Type: Trad, Aid, 1200 ft, 11 pitches
FA: Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost (June 1960)
Page Views: 1,540 total · 47/month
Shared By: Bryan G on May 18, 2016
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


The West Face is a great adventure up one of Yosemite's most overlooked formations. The rock is solid, albeit somewhat abrasive and gritty. The exposure is great. The views of Sentinel Falls in the spring are awesome. And the climbing is blue-collar.

There's a few different ways to grade it, depending on which crux variation is taken and how much is free climbed. While it could be done as 5.9 C2+, most parties will want to be really solid 5.10+ climbers to get it done in a day.

Approach as you would for Steck-Salathe, then continue up and right along a ramp and ledge system that leads around the corner. The route starts at the end of the ledge, near a pine tree, just before a drop-off. The first pitch is a right-trending crack/ramp, and should be obvious.

Pitch 1 (5.10+): Start up a bit of chimney and follow the right trending crack system. Continue up the right-facing corner through some strenuous 5.10 terrain. Eventually you will see the bolted anchor up and left. Make a long reach out left to the other crack and traverse over. A few more moves lead to a hanging belay. Back up the ancient bolts w/gear in the crack. This is a long pitch. If you have a 70m you might be able to go a little further and make a belay at a better stance. Alternatively, you could break it up into two pitches as per the guidebook.

Pitch 2 (5.10+): Climb up and left on the obvious crack system with a couple difficult sections. Eventually continue up and right on a dirty shallow crack, then a dirty wide crack past a bush to more flakes leading to a big chossy ledge with a decomposed spire.

Pitch 3 (5.11+ C2, or 5.12b A0): Climb a bit of chimney and then the left-facing corner/flake. Optional hanging belay at a horizontal crack before you get into the difficult stuff. For the original route, climb out left on a hollow flakes to get to the big undercling roof/flake. Terrible feet, desperate holds, and blindly placed micro-cams for pro (5.11d on toprope maybe!). Most people will probably just aid it. Then climb up the corner past a timebomb bolt (or maybe it's just a rivet with a bolt hanger?) and some fairly straightforward aid. After you get good pro up higher, you'll want to lower back down and clean the roof so your follower can have a nice toprope directly above the crux. Belay at a small stance a little ways past the overhang. Long pitch.

Woodward/Cosgrove Variation: From the horizontal crack, climb up and a bit right past a couple bolts (probably old). Then get up under the big orange roof and traverse left to rejoin the route. 5.12 A0. Didn't climb it.

Pitches 4 and 5 (5.9+): The "dogleg crack". Climb up and slightly right, then up and slightly left. Belay at some point in there. Lots of hand, fist, chimney, and groove climbing.

Pitch 6 (5.10) Climb through some steep terrain via either a right facing flake with lots of knobs, or the better protected crack on the face out right. Then climb a long section of groove and shallow cracks to a big slab. Walk over to the left to another super shitty bolt and climb a bit of polished 5.9 face in a water runnel. Then move back over right and belay at a nice alcove below a chimney.

Pitch 7 (5.9+): Climb the chimney and left-facing corner system through some steep jamming near the top. Then wander more or less straight up on various dirty cracks. Belay at some point.

Pitches 8,9,10... (5.7 to 4th class): Just keep climbing until you get to the top. Eventually you'll need to move right a ways to get over into the final loose 3rd class gully which leads to the summit.

Descent: If you're doing this route you've probably already descended from Sentinel before, but here's the cliff notes:

Wander down some well-worn juniper bush tunnels until you reach the notch behind Sentinel. Scramble east down the gully until you reach a creek. Cross the creek and get on the buttress between the two gullies (make sure you stay on this buttress and don't get suckered into either gully too soon). Then some scrambling on brushy ledges into the (skier's) left gully. Follow this drainage until you can wrap back around the north face of Sentinel and rejoin the approach trail.


Double rack to 4". A lot of the belays are on gear anchors and hanging, so don't go too light on the rack. Bring micro-cams for the crux pitch, and perhaps one aider. If you're not confident on 5.8-5.9 wide climbing, maybe bring a #5 Camalot as well.

If you think you'll have time, maybe bring a bolt kit and at least replace that essential aid bolt on the original crux variation.


John Long
Venice, CA
John Long   Venice, CA
The West Face now goes all free at 5.13, FFA by Kevin Jorgeson and Ben Rueck. Crux is on the 3rd pitch involving a huge leap/dynamic. But there's a lot of 5.12 on this pitch and it's 135 feet long. The splitter crack 2nd pitch is supposed to be one of the finest 5.11 cracks in the Valley and the upper wall is classic. It's also super clean and retrofitted with new bolt anchors (where needed) thanks to Ryan Sheridan and his YOSAR crew who put in 3 whole days cleaning and re-tooling this all-time classic. It's "museum quality" now. I suspect it will become a popular test piece for the modern free climber and a welcome change from binging on El Cap. Dec 11, 2016
King Tut
Citrus Heights
King Tut   Citrus Heights
All I can add to this is that rather than "blue collar" there is in fact plenty of straight up thuggery and sandbaggery involved on this one.

Historical Notes as have been related by others to the best of my recollection and what I personally found in the early 80's:

1. First two pitches are severely sandbagged and probably 5.11+ or C2. We aided the last half of the first and all of the second more or less.

2. First leg of the Doglegs (probably 5.10 fist) was led by Tom Frost on the FA in 1960 using wooden wedges for pro/aid. Climb this pitch and pay respects. Belay at a bolt when the crack jogs back left and widens.

3. Second half of Dogleg, thuggy 5.9 flare that has runout sections. Flared chimney experience useful. I always hated those because I was bad at them.

4. Pitch 7 we did a pine-needle filled crack on the face to the left of the corner. Original Topo (Meyers Yellow Book) had it as 5.8, probably closer to 5.10- fist.

I got a severe off the couch ass-whipping on this one in the early 80's despite being pretty solid on Yosemite 5.9 of the time on Hexes and Stoppers and yarded and rested on any and everything I could. Was jello by the end of the second day (originally was rated Grade VI, 5.9 A4/5 (?) one of the first in Yosemite).

Still a test piece no matter how you get up it by all recent reports. Feb 21, 2017