Arrowhead Arete and Spire TR

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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 28, 2007 - 01:26am PT

Arrowhead Spire, Arrowhead Arête Trip Report, Part I - history
May 26, 2007
Gary Carpenter & Ed Hartouni


I will start where I usually do for these sorts of reports, Roper's description in the Green guide:




Arrowhead Spire - South Arête pg. 133

I, 5.5 Dave Brower and Richard Leonard, September 1937. Seen from the vicinity of Camp 4, this is the obvious 100-foot pinnacle on the skyline to the right of Yosemite Point Buttress. Follow the West Arrowhead Chimney upward until about 200 feet below the first major series of chockstones. Walk out right on class 3 ledges to the south arête of the spire. Rope up on a ledge about 60 feet above the base of a huge Douglas fir. Once the first steep 30-foot wall is overcome, the climbing becomes easier to the base of a conspicuous chimney. From the top of the chimney an enjoyable, high-angle pitch over knobs leads to the top. Rappel the route. Iron: 6-8 pitons, up to 1½".




Arrowhead Arête pg. 133

III, 5.8. Mark Powell and Bill (Dolt) Feuerer, October, 1956. This is the arête which, when viewed from Yosemite Lodge, rises in striking profile above the Arrowhead Spire. Seen from Yosemite Village, it is deeply cleft on both sides by the great gashes of the West and East Arrowhead Chimneys. This classic route was once regarded as "possibly the most continuous difficult fifth-class climb in this country." It is particularly amazing that the first ascent party did the route all free.

From the top of Arrowhead Spire, rappel first into the notch, then about 50 feet down the west side. Climb steep cracks just left of an open book to a ledge 110 feet up. Work up and right for 50 feet, then continue up the center of the arête for about 150 feet. A prominent tree will be seen up and around a corner to the right. Climb to this tree, then ascend the easy "Great White Flake" which rises above. Next, climb either the center or the right side of the narrowing arête to the fantastically sharp summit ridge.

To descend, walk north along this ridge until it merges with a small buttress. Turn this on the left and follow class 2 and 3 ledges into the West Arrowhead Chimney. Three rappels are necessary – a doubled 150-foot rope is adequate. Iron: 10-12 pitons, up to 1½".




Interestingly, the quote in Roper's description is from Mark Powell himself, at least that is what Chris Jones says in his Climbing in North America. In his chapter "The Southern Californians" he recounts the era, "During the mid-1950s the general level of Yosemite climbing was inexpert. In 1956 two unsuccessful attempts were made to repeat the south-west face of Half Dome, while such hoary favorites as the Higher and Lower Cathedral Spires counted some four ascents each. In contrast to this mediocre performance, Robbins and Sherrick made the third ascent of Sentinel's north face, and Powell established a stunning free climb, Arrowhead Arête (5.8). Powell's pace was quickening..."

"Powell referred to Arrowhead Arête as 'possibly the most continuous difficult fifth-class climb in this country,' and he was probably correct. He knew that in terms of absolute difficulty it fell short of several Tahquitz climbs... Powell therefore added a grade to the rating system in an attempt to give an overall assessment of a route."

So we learn both that at least Powell thought highly of the route, but also it compelled him to create the climbs "grade" in the form that we know it today.

We also learn of Powell that he "combined an athletic asceticism with a robust liking for women and booze, and he found the Southern Californians a bunch of prudes. More to his liking were a group that surrounded civil engineer Warren Harding,..."

From Roper's Camp 4 a more complete story emerges, the quote is from the 1957 Sierra Club Bulletin report Powell wrote on the climb. But the story I like is of Roper's first time up the route recounting that by 1959 only two other ascents had been made. "...when Pratt casually said, on July 16, 'Let's go do it," pointing up at the sweeping white profile visible from Camp 4, I agreed instantly. Hours later, deep inside the West Arrowhead Chimney, the rope-up spot, I looked up at the now-grotesque swoop and its blankness and its mystery–and I rebelled. 'We'll die!' I screamed. 'Why are we here?' My words echoed off the walls of the claustrophobic chimney while Pratt sat quietly, sorting gear and staring out at the Valley far below. Finally, in a tight voice, he yelled, "Goddamn it, are you finished?'"

What Powell had written to get Roper in such a state preceded the pronouncement of being the "most continuous difficult" climb, "It is high-angle face climbing on very small holds requiring great finger and toe strength with excellent body balance and faculties keenly tuned to withstanding exposure. To the advanced rock climber this would be a very difficult test; to the less competent, a nightmare."

dfinnecy

Social climber
san joser
May 28, 2007 - 02:10am PT
I can't wait Ed, looking forward to the report. I attempted Arrowhead once about 10 years ago. As I think a few others have, we got lost on the approach and retreated to something more familiar. I'll look forward to living vicariously through your experience till I can try again.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 28, 2007 - 02:17am PT

Arrowhead Spire, Arrowhead Arête Trip Report, Part II - our ascent
May 26, 2007
Gary Carpenter & Ed Hartouni


Gary is looking for adventure climbs, but after last year's suggestion of Chockstone Chimney he was a bit gun shy. That trip bordered on epic, certainly we were at it for a very long time. But for some reason, perhaps a Zander trip report, the spire and arête had surfaced on Gary's to-do-list.

I had looked up in the general location of the Arrowhead Spire and Arrowhead Arête lots of times, but I always had the impression that it was very unesthetic. A confused jumble of blocks and deep chimneys unlike the sweeping clean faces of the other Yosemite Valley features just didn't turn me on enough to go up there and take a look. Some places are worth the work to get there, it had never occurred to me that Arrowhead Arête was one of those places.

On top of that, SuperTopo included the climb in the Yosemite Free Climbs volume, and thus eliminated the climbs "obscurity" classification. It is hard to maintain any obscurity if it is in SuperTopo. The ST beta on the climb is excellent, the start of the trail threw me off a bit, but it really does look like an intermittently used ad hoc trail. What can't be seen is that fact that this is the access to a much better trail that nearly takes you all the way to the start of scrambling. Scrambling is what you have to do to get there, and it involves thrashing through scrub, walking up sandy slopes, the whole nine yards.

Given you go up roughly 1600 feet, the trail is pretty good and in the shade. We get diverted momentarily by someone else's trail spur. We retreat and find the correct start a few hundred yards up slope. Looking from afar you would see that the approach is following one of several vegetated tiers, cliffs dividing the tiers. The trail is not so bad, you loose it then find it over and over again. We pretty much followed it to the base of the climbs, which peek in and out through the oaks on your way.

We drop our packs at the rope-up spot and get ready, admiring its "swoop and its blankness." We're here, so we opt for both the spire and the arête. Gary's got everything ready so he's got the first pitch. Up he goes then "whoa, this is a really old pin here!" comes down to me, an old ring angle. He clips it, backs it up and moves upward. Getting to the chimney and then up to a belay ledge. I follow, so far a nice easy climb.

The next lead is mine, and I get to take it to the top of the spire. There the entire sweep of the arête can be studied. From my vantage point it seemed very steep, and hard but doable. Gary comes up and we set up the rap down into the notch. Me first. Gary follows and I go again on the second rap and find the "scraggily tree" which is wearing a multicolored scarf of slingage down from the notch. I am below the tree, Gary lands next to it. Once everybody is good-to-go he takes off up the pitch. We are climbing quite deliberately for some reason. But up we go. A wide crack in the face succumbs to the thursday night practice.

The next pitch has an interesting bit... and it was my lead. There is fixed iron all the way up this route, good indication that we're seeing the logic of the climb. At the crux on this pitch you move from one corner by surmounting a bulge into another corner. Everything is perfect here, and the protection is also very good. I step and stem and make it, I'm at the belay ledge and in short order Gary follows. The pitches are short, I'm not so sure how they might be combined with a longer rope. The line of the climb is a bit wandering, and rope drag was a problem without extending the leads.

On this belay, the third on the route, we are just above the spire, making vertical feet fast. This mother is steep! the route being climbable at 5.8. Up and up swapping leads, I get the one exiting to the ridge. The "Great White Flake" pitch goes up the left side of a beautiful white flake, most of the time with scant protection (as the flake is far enough from the wall to that our wide gear isn't wide enough). The lead is quite spectacular with the spire behind and the Valley far below. This is "only" 5.7, with no protection for a pretty good stretch and the air below, it must have been a really gutsy first ascent.

The next pitch, Gary's goes up and wanders by a "natural arch" which is quite spectacular, given it's creation was an act of chance and the material properties of granite. My pitch 7 gets us to the ridge, awesome exposure all around and simple climbing. Gary takes us across the ridge and we are done with the climbing part... we get organized, change into shoes, get a bite to eat and then we start the down-scramble to the West Chimney.

Down into this loose domain to the first of three raps, the first slightly obscured from above (we rapped off a bush just above the first rap station). After finishing the last rap we are at the packs. More water, more food and off we go reversing the approach.

The climb is intimidating, and I found myself being very careful... loose holds, sand, brush, ants... it is still in a wild state, it is still an adventure climb, and it is still a real classic.

It is a very nice climb that does not seem to have been done so often. The setting is wonderful, and the climbing is good for it's 5.8 rating. That said, it's not a climb for the young 5.8 leader... of course if you get into trouble, you can yell down to the YOSAR office right below the west chimney... and who knows, maybe Werner will hear you and respond.

Classic!

Gary has pictures from his new digital... mine are in the shop being developed... I'll post late in the week....
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
May 28, 2007 - 12:32pm PT
Arrowhead Spire was my first Yosemite climb. We had a couple of goldlines, 6 pitons, no clue. Got way off route, climbed 5 pitches of something, reached the summit at sunset and then dulfer-rapped in the dark -- what a fine adventure that was to look back on.
L

climber
A small kayak on a very big ocean
May 28, 2007 - 12:35pm PT
Great TR, Ed! Can't wait to see the photos!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 28, 2007 - 01:26pm PT
I forgot to mention that I found somone's gold Black Diamond belay device at the rope up spot...
...if it's your's I'll mail it to you...
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 28, 2007 - 02:46pm PT
Really looking forward to those pics. Arrowhead Arete was my first long climb.

JL
davidji

Social climber
CA
May 28, 2007 - 04:52pm PT
Hi Ed,

Looking forward to the photos! I didn't realize your Chockstone Chimney climb was nearly an epic. It's on my list, so haven't been yet.

TradIsGood

Happy and Healthy climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 28, 2007 - 05:23pm PT
Nice TR.

I am assuming since there was no mention of it, that neither Ed nor Gary did any screaming before the start.

And times being different, Ed does not mention either one's preferences in women.
Fluoride

Trad climber
Hollywood, CA
May 28, 2007 - 07:43pm PT
Thanks for the TR. I love Arrowhead Arete. One of my all time favorites. The first two pitches are kind of bunk, but after that it just kicks all sorts of ass. It's one of the more "alpiney" climbs I've done in the valley (those who've done it know what I mean. The rock quality, the routefinding, etc).

Here's some pics I took on it last spring - I'll kill 'em off once you upload your pics later so I don't slow things down for the dial up folks

the base:


looking down at the Spire:


The top (well, top of P7, we unroped and did the "8th pitch" as ST calls it essentially as a ridgeline traverse)


Added bonus, you have killer views of Half Dome and Porcelain Wall while doing the route:

Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
May 28, 2007 - 10:13pm PT
Thanks for the TR Ed,
I loved this route. The decent is wild. Here is a picture of the top of the route looking back from the ridge.

Here is a picture of one of the rappels.

I can't wait to see your pictures.
Zander
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
May 28, 2007 - 10:15pm PT
I like your writing style Ed; laid back, practical, fun to read.
WBraun

climber
May 28, 2007 - 10:49pm PT
"... maybe Werner will hear you..."

World war 3 will happen and I still won't hear sh'it.

But if you wave I might c-ya.

Nice TR Ed and Zander.
KP Ariza

climber
SCC
May 28, 2007 - 11:55pm PT
Who needs to hear when you've seen it all-
Gary Carpenter

climber
SF Bay Area
May 28, 2007 - 11:55pm PT
Here are my pics from Saturday

Approach view of Spire & Arete



Base of Arete



Ed topping out on Spire




Spire from Arete (Belay #3)



View from Belay #4



Half Dome from 6th belay ledge



Topped out on the Arete



Looking back along the summit ridge





Descent gully



Rap 2 past very cool chockstone!!


Jaybro

Social climber
The West
May 28, 2007 - 11:59pm PT
Yow, another cool one I have somehow missed.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 29, 2007 - 12:27am PT
Man, that's incredible to look at those pics. I did that route with Phil Gleason about three days after arriving (first time) in the Valley. I think I was 18. Thirty-five years later and Ed is having the same experience, in the same place. What's time when you have the Arrowhead Arete.

JL
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 29, 2007 - 12:38am PT
Never got up there but it sure looks cool Thanks for posting Ed.

Largo- best 5.8 in the Valley? Not a lot of contenders at that grade.
nick d

Trad climber
nm
May 29, 2007 - 12:44am PT
Ed, your writing is very good! I always enjoy your postings and am inspired to work harder at my own writing. Thanks for the fun report and the inspiration!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2007 - 12:52am PT
John, what is time? I agree, the route is there and anyone of us can do it... the experience is timeless. It is a feature of climbing that it plays out on a natural, vertical stage which is nearly immutable. What is 35 years but the time between our ascents, and the fact that we are here to share our mutual experience, and marvel at Mark Powell's vision and boldness now more than 50 years ago. It would be wonderful to be able to share it with him, too; I'm happy to share it with STForum as others have also been up there.

TIG - no screaming, I think we were pretty respectful, and confident that we could pull off the climb. Many more than 3 other parties had travelled up those two climbs before us though, Roper and Pratt did good so long ago, who cares if they screamed a little.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2007 - 04:38am PT
You can see in Gary's second picture "Base of Arete" the place where Roper lost it, it is a close in space, and everything is going straight up from here... amazing that someone would find this place let alone devine a climbing route out of it!
sheepdog

Trad climber
just over the hill
May 29, 2007 - 06:58am PT
Thanks for the great TR and photos. This route holds some great memories. I did this with a good buddy in '82, during our first visit to the Valley. It was February, and we, being boneheads, got a lackadaisical start, finishing the approach sometime after noon. That start and our general sloth and incompetence led to our being benighted on the descent, with darkness catching up to us just above the big chockstone rappel. My partner wanted to continue, and I didn't (in those pre-headlamp days/nights). So he tried the chockstone rappel, and came to a stop in a meltwater stream when a big rope snarl hit his 8 ring. He got an inspired thought (think it was in a Bond film?) and removed his shoe laces and prusiked up far enough to untangle the rope, and finish the rap. That halted our descent. So we resigned ourselves to a long, cold, quiet night out, punctuated only by the occasional rock tumbling down the gully, and the sounds of laughter coming from the Ahwahnee hotel, far beneath us, where we could see drier, warmer people.
paganmonkeyboy

Trad climber
the blighted lands of hatu
May 29, 2007 - 10:40am PT
oh man that looks sweeeeeeet...nice TR and pics !
Dog

climber
May 29, 2007 - 11:12am PT
Great Climb! And report.Been up this thing a bunch of times and I took my wife up this years ago.Still is an issue for discussion in our house!Scooting across the top seemed to spook her a little bit! Intimidating is correct.Beautiful though!


What do you think about this climb Dingus? ;)
scuffy b

climber
The town that Nature forgot to hate
May 30, 2007 - 11:25am PT
Thanks for the great report, Ed.
I've been so psyched out by this climb for the past 31 years.
When I went to do it:
1)I hadn't led anything in about 6 months
2)My partner had only been bouldering for the previous 3 years
3)We got a late start
4)We were slow as slow can be
5)At the summit, at sunset, we were already wearing all our warm
gear (late March)
6)Almost walked off the 1st rappel in the dark (no lights)
7)Pulled a boulder onto myself when nearly down to the car
8)Self-rescued, arrived at the clinic 4 AM
Congratulations to all you folk who get up and down it in good
style.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 2, 2007 - 02:39am PT
Gary on the pitch 4 lead, Arrowhead Arete


Gary following pitch 5, the "White Flake" pitch


The granite "needle" that fell, broke in half, and rests on pitch 6 noted in the SuperTopo as "rock arch"... truly amazing


The view looking back along the "amazing exposed ridge" which probably would be 4th class if there weren't so much air on either side! From the "spike belay" atop pitch 7

Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 2, 2007 - 12:32pm PT
Ed,
Nice pics. Is there a consesus that this climb should still be rated 5.8 instead of the new Supertopo 5.9? I'm not getting down on the guys, just talking.
The crux of the climb for me was one of the sections still rated 5.8. I have thick hands and had trouble with the jamb at the rooflet in Ed's picture #1. In pitch 2, also my lead, the 5.8 was harder for me than the 5.9. I'm not that good at ratings. What are peoples thoughts.
Zander
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 2, 2007 - 12:41pm PT
Gary and I talked about the rating... we had a great day and were climbing strong, but deliberately... somehow this climb wasn't a fast climb.

What we came up with was the idea that nothing was harder than 5.8, but that the setting, and the continuous nature of the climbing suggested that you should be a solid 5.9 leader to pull the climb off without drama.

We didn't find the "5.9 stem" on the second pitch but the "fists" part would probably wig out a leader unfamiliar with that technique... when I pulled the "5.9 bulge" on the third pitch I didn't think it was harder than 5.8.

The "5.9 thin hands" was steep but I didn't think it matched other 5.9 thin hands in the Valley.

The climbing is so featured that it was really unusual for a Valley climb, in my opinion. It is a remote place, though you could probably yell down to the YOSAR office and be heard... or wave your tee-shirt at Werner... wear red!... and the climbing is steep.

I think it is 5.8, but that rating is only a part of the story... the White Flake was a wild pitch, and it is only 5.7, but I'm sure glad we've been hitting the OW a lot 'cause it would be a pants filler if your technique was bogus.
TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Jun 10, 2008 - 01:44pm PT
Cool thread and a cool looking climb

thanks for the post
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jun 10, 2008 - 02:02pm PT
Thanks again for your excellent report. Your sense of good adventure climbs is impeccable. I eagerly await your next report.

John
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 10, 2008 - 02:57pm PT
thanks Ed-great TR and brings back fond and not so fond memories. In Sept 1960, Mort Hempel, Phil Scott, Art "the Move" Gran and myself made an attempt on the Arrowhead Arete.
On that long and difficult approach, Gran, who was ahead of us all, knocked a large rock loose. We all scattered and tried to decipher which way it would go. I lost and rolled with the rock for 500 ft to the base. Beat up, severely bruised and one hell of a mess i was fortunate to have no broken bones. Scott who had grown up in Hawaii, took off his boots, put me on his back and carried be to the valley floor and the hospital. Rugged dude.

Spent a good month on crutches and remember the high school coach calling me chicken shi#t for not playing football, i could only smile.

Went back the next summer and completed the route with a smaller crew. Also climbed the East Arrowhead Buttress Overhang Bypass route that summer with Roper. Another fun trip that summer was a climb of Castle Rock Spire with Roper and Powell. Have boxes and boxes of slides and photos from this era but have to get through the scanning process first. Someday!

cheers
scuffy b

climber
watching the flytrap
Jun 10, 2008 - 04:22pm PT
A small coincidence here, Guido.
When I did this climb in 1976...the day before, I had been
talking with the same Phil Scott. He told a story of a climber
hit in the face by rockfall, who required an emergency
tracheotomy, performed by a surgeon who was part of his group.

When I dislodged a boulder nearly at the bottom of the all-night
descent, it struck my face on its way to squishing my arm.
Before I hit the ground, I'd already determined all my teeth
were intact and I probably didn't have a broken jaw.

We had just enough matches for my partner to check my pupils,
then we continued staggering down the hill.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 10, 2008 - 08:17pm PT
Another small coincidence- Its March 1988,Boche and I just sailed my boat into Honolulu after a 17 day passage from Tahiti and were in the Hawaii Yacht Club sucking down some tall cool ones and junk burgers. I'm in the head and I hear this voice which could only be Phil Scott .As you know, few people have a voice as distinctive as Phil. Sure enough it was-had not seen him since the Arrowhead Arete climb in 1960! He had been visiting his brother, a retired navy submarine commander. I remember when Phil was a student at Cal he lived in a tent in Strawberry canyon behind the Botanical Gardens. Quite a character.

cheers
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Jun 10, 2008 - 10:12pm PT
excellent thread - thanks so much!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 10, 2008 - 11:24pm PT
Roped soloed Arrowhead Arete one day when I didn't have a partner and figured ignoring this route after living in Yosemite for many, many years was lame.

The route was stout but doable but I really got gripped on the approach when I stayed right of the gully when I should have been left. If the munge and hummoks gave out, I wouldn't be typing this!

Peace

karl
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 12, 2013 - 07:37pm PT
Linda, Bela and PeterC and I were up there yesterday... great day and great companions

Bela belaying pitch 1 from the tree in the notch


Linda contemplating the moves through the Pitch 2 crux...


...and at the top of Pitch 3


end of the day traverse


PeterC was too fast for my camera...
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 12, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
it was a wonderful day



Half Dome, Mount Clark, Gray Peak, Triple Divide Peak, Red Peak, Mt. Starr King
the high country
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 1, 2014 - 03:37pm PT
bump for the stoke
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Mar 1, 2014 - 03:46pm PT
thx, nice bump Ed

Squido was just up there, so had been thinking about it.
Alpamayo

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Mar 1, 2014 - 03:54pm PT
Thanks for the pics/report

My (then to be) wife walked up to do this in fall '01 and she slipped on the approach and messed up her wrist. We turned around and went up to hike Half Dome the next day. Might have never done that hike if it hadn't have happened. It ended up being a fantastic hike. Now that I'm living in the area, I need to go up and check this out again.

BTW Ed, we have a mutual acquaintance, a geology prof from UNC-Chapel HIll and she said to say hi.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 1, 2014 - 10:51pm PT
Alpamayo, there are no bad days in the Valley, for sure, everything you do is graced by the magic of the place...

and tell our friend "Hi" from me, great days in Tuolumne Meadows with her, looking forward to more in the future...

WBraun

climber
Mar 1, 2014 - 11:01pm PT
there are no bad days in the Valley,

You wish that was true ......
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