Type: Trad, Aid, 3500 ft, 35 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt 1961 FFA: Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, 1988
Page Views: 88,727 total · 664/month
Shared By: Peter Gram on May 1, 2008
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


The Salathe Wall is an incredible route with lots of infamous wide cracks. The climb might be the longest route on El Cap at 35 pitches. There are many great ledges on this route, so consider leaving the portaledge at home.

A common strategy is to either pre-haul to Heart Ledges, or rap once you get there and haul the next day. Four fixed lines bring you back to the ground. I wouldn't recommend hauling the free blast because it traverses a lot, is low angle, and will have the biggest crowds of the route.

This climb breaks up nicely into several days worth of climbing. The first logical block is the Free Blast, which consists of the first 10 pitches of the route. Most of this can be free climbed for a 5.10 trad leader, and can be done fairly quickly. The climbing is low angle in comparison with the rest of the route, with a thrutch up the half dollar chimney on pitch 8. The free blast will leave you on top of Mammoth Terraces (where the Shield and Muir Wall diverge). From here, rap off the left side about 200 feet to Heart Ledges.

From Heart, some non-obvious climbing leads up to Lung Ledge. Scramble up this ledge system until near its left end and set a belay. The next pitch is the hollow flake, with a pretty big pendulum required to gain the start of the flake. The lower part of this pitch can take a #6 camalot, but it can't be left because it gets too wide before you are above your pendulum point. The upper part of the hollow flake is extremely run out. This pitch ends up on the spacious hollow flake ledge (not a bad place for 2 people to sleep).

From here, the route becomes a lot more plum, with a ton of traversing up to this point. A difficult chimney pitch right off of hollow flake ledge leads to two straight forward pitches. Above that is the other well known pitch of the route, the Ear. This pitch climbs into an overhanging bombay chimney. As you climb higher, it keeps getting narrower, until you have to chimney outwards and possibly remove your helmet. This pitch has good gear.

Another pitch leads up to the Alcove, a great bivy ledge. From the back of the Alcove, a chimney leads to the coolest bivy spot ever, El Cap Spire. This spire is flat and airy, is big enough for a tent, and is detached on all sides. It is a big step across to gain the next crack system. Sleep here and enjoy it because the ledges are quite a bit worse above.

A few more pitches of aid continue up, with a squeeze through a 5.9 chimney. This brings you to the base of the Sewer. This pitch almost always seeps water, and requires placing aliens in goo covered cracks. The end of this pitch is a hanging belay, so link it another short pitch length to the sloping but roomy "Block". This is an ok bivy, but you have to be creative.

The climb tends diagonally up and left from here to a small ledge. the Sous Le Toit. A nice place to belay, but not a place to sleep. One long linked pitch gains the base of the roof below the headwall, where the climb gets exciting. Tackle the roof on mostly fixed gear, and continue up to a hanging belay. This jug is as airy as it gets. The headwall is split by a beautiful finger crack, which ends at Long Ledge.

Long Ledge is the home stretch, and it is a very narrow ledge in a cool position. From the right side of the ledge, climb up for a few more pitches to the top.


Follow the El Cap trail to the base of the Nose. Head uphill to the left a short ways to the base of the route. The route starts up easy climbing to a ledge, then a finger crack above.


This route amazingly has very little fixed gear. There aren't even fixed anchors in many spots. 2 sets of nuts, including small HB offsets. Required cams are debatable, but a single black and blue alien (offsets useful too), double to triple set of green through red aliens, a triple set of .5 camalots through #3 camalots, two #4 camalots, and a single #5 and #6. A second in this big size would be useful, but is a tradeoff in weight.


Dan W. and Bill G. and I climbed this route over the first 3 1/2 days of May 08. On day 1 we dropped our pig at the base of the fixed lines directly below Heart Ledges. There are lines in place but they are not super awe-inspiring. We climbed Freeblast and rapped to the ground and bivied at our pig. Day 2 involved jugging and hauling to Heart ledges, and climbing to the top of El Cap spire. It was sprinkling as we ended and decided to sleep at the Alcove, which aside from the view on the spire, looked WAY more comfy that the top of the spire. Day 3 involved climbing to Long Ledges. We bivied there and this turned out to a comfortable bivy for three. My favorite bivy to date. Day 4 topped out and hiked off.

1. Aside from the Freeblast, not many anchors are solid bolts. Many are a single good bolt and gear, or old pins and gear.

2. Link a lot of pitches. Ending above the sewer are OLD 1/4 inch bolts and a totally hanging belay. If you keep going 40 more feet it is a awesome sloping ledge.

3. The pitch above the sloping ledge is sort of confusing. You take the left most crack, and pendulum at the 1st pendulum spot. The crack you are aiming for is kinda hidden but once you swing, you will find it. There is a lot of left gear higher to the right, don't go for it, it is all off route.

4. The roof pitch is all fixed, minus once cam placement which could probably be skipped.

5. The pitch off the right, east, side of Long Ledge is NOT 5.8. It starts as easy c1, but the crack ends, the pin marked on topos is missing and mandatory 5.10 climbing is present. The climbing is probably 8+ feet above you last solid cams. Drop the rack (bring a single set for the anchor and getting to it), sac it up and fire! I actually led to the free climbing, I pussed out and Bill G. made a 3 points off dyno to a sloping side pull.

6. The ear is a hard grovel put protected. Don't bring your helmet. Also, careful with you cam placements. My last one pinched the rope and I could not pull the rope, I actually backcleaned it to get to the anchor.

7. Rap, don't hike. Its a long way. Especially when you go west instead of east. Yuck.

Enjoy! -Matt May 15, 2008
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
  5.9 C2
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
  5.9 C2
Matt, you rapped the route? Jul 14, 2008
Bill Grasse
Carbondale, CO.
Bill Grasse   Carbondale, CO.
No don't rap the route. Matt means find the East Ledges rappels on the other side of the Capitan. Aug 25, 2008
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
This is one of the most awesome routes on the planet! The 95 degree headwall is an amazing stretch of stone. Drop anything here and it will free fall for like 15 seconds. Sep 24, 2008
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
  5.9 C2
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
  5.9 C2
Finally climbed this a couple weeks ago and as usual El Cap doesn't disappoint. Great route with some truly classic pitches Oct 20, 2008
Joe Stern
Moab, Utah
Joe Stern   Moab, Utah
Spent 4 nights on the route last week or so. A few additions:

Rack: 1 set offset nuts (#3-11), 1 set regular nuts (#3-11), pink and red tricams, double set of the smallest cams, triple set of blue TCU to #3 camalot, double new #4 camalot, single new #5 and #6 camalot. Didn't use any cam hooks or hooks. Mostly aid climbed with moderate backcleaning.

Bivies: Hollow Flake Ledge is a nice bivy with a portaledge. Alcove is plush (one 2 bolt anchor and one portaledge bolt, room for 3-4 pretty comfortably on the ground). Ended up using the sloping ledge below the Teflon Corner - decent spot if you have a ledge. The Block is as advertised - large and sloping.

Hollow Flake is pretty tame as long as you focus on the climbing and not the runout. On SuperTopo's pitch 16, there's an intermediate anchor out left at a smaller than 4x3 ledge - continue to the 4x3 ledge. The Ear is fantastic - walk some big gear above your head so you're on TR for the whole pitch, and backclean it so your partner doesn't curse you while jugging this thing. Clip the bolt out right at the end for smooth rope organization. Climbing the Sewer makes it feel like you're on an adventure - relish the wetness and then enjoy the sweet handcrack corner to the block! The pitch up to Sous le Toit is a bit inobvious - after a mantle move, clip a pin which hopefully has a long piece of tat on it, then look left about 15 feet for the pendulum point. Do not get sucked up right along the beautiful flake to multiple bail slings. Up higher, there are 3 spots on the route where it felt like C2: just before the pitch 27 (SuperTopo) anchor (which you should skip and continue to just below the roof); from the protection bolt to the belay on pitch 29 (just above the roof); and a short bit just below long ledge. The pitch 34 "5.9 squeeze and C1" involved a short squeeze to good gear at the top of the chimney, then lowering out to good face holds outside the slot. Then enjoy the beautiful low angle hand crack to the top of the route! I linked pitches 34 and 35. There's a horizontal crack at the top that takes good .4, .5, and .75 camalots. Also there's a nice, flat, unprotected bivy near a tree directly above this final anchor. Enjoy! Jun 2, 2009
Devan Johnson   Foco
Matt makes a good point about the climbing off of long ledge. I found it to be the crux of the route- mandatory 5.10 out of aiders. For whatever reason, moving out of aiders into free mode becomes suprisingly hard after 29 pitches or so. Sep 15, 2009
Oakland, Ca
snowhazed   Oakland, Ca
Got on this for my first El Cap route last October- had to bail after getting off-route in the dark- good thing as it ended up snowing and raining all night.

On P5, after the thin 10d am I missing something as to how the 3 bolts over 40 feet to the belay is aid climbing? Felt like mandatory 5.10 slab free-climbing to me. Then again it was my first aid climb, and the winds were blasting like crazy bringing in the storm. The topo I looked at says 10d or A1, and again on P6 there was spicy free climbing to a knifeblade- topo says 10b or A1. Newer topos call it C2 in both spots. My experienced partner figured it is mandatory free climbing- but I can't reconcile that with the A1/C2 rating on the topos- can anyone help? Mar 19, 2010
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
  5.9 C2
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
  5.9 C2
Snowhazed, I think I remember supertopo calling it 5.11 or 5.9 AND A0. So you can do it all free at 5.11 or you can aid it and only have to pull 5.9.

Where did the "R" in "5.9 C2 R" come from? Just the hollow flake? Sep 7, 2010
David Trippett
Squamish, BC
David Trippett   Squamish, BC
Some beta for the pitch after Long Ledge...

Unless you're pretty tall the free climbing may feel a bit desperate.

If you poke about a bit you'll see where the old blade or bugaboo used to be right before the thin seam/crack slams shut....right before the free climbing starts at the top of the pitch.

I was able to fiddle in an INVERTED medium sized cam-hook into this placement and then high-step onto it on a shortened sling and I could just reach the greasy, polished, sloper/side pull and then paste my feet and do the move. A taller person (I'm 5'9") would find this move pretty casual. The camhook looks super jingus, but It's bomber (for a camhook).

Rock shoes help for this pitch. Mar 2, 2011
FFA: Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, 1988 Jan 21, 2012
The more I read about some of the specific pitches that are WAY more complicated than the topo makes it sound, I seriously have to wonder: How in the world did those guys put up this route in the first place? Had to take some serious smarts and MAJOR melons! Jul 25, 2012
Lou Hibbard
Eagan, MN
Lou Hibbard   Eagan, MN
Reading about the pitch off Long Ledge brought back memories. In 2001 we watched a leader from another team (actually a guide from another continent) totally freak on this pitch and then take a whipper. My turn to lead next - what a way to start the day. No problems for me.

Also - easy to lead the hollow flake using double rope technique with some Big Bros for the 2nd lead line. I didn't mind having an extra rope. After rapping from 20 pitches up the Nose the first attempt, having an extra rope was sort of like insurance to ensure success first try on Salathe. Sep 10, 2012
C Miller   CA  
vimeo.com/31878065 Dec 2, 2012
Matt Desenberg
Limerick, ME
Matt Desenberg   Limerick, ME
Climbed this at the end of June after a bail last year from the Alcove (ugh). General reactions:

1.) More aid-to-free and vice versa than I expected, but it REALLY helps in certain spots to avoid awkward aid placements.

2.) Double brass offset micronuts are great to have. I didn't have to cam hook at all, although I tried a few times. While that would probably been faster, most of the C2 sections were pretty solid with offset brass.

3.) We brought doubles in cams with several extra finger-size pieces, but had a back clean a fair amount on the headwall (the topo recommends triples). Definately go heavy on offset finger-sized cams. One set of regular nuts and one set offset regular nuts.

4.) The roof is wild, my favorite pitch on the climb!

5.) Great route, great stances, and great to have no crowds compared to the Nose.

Beta as of 2013:

1.) Lung Ledge works as a bivy, but we slept on hollow flake ledge and found it was nice to have the pitch and the pendulum logistics behind first thing in the AM on day two.

2.) There is an intermediate belay on pitch 16. It's on a nice stance, but make sure you keep going 40-ish more feet to the 4x3 ledge.

3.) El cap spire is kickass. Make sure you stop here!

4.) The 5.9 squeeze on the pitch off the spire is pretty stout 5.9 w/o a ton of pro.

5.) The second part of p23 is all fixed (manky) pins save one or two placements. Free climbing at the very top of this avoids a hook move or two. Great pitch.

6.) The pitch to the sous le toit is weird. I had heard a lot about it and probably over thought it a bit but you need to pay attention, as the flake our right is very tempting. You can see slings above; this is NOT the penji point. I didn't have to truly penji at all on this pitch. Rather, head right up the corner off the belay, the flakes looked sketchy and more like 5.10. On the ledge above, pull left up on a blind arete. It demands a few moves of faith but follow the chalk. Pro isn't wonderful for the first part of this section but it gets better as you go. After a tricky mantel, there was a pin/fixed sling and straight up from there to a flake you can sling. I was able to lean way off a piece from there and get into the the final flake (this is probably where most people penji). If you aren't in free mode, it would require a few hooks between placements. It was .11a/b according to some guys who rapped in on Freerider.

7.) The anchor at the top of p27 is crap, plan to link 27/28

8.) Pitch off of long isn't bad. Bring offset brass or you will hate life. The free section felt like 5.9 with a wall rack and three days of fatigue. Aug 2, 2013
My question is about the Hollow Flake pitch. If one had a Valley Giant, how high up the pitch would it be usable and which size of VG would one need.

That is my question, not if it is worth carrying the thing up the route in your haulbag, or if someone should just man up and accept the runout, or if Big Bro's are lighter, cheaper, and/or better. Sep 25, 2013
skinny legs and all
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
skinny legs and all   Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
The crack master Hidetaka Suzuki was the first person to link the two headwall crack pitches as one long pitch in the early 1990's. The two individual 5.13b crack pitches are separated by a small ledge. The first pitch is long and sustained, with the second being shorter and bouldery. Done in one long pitch it is 5.13d. Suzuki rappelled in from the summit to redpoint the 130 foot crack. This method has today become the most sought after way to climb the free version. For the first ten years or so of the free climb's existence, two pitches was the way almost everyone did it. Dec 13, 2013
Are the haul lines up to Heart Ledges fixed ? (As of May 2014) Many thanks. May 9, 2014
Robbie Brown
the road
  5.10 C2
Robbie Brown   the road
  5.10 C2
A Valley Giant is not going to solve the problem. Nut up! Jan 15, 2015
Gina E
Gina E  
For a recent trip report on the route as well as some fun history of the first continuous ascent (as written by Royal Robbins): The Salathe Wall Nov 3, 2015
Michael Dom  
Fun Fact: According to Tom Frost the Hollow Flake was not as wide as it is now. The flake is actually expanding due to rock that has fallen deep inside of it and as the freeze thaw cycle occurs the rock slides deeper inside acting like a lever. Sep 25, 2017