Type: Trad, Aid, 2200 ft, 18 pitches, Grade V
FA: Warren Harding, Chuck Pratt, Yvon Chouinard - July 1964
Page Views: 4,341 total · 85/month
Shared By: Karsten Duncan on Mar 11, 2015
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

9 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


This proud wall was one of the last large faces to be scaled. Years after Half Dome and El Cap the striking south face of Watkins had still not been touched. Even the all star cast on the first ascent team had difficulty surmounting this bigwall in the summer heat.

The route follows a surprising line of continuous cracks up the face and saves the best pitches for last. Wonderful views and position abound on this route. If not for the long approach and even longer descent this route would see much more traffic. The route gets almost all day sun so bring plenty of water even in moderate temps. There is mandatory 5.9 free climbing and although much of it goes free in the 5.10 to 5.11 range the climbing can feel harder. Pro is not always easy to find, cracks often a little dirty and grass filled and there is lots of slick rock.

Approach per the description on the main page and move to the far left edge of the large ledge system.

Pitch 1: Climb up an easy angling right facing corner ending on a nice ledge. Stop here or continue. It is very easy to simulclimb the first couple of pitches. 5.5 250 ft

Pitch 2: Continue up slightly more difficult right facing corner for another 250 feet, clip the anchor and pendulum out right using small edges. Clip an intermediate bolt and swing again right to the anchor. Make a second rappel angling right again to gain a ledge. Both rappels are about 115ft. A 70m rope easily makes both.

Pitch 3: Climb up easy 5.5 terrain, pull a few 5.8 moves to reach a short and grassy but splitter 5.10 finger crack on the face to a ledge. Move back left on ledge past an old quarter inch bolt and then go up face to belay at a tree. Chopped bolted anchor can be seen.

Pitch 4: Traverse out under roof and pull around corner on wedged blocks. A little spooky but they seem solid. Make a few difficult .10d moves with slick feet and then enjoy easier terrain to the anchor. Belay at bolts. 140ft

Pitch 5: Continue up the corner on sometimes slick rock and spotty pro. Belay off pins at a stance. 5.10c 130ft

Pitch 6: Keep moving up the corner another 120 feet to a nice ledge with bolted anchor. 5.10c

Pitch 7: Many ways to go here but is the routefinding crux. We went out far right then up easy but very runnout terrain and then worked back left. We found no less than 3 bolted anchors on this face.

Pitch 8: From one of these anchors continue up the easiest path. Appears there is a way at the far left in the corner but we ended up going out right again, pulling some steep moves surmounting a ledge and coming up on the right side of the ledge system. Either way end up at the spacious Sheraton Watkins ledge.

Pitch 9: A beautiful corner climbs straight off the ledge. This sadly is part of the Tenaya Terror route. The south face goes out a grassy diagonal crack to the left. Climb gradually more difficult free moves to small cams and some fixed gear. At a small ledge pull a few steep moves (or hook) straight up and then reach a series of fixed gear and bolts leading to some interesting things hanging on bolts. Atop the bolt ladder pull one more hard free move on slick rock to gain the ledge and anchor. 150ft. Aid Crux of route.

Pitch 10: The one easy pitch on the route. Move the belay up a 5.5 corner. 150ft

Pitch 11: A hard move off the belay leads to easier ground and pro in a small corner. Continue up 5.8 face to a nice ledge with a bolted belay. 90ft

Pitch 12: Move up and right from the belay to a nice looking finger crack. At its top clip a pin and move slightly left to a corner. Climb this corner to another ledge with bolted belay. 130ft.

Pitch 13: Take a deep breath and make mandatory 5.9R free moves straight above belay to an expanding tooth. Put a large cam behind it, clip the pin, and move out left on a nice finger sized angling corner. Continue left up the thinning crack past an old piton penji point until you are able to reach a bolt on the face just above the crack. Clip bolt and pendulum left and down to a ledge. Climb this right facing corner pulling a few 5.9 moves to another bolted belay on a ledge. 150ft

Pitch 14: Climb up 5.9 moves in a corner to a ledge on the left. From the ledge continue up a few sketchy bolts and either harder free moves or hook above another set of ledges. Belay at a narrow ledge with bolts. 160ft

Pitch 15: Yet again move left on the ledge and continue up a left angling crack. The crack widens to wide hands but keep at least one finger sized piece to protect the top of the pitch. Belay at stance on right with bolts. 150ft

Pitch 16: If you are not exhausted you will enjoy this interesting chimney/slot. The fist crack leads to a difficult bulge/flare. Save at least one fist size piece for this section. Belay at bolts. 150ft

Pitch 17: An amazing crack if you have the energy at this point starting with thin hands to glory hands ends at a nice ledge with bolts in a spectacular position.

Pitch 18: Worth the wait! A clean hands/fist crack leads up and right to a corner. Then move back left on bolts to an exposed arete overlooking the entire route. Awesome! Do a few more moves to bolts and top out. Be careful of gear right off of the belay as the rope can pull it back deep into the crack.


Descent: Total descent is about 7 miles unless you exit through Tuolumne. From the last pitch continue up toward the summit directly north and away from the edge for about a half mile. At this point change direct and angle NW. You will eventually hit the Snow Creek trail. Take it south (left) all the way back to the valley floor and then back out the Mirror lake trail. There is usually water in Snow Creek and it runs close to the trail. Near a bridge on the trail is a good place to filter water before a series of endless switchbacks. From the summit it is about 1.5 miles to reach the snow creek trail and then another 3.75 miles to the valley floor.


- Doubles from tiny to fist, optional extra hand size
- Offset cams 1-2 sets

- 1 set
- 1 set of micro nuts

- 2 skyhooks
- 1-2 beaks
- 5-6 rivet hangers (small wire to thread fixed RURPs)

- 1 x 70m (no bail option)
- 2 x 60m



Matt Desenberg
Limerick, ME
Matt Desenberg   Limerick, ME
How were the bolts and fixed gear? I'm planning to get on this in the spring and I've heard the ladders are in rough shape Apr 28, 2015
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
  5.9 C2+
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
  5.9 C2+
Feb 2015 report:
Most bolted anchors have at least on new bolt. There are several natural anchor belays and a few on pitons that you will likely want to back up. The route has a weird collection of bolts and stuff like nuts girth hitched to bolts and the like. We did not use any iron but a few tomahawks or beaks would be nice if some fixed gear blew out. Apr 30, 2015
john strand
southern colo
  5.11+ C1+ PG13
john strand   southern colo
  5.11+ C1+ PG13
Pretty demanding I'd say. There was quite a bit of junk gear that you kinda close your eyes too...maybe fixed now ?

We exited to Tuolumne because our spouses brought beer and the lake was calling. Warm at the end of september but not hot

The new-ish start is free at 12A Feb 23, 2017