting to discourage her, we simply recommended that she tape up. We decided to sit down and have lunch and watch what happened. When we left 25 minutes later, she was still trying to get off the ground into the finger crack. For her sake, I hope she never made it to the OW. Sheesh. Some friends. Mar 18, 2014
Jan Tarculas
Riverside, Ca
Jan Tarculas   Riverside, Ca
I brought three #3s and three #4s and used them all. I had to walk my last 4 also Jun 7, 2014
On my first climbing trip to The Valley in '72 there was a guy hobbling around Camp VI on cruches. Earlier in the week he'd pitched off the bottom of this route and suffered an open fracture of his lower leg. I thought that was pretty gnarly, and when we hiked past the infamous start, you could still see some blood on the rocks. That spooked me enough to stay away from this climb for a number of years. I wonder how many have suffered the same fate? Moby Dick...a one-legged Captain Ahab...sort of fitting, I thought... Mar 31, 2015
Oakland, CA
Bababata   Oakland, CA
Don't be scared by the posts that claim multiple #3s and #4s are needed - you can lead this safely with a very modest rack. All you need to SOW UP the wide part is a #1, two #3 and one #4.

Warning - detailed gear beta (for the wide section): clip piton, place #3, clip 2nd piton, walk #4, place #1 in the narrow part, place #3, walk #4 and leave at the end of the wide part.
The overlap at the top takes smaller gear. May 18, 2015
I got a orange metolius cam stuck at the start of this route... if anyone is able to remove it and is nice enough to return it to me, I can offer you a 6 pack or something. Oct 26, 2015
BTW, I was unable to find a place for a #5 on this route. Maybe you could sneak it in somewhere but really just bring another #4 instead. I placed two #4's on the lower fists section after a bit of walking the first and didn't have any to spare on the upper wide bit.

Note that this climb was at my limit so my gear was on the safe side. Nov 10, 2016
Chris Walden
Soldotna, Alaska
  5.10a PG13
Chris Walden   Soldotna, Alaska
  5.10a PG13
Good finger locks protect the start, right off the deck but beware it's an ankle breaker if you whip. Second crux is the off-width at the top and as others mention you can walk a #4 to help protect. Mar 24, 2017
A fun route, but 10a only in the old school sense. I had doubles up to #4, and wish I would have taken 3 #4's instead of that single #5 (which definitely does not fit -- I immediately got it stuck and spent forever trying to get it out). Yes, in principle you could walk a single #4, but if you do you need to have a lot of faith in that single piece since about 1/3 of the climb won't take any other gear. The start is a little tricky, but I found the fists section at the end to be much more trying. Apr 23, 2017
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow
Bozeman, Montana
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow   Bozeman, Montana
Gear is great off the deck, absolutely G-rated. Plug a small cam off the ground to protect the first move (at 6'3" this was easy for me) then great gear through the rest of the fingers section. Not PG in any sense--don't blow it clipping your gear close to the ground, but that's true of every pitch out there.

Unless you're cruising, you'll definitely want at least doubles of #3 and #4. There's also a horizontal that takes a blue TCU nicely and can save a big piece. Don't trust the pins, they look manky as hell. Great pitch! May 1, 2017
Greyson   SLC, UT
This was the first climb I ever did in the Valley. I felt it was a great intro to valley 5.10. As every one has said two #4's unless you want to run it out a good 25 feet. I think a #5 FRIEND would go in as they are a little smaller then the BD #5. a full 70 meter doesn't hit the ground but an 80 meter does. Oct 27, 2017
Off White
Tenino, WA
Off White   Tenino, WA
As I recall the top part goes with just a #10 and #11 hex. ;-) Nov 23, 2018