Type: Trad, 7 pitches
FA: Mark Powell & Bill Feuerer, 1956
Page Views: 10,158 total · 79/month
Shared By: M. Morley on Oct 5, 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


Several pitches of fun, moderate climbing that make for a pleasant outing. The standard pitch count is listed as 7 pitches, but I'm sure you could link many with a 60 or 70m rope. Four 5.7/5.8 pitches lead to the base of the "Great White Flake". Continue on 5.6 that turns to 4th class terrain. Another bit of 5.7 to 4th class, followed by an easy but super-exposed knife edge ridge.

From the summit, rap gully to the west with a single rope.


From the Church Bowl area, walk west along a foot trail. Locate a trail that switchbacks up Indian Canyon, and hike/scramble to the west towards the base of the Arête. There is a good approach topo in the Supertopo guidebook. Supertopo lists the approach as "2-3 hours". My notes (from 1999) has our approach time listed as 1 hour, 15 minutes, but your mileage may vary.


Standard Yosemite rack.


George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Can also be started by climbing Arrowhead Spire first and rapping off. At least, that is the way I did it. Jan 15, 2009
Robert MacKinnon  
The knife-edge ridge was a fun bonus! I would have given the climb 3 stars if the approach wasn't so bad. Mar 22, 2009
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
Climbed this again today, 10 years after first doing it. As George suggests, climbing the Spire first is recommended, adding a couple pitches of climbing plus a cool summit. 3 out of 4 stars done this way. The knife edge ridge is worth it!

Also, the approach/descent is really not as bad as it's made out to be. It's on par with Braille Book - a fair bit of elevation gain, but fairly straightforward. Took us just over an hour to get the base, and about the same to get down from the top. All told, 6.5 hours car to car, and thats from a couple of old guys. May 29, 2009
When Mark Powell put this striking line up in 1956 it was the hardest climb in the country at 5.8 He also did it free on sight which was unheard of at the time. Way to go! Mar 14, 2010
Hey Robert - just climbed this last weekend with Jay Pozner....was remembering our adventure up there some years ago...

this route is great I've decided. Approach with humility aspiring Yos moderate adventure climbers....

Mike - wassup with the "old guys" thing?
Don't make that too much of a habit or it will become true! Mar 22, 2010
Wesley Ashwood
Squamish, BC
Wesley Ashwood   Squamish, BC
Fun position for a valley climb well away from the crowds. We did it in 5 pitches linking the first and second and belaying from the top of the great white flake with has a much better stance though fewer pro options. Aug 2, 2010
Bonesaw   CA
Did this route on a Saturday in late September and didn't see another climber all day. The approach is a bit of a pain, especially since we unknowingly departed the "trail" a bit early and soloed up about 150' of some very sketchy and loose vertical rock. We thought this was the "4th class rock band" mentioned in the Supertopo. On the descent, we found the "proper" route and the "4th class rock band" was trivial (rap anchor at top but not needed). Our approach detour was by far the scariest part of the day, maybe even the last few months.

As for the route, it was great. The Spire was a cool way to start and avoid the less than desirable first pitch of the Arete. We linked some pitches and did the arete in 6 pitches, rather than the 8 mentioned on the Supertopo. The belays mentioned in the Supertopo don't make much sense; there are great belay ledges about 30' above where the ST marks several of the belays.

Our first three pitches on the arete were filled with great climbing. The original rating of 5.8 seems appropriate except for the crux bulge, which seemed more like Yosemite 5.9. There is some loose rock on the route so watch out for that. The knife edge ridge was a cool finish but the pitches leading up to the Great White Flake were the highlight of the route. Oct 2, 2011
Thomas Laursen
Huntington Beach, CA
Thomas Laursen   Huntington Beach, CA
Rapp in from the notch. Link pitches 3-5 by belaying at the huge ledge before traversing around the corner. Descent is obvious and direct. May 31, 2016
Michael Dom  
You will get lost. The approach is harder in the fall because of the leaves. You really should have someone else show you the way because I have hiked up twice now and ended up lost both times. Luckily if you end up lost you can always rope up and climb towards the spire since it is almost always visible. Oct 3, 2017
Colonel Mustard
Sacramento, CA
Colonel Mustard   Sacramento, CA
I won't quibble on the grade but would say this climb is far more effort than something like Serenity to Sons. The Supertopo guide says to be solid and confident at 5.9 and I would say that's a good start. An alpinesque adventure but with the constant "whoops" of the ranger mobiles below. Oct 8, 2017
Lisa Ellerin
Lisa Ellerin   SF, CA
We replaced the slings on the major rappel points down the Arete gully. 4/1/18 Apr 4, 2018
amy a
Reno, NV
amy a   Reno, NV
My partner and I thought the route was excellent and the views amazing. We also thought about 99 percent of the approach was no big deal and one percent was terrifying. The "fourth class, may want a belay" portion as referenced in the Supertopo (with a rappel station above it) was loose and crumbly - I thought it was significantly scarier than either the death slabs up to Half Dome or the approach to Steck-Salathe, and my partner had a large foothold he was on crumble beneath him. If it wasn't for that one percent of the approach, the route would instantly be my go-to classic to take visiting friends on. May 7, 2018
If you find yourself doing any rock climbing or sketchy shit before you get to the arete re evaluate where you are as your off route (approach). The correct approach is mellow and a pretty beaten in trail with the occasional kern. There should be little to no 3rd and 4th class until you hit the gully filled with boulders. Oct 10, 2018