The history of the "Death Slabs" below half dome

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 49 of total 49 in this topic
john hansen

climber
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

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

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
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

climber
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

climber
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: http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1516671/Half-Dome-Death-slabs-rock-fall-5-27-11-video
The Warbler

climber
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



karodrinker

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

climber
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
survival

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!
Ihateplastic

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

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?

John
survival

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.
guido

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?

(:
donini

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.
WBraun

climber
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 ......
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Dec 31, 2012 - 09:49pm PT
Damn Werner. Glad Merry came out of it ok
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 31, 2012 - 10:00pm PT
the full description from Roper (1971 "Green" guide)

Half Dome -- From Mirror Lake
II, class 3. First ascent unknown. Barriers of cliffs and slabs block easy access from below, but those with good routefinding ability can find ropeless passage. In general, keep to the left. From the base of the 1,800-foot northwest face, walk up and left over talus and brush to the trail. Allow four or five hours to reach this point.

pyro

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:21am PT
This piture was taken after it took me and steve 4days to get lines fixed and bags at base of tissasack. I belive the slabs add to the routes rating
Credit: mark Mcgoveney
Death slabs for sure!
I bet the base of stoney has seen about the same amount of ju
mpers.
Nice work guido. Must have been tuff.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:41am PT
She was barely hanging on by the time I ran back to grab her.


Classic Werner.

"Hey Merry, you try an keep up with me on the aptly named "Death Slabs". We're gonna be going up some treacherous territory, way off the trade route…. but you'll be fine…. your with me… I… am a legend!"


 So, I guess the only question I have after skimming the first page is…. Have there been any deaths on these slabs?

Maybe a morbid curiosity, maybe just wondering how the name came about.
Onewhowalksonrocks

Mountain climber
portland, Maine
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:25am PT
I think North Dome Gully has seen more deaths then any other down climb in the Valley. Known as the "other death slabs"
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:32am PT
hey there say, guido...
oh my... thanks for the history note there and sharing your
story...


also, oh my, werner... and merry...
glad to hear that all is well and you both made it back...

:)
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:38am PT
It's only 3rd class but the route finding is a little tricky. Providing you stay on rout, and are fit enough to quickly scramble through the exposed sections, the "Death Slabs" are routine. Get off route over oi the right and it can turn into a nightmare with the chances of getting "cliffed" high.

JL
WBraun

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:51am PT
Off top of my head there's 3 deaths that I can remember on the death slabs.

They were never called the death slabs.

These modern climbers came up with this bullsh!t name.

It was always called the slabs to half dome approach.

The Korean climbers 2 winters ago go caught in a nasty slush avalanche there.

We started to climb up that night to the injured Korean and had to turn back because more slush avalanches were coming down.

The Korean climber had to be helo evacuated the next morning.

A touron followed the first fixed line at the bottom once and proceeded to wander straight up from there and got ledged out once.

There's a lot of traffic on those slabs now a days and pretty hard to get lost on them.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:09am PT
from A Climber's Guide to Yosemite by RM Leonard and DR Brower (Feb. 1940)
see http://home.comcast.net/~e.hartouni/climbing/ACGttHS/ACGttHS.html

Half Dome -- From Mirror Lake
First ascent unknown. Donald Buchanan, Yosemite, has made more than 20 ascent of this route. The first barrier is a 200-foot cliff stretching along the entire base. This can be passed by an easy gully at the W. end. Upon reaching the ledge on top of the cliff, traverse E. to polished massive granite at angle of 35º to 40º rising just W. of the water-course. The principal problem is to avoid brush without getting onto rock of too high an angle. At the base of the tremendous overhang there is an easy route to the Clouds Rest saddle. There is water at the base of the main face in all seasons.

BJ

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:27am PT
So, I guess the only question I have after skimming the first page is…. Have there been any deaths on these slabs?

In September 2005 we watched the recovery of a solo climber who died while off route to the right of the standard approach. He apparently set up an anchor system to rap down to his bags, and some sort of catastrophic failure occured.
RattyJ

Trad climber
Pine Grove
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:02am PT
The first and only time I've ever been up there I was traversing under the exposed slab when I heard some rocks coming down.
I didn't see anything big at first and then all of a sudden I caught a soccer ball sized rock out of the corner of my eye heading strait for my head. I started to duck and move out of the way when a fraction of a second later the thing struck my backpack ripping it from my back and spinning me around twice. My waist strap was still attached and it took me down for a ride. Felt like I got hit with a cannon ball. It hit so violently the shoulder strap tore a muscle in my shoulder I still have problems with. That was at least 5 years ago.
Wish I'd have gotten that on video. We had a good laugh then continued on finishing one of the best routes I've ever done in a day. We walked down the 1/2 dome trail back to the valley.
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:19am PT
Rattyj...*

A bit of spray but still an impressive story. Big rocks come toward ME I tend to return to camp rather than carry on.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:32am PT
Soccer ball? How 'bout refrigerators and microwaves? . . . ;-)

Credit: Reilly

RattyJ, spray on dood, full credit - I woulda turned around.
WBraun

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
In September 2005 we watched the recovery of a solo climber who died while off route to the right of the standard approach.


You meant to the left of the standard approach.

He was several hundred yards to the left.

Another party was using that false approach also that day and discovered him hanging upside down dead with massive head trauma from his fall.

They called YOSAR and me and Merry climbed up to him.

We believe he fell the day before ......
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Jan 1, 2013 - 12:18pm PT
I was climbing the death slabs on the day he was recovered, humping loads to Tis-sa-ack with Moose Mutlow. Moose had to bail early that afternoon and turned around. When I saw the chopper, I thought for sure it was for him...
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
bouldering
Jan 9, 2013 - 10:31pm PT
Dec 31, 2012 -
Went up the "Death Slabs" this October ...
I was curious if you guys were on an assignment, or what?
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Jan 9, 2013 - 10:45pm PT
Reilly, where's that photo from? Heinous!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jan 9, 2013 - 10:53pm PT
"...but those with good routefinding ability can find ropeless passage."--Steve "The Non-Roper" Roper

Translation: it's really Class 4++.

I never heard anyone in the world call them anything but too much work, let alone Death Slabs. Try lugging a rack of iron in addition to the H2O up that slip n' slide and be in a good frame of mind at the end.

And down several quarts of water already. There's a river on the other side, geez.
Nanook

climber
Jan 9, 2013 - 11:44pm PT
Wow, Rhouter--I passed you that day hiking but don't remember the helo!

Despite what anyone experienced earlier on, like Werner says in 2013 you would be hard pressed to lose the slab trail, the class IV trail that is. I know cause I've taken many a Valley neophyte up for a trip up the cables, climbing the rock next to the fixed ropes they were ascending in my approach shoes assuring them that it was 'super safe and easy ;)' On one trip on a a busy Saturday in '08 with 200 people in line on the cables we didn't see a person till we hit the shoulder. (the proudest newbie send though is model Paul's ascent of the slabs with a gaggle of supermodels while on crutches with a broken leg!).

The biggest difficulty I see is people miss the start of the slab approach trail from Mirror lake. It is a couple hundred feet past the dam(which is just a manmade pile of rocks now) and not very obvious. There is a part of an old trail just before the trail and I think that suckers folks up right earlier on. If you are doing the real slab approach it is easy walking until you are at the first fixed rope several hundred feet above Mirror Lake.

Enjoy!
erik
yosemitebigwall.com
Fishy

climber
Zurich, Switzerland
Jan 10, 2013 - 02:53am PT
I climbed North Dome with Le Bruce in Spring 2011 - witnessed a group of enormous car-sized blocks fall straight down the face of HD, impact near the base then continue to crash all the way down the death slabs.

Anyone on the approach that day would have been wiped out. Here is a pic with the first dust-cloud appearing just after impact (the cloud finally filled the entire death-slabs approach gully).

Dust cloud at base after several large blocks fell down the face.  Spr...
Dust cloud at base after several large blocks fell down the face. Spring 2011. Large rock pieces continued all the way down death slabs - terminal for anyone that was unlucky enough to be there that afternoon.
Credit: Fishy
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Jan 10, 2013 - 08:37am PT
Seems like spring-early summer is the worst for rockfall. Any confirmation on this?
gstock

climber
Yosemite Valley
Jan 10, 2013 - 08:42am PT
Left panel shows the seasonality of documented rockfalls throughout Yosemite Valley for which the timing is known (1857-2011), right panel shows the seasonality of just those rockfalls from Half Dome over that same time period.

Credit: gstock
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Jan 10, 2013 - 08:49am PT
Well OK. Thanks Greg!

Is there a possibility that there are simply less observers present during the cooler months?
gstock

climber
Yosemite Valley
Jan 10, 2013 - 09:01am PT
Yes, that is certainly a possibility, and no doubt there are many smaller rockfalls that are either not observed or not reported. However, I do think that certain cliffs really are more seasonal than others with respect to rockfalls.

We have documented >1 cm of daily movement of exfoliation slabs due to thermal stresses (heating and cooling of the rock). An interesting correlation for Half Dome is that more rockfalls occur from the NW face during the months that it gets more direct sun.

27 July 2006 rockfall from the NW face of Half Dome.
27 July 2006 rockfall from the NW face of Half Dome.
Credit: Amanda Nolan
life is a bivouac

Trad climber
Jan 10, 2013 - 12:56pm PT
There is a very large flake, that one climbs on/past, roughly half way up Tis-sa-ack... (it is about 25 feet high and maybe 10 feet wide) You get to stand on the crusty broken-toothed top edge to place a wee pin up under a thin flake, and I swear it vibrated with the wind... I don't remember breathing very much...

Does any one know if it's still there?

It is/was a serious candidate for terminal velosity.
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
bouldering
Mar 23, 2013 - 05:51pm PT
In September 2005 we watched the recovery of a solo climber who died while off route
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=99823&msg=99823#msg99823
Captain...or Skully

climber
Mar 23, 2013 - 08:04pm PT
One of my favorite areas in the Valley. Yes, it's third class, as long as you're not toting stuff.
If you get off route, you could die.

I don't recall that we ever called it The Death Slabs.....Reverse Sandbag, maybe?
Cloudraker

Sport climber
San Diego, CA
Mar 23, 2013 - 08:52pm PT
IKONOS 1m satellite image


Credit: Cloudraker
S.Leeper

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
Apr 26, 2013 - 04:04pm PT
bump for some interesting history
Messages 1 - 49 of total 49 in this topic
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 Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews