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32 - Elephant Rock
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Worst Error, Right T 

Worst Error, Left 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

   
Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 500'
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Warren Harding and Wayne Merry (Sept, '57)
Page Views: 960
Submitted By: Bryan G on Jul 27, 2012

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Top of Pitch 2, Worst Error Left

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>

Description 

This is a great and historic chimney climb up the left side of the Worst Error pinnacle. The first couple pitches are sort of blocky and unmemorable. The last two pitches are wild, sustained, and excellent.

Pitch 1 is 5.5 up blocks and one chockstone that you pass by tunneling behind it. Belay at a big ledge.

Pitch 2 is 5.7 with more straightforward chimney climbing ending at another big ledge below the huge and deep chimney.

Pitch 3 starts with a bit of a squeeze and widens as you go up. This pitch is the reason why the climb gets an "R" rating in the Reid guide. It's not actually that bad though because the chimney is parallel sided and has pretty good friction (not water polished like many others). If you want you could probably get a couple big bros in a constriction in the upper half of the pitch. You're supposed to belay on a chockstone ledge with a single ancient bolt, I think. Not a very awesome belay and I skipped it an linked this pitch with the last which required some simul-climbing (an 80m rope might make it).

Pitch 4 starts with a roof constriction that is sort of like Sentinel's famous "Narrows" pitch and is well protected by a #5 Camalot. Then the chimney pushes you out to the edge and becomes an offwidth which leads up to the crux roof. The crux is very well protected by a #6 Camalot, and there are also smaller gear options below that, in addition to an old aid bolt. Once you get yourself up into the chimney the rest is pretty easy, with a bit of stemming near the end since it gets pretty wide before you can mantle onto the top of the pinnacle.

To descend, rappel Hotline. We had two ropes, but it seemed like you could maybe do it with one 70m?

Protection 

Pro from 2" to 6"

Extra gear in the 4-5" range and a couple big bros would be good if you're not super comfortable on 5.7-5.8 wide.


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By Bryan G
From: Yosemite
Jul 27, 2012

Steve Roper's "Camp 4" has a really good passage about the first ascent of this climb. This climb and many others went to the top of my "todo" list after reading that book. Though in modern climbing shoes and with a rack of big cams the climb is not nearly as horrific as the description makes it sound. Below is an excerpt and a link to the publisher's website.

mountaineersbooks.org/Camp-4-P...

------------------

Powell and Reed put up a new route on the East Arrowhead Buttress at the same time, but the biggest gem of the holiday weekend was Monday's climb of the Worst Error. The name Harding once again surfaces - in a new context. Harding the Crack Climber is not as well known as Harding the Iron Man. This is fair, since his crack-climbing career was short compared to his big-wall career. Harding always insisted that 5.8 was his maximum, and this was often true. He tended to pound in aid pitons whenever an open face above looked difficult, yet cracks and chimneys proved a different matter; he was superb in these, as he proved in the Labor Day episode at Elephant Rock. his formation, overlooking the Merced River outside the confines of the Valley itself, was an unknown quantity to climbers. From the highway Harding had spotted a gigantic slab, some 500 feet high, plastered like a monster finger against the main rock. Since such exfoliation slabs always have cracks separating them from the mother cliff, Harding and Wayne Merry went to investigate.

The third pitch of the Worst Error, as Harding later named it, turned out to be a twenty-inch-wide slot that soared upward without a break for 115 feet. No protection whatsoever was possible, and Merry led this section, telling me years later, "I was feeling far too claustrophobic to worry about falling." Not particularly difficult for a chimney expert, it is a highly scary pitch to this day. (In 1961 I led this chimney in a state of metabolic uproar. At the base of the pitch I smoked several cigarettes - the first and last ones of my life. This was to calm me. Then I spooned half a jar of honey. This was to ensure superhuman strength. Mort Hempel, my partner, watched this silly ritual with mouth agape and eyes exploding with fear.)

But this sinister slot was a minor obstacle compared to what lay above. Harding disappeared around a corner, and soon Merry realized the rope was no longer moving with authority. Up, down, up, down. Six-inch movenents. "I figured I was going to hold a fall, for sure," Merry said later. "I must have checked my anchors a dozen times." Then he heard hammering. And more hammering. Harding, at the base of a horrifying bottomless slot, was trying to nail a short section. Finally he placed a bolt, stood on it, thrust his bantam body into the slit above, and wormed his way up to the top. Though several aid points were needed, this was indeed a sterling effort, demonstratiing that Harding was certainly amongst the first courageous crack specialists. He called the upper pitch "the most difficult stretch I had ever led."

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Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber
Steve Roper
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Jul 28, 2012

You can not rappel hotline with 70m.
You need either two ropes, or 80m