Type: Trad, Aid, 3500 ft (1061 m), 35 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt 1961 FFA: Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, 1988
Page Views: 129,226 total · 660/month
Shared By: Peter Gram on May 1, 2008 · Updates
Admins: Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer Ski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description Suggest change

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.

Free grade: 5.13b

Location Suggest change

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.

Protection Suggest change

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.