Half Dome in a day


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Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 30, 2006 - 06:20pm PT
I'm planning to climb the Regular Northwest Face route in a day. I've done a good deal of research online, but some questions remain. I plan on freeing as much as possible and aiding whenever it is faster. I'm very comfortable with leading 5.9 trad.

Q1-How many 60m ropes should I bring to either fix the first pitches or take on the route? Is it reasonable to drop coiled ropes after jugging them (for later pickup)?

Q2-Would it be a good idea to have cam hooks for aiding?

Q3-I've read advice saying to bring stoppers, not to bring stoppers, to bring wires, not to, BD Camalot #5/#4 not needed. If you've done this route before, what gear was needed/worked best?

Q4-If you've done the route in a day, what were the biggest time wasters and time savers for you?

Any other helpful advice is much appreciated.

Trad climber
auburn, california
Aug 30, 2006 - 06:34pm PT
Q1: we just brought 1 70m, which is great for linking pitches and gives you more rope in case you have to bail. 2 ropes will be slow.
Q2: we didn't bring any hooks. full set of nuts and a couple small cams sufficed. keep in mind the zig zags (all the rest of the route) have ALOT of fixed iron and mank.
Q3: we brought a minimal, yet totally ample, rack: doubles starting at blue metolius up to #2 BD, then just 1 #3 BD. no big cams. also, double set of nuts.
Q4: time savers were 1 rope, NOT bivying at the base (just hike up the death slabs at 2am or so and go for it), minimal rack, lead in 2 blocks. time wasters: we brought 2 ascenders, but i think you could get by with 1 ascender and gri-gri. there's not a huge amount of jugging.
handsome B

Gym climber
Saskatoon, Saskatchawan
Aug 30, 2006 - 06:56pm PT
Fix-n-Fire is not the same as In-A-Day.

Now for the helpful stuff:
The Death Slabs are more dangerous than ever since the rockfall earlier this summer. I believe the NPS is recommending you avoid this approach.
Learn and use short-fixing on the first six pitches, they all have bomber two-bolt anchors.
Simul-climb the 4th class section in the middle.
Do the Zig-Zags in two pitches instead of 3.

Rack: Doubles from Red C3 to BD #3
No need for nuts, the Zig-Zags are FULLY fixed.

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 30, 2006 - 07:51pm PT
"Fix-n-Fire is not the same as In-A-Day."
Point taken.
When short fixing, are you self belaying with a GriGri or some other method?
What knot/setup is best for short fixing the rope at the anchor?

Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Aug 30, 2006 - 07:54pm PT
if you are calling yourself a 5.9 leader, you definately need one #3 and one #3-1/2 cam (old style- grey cam), plus doubles of everything else (maybe triples in the finger sizes if you are not even leading 5.10 on gear). bring 10-12 2' slings and 8-10 QD's.

you don't need any nuts at all, seriously..

link the chimneys into one long pitch, clipping all fixed gear w/ long slings and walking (but back cleaning) additional gear. you can leave small tcu's next to all the pitons if you want additional mental security. you can do this w/ a 70m or simul climbing ~15' w/ a 60m.

leave gear w/ slings in all the cruxes so the 2nd can yard on the sling and yard on the cam and be through the crux quickly.

decide early on that you are going to pull on gear when it's the fastest thing to do (it took me 1/3 of the route to get used to the idea and it may have cost some time).

don't fix lines, just carry one rope.

make sure you are responsible up at the base wrt food storage in a bear canister.

learning to self belay on this route will not make you faster, and besides that, it only makes sense if the 2nd is jugging. the 2nd ought to jug only the pitches you straigt up aid climb.

Trad climber
Eldorado Springs
Aug 30, 2006 - 11:56pm PT
I found a small BD micronut #3 or so to be very beneficial piece on the pitch after Thank God ledge. Other than that, I agree you probably could get away without using nuts. Me and my bro did it with one 60m which is nice and you can still combine alot of pitches. Be careful on the Robbins traverse to lower out on enough slack before you start ascending as the second so you won't penji to far. Tons of fixed gear makes this route go extra fast. Have fun and Cheers! AK

Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Aug 31, 2006 - 12:22am PT
If you are a 5.9 leader you will not be able to do it in a day.


Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Aug 31, 2006 - 11:37am PT
Ask yourself if you have done enough long climbs fast enough to want to try this. For instance, you should be able to climb East Buttress of Middle followed by NE Buttress of higher in a day without feeling wasted or coming down at midnight. If you are not solid on 5.10 lead, Half Dome is going to be a workout.

The above advice seems about right. Iíd skip the bigger cams, but maybe take a few smaller stoppers. Use lots of runners.

The chimneys can slow you down. Make sure you have done enough to be able to keep up your speed. We were a bit slow on the zigzags since we donít aid much.

Simul-climbing and linking pitches saved a lot of time. As did climbing in blocks.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Aug 31, 2006 - 01:46pm PT
Q1 I would bring a single rope. There tends to be a lot of activity at the base. I wouldn't really advise dropping ropes.

Q2 Skip the cam hooks.

Q3 Do you need nuts? No. However... I only had a double set of cams and was afraid to leave cams behind on the zig zags in case I needed the same piece twice in a row. Yes, there is a "ton" of fixed gear on the zig zags. However, it was reasuring to leave a couple of my own stoppers instead of totally relying on the mank that was there. A half dozen stoppers from small to medium is pretty light.

Q4 Lead in blocks and simul climbing the middle was the biggest time savers. My partner was slow trying to jug the zig zags with a couple of ropemans (didn't help that he cleaned two "fixed" stoppers). Starting three hours after it got light and getting caught by darkness at Thank God ledge were the biggest time killers.

Don't try to short fix. On aid routes this can save time, but I can't see how somebody (especially somebody who hasn't already done a lot of short fixing) could save time on ~5.9 pitches.

I've heard of "5.9 leaders" doing it in a day. But you will have to be a fast 5.9 leader. Know how to yard through. Have your anchor building/belay/transitions/blocks etc dialed. Be fast enough on chimneys and aid climbing.

The sun hits the face around 2:00 pm. Ideally, try to climb so that the moon is in the "2:00pm" position around sun set. This is a little before the full moon. Moonlight shining directly on the face makes a huge difference (a full moon that is not yet shining on the face helps, but not near as much). Carrying a real headlamp (and a spare) and keep climbing.

If you really think you are good enough to climb it in a day, then I would save the weight and only take 1 or 2 blue camalots and nothing bigger.

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Aug 31, 2006 - 03:27pm PT
Good information so far

-no nuts necessary
-being a solid VALLEY 5.9 leader will suffice (although the climbing is easy 5.9 by valley standards)
-one rope
-Its getting chilly in the valley, bring a jacket now
-agree with the 2:00am start

Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Aug 31, 2006 - 04:48pm PT
I was solid on 5.11, leading every pitch I was only able to get to the top of Sandy in a day. From the ground it looks more like a Taqhuitz route more than a Big Wall.


Trad climber
Las Vegas
Aug 31, 2006 - 04:54pm PT
How many bong hits on your way to big sandy?
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand, Man.....
Aug 31, 2006 - 04:58pm PT
Juan... please.. .the lies must stop "I was solid on 5.11"

Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Aug 31, 2006 - 05:02pm PT
guess that just goes to show ya that gym grades don't transfer well (?)


no doubt that swinging leads or trading bloks makes it all go easier.

or maybe you are soft and don't know it...
want some advice on yer sleeping bag selection or nail polish color?

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Sep 1, 2006 - 02:08pm PT
I heard that you can climb half Dome 30% faster if you switch to black nail polish.


Anyway, now that you have heard all the advise, the most important thing is to train to move fast. The climb is more long than hard.

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 1, 2006 - 03:06pm PT
Thanks for all the advice.

I'm surprised to hear advice against short-fixing on the free pitches. Why wouldn't you want the second to jug as many pitches as possible? If the leader can start the next pitch before the second arrives at the belay, this would be almost as efficient as simul-climbing.

Of course, you'd need an extra line for bringing up the freshly cleaned gear.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Sep 1, 2006 - 08:53pm PT
I haven't done this route yet, but I know...
RE short fixing:

#1 - selfbelaying on 5.9 free climbing can be hard and scary..and slow.

#2 - jugging can be harder, more tireing and slower then free climbing on easy terrain < then 5.9-5.10...especially if you are a nOOb aid climber. this is because juggers have the tendency to use their arms alot more then their legs.

I would try to link pitches and simo-climb whenver possible, taking care to place a lot more pro when simo-climbing.

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2006 - 10:41pm PT
OK here is some advise from a not so solid 5.10 leader, dialed with easy to moderate aid done some walls incuding a few grade v's in a day, weekend warrior who happens to have done rnwf of half dome in a day. We did this route in 4 or 5 blocks I don't remember. We did fix every pitch for the second + did some short fixing (mainly just to clear the belay) used a short thin tag line for the gear 30 feet or so. Took 1 rope, 60 seemed fine. Rack, definitly didn't take #4 camalot and only doubles on most cams I personally would take a few nuts. They don't weigh much. We did quite a bit of training before we attempted this including some longer link ups in the valley, but you don't have to be a super great free climber to sucede on this route you mainly need to be dialed in your systems and be confident in your partner. We were able to do the route in about 15 hours. I know that isn't that fast but it was our first time on the route and just getting to the top made me happy. So just make sure your dialed if you think you're ready get an early start and go for it. If you think you can do it you probably can. Good Luck have fun.


Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Sep 1, 2006 - 11:18pm PT
betchya you can climb 50+m of 5.8 on TR quite a bit faster than you can jug it

Trad climber
Evergreen, CO
Sep 2, 2006 - 02:04am PT
I dunno, 2 sets of jugs sounds like the worst advice yet. You want a grigri for the second in the middle pitches so that you can simulclimb. Add a ropeman and you have a second set of ascenders, ghetto style. I would personally assess the strengths of your team to determine if you want to fix or you want to free. While seconding is sometimes faster, it can also be alot more work for both partners, as the leader has to belay so doesn't get as much rest. Shortfixing works great if you have your systems dialed, otherwise it can slow you down. If you and your partner are mostly free climbers, go free style and go as light as possible. If you are wall climbers then fix and jug.

If you are good at pulling on gear you can make it to the Robbins traverse before breaking out the aiders. Try to free as much of the pitch after the traverse as possible as it is tricky aid. Make sure to take the "airy 5.7 chimney" vs the deeper 5.9 squeeze, there are tons of fixed pins on the 5.7 variation. The double cracks pitch is the only pitch where a #4 friend might be wanted by a 5.9 leader. If you are confident with liebacking then skip the bigger piece. Oh yea, and the direct finish above the final bolt ladder seemed faster than the finish with the downward traverse left.

You want to be on Big Sandy before it is dark, you might have a hard time finding the zig zags in the dark as there are several splitter crack systems between the double cracks and the zig zags. Emergency space bags and chemical hand warmers make forced bivys MUCH more enjoyable.

Good luck and have fun!
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