The following is a detailed pitch-by-pitch beta taken from our,
Mark Carroll and my, ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite
Valley in late September 1994. We did this climb while Steve Sutton was filming
Lynn Hill for their video, Free Climbing The Nose,
September 1994. As a matter of fact, Lynn started her
one-day free ascent of the nose while we were sleeping at Camp
6. I believe we were the last party to top out on the Nose
before Lynn Hill finished her amazing one-day free ascent.
The way we climbed it, the overall rating was VI 5.10a C1.
We are not great climbers. Our goal was to simply get up
the thing in a reasonable amount of time and in good style (i.e.
no ascending other parties lines). The following information
is probably out of date, although I have received email over the
past ten years which
has helped me fix errors and keep this somewhat up-to-date. Feel
free to send updates to me.
|WARNING: Attempting to climb this route can get you injured or killed. Conditions of the route will and do change. Loose blocks fall, handholds break, fixed protection becomes unfixed and weather changes. Good judgment is your only safeguard against trouble. Information contained in this document should NOT be depended upon for your safety.
Downloadable MS Word file now available. Click here.
Park on the left shoulder of the valley loop road directly across from the trail that leads into the woods beneath the Nose. Follow this trail somewhat indirectly to the toe of the great south buttress of El Cap. Continue up and right until you reach the base of El Cap proper. Walk-in without the haulbag takes about 12 minutes, with the "pig" figure on 40 minutes. In order to reach the start of the first pitch, about 200 feet of class 3/4 climbing must be negotiated. This section is totally non-direct. You could easily get the chop right here, be careful.
Start up some easy broken rock to a shallow right leaning crack/corner. Mixed
C1 and 5.8 free climbing. Straight forward. This pitch is about 120 feet long and takes medium gear, Camalot
Juniors come in handy. 3 bolt belay.
Climb up a left facing corner (0.5 tri-cams helpful here) until you can reach a fixed swaged cable
(5.9/C1). Clip your harness into this and swing right to a right leaning crack with pin scars.
C1 on small to medium cams. Fixed pin midway on this section. Pitch is about 75 feet long to a multi bolt belay.
Climb the obvious crack above mixing free and aid to the belay on the right (5.8
C1). Small to medium nuts, small to medium cams. A few new 3/8" bolts grace this pitch along with some VERY ratty old fixed nuts and pins/bongs. Pitch is about 75 feet long ending at many old and new bolts.
Follow broken rock up left to a relatively steep right facing corner. Aid this
(C1) on small to medium gear, fixed gear toward the top of this section, about 40 feet to a pendulum point (awkward). Tension right lower and further than you think to a point where you can layback up to another pendulum point. Continue to tension right until you reach the left end of Sickle Ledge. Clip a new bolt here and continue right another 50 feet to the main anchors. A crappy bivy, sleep on the ground.
110 feet of class 4. No fixed belay, but great nut placements. The easiest climbing on the route, but the most difficult hauling/humping of the pig to the top of this pitch.
Follow the broken left facing corner for about 110 feet until you can break out right to a short thin hands crack
(one move of 5.9). Fixed belay, pins, nuts and bolts. Medium easy hauling once the bag is rolled around the corner. No need to lower it out.
Lower out about 50 feet and tension over to the right until you can grab a good hold in a large left facing corner. Easy climbing (5.3) with no gear until you get to a semi-fixed belay at the same height as your belayer. Clip these anchors and continue up to Dolt Hole with good gear and fun climbing (5.7/5.8). Fixed belay, good bolts. Lower the bag out, pull the lower out line back and rappel across the pendulum or tie off short and use a single strand to lower out on. A 50 meter rope will end up short during the lower out and you will end up swinging hard into a corner as you follow. Medium easy hauling, nothing for the bag to hang-up on.
Strenuous 5.9 hands/fist or easy C1 brings you to a long bolt ladder. Climb to the top of the bolt ladder and lower down until about 10 feet above the belay. Swing over to the Stoveleg cracks. As the leader, try not to place gear until fairly high on the crack. Climb up until adjacent to a fixed rappel station on your right. The fixed belay is fair. Long pitch (140 feet), 5.8/5.9 (we aided some of this). Easy hauling, no need to lower the bag out. There is enough rope to lower yourself out from the pendulum point if you tie off short and use a single strand.
Fairly short pitch, about 80 feet. Follow the ever widening crack to a fixed belay on the right, three old bolts and a bong, just below a small roof. The off-width section is about 30 feet long and will take medium gear in the back of it, although a #4 Camalot comes in handy. There was a lot of fixed gear also. I aided most of this pitch
(C1), otherwise 5.9/5.10 free climbing. Easy hauling.
* With a 60m rope, you can combine Pitch 9/Pitch 10. 190
Climb up into an easy chimney with fixed pins and good gear placements. 50 feet of fairly easy climbing leads to 5.8/5.9 hands (mixed
C0). Run the pitch almost a full rope length (50 m) to a semi-fixed belay (#1, #2 Camalots for the belay). You will pass another semi-fixed belay. This will combine pitch
10 with pitch 11. Easy hauling to the right of the crack.
Can be combined with pitch 10 when using 50m ropes. 80
feet, 5.8 C1. Easy hauling.
* With a 60m rope, you can combine Pitch 11/Pitch 12. 185
Wide hands to short squeeze chimney to a ledge (with fixed anchors) to a fist crack lead to Dolt Tower. The pitch is about
100 feet long and takes #2.5 Friend/#2 Camalot up to #4 Camalot for the final fist
crack. Leave the brass nuts in the haul bag. I mixed up the climbing, free at the start (5.9) to aid
(C1) at the end,
leapfrogging #4 Camalots up the final section to Dolt Tower. Excellent anchors. Medium Difficult hauling due to decreased leverage while hauling from a large ledge. A good bivy, nice place to take a break. Drag the pig to the right side of the ledge and move the belay over there before beginning the next pitch.
Tension down and right off Dolt Tower to a left facing corner with an awkward slot. The slot has a medium crack in the back of it (#1.5 friend). Follow the slot to a pair of thin hand cracks which lead to a small ledge with fixed anchors (5.9). The pitch is about 60 feet long and takes mostly small to medium gear. Difficult hauling because the bag is bound to hang up on any one of the flakes in the corner. The bag should be lowered here. There was enough rope left for me to lower myself off the belay while following the pitch.
* It is possible to combine 13 & 14 with a 60m rope (180' total). Keep it together on 13 because you can't clip any gear until you reach the
end of pitch 13.
Climb the obvious fist crack in a left facing corner. The first part of the pitch is easy free climbing (20 feet of 5.6). The remaining 90 feet of fist crack goes at 5.9 or
C1. I aided quite a bit of this. Mostly #3 and #4 Camalots. There is a bolt a little over half way up on this pitch. Nice fixed belay on a ledge with good bolts. Medium easy hauling.
Easy free climbing for 100 feet up and right to El Cap Towers (5.6). Lower out the bag and follow the pitch on belay. No jugging. Once you get to the nice big El Cap Towers either lounge out or help your partner haul the pig (medium difficult hauling). I chose to lounge. Excellent bivy! The best one on the
route and one of the better ones on all of El Capitan.
The Texas Flake. Climb off the left end of El Cap Towers into a right leaning ramp system. Follow the ramp system with cracks up the right side of the Texas Flake (5.6, 50 feet). Climb awkwardly up into the chimney past chockstones with fixed slings (awkward 5.8...even with grabbing slings). Move to the far left side of the chimney and begin squirming. The key is to keep your back to the flake. Good footholds will be found on the main wall. The chimney gets easier as you get higher. Right at the top of the flake, reach back and clip a couple of bolts before your exit move. Haul the bag on the outside of the flake. Good 1/2" bolt on the main wall to haul off of. When following, try to stay outside of the chimney as long as possible...good luck.
The Boot Flake. Great pitch, great exposure. C1 bolt ladder leads up and left to a short
C1 crack with mostly fixed gear. The Boot Flake is easily aided on #1 and #2 Camalots and a #3.5 Friend. A couple of pieces of fixed gear will be found here. At the top of the aid section, clip a bolt for directional and continue up and left to excellent fixed bolts on a nice ledge. Comfortable bivy for one here. Easy hauling. The pitch is about
140 feet long. The second should tie off short and follow the pitch on aid until the line stops traversing, then jug the rest of the pitch.
The King Swing. Interesting pitch. Lower out until your harness is even with the top of the toe of the boot. Does this make sense? I've heard that you can simply tension to the second anchor. Not us. Mark had to swing like a maniac to reach the second pendulum point. The anchor
was a single, partially driven Lost Arrow (I think it's a #6) with a bunch of slings on it.
Reports have this pin missing and you will have to use a small HB
brass nut in place of the pin. Again, lower out just enough to tension over to a left facing corner. The corner has an awkward flare with a medium-small crack in the back. Free climb (5.9) or pull on gear up this corner until you can step left and up to the belay ledge.
This belay is situated about 60 feet directly to the left and around the corner from the top of the Boot Flake. You must lower the haul bag out here. Medium-easy hauling once the bag is lowered. Retrieve the lower out line, tie in short to the lead line and rappel off the top of the Boot with the lower-out line. Jug up to the second pendulum point and lower out again, this time using the
lead line. Be careful about getting the ropes snagged here. There are plenty of old bleached lines stuck here to remind you to keep an eye on your ropes.
* Bold climbers can combine Pitch 18/Pitch 19 with a 60m
rope. The leader will have to remove the lead rope from the
intermediate pendulum point.
Mixed free climbing (5.9) and aid (C1) up a corner/crack system. Mostly small to medium gear (small aliens, small nuts). This pitch leads to an overhang (90 feet). Two fixed pins and a fixed nut are here along with your medium cams for the hanging belay. This is where the topo indicates to belay.
But I continued up another 20 feet to a fixed pin with a carabiner on it. From here I
pendulumed to a
short (10') fixed rope and continued to grapple my way over to a good fixed belay on the class 4 ledges before Camp 4. I combined pitch 19 and part of pitch 20. I ended up at the point marked "haul" on the topo. We didn't eliminate a pitch, just kind of shifted it. The hauling
is tough here, as we found out.
Continue up the corner as described (small and fixed gear). Lower down and left to some good fixed
anchors (where we belayed/hauled). Either stop and haul here (no) or continue left on questionable class 4 rock. There are some very large loose blocks which if cut loose would probably kill someone below. Continue left another 50 feet to a decent ledge with fixed gear. Reasonable bivy here for one or two people. Lower the bag out and follow the class 4 section on belay.
A fun pitch. Step left off the belay and up into a right facing corner (medium cams) with loose flakes. Climb up to and past a couple of manky bolts (5.9 face) to Camp 4 (100 feet). Make sure you clip the bolt up and right of Camp 4. This will keep the lead line off a sharp edge.
Haul from the back of Camp 4. Difficult to haul the bag onto
Camp 4. Lower the bag around the corner. Wild bivy, but not that
Climb up and right for about 50 feet until a step right leads to a very shallow left facing corner. Follow this corner up and back left to the fixed belay at the base of the Great Roof (90 feet, 5.8). Small to medium gear and quite a bit of fixed pins. Lower the bag out. Difficult hauling, lots of stuff for the bag to get caught on.
The Great Roof. Easy but spectacular aid (C1) up to the Great Roof, mostly small cams to medium-big nuts. The roof itself is totally fixed to one free move to the hanging belay (120 feet). Reasonable fixed gear at the belay. Very easy hauling after the bag is lowered out. You can put the lower out line away now. It's a straight shot to the summit from here. The second should jug up to the roof and then either get a belay or tie off short while following the roof on aid.
The Pancake Flake. Very free climbable for 5.10 (or easy aid). Medium gear and a bunch of fixed pins and bolts. After the flake,
C1 on small nuts and cams for 30 feet to fixed belay on ledge. Pitch is about 130 feet long, 5.9/5.10,
C1. Easy hauling.
Tell the leader to look down and take the photo of the belayer
at the belay on this pitch. It would be a great picture.
Climb up a nasty flare with a small crack in the back. Climb this
(C1 or 5.10+) for about 30 feet until a dike leads left 10 feet to a better crack (#1 Camalot). Follow this crack up and back right to short a 5.9 flare (#1 Camalots in the back). After reaching easy ground, Clip a bolt for direction and climb easily up left and then back right (5.6) to the highest of the belays at Camp 5 (130 feet, 5.9
C1). Decent fixed anchors. Medium-easy hauling. Good bivy at about three or four different spots.
Follow a thin crack on aid (C1), past some fixed pins, left of the main corner for 75 feet to the Glowering Spot. Great ledge. Great photos. You will switch to the crack in the corner just before reaching the Glowering Spot. Small nuts for the thin crack (some small brass nuts) and Camalot
Jr's for the corner near the top of the pitch. Easy hauling.
Combine pitch 27/pitch 28. C1 up the left facing corner on medium to big gear (#4 Camalot at one spot). 75 feet to top of corner (end of pitch 27). Move right easily to a difficult short step up (5.8) and then move back left to some more free climbing (5.7) to the highest ledge, Camp 6. Long pitch, about 150 feet. Try to go back and unclip any gear you place on the 5.8 section to the right of the main line. It will be much easier for you and your second. Medium hauling because of the last 50 feet of lower angle stuff. Great bivy for two. There are decent ledges 30 feet below Camp 6 for a couple of other people.
Should be combined with pitch 27.
Camp 6 is stinky and
full of garbage. It really does smell like the men's room in
the NY/NJ Port Authority and it will drive you nuts to spend a
We combined pitches 29 & 30 above Camp 6. Free climb up and left (5.8) for about 30 feet to the start of the double hand cracks. Aid
(C1) up the hand cracks for about 60 feet passing some fixed pins and a belay station (end of pitch 29) (#1 and #2 Camalots).
Continue up to where the hand cracks converge. Tension right off either a fixed camming unit
or a good knifeblade for about 15 feet to a shallow right facing corner. Follow this corner
(C1) using very small nuts. There is
some fixed gear here (pins and nuts). It seems some of the
fixed gear has been removed for free attempts. The crack opens up to about #1 Camalot size up higher. About 15 feet before the fixed belay, a thin crack will run straight up to the anchors. It will be easier to follow the #1 Camalot crack up left to a point where you can reach back to the right and clip the belay. Good anchors. You will be just about out of rope here (160 feet). This is the longest pitch of the route (5.8
C1). Very easy hauling.
Should be combined with pitch 29.
Easy aid (C1) on medium gear following a steep right facing corner/bulge for about 50 feet. Then follow a hand crack up moderate rock for another 40 feet (5.8
C1) to a
nice fixed belay. There was a VERY large boulder teetering on the brink of cutting loose. It
was held in with a bunch of ratty fixed slings. It was cut loose
sometime early in 1997 during the Yosemite floods. Easy hauling.
Follow a corner into a secure belay alcove (90 feet, 5.8 C1). 25 feet below the alcove is
a loose block. It is very tempting to free climb by it, don't do
it. This block is about the size of a medium suitcase and is just sitting on a ledge. I almost cranked up on to it. I strongly recommend aid climbing by it. It takes a little longer but is much safer. Tell your second about it. Easy hauling.
* With 60m ropes it is easy to combine pitches 32, 33 & 34
into two pitches. Follow pitch 32 into and out of the alcove
to a fixed belay at the start of the crack on pitch 33. Go
to the top from there.
Fun climbing out of the alcove on fixed gear (5.9 face or easy and quick
C1). Follow the corner up to the final crack on the face. This crack widens from small nuts to #2.5 Friends at the top. Good fixed belay. This pitch is about 70 feet long (5.8
C1). Easy hauling.
The last pitch. Easy aid (C1) up the final bolt ladder on brand new 3/8" bolts. the bolts lead up two overhanging bulges to a 25 foot traverse to the right. When the bolts end, easy free climbing (5.3) leads up right and back left to a great fixed belay (120 feet). Easy hauling until the bag gets to the edge. VERY difficult to hear your partner. I belayed Mark up the final pitch after hauling the bag. Short class 3 pitch to a tree where you can take off your harness and relax.
We topped out at 12:00 noon into a thunderstorm, so instead of attempting the East Ledges rappel decent, we opted to walk down the Yosemite Falls trail. This trail is about 8 miles long. The first 5 miles are not too bad, but the last 3 miles are murderous descending switchbacks. Just when you think you're almost down, you start going back up just to start descending all over again. It's a week later and I'm still a little sore from the walk down! It took us five hours to walk down (2:00 PM - 7:00 PM). I think next time I'll just jump off the top and try to land in some trees.
This gear list is based on what we brought along and what we used
for a very aided ascent. You could easily get by with less.
- 2 sets of brass nuts (pitch to the Glowering spot pitch above Camp 6..others)
- 2 sets of wired nuts
- 2 #0.5 tri-cams (first four pitches)
- 2 #1.0 tri-cams (first four pitches)
- 2 sets Camalots
- 2 sets Camalot Juniors
- 1 set of Friends to #4
- 1 #0 Friend
- 1 #0.5 Friend
- 1 each of the three smallest TCUs
- 1 each of the two smallest aliens
- A hook or two (you never know)
- 20 full length slings with 2 carabiners on each sling
- 20 free carabiners
- 6 locking carabiners (belays, bivys, hauling)
- 2 nut tools (each person carry one)
- 1 wall hauler
- 1 backup pulley
- 1 haul bag swivel (VERY helpful when the bag rolls)
- 1 11mm x 50 m lead line
- 1 11mm x 50 m haul line (good for backup if the lead line gets damaged)
- 1 9mm x 50 m lower out line
Overall, we found the most difficult climbing
on the first four pitches. Sickle Ledge is a poor place to bivy.
Instead of throwing our extra fixed line to the ground (four ropes are needed to fix from Sickle Ledge to the ground), we coiled it up and tied it off to the second rap station. We've heard numerous stories about stolen ropes after they were tossed for pick-up later. We planned on jugging back up another party's fixed lines to get our rope back after we finished our climb. We saw our rope still there after the climb so we opted for some beer drinking in El Cap meadows. That afternoon we witnessed a climber dropping our rope to the ground. We had talked to a group of three, who had fixed lines, about dropping our rope for us. We figured it was them. As we approached the base of the raps, some guy was walking out with our rope!!! He luckily couldn't
or wouldn't speak English, otherwise a couple of drunk idiots (well at least one
drunk idiot, me) were going to beat the crap out of him. He handed the rope over without arguing. What a scum bag.
We made steady progress on the Stoveleg Cracks because leap-frogging camming units is easy. If you are a good crack climber, the Stovelegs will go very quickly. We aided about 75% of the Stovelegs. Dolt Tower seems like a nice bivy. El Cap Towers is a great bivy. The Texas Flake is not too bad. We're Gunks climbers and never do chimneys. We found the climbing from the top of the Boot Flake to the pitch before Camp 4 to be a pain because of all the traversing. You can survive a night at Camp 4. Camp 5 is a better bivy. Camp 6 is a nice ledge but is a smelly, gross place. The longest pitch on the climb is above Camp 6 if you combine the next two pitches. The final four pitches go quickly.
Good luck, have fun and stay tied in.