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Romulan Warbird

5.12c, Trad, 1000 ft, 9 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.9 from 17 votes
FA: FA Dan McDevitt 1999 FFA Lucho Rivera 2012
California > Yosemite NP > Yosemite Valley > Leaning Tower Area > Fifi Buttress
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Thanks to the efforts of Lucho Rivera this Dan McDevitt route now goes free. This route is very sustained and difficult. Each of the first six pitches is burly in a different way.

This is a newer route, freed in 2012, so it is still there is still a little foliage and some loose or hollow rock on a few pitches. This does not really detract from the climbing since this route follows an incredibly steep line with amazing belay ledges after every pitch.

P1 - 5.12-  35m Climb a short dihedral and then make a hard move left to a good stance below the main corner. Work up the corner passing another crux section with thin pro. When the crack pinches out stem and do some ninja moves to get to a crack out left. Follow this crack as it arches to the right to the belay.

P2 - 5.11  30m Layback up from the belay until you can step right to a parallel crack/corner. Follow this briefly before stepping back left into the main corner. Follow sweet knobs until the corner pinches back out. Employ some trickery to get through a short boulder problem to another good stance. The crack pinches out but the geometry creates a perfect edge for laybacking. Romp up to your hearts content stepping right around a large block. Keep laybacking until you can mantel up onto the spacious belay ledge.

P3 - 5.11  35m Follow the obvious wide cracks up and to the right. A few tricky layback moves get you past the first of many hollow flakes. Step back left into the corner with difficulty and layback up past another scary section of blocks. It is possible to get good gear out left. The next section presents two options. You can go straight up the corner (more difficult) or quest out right (more exciting) and then hand traverse back across. The fear factor goes down but the pump clock goes up as the angle kicks back on the last 20 feet to the belay. Traverse way to the left with heel hooks and a good amount of air under your feet.

P4 - 5.12  35m Place some high gear and make a cruxy move right to clip a bolt. Use your granite voodoo and houdini up to the finger crack. Power up the short crack to a good rest in an alcove. Regain your composure and punch it up a long flared section of fingers and thin hands. A kneebar can keep the pump at bay before you move past a couple of large chockstones into a flare. Thrutch up and pull one more tricky section when you exit the flare. A few easy moves leads to a big tired ledge with a mess of bolts. I belayed on the right bolts and used the bolts on the left when we rappelled.

P5 - 5.11  25m Traverse about 10 feet right from the belay and clip a high bolt. Climb down around the corner and then mantel a dirty ledge and reach back around the corner to clip a second bolt. (It is also possible to face climb past these two bolts and then flip around the corner). Eventually you will chimney and stem up inside the corner with difficulty until your fingers fit in the steep crack. Pull back around the corner to hand crack which leads to a good stance. Step left and climb up a short dihedral. Fun moves lead to another awesome belay ledge on the left. A short but surprisingly challenging pitch.

P6 - 5.12+  25m The Crux! Move down and left from the belay being careful with some fragile rock. A few thin moves get you established below a tips crack in a corner. Crimp and finger lock up the crack keeping your core tight . A few good holds give a momentary reprieve before a final tricky move exiting the crack. Recover as best you can and attack an exciting face climbing sequence on holds that all face the wrong ways. Clip a fixed pin (currently missing as of 2017) and hand traverse across to the belay.

We rapped from here. A 70m rope gets you down. From what I understand the remaining pitches are still high quality just easier in grade. If you have an 80m rope or two ropes you can skip the P5 belay on the way down.

P7 - 11a Follow flakes up wild looking rock directly above the belay.

P8 - 10d

P9 - 10d

I plan on going back and will update the description later on.

Per Dan McDevitt (FA) - The upper pitches of this route are quite good also. If you go to the top, there is the option of walking down (30-45 min.) from top of route, do short uphill to beautiful summit, look for cairns to the south, then wrapping around to the west. it is fairly well marked. no raps, but a little 3rd class. 


This route starts from a nice flat area on the traverse ledge across Fifi Buttress. The Vortex is on the right and Final Frontier is further along the ledge. Scramble 30 feet up to a flat boulder below the first corner.


All belays are bolted and setup for rappel.

Double Rack from 0 C3 to #1 camalot. Single 00 C3, and #2, #3 and #4 camalot. A #4 friend also works instead of a #4 camalot.

A third set of finger sized pieces, especially thin fingers are useful!

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

getting pitch 1 dialed
[Hide Photo] getting pitch 1 dialed
Lolo follows the awesome crux pitch.
[Hide Photo] Lolo follows the awesome crux pitch.
Stanley cruising pitch 4
[Hide Photo] Stanley cruising pitch 4
Ben at the final crux of pitch one.
[Hide Photo] Ben at the final crux of pitch one.
Following final layback of the 2nd pitch of Romulan Freebird
[Hide Photo] Following final layback of the 2nd pitch of Romulan Freebird
Lucho doing the traverse on Pitch 5. Dan McDevitt Photo
[Hide Photo] Lucho doing the traverse on Pitch 5. Dan McDevitt Photo
Romulan Freebird topo by Lucho
[Hide Photo] Romulan Freebird topo by Lucho
Looking up at the third pitch of Romulan Freebird
[Hide Photo] Looking up at the third pitch of Romulan Freebird
Lucho on ffa
[Hide Photo] Lucho on ffa

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Luke Stefurak
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] FFA History by Lucho:… Dec 17, 2013
[Hide Comment] Wow, this is an awesome route: steep, featured, nice ledges, and pretty clean, difficult climbing. I'd put this route up there with some of the very best moderate length free climbs in the Valley. We also only went to the top of p6.

A few thoughts to add to the above description:

I thought the crux p6 was hard compared to the lower 5.12 pitches and other similarly rated stuff in the Valley. I have fat fingers and tried it in the sun, but if you told me it was 13-, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow. Also, the face climbing at the top of this pitch (to get to the fixed pin) seemed really serious to me. I may have missed something, but I ended up climbing 15+ feet of solid 5.10+ above very marginal gear in hollow flakes. I thought it was quite dangerous and out of character with the rest of the climbing.

The recommended rack was perfect except I wanted three of the green C3/purple Metolius size, but only for p6. I also found offset RPs very useful on several pitches, especially the first. A red TCU could be useful for p1.

The loose rock on p3 demands attention and care, but it is manageable. The climbing is really good; the blocks just might fall down some day. Jun 2, 2014
[Hide Comment] One of the BEST 5.12 routes in the Valley!! The 5.10 climbing at the top isn't trivial and makes the route really good so make sure to climb to the top for the full experience. Jun 8, 2014
Colin Moorhead
[Hide Comment] Awesome climb, predominantly thin crack and corner climbing with no soul crushing wide sections.

We were able to use "huck and haul technique" untying from the 70m rope and easily throwing down the end to haul up our man purse. We did this to the top of pitch 7 where we left our bag and retrieved it on the way down.

Linked pitches 8 and 9 to avoid the ant tree belay. The only pitches where we found the #4 camalot useful were pitch 2 and 9. No offset cams were needed.

I much prefer the original Romulan Warbird (sounds more badass) name over the Romulan Freebird (sounds a little bit too hippy), William Shatner agrees me on this one. Dec 6, 2014
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Amazing route, +1 for the original name "Romulan Warbird."

The overly specific route description here makes things really confusing and makes the route sound wandering, which it is not. Follow each pitch straight up the obvious line and belay at bolts on spacious ledges.

Also +1 on triple green C3 size for the crux. May 20, 2016
Max Tepfer
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] Stellar route! Climbed the first six before rapping to get off before the rain. +1 for 3x purple tcu/green c3. Many of these pitches would link logically. For P5, face climbing left past two bolts before turning the corner (the alternative Luke described above) is for sure preferred. Lastly the grades of the 5.11 pitches felt way off for me:
P1-height dependent 12a (easier if you're tall)
P3-Hollow 10d
P6-12b/c (much harder if you have big fingers) Oct 16, 2016
Alex Shainman
Las Vegas, NV
[Hide Comment] This is a really good route! I would definitely recommend going to the top if you have time.

Main reason to post:

As of yesterday, on at least a couple pitches, there are anchor bolt nuts (threaded wedge style) that are barely finger-tight. Bring an adjustable crescent wrench to tighten them.

Have fun!!! Oct 24, 2016
[Hide Comment] +1 red tcu first pitch Jun 7, 2017
[Hide Comment] The crux pitch (#6) ends with a long rightward hand traverse to the belay. The traverse had been protected (mostly for the follower) with a lost arrow, which was noted as FP in the topo. This piton pulled out today under the extreme duress of our belay rope getting wiggled back and forth. It can take a so-so #3 camalot at the start of the traverse, otherwise there's no pro on it any more. Oct 22, 2017
[Hide Comment] Accidentally left 2 orange jackets stuffed into a crack at the 2nd belay on Friday. PM me here or call me at 916-601-0712. 6 Pack goes to whom returns them to me! Thanks -Will Spaller Jun 4, 2018