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The Prow

5.8 C2, Trad, Aid, 1200 ft, 12 pitches, Grade V,  Avg: 3.5 from 110 votes
FA: Royal Robbins and Glen Denny, June 1969
California > Yosemite NP > Yosemite Valley > Royal Arches Area > Washington Column
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Classic Big Wall. Great for someone getting ready to try something on El Cap. The Route has some great exposure and will test anyone new to walls. The bolt ladders are reachy and there are some sections that you need to get high up in your aiders if your not tall. There are some sections that you need hooks but the hook moves are really bomber. Pitch 6 has a section of hooks and heads with good pro in between. The hauling on the route is good till you get to pitch 10. At pitch 10 watch the haul bag eating flake cause it will eat your pig then your right into the gully. Pitch 11 is more gully then into a blocky section for more crappy hauling, then the last pitch sucks to haul also. The Super Topo gear list is a bit heavy but offset cams and offset nuts make things a lot more easy. I didn't think pitch 7 was C2 but that may be because I had 2 sets of hybrid aliens and a set of HB offsets. As far as Bivy goes, there are no good natural ledges so you are on your portaledge the whole way up. Oh and bring a small beak to get past heads with broken cables, or look around for bat holes, they are hiding.


Washington's Column


My Gear list would be

1 each .4
2 each .5 to 3.5
1 each hybrid aliens (double green/yellow)

1 set nuts
1 set offset nuts
1 set micro nuts
1 set micro offset nuts

1 cliffhanger
1 talon
1 cam hook (I never used it)
1 beak (to get passed dead heads)

You can bring heads if you want but I'm sure you can bypass the bad ones by hooking.

All the bolts are super bomber so leave the drill on the ground.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Topping out on the prow.
[Hide Photo] Topping out on the prow.
Beware of the fat bastard at the base who will unabashedly steal your food.
[Hide Photo] Beware of the fat bastard at the base who will unabashedly steal your food.
"The Prow".<br>
Photo by Blitzo.
[Hide Photo] "The Prow". Photo by Blitzo.
Great views beneath the shoes
[Hide Photo] Great views beneath the shoes
Near the top
[Hide Photo] Near the top
Richard happy to be into a bolt. That is his happy face.
[Hide Photo] Richard happy to be into a bolt. That is his happy face.
Unknown climbers on the Prow
[Hide Photo] Unknown climbers on the Prow
Ropesoloing off Anchorage Ledge
[Hide Photo] Ropesoloing off Anchorage Ledge
Jugging up.
[Hide Photo] Jugging up.
Looking up Pitch 1 of the Prow. JP on lead.
[Hide Photo] Looking up Pitch 1 of the Prow. JP on lead.
Looking down pitch 4.
[Hide Photo] Looking down pitch 4.
Looking up pitch 5. The reachy bolt ladder starts just after the crack peters out on the blank face.
[Hide Photo] Looking up pitch 5. The reachy bolt ladder starts just after the crack peters out on the blank face.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Jon Richard
St. Louis, Missouri
[Hide Comment] Classic Big Wall Route. The route was first ascended by Royal Robbins. It offers a great introduction to moderate clean aid. Super steep and super fun. This route is more exposed than the South Face.

[Bring a] standard Free Rack. Bring some heads and a hammer in case the fixed heads blow. Jan 24, 2007
Oakland, CA
[Hide Comment] FA June 1969, Royal Robbins and Glen Denny. Robbins and Mike Covington had started the route but bailed after 300 feet.

See Robbins' account of the FA here, scanned form Summit Magazine, July/August 1970:…

Robbins took heat after the FA for the 38 bolts placed. Quoting TM Herbert from McNamara/Roper's Supertopo Bigwalls book: "Robbins, Robbins, not you, not you, man. Hell, you'll set a bad example. Pretty soon we'll have guys bolting up blank walls all over the valley." Robbins' response: "But man, it's all a question of the climb being worth it. Worth the number of bolts. Look at the line, man, look at the line."
(The Supertopo Bigwalls book is full of good history, and worth picking up on that merit alone; the topos ain't bad either;). Feb 18, 2008
Zac Cromwell
Lakewood, CA.
  5.8 C2-3
[Hide Comment] Great Wall. My first and I lead and hauled every pitch. The "haul bag eating flake" is just that. There are a ton of bat hook holes that I never used once. The only hook I used was my sky hook. Some of the heads look like the cables might go soon but bring a beak to bypass that. All in all a great route and super straight forward. Apr 22, 2008
J. Thompson
denver, co
[Hide Comment] Climbed this route about 8 years ago. I climbed it again just the other day. The number of fixed pins...especially on pitch 2...has increased significantly. Which begs the question, Why are people nailing on a route that has gone clean VERY easily for over 10 years?
Weird. Sep 24, 2008
[Hide Comment] @ Greg . . .

Much agreed on the cleaning, did the route last may and noticed the absurd amount of fixed gear on the route. I remember that manky head and thinking if the cable blew anyone without direct gear would be %$#@ed.

Feb 8, 2012
Ian McEleney
Mammoth Lakes, CA
  5.8 C2
[Hide Comment] Just climbed this a few days ago. There was a dead head on pitch 5. We bypassed this by hooking it with a small Tomahawk. My partner (who is new to walls and had never used a Tomahawk for anything) found this to be pretty straightforward. A short cheater stick would also get you past this easily. May 19, 2012
Ranger Matt
Yosemite NP
[Hide Comment] We climbed this in a LONG day after the smoke cleared. There was ash falling from the sky on Sunday. This was 9/2/13.
No hammer needed, all necessary pins and heads look in good shape. Kudos to ranger Ben Doyle for cleaning the broken pins from pitch two last summer, more aesthetic now.
Bring two Metolius blue/yellow offsets, sell your spare tire if you need to, but bring two of these MVPs. W brought free shoes, but didn't need them. Sep 4, 2013
Bernard Van De Walle
San Francisco, CA
[Hide Comment] Did it solo over 3 days around April 13th.

- Most of the heads are ok. A couple are in pretty bad shape, but I would say even if they pop you can get around it by being inventive.
- On Pitch 1, just after the initial cracks, there are a couple of 5.6 moves that I did free (to join the second crack under the small roof). DON't take the blocks to the left when freeing that section, they are super loose. I almost pulled a fridge size block out. (it moved then stopped).
- At the end of pitch 9 (The one above Tapir), just before the belay there is also a big lose block on the right. It also moved when I loaded my cam on it. Try to avoid it.
- Pitch 10 is pretty long and wandering. What I did to avoid the haulbag eating flake: I climbed all the pitch at once. Then I build a middle hauling anchor just before the ledge on the middle of the pitch (left of the eating flake). I hauled from there then I hauled a second time from the top. This avoid quite nicely the eating flake.
-To start pitch 11, Don't go directly left!! This chimney is not part of the climb, from the amound of slings on the tree on top, seems a lot of people did that mistake. To haul pitch 11, put the haul bag on the slab on the right.
- For hauling pitch 12, setup a far hauling system with the rope fixed on the highest tree, nearby the bivy site.

All in all a beautiful climb. Most difficult move for me was a super weird cam hooking move on top of pitch 6 just before the bolt before the anchor. (I guess a head popped there). May 7, 2014
Santa Barbara, CA
[Hide Comment] Finished The Prow two days ago. We had it to ourselves. Not a soul on the column except for the South Face. Great climb. We used one tomahawk (love, love, love) one medium beak twice, and one cliffhanger. We did not place any micro nuts. Cam hooks and hybrids were key. Aluminum May 30, 2014
levi Goldman
Sacramento, CA
[Hide Comment] Aaron McDonald and I did the route this past weekend and it was pretty great vertical camping. We took our time and enjoyed the experience. I do not recommend linking the Strange Dihedral with the next pitch, as it suggests in the newest topo, because of severe rope drag. Even though the aid is not so tricky (though Aaron led the crux on pitch 2-3), it is still a demanding wall due to its steep and exposed nature. Each time you clip a bolt try to imagine Royal Robbins topstepping to hammer the drill, its pretty humbling. Forceful winds added to the feeling that Mother Nature holds the master card and respect is necessary. For us that meant bringing full storm equipment. After doing the North Dome Gully descent I think both of us wish we would have rapped the South Face, as NDG was just too punishingly arduous and dangerous with our haul bags, even doing it in daylight and not for the first time. We thought having drank our water our bags would be lighter, but they felt just as heavy as when we started.

Hindsight Gear List.

Nuts- a sampling of regular offsets and brass offsets, maybe 6-8 total
Single set of offset cams
One Metolius 00
two Metolius 0
Triple cams from Metolius # 1 (blue) to .5 Camelot (purple)
Double cams Camelot #.75 (green) to #3 (blue)
One new Camelot #4
One Chuinard hook, two cam hooks. May 4, 2016
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
[Hide Comment] Didn't seem to need many stoppers on this thing. Used RP's a couple times though. Between the two of us I think we each did two hook moves on cliffhangers. No need for beaks. All the fixed heads were bomber. Jun 13, 2016
Denver, CO
Ross Goldberg
Los Angeles, CA
[Hide Comment] Did it this past weekend. For aid specific gear we had doubles in offset cams, doubles in totems, offset nuts, peenuts, and brassies.

I used a camhook once but could've placed a nut. If you load up on the cams like we did, you don't need as many nuts as in the description.

I did one sketchy talon move to reach a bolt on P6 although I am sure I missed some beta to not have to do this. Beaks are not needed on this route at this time, almost all heads are bomber and the ones that arent can be easily worked around. Apr 10, 2019