Type: Trad, Aid, 2200 ft, 23 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas, June 1957
Page Views: 203,729 total · 1,378/month
Shared By: Nate Furman on Jan 25, 2007 with updates from mpech
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


This route has undergone changes since a significant rockfall took place in July 2015. At least two pitches (P11, P12) were removed entirely.

Additionally, the bivy site used for this climb and the Upper Death Slabs approach are directly under the unstable zone and are subject to higher risk.

For the most part, the first eleven pitches stay to the left of the rockfall line and the traverse on P12 heads across the top of the roofs that were a result of the rockfall. Traversing this close to the roofs can also be avoided by continuing higher before penduluming to the right.

That said, you still wanna feel like a hero? Here's how.

Get your gear and partner in order. Do an excruciating approach up thousands of feet, passing hundreds of knackered tourists from all over the world. Although a few will recognize you as a climber, most will look at you like you're a bit off in the head for shlepping an enormous, orange plastic backpack up the several million steps. And in many ways they're right, for you're about to pull off one of the most spectacular climbs on the face of our fair planet.

After you get your ropes and anodized knick-knacks settled at the base and take your last pee, cast off! A sea of rock; steep corners and blank faces; evening light and morning shadow; torn hands and no water to spare. Ledges that are just a little too small; gravity-defying rodents scamper about your face/head/neck and chest in the dark hours of the night looking for a wee delicacy.

At some point, you're near the top. They probably see you first, because They are always there, looking down, looking out. They exclaim in surprise and are honestly stunned. They cheer, and jeer, and all of a sudden you realize you're the center of attention like rarely ever in your life. You're a hero.

Then you top out. Your partner jugs. You haul a bag that is, finally, light. And the questions come. Food and water are offered, and goddamn it, it tastes GOOD. The light is amazing. The view incredible...the elation is darn near making you float, and the reality of the brutal descent isn't even enough to dampen it a bit. Congratulations!--wasn't it worth it?

Most of the climbing is very moderate--cruxes are short. Route finding is involved but not difficult, especially with a Supertopo. Difficulties are substantial but can be solved via smart thinking and tenacity.

The Routefinding Crux --For me it was pitch 22. As the topo suggests, there is a smattering of bolts all over the darn thing. Trick is, it's hard to determine which bolts to use and which to forego. Seems as though folks have bolted different variations and knowing which bolt to pendulum to and which to pendulum from is a nit bit tricky.

The Technical Crux--Color me stupid, but the 5.8 squeeze at the after the Thank God Ledge traverse is something that no man or woman should need to endure.

The Psychological Crux--The aforementioned Thank God Ledge Traverse lives up to its billing. You won't forget it. Watch your rope drag, too.

The Physical Crux--Let's just say it rhymes with "falling" and "crawling" and it sucks the life out of you even faster than it sucks out the energy. Go light, or suffer.


Follow the John Muir Trail for about 7.5 miles until you get to the shoulder. Follow the climbers' trail downhill along the base of the climb for about 25 minutes. Identify the base of the route by picking out a bay tree (looks more like a bush) about 70 feet up in the middle of the first pitch.

There is a spring at the base of the route that runs from June to August, although it sometimes runs longer. It seems that about 50% of folks treat the water. The spring is great because there is no need to hike excess water to the base of the route.


2 sets of nuts
2-3 sets of cams to a 3.5".
1 4.5"
Aliens are great on this route, but not as valuable as they are on many other Yosemite walls (there are less flaring pin scars).
There is fixed gear all over the place: ancient cams, stoppers, pins, and shiny bolts.

Most of the belays, especially down low, make use of fixed pitons and bolts and are pre-equalized with old rope as a rap-station. There are a few natural belays, most notably the top of pitch 7, which makes use of an oak tree that is a fair bit too small for comfort. It can be backed up though.


Thanks Nate for the great story and description...inspiring and funny. I will be a hero someday! I attempted a solo in mid-july last summer with a hand-drawn topo and not much beta on the route. Needless to say, I didn't know about the spring at the base. Yes, unfortunate, but true, I carried 5 gallons of water plus all the gear for the climb up the backside. See the photo for the results of such a ridiculous idea. Your info (and better research on my part) will help next time. Jan 25, 2007
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
You might try getting in touch with Micah Dash. He lives here in Boulder.

From the 2004 American Alpine Journal:
Half Dome saw more free attention this year [2003], and the original 5.11d rating for the ZigZags is apparently a sandbag. First, Micah Dash and David Bloom made possibly the first all-free (entire team) one-day ascent. Dash rated the last ZigZag pitch at 5.12b/c or “Boulder Canyon 5.13b.” Feb 21, 2007
Euan Cameron
Mammoth Lakes
  5.9 C1
Euan Cameron   Mammoth Lakes  
  5.9 C1
The zig-zags are doable but they are technical and sustained - no doubt about it they are hard. There is a fair amount of fixed gear in place which makes it easier, but your still need to place a fair amount of gear.

The zig-zags aren't the only hard part on the route. I climbed the route last year, freeing as much as we could, but it was beyond my onsite ability carrying bivvy gear as we climbed. Keith and I climbed every pitch, if the second had jugged with a bigger pack it would have been much better.

I've posted a topo with some info of your free options. Feb 22, 2007
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Does anyone know which pitch was the original "undercling pitch", where said formation fell off about 10 years ago? I think it was pitch 13 or 14.

I remember it took us something like 3 hours to aid the three zig-zag pitches. Then this one-day team appears behind us, and French frees all three in like a half hour! This was rather impressive, and led me to have new found respect for French free skills. Apr 2, 2007
Ft. Collins, CO
beavs   Ft. Collins, CO
Solid French free skills are a must if you want to climb this in a day (unless you happen to be a bad ass free climber or capable of blasting through C1 aid). Our party of 3 did it in a day with the good fortune of having the route to ourselves - if crowded it would have been a much bigger challenge. We also spent the night before at the base and didn't sleep much due to bears rustling around very near us. We had our food hung in the trees, but that didn't provide much sleeping comfort laying there in bivy sacks. The next day on the route we could see the bears scavenging around our bivy spot, so beware. We went up the death slabs and back down the main trail - the slabs are without a doubt the best way if you're comfortable with pulling up fixed ropes and scrambling. Apr 9, 2007
jonathan howland
San Francisco
jonathan howland   San Francisco
Taking issue with the previous remark, which disinclined (but didn't dissuade) me from attempting this route in a single day/push: I'm a (merely) competent free-climber and hadn't aided anything but a bolt ladder or two in 26 years (and still haven't). My good fortune -- an 11.5 hour ascent of the route last Sunday, 5/6/07 -- was hugely abetted by a partner who is competent-plus (places minimal pro and quickly) and fast, who led the chimney pitches and the Zig Zags, and yet: I led 6 of the 16 pitches we did the route in (70 meter rope, a little simul-climbing), and each of us free-climbed all the 5.10 and easier pitches apart from the second Zig Zag, which Jason mostly freed and I jumared.
This is to say, it's do-able in a day. The physical crux of the route is the squeeze chimney. The psych. crux is time, with the chimneys a close second.
I have more suggestions about HDiad for ordinary climbers, including detailed rack info.
jhowland@urbanschool.org May 10, 2007
Kevin Stricker
Evergreen, CO
Kevin Stricker   Evergreen, CO
Hint. Don't Squeeze....stay on the outside of the squeeze chimney for a much easier and better protected option. May 10, 2007
Scotty Nelson
Scotty Nelson   Boulder
I think you meant "Thank God" ledge, not "Thanksgiving Ledge".
Thanksgiving Ledge is on El Capitan. Jun 21, 2007
Ft. Collins, CO
beavs   Ft. Collins, CO
My apologies to Jonathan for overstating the single day push. It's definitely very do-able and I'm glad I didn't dissuade you. It's just a long route and you have to keep moving. Nice job on your ascent! Jul 11, 2007
city, state
alpinglow   city, state
This is one of finest routes I have ever climbed. Jul 16, 2007
Sean Cobourn
Gramling, SC
Sean Cobourn   Gramling, SC
Route is much easier if you hire a mule to carry your stuff up to the rock. Some may call it cheating, I call it smart. Aug 6, 2007
...or a Sherpa! Aug 23, 2007
Petaluma California
stevecurtis   Petaluma California
I thought the RR on half dome one of the all time great routes too.

I found the end of the first pitch of the Zig Zags hard--probably about 12 A. I onsighted the rest of the Zig Zags--I didn't think it was harder than mid 11. We did the route in 7 hours, around 03; car to car in 14 hours. Aug 30, 2007
Nate Furman
Salt Lake City, Utah
Nate Furman   Salt Lake City, Utah
Here's a link to some really nice photos of the RNWF of Half Dome:
patagonia.fi/halfdome/ Oct 23, 2007
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
I would add that the "death slabs" approach is not really that bad and way faster than the grueling 7.5 mile thing around back.

Nuts are NOT necessary on this climb due to the fixed stuff. Doubles to #3 camalot felt very comfortable. We pitched it out without simul-climbing, aided the zigzags and some of another pitch down low, and made the route easily in daylight. I was a confident 5.10 leader and my partner was a confident 5.9 leader. Oct 29, 2007
  5.9 C1
  5.9 C1
Did the Technicolor Crux in a pouring thunderstorm. Feet were skating so bad that my partner said he had to "lock off and look away."

Memorable. Chossy in places. Heads up for missiles. I agree about the Death Slabs. The hike is humongous. Apr 14, 2008
Bowe Ellis
Taos, NM
  5.9 C1
Bowe Ellis   Taos, NM
  5.9 C1
This is one of the three climbs in California that make me miss California. Without a doubt a classic, not for its rock (which is actually lesser grade for Yosemite), but rather for its line, its variety, is location, and its remarkable doability.

The best advice I received before climbing the RNWF is do it in a day and leave the wall gear at home. This also was the silliest advice, realized around pitch 14 when night was upon us and all we had were some space blankets. But this turned out to work and the frantic feeling of Day 1 gave way to an ease in Day 2 as we tackled the Zig Zags. This would be my recommendation to anyone - go light, but take enough water to survive 2 days. Skimp on everything you can, or else the chimney and endless traverses will teach you misery.

Some other suggestions:
Be competent at 5.9 lead, lead what you can, and yank on anything else . This is an alpine climb.
Fix ropes the day before - we fixed P1-P3, I believe. Then jug before dawn.
Take the 5.7 airy chimney - look for the bolts.
Use some French free. A great example for this is pitch 12.
Have a partner with a sick sense of humor. Remember, this is fun! Jun 17, 2008
rob rebel
Bend, OR
rob rebel   Bend, OR
Spring dried up on September 24th this year Sep 29, 2008
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
The airy chimney can be protected with bolts? Bolts on the outside face? Isn't it tough to reach outside when you're...inside?

Big bros then are pointless?

Also, consensus on nuts? Some people say none, I would think at least 1 full set, with some tiny stuff for the zig-zags.

I've heard bivvying at the base of the face is dangerous/scary as shit because of rockfall. Is there any alternative other than getting a wilderness permit and staying in Little Yosemite Valley?

Also, are the death slabs that dangerous if I've got jumars and my pack isn't too heavy? Feb 6, 2009
Euan Cameron
Mammoth Lakes
  5.9 C1
Euan Cameron   Mammoth Lakes  
  5.9 C1
The main chimney pitches have lots of fixed (pegs) gear and take plenty if you climb inside them. I carried two sets of nuts and a two sets of cams and had plenty of gear - didn't need any big cams.

If you are going to bivvy one alternative is to bivvy at the end of pitch 6, it is actually a pretty good site for two, and you beat the crowds in the morning. Feb 7, 2009
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  
Colin, big bros would be totally pointless. I didn't use anything bigger than a #3 BD C4 and only had one at that.
The chimney pitches are mostly splitter hands, fixed gear and small stuff. I know, splitter hands/chimneys??? You'll see, you won't need anything bigger than a #2 in there.

Bring a set of offset micro nuts, they are very usefull on the zig zags, especially if aiding. The DMM peanuts are my small nut of choice, I've whipped on the smallest one. You won't need the tinyest of tinyest micro nuts, (like the BD micros or HB brassies).

The bivy at the base isn't that bad. Don't use the bivy sights within 50ft of the wall. Those are the crater zone bivy sites. Use the ones down amongst the trees.

The slabs approach isn't dangerous unless you make it that way. Providing the ropes are all there, stick to the left side when up in the "slabs" area. The trail's easier and you don't have to cross the steep talus above potentially knocking bowling balls down the slabs. That's the dangerous part, stick close by your partners and if someones ahead of you, put some distance between you and them or catch up really quick and walk with them throuhg the loose crap. Most of the route is a stroll through the woods. Only a short section has steep, wet slabs where veering off course would be dangerous. Luckly the trail's easy to follow. Needless to say, don't go at it at night unless your really familiar with it. The approach and decent should take about 2 hours at a moderate pace. Feb 8, 2009
  5.9 C1
  5.9 C1
"Shoulder" approach safety issue!

I was up there on 5/19-5/20. I approached via the John Muir/Mist Trail and descended to the start near the cables at the shoulder. There is still a big snowfield to cross just before you drop down to the NW Face proper, maybe 300 yards from the route's start. Currently, there is a rope fixed to a tree on the uphill side (side nearer the cables, not the start of the route). The rope runs across the snowfield in a traverse and appears to be fixed as a handline on the downhill side. WARNING- the rope is not fixed on that downhill side. If you attempt to rely on it as a handline, it will fail and you will pendulum down the snow toward the abyss. The rope needs to be fixed on the downhill side with a bolt or other gear. If you are going to be in the area with that gear, please consider fixing this potential threat to unsuspecting climbers.
I posted this in the Nor Cal forum also.
Jeremy May 30, 2009
Joe Stern
Moab, Utah
Joe Stern   Moab, Utah
A few other thoughts on this incredible route:

1. Bring a bivy sack or tent body for camping at the base - if being excited about the upcoming 24 pitches doesn't keep you awake at night, the mosquitoes sure will!

2. Get a wilderness permit for the bivy at the base (from the Wilderness Center near the Ansel Adams Gallery) and take a bear canister with you. It's a little bulky to pack up the slabs, but it's the right thing to do.

3. Climb the thing in a day, sleeping at the base the nights before and after.

4. Rack for a moderately paced in-a-day ascent (we aided the hard parts): single set of smallest cams, double blue tcu to #3 camalot. Didn't need nuts, but obviously they can be placed.

5. Crux of the route for me seems like the bolt ladder pitch above thank god ledge (the second to last pitch of the route). Bolt placement requires either a hardish (>5.9) couple of slab moves to reach a higher pendulum point or a tricky (>C1) few traversing aid moves. This is the only section of the route where I haven't yet (after doing the route twice and climbing both options described above) found a 5.9 C1 method.


Edit after another ascent in 2012: #1 is questionable advice. No bugs in late summer/early fall and the weight of a tent/bivy might not be worth it anyway. #5 is also questionable. This time around, aiding the upper bolt ladder pitch seemed really chill and straightforward (C1). Jun 25, 2009
Scott Bennett
Scott Bennett   Michigan
Some more free climbing beta:
This is a spectacular big wall free climb. There are 4 crux pitches, all checking in right around 11d/12a, and all with different styles. If you want to onsight, don't read any further.

-The first free variation starts at the 2-bolt belay right before the 5.11/A1->bolt ladder pitch on the regular route (P4). From the belay, traverse left, past an old bolt (11a), then up a dihedral. There's a wide spot here, a #4 camalot is very useful(11b). Belay just below the obvious Higbee-Hedral boulder problem. There's a fixed pin at the top of the 12' steep corner, with plenty of tat hanging down so that you can clip it for a top rope. A few moves of strenuous stemming lead to a sloping mantel (11d/12a). At this point, you can drop a loop of slack back down to your belayer and haul up the rack for the rest of the pitch, allowing you to have nothing on your harness for the crux. The remainder of the pitch is fun 5.11, mostly liebacking and stemming, trending right and rejoining the regular route midway through its 5th pitch.

-There's a long free variation around the Robbins traverse and bolt ladder. Continue up the prominent corner/gully system past the Robbins for about another pitch length. Make an exposed 5.10 traverse past some large loose flakes, and then downclimb a strenuous 5.9 corner (I thought the downclimb was harder than the traversing part, so maybe it's closer to 5.10). The downclimb drops you back onto the regular route, on the large ledge below the chimney pitches. There is some fixed gear with a biner at the top of the downclimb, the second should leave this clipped for top rope pro. With a 60m rope, you'll need to belay at the base of the downclimb (instead of the bolts 20' further along the ledge) in order to have enough rope for the second to make it down. With a 70m, you can belay at the bolts.

-There's a few variations to the first chimney pitch, which supposedly had some tight 5.9 squeeze on it. The crack to the left of the chimney can be climbed at 5.11, and apparently the short traverse back to the main route can be done free at a similar grade. I have not done any of these options.
The best way on this pitch, in my opinion, is to start up the chimney (easy and spacious at this point), and then traverse deep into the chimney towards a body-sized window a little ways in. Step through the window and pull up into a splitter finger crack (5.10)! Climb this until it veers off right, then make a short, face-y traverse (also 5.10) back left to the regular route. This variation is excellent, well-protected, and airy.

-The remaining chimney pitches and some easy traversing pitches (easy to simul) lead to Big Sandy ledge and the start of the ZigZags. The Zags are the meat of the tough climbing.
The first pitch features clean finger crack climbing for a while (11a) to a good stance. From here, battle up a short, thin, pinscarred layback to a distinct crux move (12a). A plethora of fixed nuts protect this section. Above here, one more hard move is encountered: a reachy 5.11 face move (the aid route tension traverses here).

-The second Zag is probably harder than 5.10 (as given by some topos). I'd say 11b. The crux of this pitch is pulling over a small roof. This can be combined with the previous pitch, as long as your careful with drag.

-The third ZigZag gives you two options: straight up the aid line (12+?), or out right on another thin crack (12a). The easier way goes right just off the belay, underclinging with good, but strenuous to place small gear (an extra blue or green alien is nice here). The difficulty eases as you turn from underclinging to laybacking, but there's a crux coming higher (when you're nice and pumped). As the angle of the corner eases, the crack pinches down and you have to make some thin moves. Above here, rejoin the regular route for some 5.10 crack climbing to the belay before Thankgod ledge.

-The final bit of hard climbing comes on the slab/bolt ladder pitch after TG ledge. Climb the steep slab with small, slope-y holds past the closely spaced bolts (11d). After clipping the bolt with all the tat (the one the aid route penji's off of), you have to make a short run to the next bolt (10' or so, a bit exciting). From that bolt, continue up to a horizontal crack system, then traverse easily left on it to the belay.

One more wandery 5.8 pitch and you've sent!

Good Luck,
Scott Oct 8, 2009
Tyler Williams
Flagstaff, AZ
Tyler Williams   Flagstaff, AZ
A long trip report from last summer: supertopo.com/climbing/thre… Jan 12, 2010
Brandontru   Nevada
Thank you Royal!

When we did this route. It was our first bigwall, the adversity that was faced fatigue and dehydration was our own faults. Which also pushed us farther than either thought was possible.

That said. The climbing was spectacular and seemingly neverending. Which is a good thing. Mar 4, 2010
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
Go with singles for camalots 1, 2, and 3. I'd go light on the nuts as well (nothing smaller than medium nuts, like a #9 BD). Heavier on the quickdraws and alpine draws. Also a camhook was nice if you're aiding. Jun 17, 2010
La Jolla, CA
Roberto   La Jolla, CA
Here is my trip report from Half Dome.

pullharder.org/2010/06/30/h… Jun 30, 2010
Braden Downey
Bellingham, WA
Braden Downey   Bellingham, WA
i read some posts about the 5.9 squeeze chimney being the crux. I climbed the route yesterday and found all the chimneys to be well protected. I forget what pitch it is, but at some point you have the option between 5.9 or "airy" 5.7. I did the 5.7 and found it very enjoyable with good fixed gear.

A purple c3 took a body-weight placement for the "C1+" on the 2nd to last pitch. I found the crux was actually reaching to clip a piece of tat hanging off of one of one of the penji points on that pitch... i stretched for 5min while high stepped in my aider before I could reach it... bring a medium hook if you're less than 5'8'', unless i am missing something (boulder-strength possibly).

I don't remember why I brought 2 #4 camalots, but I never remember placing more than one of them... If i were to do it again, I'd think about leaving the #4 behind... only one spot in particular where it was convenient. Sep 16, 2010
daniel c
San Francisco, CA
daniel c   San Francisco, CA
Here's a link to our trip report. Part photo documentary, part mega beta pack, part Big Backpack Strategy handbook should you be interested in doing it in that style. Tons of photos of the Death Slabs and the climbing route. Enjoy! Nov 10, 2010
I recall thinking "eff the squeeze", and just pulled out into a layaway and fired off the ten feet or so. Also, no need to crawl the ledge as there are thin edges about three to four feet down that turn it into an easy hand traverse.

I think we were the last party to climb the flake before the bolt ladder / pendulum, I recall cracking the flake pretty badly as I reefed on the top... thought I was going to crush my belayer before casting both of us to the valley floor. We did it in late October, the flake finally fell that winter. Nov 12, 2010
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
Given the historical nature of this route, the page should be amended to include the names of the first ascent party: Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas. Climbed over five days, starting on June 24, 1957. Rated the first Grade VI in North America, though subsequently downgraded to a Grade V. The first ascent party was greeted at the top by Warren Harding, who had made an earlier attempt and was ready to try again with Mark Powell and Bill "Dolt" Feuerer before Robbins and party snagged the ascent. Jan 13, 2011
ross.mon   Montana
Most fun I've had since the Dead stopped touring. Don't haul a bag! What a pain in the ass that turned out to be. I felt some of the fized gear on this route was pretty manky, but most of it can be backed up where necessary. Jul 7, 2011
Matt Desenberg
Limerick, ME
Matt Desenberg   Limerick, ME
Finally climbed this over the summer. Really fun; easy aid stacked on top of an alpine rock route. Half Dome is one of a kind!! Oct 23, 2011
I opted for the 5.9 squeeze over the 5.7 airy chimney. It was definitely the most intense part of the entire climb. There was no protection the entire way and it was HARD, not to mention painfully sustained.

I would not recommend it unless you are very proficient at squeeze chimneys. In comparison, the 5.8 after Thank God Ledge is a walk in the park. It is awesome if you like that kind of stuff though Dec 15, 2011
FA: Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, Mike Sherrick, 7/1957
FCA: Doug Robinson, Dennis Hennek, Galen Rowell, 8/73
FFA(except last pitch): Jim Erickson, Art Higbee, 1976
FFA(complete): Leonard Coyne, Dennis Jackson, Doug Lorrimer, 5/1979 Mar 7, 2012
Soloed by Alex Honnold Jun 25, 2012
Not to be captain obvious, but test the fixed gear before aiding on it .. I took a thirty footer after failing to test a fixed stopper on pitch 18 or 19. Don't haul! Do it in a single push. We bivied with space blankets at the base and started at 2am, finished at 8pm. Things got slow in the upper aid pitches when the route came into the sun and water was getting slim. No problems with bears. The water from the spring was clean, cool and plentiful. We did not treat. Long day but amazing!
--- Invalid image id: 108231880 --- Jul 8, 2013
Thad Arnold
Thad Arnold   Oregon
Spring is running as of July 17th, 2013. It looked pretty much the same as a month ago.

Also, when you're starting the decent from the base back to the valley it's very easy to get suckered into schwacking through manzanita. To avoid this, take the cairned decent trail (the last good looking trail taking off from the base before you get cliffed out on a little bulge) and then look very carefully for a sneaky slightly uphill LEFT turn within the first couple hundred feet. This keeps the manzanita to a minimum. Jul 17, 2013
Hermes Lynn
Hermes Lynn   Helena,MT
I free climbed this route years ago, and am wondering if the old quarter inch bolts on the first free variation traverse have been replaced yet. Jun 3, 2014
Max Tepfer
Bend, OR
Max Tepfer   Bend, OR
As of 2013 the bad bolt on the traverse into the Higbee Hedral was still there. Jan 14, 2015
If you are stuck at the base waiting for a party or two in front of you, then take the time to stroll on over to the left and knock off "The Final Exam", .10d. We did only the first pitch, finding it to be a Yosemite Classic hand to fist to OW...Vertical face but in a dihedral that leans ever so slightly...making it just a bit overhanging throughout its length...just sayin'...
The Final Exam is one of the "Standard" fist cracks for .10d listed in Jim Bridwell's 1973 Ascent opinion article, titled "The Innocent, the Ignorant, and the Insecure" where he introduces/invents the letter sub-grade for hard climbs. Apr 1, 2015
MisterCattell Cattell
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.9 C1
MisterCattell Cattell   South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.9 C1
After years of having wet dreams about this route, I was finally offered a chance to make a push for the summit on my 26th birthday. May 2nd, 2015. The spring is running strong and is the best and coldest water you will ever taste. I promise.

The chimney pitches, specifically pitches 13 and 14, are by far some of the best chimney climbing I have ever experienced and are easily linked with a 60 (we had a 70). Stellar movements mixed with great airy exposure and an absolutely in your face view of the high country makes for some very memorable climbing. The 5.9 squeeze variation really does not look fun, and I really don't understand why anyone in there right mind would want to try it (I guess after doing the route enough times, you look for ways to spice it up). For an idea of how squeezey it is, there is a 1L Nalgene stuck deep in the crack. Small.

We started the route at 5:26 am and were able to make Big Sandy by 6 pm. Definitely not going for any speed record here, but I felt like it was a reasonable time, albeit we could have moved a little quicker through some of the lower pitches.

Things really begin to slow down at the ZigZags, which, even after linking and short-fixing, still took us three hours to overcome.

Pitch 21 is where I really began to run into trouble. The hooking is not straight-forward, and after a slip of my foot while reaching for a bolt, I had a cam hook snap in half. This pitch really requires you to keep your head together, which gets difficult after 21 pitches and many hours of climbing, and the vizor is less than 50 feet over your head. I ended up whipping three times due to hooks blowing. I was very stoked to reach the three-pin belay.

The final pitch can be completely freed. Although the friction climbing is spooky, it goes a lot easier than it appears. Do not aid. Do not.

Rope drag crippled my partner on this pitch, and even prevented him from making the final (amazing) 5.7 mantel move for the top out. He had to give his all into pulling enough rope to pulling over the lip. He ended up fixing the rope because it would have taken too much to pull up the rope to put me on belay. Very frustrating.

Nonetheless, we topped out at 2:20 in the morning after 21 hours, and only a 30 minute break. The full moon accompanied us and gave us some incredibly cold blue views of this beautiful valley.

Bring plenty of snacks and even more stoke. You're climbing the freaking face of Half Dome. It doesn't get any better. Go do it. May 7, 2015
a great climb that I have done a few times now.

Rack beta (for someone aiding the 11+ parts):
blue alien; doubles green alien to #2 camalot; #3 camalot.
mix of offset nuts and offset brass
lightweight aiders for the leader

Note-- the "C2 hook" move on the top slab pitch is turned into a bomber C1 placement if you own a blue totem cam.

The aid sections (through the zigzags) seem to inevitably be filled with fixed gear. May 20, 2015
  • edit post

yer gonna die May 28, 2015
Austin Sobotka
Tucson, AZ
Austin Sobotka   Tucson, AZ
With a 70m link 1&2, 3&4, 5&6 (although minimal gear will need to be placed on 5). Some simul-climbing is beneficial from 7 to the Robbin's traverse. Do the tunnel trough on P11: spectacular position and climbing (however, the exit moves are fairly committing and would be rather hard to aid without hooks). Link all of the chimneys (12,13,14) and don't squeeze! It was unprotected, crazy strenuous, and you have to exit right anyways. Also, if you think you can do it in a day then go for it, it's definitely doable. This was my first big wall, and basically first time aiding. Did it in a (20 hour) day. Bring a headlamp and go light!
As of June 1, 2015 the spring at the base was flowing wonderfully and all of the lines on the death slabs were good. Jun 7, 2015
Ben ZH
Ben ZH  
Four of my cams fell on the second pitch when one of my gear loops broke. Shit Luck. I'm still missing a .2 BD X4 (yellow) and a .3 BD X4 (blue). I'm in the Valley. If you happen to have them I'll buy you a 6 pack. Send an Email. Thanks! Jun 25, 2015
WARNING- rockfall has caused large changes to the route after the Robbins traverse.


supertopo.com/climbers-foru… Jul 6, 2015
Boulder, CO
Hamlet73   Boulder, CO
More info on the rockfall:

It is crazy to think that I bivied on the ledge on top of pitch 11 less than a year ago. Jul 6, 2015
Scott Phil   NC
For those of you who have not seen yet!
Stoked to share the route still goes!!! :)
supertopo.com/tr/Not-your-t… Aug 3, 2015
afranke   Seattle,Wa
The route still does not go. While doing permit checks I have spoken to several groups who have bailed post "bivi brothers". The route doesn't go even after the new bolt ladder was added, there is rock still missing above where the "bivi brothers" bailed. Aug 18, 2015
Alex Saunders
Des Moines, Iowa
Alex Saunders   Des Moines, Iowa
The route Goes!

supertopo.com/tripreport/tr… Sep 6, 2015
MisterCattell Cattell
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.9 C1
MisterCattell Cattell   South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.9 C1
I made a trip report for this route just before the flake let loose. Give 'er a read if y'all want to. Or don't. Either way, here it is:

cattellcf.wordpress.com/201… Dec 30, 2015
King Tut
Citrus Heights
King Tut   Citrus Heights
The route is easier to do in a day french free than in 3 days if you haul bivy gear plus food and water. Weather depending heheh. Until you get to the Zig Zags everything goes very fast if you yard or rest on a piece when in doubt.

If you don't feel you are up for doing it in a day, you probably aren't ready for the route. Better to give it a go and bail if slow than haul, imo.

The only Beta I have is that the notorious 5.9 squeeze after the Robbin's traverse should not be attempted by any sane person (*edit* o wait, it fell off!). There is a mostly 5.10 lie back to the left or C1 French Free with a few harder moves at the top (5.11c tips lieback) to a bolt for a tension traverse and knot throw to rejoin the route per report that beats the old horror show chimney that has been destroyed by God and is proper :).

The last pitch 5.8-5.9 arch under the visor is in fact a newer variation. If you go down left further on the belay ledge (down and left a full pitch of 4th/easy 5th, place pro for second) there is a short 5.8 pin-scarred crack that leads up to more easy 5th class to the summit. Useful if conditions are such that you need something more straight forward and is the original route IIRC. Beautiful ledge there if you are benighted too. Jun 11, 2016
Alex Wyvill  
We climbed this as a team of four in June and the route goes with a knot throw. Detailed TR with beta for the rockfall pitches can be found at goodlooksandcamhooks.wordpr… Jul 23, 2016
Has the route been done free since the rock fall in 2015? Jan 30, 2017
King Tut
Citrus Heights
King Tut   Citrus Heights
I'm gonna post a comment about the Death Slab approach that I want people to seriously think about.

No one who is thinking about the fundamentals of climbing safety would ever send anyone up that approach the first time. The Fixed ropes are **NOT TO BE TRUSTED** to risk one's life ascending. It is a known rockfall and winter slide zone and rope damage can occur at any time.

Just like the East Ledges of El Cap **DESCENT** it is another thing entirely to descend fixed lines after first inspecting the anchor and having the luxury of inspecting every inch of the rope as you descend. This allows you to safely stop if any suspect section is found and climb back up to safety.

It is another thing entirely to trust that there is no rock fall damage to a line and that it is anchored properly sight unseen and then ascending it rolling the dice that everything is gonna be ok.

Don't do it. Go up the backside and enjoy the walk, perfectly fine to use the slabs as a faster descent after the route using appropriate judgement that the lines are ok as you go. You always have the option of living that way. Feb 22, 2017
If you were climbing near Thank God Ledges on May 21st around noon, send me a message, I might have some photos of you. May 22, 2017
Jake Ramsey
Yosemite, CA
  5.9 C1
Jake Ramsey   Yosemite, CA
  5.9 C1
Climbed the RNWF for a second time yesterday. It had been a little over 2 years since my first in a day attempt. My first time on Half Dome I was 19 and had only been climbing for 1 1/2 years. It was a complete 41 hour Valley to Valley epic! Complete with a miserable shiver bivy on big sandy. This time around was a lot more enjoyable. 12 hours to climb the route and 16 hours for the Valley to Valley time. The new pitch that bypasses the rockfall zone is pretty straightforward. Easy bolt ladder to a C1 corner. No need to throw a knot, just bring the biggest DMM offset stopper and put it on a double length sling and toss it into the crack. Jul 5, 2017
John Groh  
As of 9/17/2017, there's a fixed thin (4 or 5mm) hand line that allows you to bypass the rope toss. That thing's days are certainly numbered though - it rubs around a corner, and the entire sheath has split exposing the core.

You can also now just barely link all 3 chimney pitches with a 70m rope. Sep 19, 2017
Chuck Parks
Atlanta, GA
Chuck Parks   Atlanta, GA
To give folks an idea, here's a picture of the "aerial tramway" as of Sep. 11. The thick, straight line is our lead line, fixed for jugging. The spindly, sagging line is what you may find lying in wait.

It wasn't core-shot when we went past it. If it's that far gone in a week, then it definitely ain't long for this world. Sep 20, 2017
Summited on 9/16/17.
The fixed lines on the death slabs are in good condition.
The spring at the base of the route was still trickling enough to be helpful, but I wouldn't rely on it for much longer.
A YOSAR helicopter visited the Spanish team below us on the route. Anybody know what happened? I hope they're ok! Sep 20, 2017
Confirming the comment above that the fixed lines are in good shape. The two fixed lines above the talus cone are a little rough but they're on good anchors and it's very low angle. The four fixed lines in the Death Slabs are missing the second one (5.5), so there are only three in Slabs. It's an easy 4th class semi-circle traverse (described in some topos) to bypass this missing fixed line.

The spring is reduced to drops so do not rely on water up there.

The descent route down the Death Slabs has two parallel/redundant fixed lines (blue and green) to rappel on. The anchor is solid and the few core shots are isolated, but the green line has many knots to pass. Downclimb the blue line to the edge and it's a clean rappel into the Death Slabs. I'd recommend not jugging these rappel lines to preserve them.

The first lower out on Pitch 12 takes a sideways hook mid-swing to help get over to the 5.5 mantel. In addition, the knot toss Pitch 12 is fairly trivial. Two options: a) Use a double and single runner with your largest offset nut (DMM or Wild Country, etc) and toss mid-swing (takes a few tries but it's an easy target), or b) I threw a micro-Traxion onto the 4mm fixed line and pulled over, no problem (there is 6in of exposed core on the line around the corner but the rest of it is fine). Oct 5, 2017
Golden, Co
  5.9 C1
WadeM   Golden, Co
  5.9 C1
Fun route!

Where does pitch 22 go?
I did the first penji just fine, but had no idea where to go for the second?
I ended up top stepping on my spreader bar and getting the medium cam to stick in a real shit diagonal depression. A 2 lobe black alien got me to the crimper ledge. I then back clean all that and free climbed back down and left to the anchors.

I had tried a couple hook moves left but they were absolute rubbish. Is the penji way down and left?!? Oct 30, 2017
Wow, interesting to see the description for this route recommends hauling. RNWF is low-angled, and has many loose rocks, so it is not recommended to haul on (you might knock a rock off on someone below!). Most parties do the route in two days, approaching and fixing for half a day, climbing to the top the next day and descending to the base (1 - 1.5 hours from the summit), and then descending on the third (half) day. You just have to bring a lot of food for all these days (and a bear canister to leave it in at the base while you are fixing and climbing). Woot!

Also, both the description, and King Tut's comment in this beta section, suggest that the Slabs approach is not the way to go. The Slabs approach is definitely the way to go. It is six miles shorter than walking around, is shady till mid day, gives you the experience of walking right up to the base of the mountain, has few people, and is not dangerous, even with a heavy pack (The fixed ropes are on 5.5 sections that you can easily walk up in approach shoes - the ropes are more for balance and to make it easier, haha). Apr 19, 2018
Sastre   Denver
Hey, couple of questions:

1) Does anyone know what condition the fixed lines up the slabs to the base HD are in?

2) Anyone know a good place to sleep near the base that’s a little out of the way of potential rockfall?

Thanks! Jun 4, 2018
Riverside, CA
nathanael   Riverside, CA
The fixed lines were fine as of Memorial day 2018, and there's lots of bivy spots up there, you wont have trouble finding a place. Jun 7, 2018
Sastre   Denver
Thanks! Got up it earlier this week. Ropes were fine and plenty of bivy spots. There was additional rockfall on the route though. Good place to keep eyes peeled. Jun 10, 2018
Justin Leong
San Francisco, CA
Justin Leong   San Francisco, CA
If you climbed the route June 15-16, 2018 (I think Manoah and Carter were your names - you bivied below us on P16 before big sandy), I have some pics of you guys - PM me if you'd like them.

Great route, be really careful of loose stuff. Fixed lines are in good condition, spring at the base is gushing! Jun 21, 2018
Tyler Rohr
Washington DC
Tyler Rohr   Washington DC
Rockfall warning above Slabs + Beta/Conditions report as of 8/28/18

- We heard from the climbing ranger that there is a massive (100m x 100m) piece of rock on Tis-sa-ack that appears to be actively exfoliating. It used to make a cam hook sized seem with the wall and now is a 6" crack. Who knows when or if it will blow but the ranger said it was terrifying to encounter and very very ominous. If it fell the RNWF would likely be sufficiently out of the way (it I much further left) but it would certainly take out anyone/thing on the slabs below. Anyway, we decided that if we took the LONG way around that it wouldn't be much more dangerous and went ahead with climb, camped far up hill away from the base and avoided the slabs.

-We heard the spring was dry and didn't find it (but also didn't really look). Filled up water at LYV

-On the rockfall pitch my partner climbed an extra twenty feet above the standard pendulum point to make the knot/nut toss potentially a little easier. He use a large nut on a double length sling. Still tricky but at least he didn't have to then jug up under the scary chock stone. The extra climbing he did was on a 13a pitch though. He said even with aiding/French freeing he still had do a few pretty serious 5.12 sequences. Aug 29, 2018
Jared Ables
Atlanta, GA
Jared Ables   Atlanta, GA
This route is definitely a classic. I don't think I would do it again. Lots of the belays are pretty trashy and the route just didn't seem very stable. We heard multiple rockfalls overnight at the base, and after the last bolt ladder pitch nudged off a dining table sized boulder while jugging that almost cut the pig clean off. Other than that the route was a blast, but I don't know about 4 stars with all of this loose shit. Oct 8, 2018