Type: Trad, Aid, 2800 ft, 26 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Steve Sutton, Charlie Porter, Hugh Burton & Chris Nelson, 1973. FCA: Dave Dyess, A.C. Robertson, 1997
Page Views: 19,552 total · 141/month
Shared By: Jeff G. on Jul 21, 2007
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


Hard to describe a 26 pitch route. You'll obviously want a topo but here is some basic info to get you started. Amazing route - one of the major highlights of my climbing career and one of the best experiences of my life. I highly recommend this line for a big El-Cap route without undue difficulty. You need to pay some dues on easier and smaller routes but you don't need to be an aid master or put your head on the chopping block for this one. I put a free rating of 9+ because you will do much better freeing a couple of the awkward chimney pitches instead of trying to aid them. The chimney on pitch 19 was especially awkward to aid, I had much better luck with freeing it. Lots of amazing pitches. No stand out crux but alot of spicy A/C2-3 pitches. The bismark is pretty exiting at the top, be ready to belly flop! Make sure you plan a bivy for the Bismark ledge, unbeleavable views of Halfdome and the Valley. Be efficient on cleaning lower outs and traverses, no big pedulums but some devious pitches to clean - especially the seagull and the molar traverse. Get good at highstepping it really helped me with the rivot ladders and getting past some spicier terrain.


EL CAPITAN. Right of the Nose, Left of POW


All belays are bomber! We placed a total of 4 pins but didn't have any cam hooks. I think you could do this clean with a few cam hooks and a little trickery. Lots of aluminum dowels. Several fixed head pitches as well. Be prepared to replace heads or blown dowels/rivots. Some dowels have allready been replaced with quarter inch bolts. We had a double set of HB offsets that were incredibly usefull. We had one hybrid alien (green/yellow) and used it on every pitch. A full set of hybrids up to yellow/orange may be nice. We had a #6 friend for the top of the bismark and it worked out pretty well. Several hooking sections - we had a basic selection of 3-4 hooks. 3-4 sets of the smaller cams up to #1 camelot and doubles in the bigger sizes to #3.5 camelot. Single #6 friend. For pins we used a few short LA's and some baby angles. Bring a few bigger angles and a few sawed off angles as well. Also bring a selection of heads and keyhole hangars.


Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
We did it clean a few years ago. I attribute alot of this to having a double set of offset aliens. Even triples in the blue/green and green/yellow would not be excessive.

Overall a pretty sustained and fun route and one of the best its grade on the capitan. A fantastic route and fun experience for me. Oct 9, 2007
Marcus garcia
Durango, Co.
Marcus garcia   Durango, Co.
We did this clean in 2000 in five days. We took a set of hybrids, cam hook, files tricams, hooks,HB offsets and small pcord to hitch the blown cables. This is a great route.
Marcus Mar 2, 2008
Just for perspective: I did this route in 1980 with Dirk Havorka, and I'll bet I pounded more than 300 knifeblades and lost arrows. I also remember one of the most extreme moments I've had on El Cap. After nailing my way up the Bismark, and pounding in a bong sideways deep in the crack, I pulled up 20 feet of slack (which was itself a chore given the massive rope drag), and then I offwidthed to the belay. It was a moment of inner convulsion when I somehow managed to pull my way onto the top of the Bismark. Mar 2, 2008
Shawn Mitchell
Shawn Mitchell   Broomfield
June of '81. Had the luxury of watching a similar convulsive moment, secure from the belay, as Pat Brannon pulled up oodles of slack and then lie-backed to the ledge. Other party member was Rick Lynsky. Aug 12, 2009
1982. Took a massive pin rack and a zillion heads, but wasn't too hard. I can't fathom that it goes clean. There was near zero fixed gear on it then and it might have been done a couple of times that summer. It still looked mint.

I jugged the Bismark and the rope angled back deep into the crack to the anchors. So I just laybacked the thing. It has a good edge and if it was in C4, children could do it. Feb 6, 2010
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
Thanks Chris N for the awesome FA photos!!! That kind of stuff is why I love mountain project. Climbing gold. Jan 8, 2012
FCA: Dave Dyess, A.C. Robertson, 1997 Jan 21, 2012
  5.9+ C3+
  5.9+ C3+
Did this Oct. 11-16th 2011 Clean with my friend Christian. Spectacular route.. For me the crux was pitch 15.. The middle of this route is nice and exposed. The upper third is relaxing with very aesthetic climbing. I used a wood block to a free move to gain the top of the Bismark!It was also a moment of inner convulsion for me! I took 1 20 foot fall and 2 30+ falls in the dark... It was my first El Cap route. Feb 11, 2012
Chris N
Loveland, Co
Chris N   Loveland, Co
Karsten, thanks for the compliment. I do have more photos (slides) of the FA but they need to be dusted off and copied into the computer. SOON! This route would have been Chuck Pratt's last big wall but he didn't want spend his last $20 on bivi food when he needed it to get home. The first day we were up there he kept coming by the bottom and asking for his rope. Steve said that it would be a while and why couldn't Chuck go get us a case of beer. When he came back I remember we had to tie 2 ropes together to reach the ground. He tied a 6 pack at a time to the rope by the plastic 6 pack holder. We would be very careful as we pulled each 6 pack up. We didn't lose any cans but every time there would be a couple of leakers, of course we had to drink them. Great fun! Then the Canadians would hide a film canister full of a fun substance about every other pitch. They said "this will get everybody to climb our route"; they even made a map of where they hid them for the next ascent. May 26, 2015
MisterCattell Cattell
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.8 C3+
MisterCattell Cattell   South Lake Tahoe, Ca
  5.8 C3+
If you get up and are inspired as I was to try and free the Bismarck pitch, I would recommend bringing as many .75" - 1" pieces as possible. It's an absolutely stellar pitch, and would be an absolute classic at any crag if it were on the ground. Again, bring lots of .75 pieces, I would be psyched to have maybe 5 to try it again next time I go up there; which will for sure happen. Absolutely amazing route. May 13, 2017