Trad, Aid, 1200 ft, 11 pitches,
Avg: 3 from 1
FA: Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost (June 1960)
> Yosemite NP
> Yosemite Valley
> Sentinel Rock
Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions
Yosemite National Park has yearly closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection March 1- July 15.
Always check the Yosemite website Peregrine Closure page at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/…
for the most current details and park alerts, and to learn more about the peregrine falcon, and how closures help it survive. This page also shares closures and warning due to current fires, smoke, etc.
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.
Me leading the excellent sixth pitch (5.10d). Photo by Tamás.