The road to Steck-Salathe...


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Trad climber
the pitch above you!
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 7, 2006 - 12:06am PT
Hairshirt at Donner

Traveler's Buttress at the Leap

Generator Crack

I'm sure there are others...please nothing too sick and twisted!
Dragon with Matches

Bamboo Grove
Jul 7, 2006 - 06:24am PT
The Four Mile Trail.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jul 7, 2006 - 08:32am PT
Just go into a biker bar and say "which one of you pussys has the gay Harley parked in the front?"

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Church Bowl Chimney followed by Church Bowl Terrace.

Cookie Right then the Elevator Shaft.

Moby Dick center, then top rope Ahab, you don't have to suceed on Ahab to do SS, then throw a TR on Moby Dick Left (belay on top)

NorthEast Buttress of Higher. Don't do Steck Salathe until the NEButt seems like fun.



Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 7, 2006 - 11:15am PT
Karl, I believe dank requested ...please nothing too sick and twisted!

Your list..... bwahahahahahahahaha!

and you forgot to put the disclaimer indemnifying yourself from the possible consequences.

"Climbing is dangerous and could be fatal. Not only that, you should know enough not to post nOOb questions on internet forums. If you actually take the advice offered in the answers you have no one else to blame but your own silly ass!"

But I have to say Karl's list is a good eliminate. I'd add one more, but it is way obscure and has "feral" status, and I can't, in good conscience, name it. If you get through the list and you still have a taste for wide, physical climbs, then you are probably ready to go for SS.

Just remember, it is a Grade V, which means a whole day... don't succumb to the hubris of 3 hour ascents... that is 3 hour solo ascents where you are just climbing! If you don't think that's hard, just got to the gym an do a 3 hour burn...


Trad climber
Jul 7, 2006 - 03:43pm PT
There is a good description by August West in the Climbing Route section of ST.

This is my version describing the SS. Take the first seven pitches of NEB of HC. Re-arrange the pitches so that pitches 6 and 7, the crux pitches, are after pitch two. Then add Chockstone Chimney on top to get a total of 15 or so pitches.

I just had my son measure me. While lieing on the floor, when I breath in my chest is 9 1/2" thick, which for me was too wide for the narrows. When I breath completely out it is 8 1/2", which for me fit through.

Road to SS
Right Side of the Cookie
Entrance Exam, I didn't do this but I've been told I should have.
Arrowhead Arete
East Buttress of Middle, the original way
Chockstone Chimney

Now back to work,
Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Jul 7, 2006 - 04:37pm PT
In the Valley (in no particular order): Braille Book, Lost Arrow Chimney including Harding Hole, First two pitches of East Buttress of El Cap (37 times in one day), Harding Slot on Astroman, Horror Frake, Last pitch before the Alcove, and El Cap Spire pitches on Salathe Wall, plus the approach pitches and the other few that lead to topping out; Reed's Left, Third Pitch of Reed's Direct, Orange Juice Avenue, last thousand feet or so of DNB.

At Josh (in no particular order): SE Corner Intersection Rock, Drawstring, Bat Crack, Duchess Right, In & Out, Big Boy, Right On, Championship Wrestling, Deep Throat, Split Rock, Skinny Dip, La Reina without laybacking, Ipecac, Underpass, Hoopkhartz?, Damn Jam, The Eye, etc.

Red Rocks: Tunnel Vision, Epinepherine, Frigidare Buttress, Bengal, Ixtlan, Cat in the Hat, Bed of Nails (chimney 50 feet right of Cat in the Hat, "unnamed" in the newest guide), Ginger Cracks, Crimson Chrysalis, etc.

Sedona: Sedona Scenic Cruise, Mace Regular Route.

Tahquitz: Sahara Terror, Whodunnit, Open Book.

for general physical training, try Snake Dike in a day,
Rabbit Peak round trip from the car in under 24 hours, North Face Mt San Jacinto sub 24 hours car to car, Badwater to Telescope Peak sub 24, Boston Marathon, Western States 100, etc.



Trad climber
Golden, Colorado
Jul 7, 2006 - 05:01pm PT

Crushing beer cans on your forehead has worked for me in the past. Be sure to stretch first.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 7, 2006 - 05:52pm PT
you guys are brutal..

but the reply should have been

The road to Steck-Salathe... litered with good intentions.

sorry I missed this obvious retort.

Trad climber
the pitch above you!
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 7, 2006 - 05:59pm PT
thanks...i'll be sure to slam down some old E...crush the can on my forehead...and give these routes a burn!

still need to measure my chest though.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jul 7, 2006 - 11:52pm PT
Shoot I think my list was modest and reasonable.

I agree that the left (original) way on East Butt of Middle would be a good addition to the practice. Braille Book would be a good start.

One of my original suggestions to this questions was this

Get a garage door and unhook it, lay down on your driveway and have four friends lay the garage door on top of you. Now they each sit on a corner of the door and you try to wiggle out from the center to escape.

I doubt the Narrows is harder if you weigh 190 like me!


cave man mcelroy

Trad climber
auburn, ca
Sep 17, 2012 - 01:55pm PT
I'm climbing Steck Salathe in 6 days and for training ive been...
picking up dog sh#t with my bare hands in 110 degree temps
wiping my own ass with poison oak leaves
sleeping on beds of nails
eating glass
and staring into the sun while my comrades rub my back, shoulders, wrists, elbows, and knees with 60 grade sandpaper.
and ive been talking to my mother... I feel confident in a single day send.

Trad climber
Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Sep 17, 2012 - 02:19pm PT
Sounds like yer good ta go.

Wait, one last thing...

Lay on the floor and tip yer refrigerator on top of ya at about chest height, then have yer mom (sounds like she wud give ya incentive to move fast) sit on top of it and time how long it takes ya ta shimmy up the length of it and out the top. Do this about ten times, decreasing yer time with each try. no water between laps allowed.

edit: Yeah, just go for it. When in doubt, start early. Pre-dawn for the approach. Bring headlamp for approach & descent. leave yer mom at home. have fun!

for chimneys, try peter pan. and left side of moby dick. and ahab if ya feel up for it since yer in the area. then go down and thrash around on generator crack for the pump (not necessary to be able to do it). that wud be a good warm up day. or, if ya got a full day, do neb/hcr like donini suggests. that wud be yer best bet. there is nothing harder than 5.9 on ss. it is just long and fatiguing and the descent is also long and kinda tricky/very sketchy & dangerous in the dark, even with torches, imo! btw, the narrows isn't that bad, i was just joking in regards to the fridge (unless yer tubby) yer not gonna fall out of it once ya get going, it's the getting going that is kinda hard.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 17, 2012 - 02:21pm PT
The road to the Steck Salathe is the same one that gets you into the Valley, from there start on the 4 mile trail and expect about an hour long approach.

edit: I see someone beat me to it.

If you can get to feeling comfortable on Generstor Crack you'll have no worries.
The NEB of HCR.
It'a a great climb!

Sep 17, 2012 - 03:07pm PT
An NEB-Braille Book linkup is a good time calibrator. If you get off that with daylight to spare you should be good to go.

between the flat part and the blue wobbly thing
Sep 17, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
If you can get to feeling comfortable on Generstor Crack you'll have no worries.
I've made one attempt to TR Generator. When I began I told myself I wouldn't use the tree. After a few minutes of futile flesh grinding I went to milking the tree for all I could get. My attempt ended about where the tree did. So it goes.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Sep 17, 2012 - 04:42pm PT
My attempt ended about where the tree did. So it goes.
You should try next year. The tree become taller and it help you to pass the crux

Trad climber
Sep 17, 2012 - 05:15pm PT
The Yawn up in Tuolumne needs to be on that list.

Trad climber
Sep 17, 2012 - 05:31pm PT
When I was real skinny and my chest was not nearly as thick, I did the SS and I really don't remember any problems. As I remember it took us about 7-8 hours, and the NEB of Higher took us 5-6 hours.

I never got up Generator Crack on the one try I gave it.

Three years ago I did NEB with a sub-30 year old guy I met in the Valley who was an experienced climber. It took us about 9-10 hours.

You better take into account how thick your chest is.
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't fit thru now.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 17, 2012 - 05:57pm PT
The Wilson Overhang is quite easy if you stay outside and use the face holds for stemming. Enter the Narrows near the belay, I explored outside and didn't find an easy passage. I've done the SS the past two Octobers.
I think that the crux pitch is the one getting to the Narrows....kinda polished.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 17, 2012 - 06:12pm PT
All in all, it takes time to get to the point where you can overcome the difficulties and feel like you did it in good style. That's a satisfying feeling and patience and endurance are key to this and other classics that often see a lot of bails.
Knowing what I know now, having been humbled as a journeyman 5.9 climber on this route, I approached it with a cavalier attitude and paid for that.

Remember, it took two of the best climbers of the day to climb this thing originally.

Here's an old photo from that failed attempt. If there is a road, this is the on-ramp. The seductive start.
The seductive start.
The seductive start.
Credit: Jim Shirley

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Sep 17, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
Best route calibration suggestions so far on this thread:
NEB + Braille Book linkup
Snake Dike car-to-car in a day

If you feel good at the end of the day after each of those trips, you have done a few 5.10 cracks and enjoy wider climbing, you are ready for a fun adventure on SS.

For me, lack of general physical conditioning was biggest factor in needing to bivy. And I went really slow on the pitch before the Narrows, too scared to wide stem out above my gear, sapping my strength in armbars and wet fists and groveling too deep inside for security. Whenever I do it again, I think focus on these 2 areas would speed up my SS time dramatically.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 17, 2012 - 06:39pm PT
No offense, but I fail to see what good doing Snake Dike in a day will provide.
Maybe do it for its own sake but don't think it would help you a bit on SS,
other than a bit of cardio.

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Sep 17, 2012 - 06:47pm PT
I only mention Snake Dike as a measure of your cardio and basic stamina/endurance. If you can do that much work and not feel dead at the end of the day, and you can do the more physical grunty moves of NEB + Braille Book, and you have the skills/experience of some 5.10 cracks, then you are about in the right spot for SS.

Agreed, nothing on Snake Dike or the approach is comparable to SS, except for the amount of calories you burn in a day. SS is still probably worse because of the type of movement, but it's in the right ballpark.

Trad climber
Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Sep 17, 2012 - 06:51pm PT
The first time we attempted it, it started raining near the top of the flying butress. We had one fifty meter rope and about 8-9 nuts, a few slings and beaners (minimum free rack). We down climbed virtually the whole route (solo). It was wet. The scariest part for me was'nt the Wilson overhang pitch, but reversing the move that (i think) is the chimney pitch to the 5.8 block at the top of it before the Wilson overhang pitch. Going up you stem an push off your left foot onto your right foot and stick the 5.8 finger lock on the block. Reversing it downclimbing, you have your right finger lock and your right foot on the right wall of the chimney and your left foot & hand on nothing. You have to let go with your right hand and, with just your right foot on the right side of the chimney stick your left foot. And, it is a bit of a reach/stem.

Dave Stutzman had already downclmbed about a half a pitch directly below me in the chimney and standing on a small hold watching me. He saw the expression on my face as I calculated where I would hit (prollie slam into to him as i flew by) and he did his best to squeeze tighter into the crack. It was a sickening feeling letting go of that finger jam, but my left foot stuck. To make it worse I had wore PA's for the first time in my life rather than my EB's because I thought they would be better in chimneys, but they were as slick as all get out, particularly since it was wet.
Oso Flaco

Gym climber
Atascadero, CA
Mar 27, 2017 - 09:31pm PT
...then, even the crickets were quiet after hearing that campfire tail.

Social climber
joshua tree
Mar 27, 2017 - 10:01pm PT
^^^i thought that was a pretty good story. I could picture it😳

i agree with snakedike not help for steck. we just went bouldering the day before we did it, but then again we did have to bivy in the narrows😏
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Mar 28, 2017 - 06:31am PT
Hysterical thread! I backed off SS on my one and only attempt when I was 18. I led the first pitch or two and realized that it was going to be too much. My partner was not as strong as I was, and I felt the weight of all those tough pitches hanging over me. We rapped. Just as we hit the trail after the traverse ledges, the sky closed up, and it poured rain for hours. Oh, that was one happy hike down, I tell you.


Mar 28, 2017 - 11:40am PT
The road to Steck-Salathe....
... continues around the corner. Don't start up the inviting off-width behind the tree... unless you want to.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 28, 2017 - 04:59pm PT
The Steck Salathe is classic, but I remember it as very long. By the time I got around to doing the climb, Dave Bircheff and I were doing it because it is classic. We realized as we were discussing what to climb that we had never done the route after years of climbing full-time in the Valley. We expected it to be good, not very hard, and straightforward.

We got up early enough to drive the wrong way from Camp 4 to the Leconte lodge parking lot. We found the 3rd and 4th class to the base. I am not sure our confidence was warranted in finding the start, but we were on our way.

I can only remember one section on the Flying Buttress: a steep, wide crack that was slightly wider inside than at the lip. I decided to climb inside and exited at the top: very secure. I think that this must be the pitch above the Wilson Overhang; on the topo I have this pitch is shown as either a 5.9 squeeze or a 5.8 flake on the right wall. I don't remember which way Dave climbed the crack, but he complained mightily---probably my protection forced him up the squeeze.

There had been ongoing discussions about the rating of the Steck Salathe; 5.8 or 5.9. Roper had rated the climb V 5.9 A3 in the 1971 Green Guide. Dave and I decided 5.9 was probably right but we could not put our finger on the exact spot it is 5.9. Several folks have told me that stuff as fallen off, and it is now harder.

At the top of the Flying Buttress, we knew Steve Wunsch had down-climbed the left side of the Flying Buttress and then climbed up the cracks leading into the main chimney all free. Roper had included it in his Green Guide:
"The route was done all free in 1970 by the devious method of dropping down from the top of the Flying Buttress and traversing to the lower Great Chimney. It seems safe to say that this dirty, highly unaesthetic variation, having been climbed once, will fade into well-deserved obscurity."

It was a little dirty on downclimbing, but the headwall looked ugly. Salathe's old bolts were probably still there and there were big pin scars. In any case, Wunsch and his variation were more to our sensibilities than screwing around with 40 feet of ugly aid climbing. Roper was so old-school. Edit: see Werner's note below.

It was my lead, and I don't remember any issues getting into the main chimney except working out how to protect myself and Dave in the down, up and across. I remember working out how not to put anything in so that Dave would have somewhat of a belay as he was downclimbing and moving sideways, probably back-cleaned my protection at the beginning of the traverse, until the rope angle became more vertical. I probably strung that pitch and next together, since I also had the Narrows lead, and I think there is another pitch between the anti-Headwall pitch and the Narrows ledge.

Once my upper body was into the Narrows with straight-forward back-feet chimneying, I turned horizontal enough in the Narrows to get upper and lower arm-bars and crabbed up enough to get my legs sideways enough to get my knees into the Narrows. Very secure and very straightforward. the comments I have read on ST about the Steck Salathe over the past years and in watching a few videos of good climbers struggling into the Narrows, we must have been practiced wide crack climbers.

So far the route had been fun. Climbing the upper chimneys is fast if you are in great shape. I remember stopping mid-pitch near the top of the chimneys and commenting to Dave that it was exhausting. I can remember getting pumped on free routes-not the Steck Salathe-but don't remember getting tired, like a day of standing in slings and nailing on steep walls. Certainly I had done all of the climbs noted above as warm-ups to the Steck Salathe, but I don't remember getting tired on any of those routes.

We were through all of the hard climbing and it was still early, but, boy, was I tired of chimneying. Once we were out of chimneying positions we quickly recovered. We did not look for the register on the summit, found a way through the Manzanita bushs--we found the 5.9!-in the gully back down to the 4-mile trail, and got back to the Lodge for dinner in the early evening.

All in all, a great climb. One of the few for which I have specific memories.

Mar 28, 2017 - 05:06pm PT
Meh .... locals run up it all the time with no rope in an hour.

One local has probably free soloed it over 50 times.

It's not 1970's - 1980's anymore ......
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