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El Cap Tree 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b C1-2

Type:  Trad, Aid, 5 pitches, 400', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b C2 [details]
FA: Allen Steck, Will Siri, Bill Dunmire, Bob Swift, 1952
Season: All Year
Page Views: 4,511
Submitted By: aaron hope on Mar 6, 2011

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1st pitch

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


The fist pitch is a great practice aid climb and, by far, the crux of the route. Steep and challenging, make sure you have your pendulum skills in order (follower too!!) and have some hooks in your pocket for the top. The last four adventure pitches follow a vegetated ledge system up and left to the very obvious (and only) Ponderosa. A fun day out on El cap with a great view.

P1: 150 feet C2 or 5.10 C1. Underneath a huge roof, follow third class ledges up to where you can lean out to the left and clip a bolt as your first piece. Lower out and swing left to an arete. Make your way up to a small corner until you are about even with your first bolt. Start climbing out left some more, over the arete and out from underneath the roof, until you eventually reach the bolt ladder. Six bolts take you to some ledges where you can hook or 5.10 free to the top

P2. 140 feet 5.8. Follow 4th class ledges out left, clip a bolt as your first piece, make two 5.8 moves, then 4th class it up to the next set of three bolts.

P3: 120 feet 4th. Head out left on 4th class, pass a bolted belay (which is the start of Native Son), then head a little down on more 4th class. Loose and vegetated.

P4: 120 feet 5.8. Some easy 5th class brings you to a large right facing dihedral of dark, broken rock. Chimney, stem, jam and jug your way up to another bolted belay.

P5: 100 feet 5.9. A short 5.9 lieback brings you up on to another huge ledge and to El Cap Tree. Watch your rope among the loose rock. Pass the tree, and you'll eventually reach another bolted rap anchor.

Two full-length rappels with two 60 meters ropes from the end of P5. Or two 140 foot rappels from the end of Pitch 3. Or one 150 foot rappel from the end of P1.


From the Nose, head east upto the Alcove, then keep going, passing North American Wall and eventually reaching a white-rock talus field. If it's summer, you'll be baking in the treeless landscape! Look up and you'll be able to spot the huge Ponderosa, about 400 feet up the wall (The climb starts below and about 100 meters east (right) of the Tree beneath a huge roof. Keep walking until you hit a shaded area with large blocks of partially buried dark rock. Follow a shaded climbers trail for another 100 meters, skirting close to the wall. The base of the wall is steep. When you come to the 30-foot high third-class ledges beneath a huge roof, you're there.


Bring rivets hangers for the bolt ladder (only two or three of the bolts have hangers, the rest have only nuts). Hanging nuts also works fine. One set of offset nuts are almost mandatory. Bring one of each BD#.4 to BD#4. Double up on BD#0.75-BD#2.

All belays are bolted.

All free climbing harder than 5.7 can be pulled through on gear.

Photos of El Cap Tree Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Rough layout of the pitches.
BETA PHOTO: Rough layout of the pitches.

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By Osprey Overhang
From: ...
Jan 21, 2012

El Cap Tree Direct FA: Glen Denny, Frank Sacherer, 1961
El Cap Tree - Regular Route FA: Allen Steck, Will Siri, Bill Dunmire, Bob Swift, 1952
By randy88fj62
May 6, 2013

Completed the first two pitches of El Cap Tree Route on Sunday May 5th, 2013. Here’s a few notes to help keep the info current on this route:

Pitch 1 Rack:
BD cams C3’s up to #1 C4. Could have used doubles of red #1’s. Only used one C3, forget which one but not the smallest Grey 000. Blue/yellow offset mastercam made getting onto bolt ladder real easy. I recommend carrying a set of offset cams. Only used 4 nuts (regular set would work, no offset nuts required). For the rivet ladder I had 4 RP hangers and 1 Moses Hanger. Only 4 are needed here and you could use rivet hangers instead of special hangers. There is one fixed Al bashie to transition from bolt ladder onto hooking flakes but could be gotten around with some work. For hooks I used the largest BD model, large Petzl Sky Hook, and a giant Vermin V4 which is a little larger than a 3” Fish Hook. Two large hooks make the flake section at the top of the pitch super easy with no chances of popping off like the one guy in the youtube video. I placed two cams during the flake section so there isn’t a real danger of taking a huge whipper. I brought a ton of slings and used almost all of them. I was not top stepping as much as I should and I left a lot of slings on the bolt ladder.

Pitch two traverses quite a bit and can be wet in the spring due to water seeping from the overhanging roof 80 feet above (left of Iron Hawk.) This made the pitch more difficult than it should have been. Larger pieces are needed here to place behind detached flakes. We used the rack stated in Pitch 1 plus BD C4 2 and 3. We also had a Wild Country friend which is between a 3 and 4 BD so doubles of some larger cams make this pitch easy. There are two bolts during the pitch so lowering out if needed to get around a hard to clean piece was easy. Was a very hard pitch for me to clean since I have never had to clean a traversing sloped pitch. Using one ascender and a grigri was very useful instead of the standard two ascenders setup

We reached the top of pitch two and it was getting late since we started in the afternoon. During cleaning the route I had noticed a two bolt anchor below the pitch 2 belay bolts. I decided to rap down and check them out. A small swing back a forth is required to get to the bolts which are 10 feet climber’s left of the pitch two belay station and about 50 feet below. The two bolts were rawl or button heads. One was a rusty old leeper hanger and the other was a SMC hanger. The leeper hanger was spinning so it did not inspire confidence. We placed a nut and a purple C3 to back up the anchor and replaced the sun bleached webbing. This anchor may be for bailing off tangerine trip, not sure. We used 2 60m ropes to reach the ground with this anchor with about 15 to 20 feet of rope to spare. Not sure of 50m ropes would work. The entire rappel was free hanging and quite an adventure as we rapped at dusk barely missing trees as we touched down. I thought we were going to have to be arborists when we rigged the ropes but all was good. If you want a good purple C3 rap off of the 2nd anchor, clean the cam, and jug back up.

The first pitch was excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to hone their aid skills. The second pitch was a pain and I don’t really care to do it again.

Minimum rack for first pitch:
1 set of small cams
1 set of regular cams up to BD #1
1 Blue/Yellow Metolius Offset Mastercam to gain the bolt ladder
1 set of regular nuts
4 rivet hangers (nuts can be used but you’ll have to top step and reach for the next bolt).
26 slings (60cm)
2 double length slings (120 cm)
2 60m ropes.
2 large hooks
1 cordolette for 3 bolt anchor
By randy88fj62
Nov 21, 2016

Completed the route on Saturday, November 19th, 2016. Both fixed heads on pitch one are in good condition and held me (210 lb plus aid gear). We completed the route in 10 hours car to car. I was slow leading pitch one at 2 hours and follower was slow learning how to follow pendulum bolt ladder so time could be cut down bettwe if good at aid on pitch 1.

Once past pitch one the climbing gets easier each pitch with small technical lead sections on pitch 4 and pitch 5.

You can bail from just past pitch 2 in an emergency should you not be able to get to the rappel station at pitch 3.

From the belay bolts atop pitch one, look over where pitch two ends the traverse. Just past pitch 2 below it you will see some tat where two bolts are. They are old button heads (1 leaper and 1 SMC hanger). They held the weight of me and my partner when we bailed in 2013. In an emergency they can allow you to reach the ground with two 60m ropes. You can back up the two old bolts with a purple C3 and a smaller sized nut on a seam just above the bolts.

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