Attempt on Ahwiyah Point-Northeast Gully - 4/18/10 TR


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 24, 2010 - 01:19am PT
Attempt on Ahwiyah Point - Northeast Gully

Ed Hartouni
April 18, 2010

This is a class 3 route put up by David Brower and Morgan Harris in August 1937. It is a part of my recovery plan to first scramble, then climb my way back into shape, allowing time for the back to heal and for me to get strong, both physically and mentally. It is a way of exploring seldom visited places in the park, and to work through some of the history of climbing.

Any of you that have looked at the NW Face of Half Dome has seen this point, you just didn't know what you were looking at... It's name is thought to be a reference to Mirror Lakes, the Southern Sierra Miwok word awaaya meaning "lake, deep" so maybe the point was the landmark for the lake?

I followed the short description in Roper, but on the way over was becoming skeptical of the late spring snow and rather wet condition of the rock. It was a lovely day, and warm.

From the south loop of the Mirror Lakes trail I could spy the route, with some snow choked gullies, wet vegetation, and general "too early to climb" look. But I persisted... how hard could class 3 be, I'd just wander up and see how high I could get...

The route looks something like this, I suppose:

and right were the arrowhead on the route line is the route goes behind the ridge of the point to the saddle, which is then climbed to the point.

Getting to the snow cone at the base of the gully, I determined that it wouldn't go, as I was wearing approach shoes, and not proper boots, nor did I have an ice axe. It also seemed to have the appearance of avalanche debris, and was very packed. Not to be turned away so quickly, I started to follow the diagonal line of vegetation just to the right (west) of the snow, thinking I could work those ramps up and connect in higher.

Wet, rotten rock and bushwacking are almost never a good combination. I stopped at some point, ate some lunch, drank some water, shot some images, and then descended. Having spied Snow Creek from this position, I decided to head over that and scramble up to the amazing cataract jetting out from the slabs.

Snow Creek from across the Valley

Snow Creek

I shot a lot of images of flowers, on both sides of the valley, which I posted in the flower thread

and on my descent from Snow Creek, I was reminded of the fact that this is still an alpine environment. Some of you may have heard this from your climbs and wondered what it was...

The snow field at the right of the avalanche runout is where I had been 2 hours earlier. Perhaps I figured it out and got out of there without being conscious about the thought process, or perhaps I was just lucky...

...but you all best pay attention to where you are this time of year, that was not a fluffy avalanche, but heavy, blocky snow crashing down bad thing to be underneath avalanche. Several other avalanches crashed down after that, but I was already on the trail back to the car.

Ahwiyah Point - Northeast Gully is probably a climb for late May.

Big Wall climber
Apr 24, 2010 - 01:22am PT
You are a brave man. That area scares me.

Social climber
The Deli
Apr 24, 2010 - 02:07am PT
Nice sequence, Ed!!! Glad you werent underneath it!

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Apr 24, 2010 - 02:10am PT
The 4 mile trail Ed... that is the ticket for recovering old men... stay away from snow slopes in late April.... see you soon...

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 24, 2010 - 02:20am PT
Nice pics, Ed. A little synchronicity at play there?

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Apr 24, 2010 - 02:26am PT
Nice ED!

Thanks for the glimpse

seth kovar

Bay Area
Apr 24, 2010 - 02:29am PT


Thank Ed

. . . not !
Apr 24, 2010 - 03:18am PT
My sister did that route in the early 80s . Pretty straightforward she said 'cept for a very imposing headwall at the top of the gulley . She had already done Gunsight (without the now fixed rope) so I knew she wasn't about the severity . Here's a (not mine) vid of a slide coming right down the gulley . I hope you'll try it again when it drys out . Thanks for posting .

Social climber
Berkeley, CA
Apr 24, 2010 - 03:23am PT
That is RAD Ed, thanks for sharing!


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 24, 2010 - 10:43am PT
Wow. Nice photos and TR. What's up next?

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 24, 2010 - 10:53am PT
Super-cool Ed!
Beautiful pix and a good day out.

Will you go back when it dries out?
goatboy smellz

Apr 24, 2010 - 11:00am PT
Great photos Ed and nice to see you taking a positive approach for healing those ills.

FWIW no avalanche has ever been fluffy, they usually all come down hard.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Apr 24, 2010 - 11:07am PT

Heal up, Ed!

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Apr 24, 2010 - 11:26am PT
Glad you're still w/ us, Ed!

We looked across the way and figured that you had revised your plans to scramble to put you on the sunny side.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 24, 2010 - 12:04pm PT
thanks all,
I'll certainly go back, Ahwiyah Point is a photo vantage point for some little projects I have in mind... I was carrying 4 cameras with me that day, hoping to get up on top... I knew that Melissa's top out might have been in view (albeit a long one).

I got some scrambling on DFU territory going up Snow Creek (the NPS signage is always so cheery!) which was the objective for the outing, and moved well around the 8 mile loop. Getting back in time for the pre-drive-out bacchanal (thanks Linda!).

I'll be doing solos for a while until soloing is slower than roped climbing...

Don't know what's next... but my photofinisher is happy that I'm shooting film again!

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 24, 2010 - 12:08pm PT
I'm happy too!

Trad climber
Apr 24, 2010 - 12:12pm PT
Yikes, EdHeartMan!

Glad you're here with us!



Apr 24, 2010 - 12:34pm PT
Nice shots Ed. Thanks!

Glad you weren't in its path.


Trad climber
Apr 24, 2010 - 12:47pm PT
nice, ed.

great shots of the avvy.

Boulder climber
Hell A
Apr 24, 2010 - 03:41pm PT
awesome shots of the avalanche Ed. Glad you are still with us.

Apr 26, 2010 - 01:40am PT
Super duper!

Speaking of Snow Creek, I've always had an eye on this climb:

. . . not !
Apr 26, 2010 - 03:39am PT
QITNL , You can also 3rd class the whole cascade by entering above the lowest waterfall from the east . It's a snug little fit , but easy going after that . Good photography oppertunities for Hartouni (Opp hartouni ties ?) with views of Watkins etc too .
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Apr 26, 2010 - 04:22am PT
Remember what Sigismund Freud says about the unconscious Will to Death? You must have really wanted to die, Ed, but failed to achieve your repressed unconscious intention. Lucky for you! But those pics are great. Remember seeing that thing avalanche in early July in a good snow year back in 83. Count your blessings!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 12, 2010 - 12:14am PT
Very cool, very nice shots.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 12, 2010 - 12:30am PT
Great shots. How long did that go on. You are quick with the camera. I just ran into a decent sized mountain lion on a remote section of cliff in Spearfish Canyon. He was only about 10m away and I had my camera, but he was running away when I saw him. I knew I didn't have a chance to get the shot so I just watched till he was gone and turned around and walked the other way...
Tracks I saw on the way down that I had missed on the way up.
Tracks I saw on the way down that I had missed on the way up.
Credit: mike m
fairly quickly.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 12, 2010 - 12:32am PT
I was shooting the Gully for a recon photo, I noticed the white snow field in the upper left of my view was expanding, then realized it was an avalanche, so the camera was out.

Usually I try to have a camera handy all the time.

The Warbler

the edge of America
May 12, 2010 - 01:23am PT
Hey Ed

Really cool and really scary Big A shots.

Maybe you were looking at a potential class 3 or 4 route I looked at which diagonals up and left out of Ahwiyah Point Gully - right through the avy zone and onward eastward to the rim. Looks like a great outing and an outstanding line. Definitely old school - you're one of the few that appreciate the beauty of such routes.

I reckoned it would go w/o a rope. I scoped it out after doing The Skywalk down canyon near the Silver Platter, a similar floor to rim ropeless switchback line. The Valley's got some good ones.

Glad you were on the right side for that event.

. . . not !
May 12, 2010 - 01:36am PT
Here's C-Mack's brilliant photo and my sister's comment from when I sent her a link to it .
" Probably, everywhere that there is snow there in that gully, we could boulder-hop and climb pretty the top, where there is no snow, is a sheer wall with tiny foot-and hand-holds. . "
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 1, 2010 - 10:00pm PT
Avalanche down Ahwiyah Point gully, from slabs above or below Half Dom...
Avalanche down Ahwiyah Point gully, from slabs above or below Half Dome shoulder approach. May 31, 2010 (above average snow year)
Credit: Clint Cummins
(still unsafe...)

Jul 11, 2010 - 04:56am PT
Nice snap Clint , but now it's time for Hartouni to go back up !

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 11, 2010 - 10:00am PT
Nice adventure Ed- the road less traveled by.

Trad climber
Ridgway, CO
Jul 11, 2010 - 10:48am PT
Many years ago some friends and I too witnessed a major spring avalanche in that vicinity while hiking the Snow Creek trail up to North Dome. By the look of those snow plastered slabs, this is a common occurrence when things start melting and warming. It is easy to forget that Yosemite is an alpine environment with all the associated hazards. Here in the San Juan mountains people generally get their spring adventures over early, in part to avoid the wet slab potential. Glad you bailed, thanks for sharing and best wishes to your recovery.

Trad climber
Jul 11, 2010 - 02:24pm PT
Be careful!!! Cool pics Ed.

Heal up. Ps. I have a lot more free time if you want to adventure.

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Jul 11, 2010 - 02:42pm PT
sheesh, rock slides, avalanche in july, mountain lions and bears stalking all unwary humans,

just more respect for the indians who still live up there,

oh, they in there, i know de in dere, i seen um with mi own two eyes,
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 11, 2010 - 05:42pm PT
stay tuned...
back is getting better, but after a few weeks of climbing it needed a rest this weekend...

Social climber
Jul 11, 2010 - 06:06pm PT
cool avalanche shots...

San Juan Bautista, CA
Aug 5, 2010 - 06:58pm PT
Ahwiyah Point, NE Gully: The upper gully beautifully hanging above the...
Ahwiyah Point, NE Gully: The upper gully beautifully hanging above the ramp between the upper and lower gullies.
Credit: DM88T

Oakland, CA
Apr 5, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Thrilling photos there. What a gift to get to see/hear that.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 12, 2014 - 09:24pm PT
got a chance to shoot the gully from a different perspective last Sunday

Northeast Gully, Ahwiyah Point, Yosemite Valley
Northeast Gully, Ahwiyah Point, Yosemite Valley
Credit: Ed Hartouni
Stewart Johnson

lake forest
Jun 12, 2014 - 09:49pm PT

Boulder climber
Jun 12, 2014 - 10:03pm PT
Great pic. I now see the 'surprise ending' my sister talked about.

Boulder climber
Mar 12, 2015 - 11:45pm PT
I was hiking above Hidden Falls (Spring of 1983?) when one of those slides came down.
I instantly sought cover, and feared for my life.
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