The history of the "Death Slabs" below half dome


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 49 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
john hansen

Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 30, 2012 - 09:52pm PT
I was wondering who first climbed up to the base of half dome by this route.

A historical question.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 30, 2012 - 09:57pm PT
from Roper
Half Dome -- from Mirror Lake
II, class 3. First ascent unknown.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Dec 30, 2012 - 09:59pm PT
What the hell - I did the FA
the Fet

Dec 30, 2012 - 10:18pm PT
Legend has it...

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 30, 2012 - 11:22pm PT
There was this time, quite a long time ago:

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Dec 30, 2012 - 11:31pm PT
Peter that looks like some sort of monster's back end who is bending over.

The Fet, as with Peter's image, well done.

Kevin, you did the FA? I knew you were old, but not that old. ;-)
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 30, 2012 - 11:46pm PT
Interesting Rohrschach result, there Patrick. Anyway, The Warbler will make his claims, but we ALL know that it went down differently. This is how the whole shebang was formed and what was going on before the Dome went to halves.

Babe the Blue Ox and her buddy, Paul Bunyan. A real American triumph. They formed lakes, valleys, hills and rivers. They were v. busy, you see, back then. But they did get to the Death Slab business eventually. All when Werner was in fact still a nice boy. Young and polite, like he was raised. And the Warbler was only just beginning to roost in the Valley.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 30, 2012 - 11:50pm PT
Cool! My father's mother's family came from Bemidji.

As for the death slabs, history is always being made there, and everyone climbs a new route:
The Warbler

the edge of America
Dec 31, 2012 - 07:59am PT
Funny guys

Roper says it's 3rd class and unknown.

Now you know

Prove I didn't

Oh, and Happy New Year


Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Dec 31, 2012 - 08:03am PT
3rd class my ass. Without the fixed lines that is some treacherous terrain.
east side underground

Hilton crk,ca
Dec 31, 2012 - 08:15am PT
Credit: east side underground
almost got the chop from rockfall a few years back while on the fixed lines... no where to hide...that place scares the sh#t out of me

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 31, 2012 - 08:56am PT
Once I almost surfed off a major drop on a slab that cut loose! Jumped off at the last second.

Once had a partner that refused to do a couple sections without a rope. I didn't blame him.

Then there are a few tricky route finding spots. Don't know, it may be marked better now.

Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Dec 31, 2012 - 08:58am PT
TheFet and Peter,, NICE PICS!

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Dec 31, 2012 - 09:45am PT
Peter, you gave me a boner!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 31, 2012 - 12:36pm PT
An interesting variation of the question might be when it started to be the standard approach to the Northwest Face. I encountered a party topping out on the Regular Route in 1968, and they used the trail. I used the trail in the early 1970's, but I know that Robbins and Dorworth used the Death Slabs on the first ascent of Arcturus.

Any thoughts?


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 31, 2012 - 01:10pm PT
An interesting variation of the question might be when it started to be the standard approach to the Northwest Face.

I believe it is STILL not the standard. I think way more parties still hump the long road.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Dec 31, 2012 - 01:13pm PT
Wee history on the Death Slabs:

Feb 28, 2009 - 02:38pm PT
I think it was the summer of 1965, when Steve Hickman arrived in Yosemite to take over the Search and Rescue aspect for the NPS. Steve was a well known Colorado climber and a permanent ranger. He also was a fine individual, had a wonderful sense of humor and loved having a good time. All ingredients for a life long friendship.

I was hired by Rick Anderson, then District Valley Ranger, as Hickmans assistant, as Steve had little experience with Yosemite climbing. Rick had hired Jeff Foott the previous summer for the same position, but Jeff and gone off to the Tetons to work for Exum. I guess you could say Foott was the first “Climbing Ranger” in Yosemite and I was the second.

Steve and I did a number of climbs together and participated in far too many rescues and recoveries for the next two summers. To lighten the psychological baggage, we eventually named ourselves the “Alpine Body Snatchers” as we seem to deal with an unusually high number of deaths those two summers.

I may have the dates incorrect, but I believe it was the winter of 1964-5 that two Stanford students, Green and Hermann disappeared on a climb from Mirror Lake up to the NW face of Half Dome.

Numerous attempts were made to locate them but to no avail. In early summer, Chris Jones, while on the NW face noticed two bodies uncovered by the melting snow.

Five of us spent three long days getting the water logged bodies from the “Death Slabs” up to the saddle and then by horseback down to the valley. We had the use of a small, gasoline powered winch system, but it failed early on. Why, we did not use a helicopter I don’t recall. Certainly would have made things a lot easier and safer. I have always had a great fear of horses after getting thrown off one when I was young. As they slipped and slide down the rocky trails, I would take my foot out of the downhill stirrup on big dropoffs, ready to jump to the safer uphill side. Cowboy I am not.

The term ‘Death Slabs” is certainly appropriate but I don’t recall it being used back then? Not a place you want to hang out during the winter. Roper took a 600 ft fall in this area while “teaching” the finer aspects of crampon style to his partner Sacherer, who wanted a rope but Roper told him no, because he didn’t want to be pulled off if Sacherer fell! I remember smuggling bottles of red wine into Roper while he convalesced in the Yosemite Hospital for several weeks.

The odd thing about this entire experience is that Green was the son of my Physics Professor at San Jose State. I had such a horrible rapport with his father that I could never bridge the gap and communicate with him about the death of his son.

Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Dec 31, 2012 - 01:30pm PT
3rd class my ass. Without the fixed lines that is some treacherous terrain.

Maybe, then, it was Norman Clyde who did the FA and called it class 3?


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 31, 2012 - 04:44pm PT
Pretty cruisey approach. If you think it's knarly DO NOT do the approach to the N. Face of Poincenot.

Dec 31, 2012 - 08:02pm PT
Went up the "Death Slabs" this October with Merry and left the the main trail way to the left where no one ever goes.

We came to a really dicey traverse across this slab and Merry slipped on some ball bearing gravel.

She was barely hanging on by the time I ran back to grab her.

She almost went for the 1000 foot ride.

"Death Slabs" for sure ......
Messages 1 - 20 of total 49 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews