Type: Trad, Aid, 2900 ft, 30 pitches, Grade V
FA: Bocarde, Porter 1972 FCA: Charlie Fowler, Xavier Bongard, 1993
Page Views: 17,595 total · 208/month
Shared By: Karsten Duncan on Jan 7, 2012
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


Despite beat out placements & seeing 100s of ascents the Shield is about as quintessential of a big wall as you could imagine. Gone are the rurp seams that Porter encountered on the FA but the overhanging headwall and spectacular position remain and make this a memorable ascent.

The route breaks away from the ledges of freeblast with a few lack-luster pitches up through the grey ledges section. A protected bivy lies below the steep roof above. The climbing really begins with the Shield roof pitch. It looms ominous & steep however concedes with a series of bolts with the rest fixed.

The route seems to go from mellow to extreme and in an instant when you turn the lip onto the windy, overhanging headwall. A single crack splitting the amazing granite face above is why you're doing this route. One C1 pitch and then you're ready for the business. The Groove and Triple Cracks pitches go up this amazing section of rock. Insecure and steep, they are considered the cruxes of the route. While they have gone clean most still feel the need to hammer at least a few pins. Being creative here will save using the hammer too much. Beaks, hand-placed sawed-offs, and offset cams & nuts can make the offensive holes climbable. The headwall finally eases with several sections of bolts and a fat ledge. Above the headwall there is still some ground to cover but the climbing eases as you merge onto the final pitches of Magic Mushroom.

Clean ascents, while coveted, are rare but minimizing nailing will protect this route from further damage.


The route breaks away from the Salathe(freeblast) above Mammoth Terraces and continues up through the grey ledges of Muir. Next it juts straight up and out the roof and up the large, sheer, and overhanging headwall on the left side of El Cap's prow. Finally it rejoins Muir for the topout pitches.


A typical bigwall rack with emphasis on larger sawed-off angles (1"-1.25"). The new large offset cams are useful & as always beaks as well.

Anchors have at least one good bolt and most allow for 2 portaledges.

Also bring your puffy as you can be very cold even in heat of summer. Not kidding.
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
  5.8 A3
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
  5.8 A3
I would also note that this route gets very windy and cold. I did it in the middle of summer in 90° temps. We were wearing puffy jackets all day on the headwall pitches. Jan 8, 2012
rex parker
las vegas n.v
rex parker   las vegas n.v
Nice page karsten. Jan 11, 2012
Jacek Czyz
Chicago, Summit CO; PL
  5.9 A3-
Jacek Czyz   Chicago, Summit CO; PL
  5.9 A3-
My 2c...the Shield finished with Magic Mushroom. Muir going 300' to the right. Jan 15, 2012
FCA: Charlie Fowler, Xavier Bongard, 1993 Jan 21, 2012
Ed Kaufer  
Did the Shield in June 1980 with Dana Brown. We found that most of it was tied off knife blades, consisting of mostly A2-A3 but a couple of sections that were then still A4. Keep in mind that friends had just come out and small cams were only a dream. I'm not sure I'd call it a Grade V though. Feb 20, 2012
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
Re climbing this as cleanly as possible: I did it in '91 and we had only six sawed offs, only half of which we actually used per pitch, and even then only on a few pitches on the headwall. They were handy when needed, but even old school TCUs worked pretty well in most pins scars. I imagine Aliens, C3s or Totem cams would be the ticket.

I've heard stories of much more recent ascents where folks nailed, though admitted that they did so more because they kind of freaked with the exposure. Follow Charlie Fowler's example and, if you hammer, do so sparingly. You'll be more than rewarded when climbing this awesome piece of stone. Jul 18, 2012
Mickey Sensenbach
San luis obispo CA
Mickey Sensenbach   San luis obispo CA
Karsten is right... That head wall gets real windy!

A bivy on the head wall is recommended by me... Way freaked cool bivy at the base of triple crack or groove... May 16, 2014
Dustin B
Dustin B   Steamboat
As of May '14 the route is in great condition, hardly any fixed mank on it, all anchors are bomb.

Every single pitch of this climb is great! DO IT! May 21, 2014
Climbed this amazing route in June of 2016. The route was in great shape with very little fixed gear. The roof is mostly fixed and my partner only clipped a handful of fixed pieces in the groove. The triple cracks had just 1 fixed nut and the pitch after the triple cracks had 1 fixed piece. Otherwise the head wall was clean. Skip the regular angles, arrows and blades and just take sawed angles and a bunch of beaks. About 90% of hammered placements were beaks and they were bomber in the bottom of the pin scars. Some people say the shield is comparable to the zodiac but I thought it was quite a bit harder. Get up there the headwall is unbelievable!! Sep 18, 2016
Mike Walters
Kanab, UT
Mike Walters   Kanab, UT
I and Bill Stronge climbed this in 75. The headwall was all rurps or tied off knifeblades with a few hook moves and water(a spring?)was flowing down the crack.. On our equipment trade on the bolt ladder below the roof, the bolt I was on broke and I was dangling in space, luckily I still had my jumars on the rope and only went a few feet till I jammed against the jumars, who knows what would have happened if the jumars weren't still on the rope. The wind was something, I have a picture of Bill jugging the line on the headwall and it was horizontal from him. Chicken head ledge was one the the things I remember most. We bivied on the ledge and eventually had to put our hammocks up because the ledge was so damn uncomfortable. Aug 25, 2018
Andrew de
Auckland New Zealand
Andrew de   Auckland New Zealand
For anyone who is interested a friend and I climbed the Shield in the last week of August 2018 clean no hammer. We spent 5 days on it. We found that the black and blue Totems to be gold we only had one of each and wished we had 3 or 4 of each. They fitted and held where nothing else felt as good, better than master cams and offsets on the headwall, also found that CCH (yes old CCH offsets I still have a set) and Totem offsets held better than master cams in polished pin scars picking it is due to them using softer alloy. We took 9 large BD beaks 2 med and 2 small would only take 1 med and small if I were to go up there again. Hand placed they are good you just need to get used to them and trust them. We didn’t place any angles sawed or standard. We had a double set of DMM \ HB offset nuts. Other than the grove there was only a couple of fixed things on the head wall 1 tomahawk and a large nut that has been hammered into a pin scar on the triple cracks what’s with that? Oct 11, 2018