Worst Descents


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Stanley Hassinger

Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 15, 2007 - 10:22pm PT
A recent thread concerning the North Dome Gully descent in Yosemite got me wondering...

What is the worst descent from a climb (or other vertical adventure) that you've ever done?

For my part, it's North Dome Gully followed by East Ledges, but I haven't done that many big descents.

Let's hear it.


Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Aug 15, 2007 - 10:56pm PT
Hmmm. Not necessarily "big" but I've done a bunch of interesting walk-offs in Joshua Tree.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Aug 15, 2007 - 11:03pm PT
Worst descents in my past have been when one of the following things happened:
 somebody got injured
 near-death experience
 lost gear on the descent
 had to do a forced bivvy
 got stranded and had to be rescued

Worst descents (in terms of risk of injury) in Yosemite in average conditions, in my opinion:

1. Sentinel
2. Slabs below Half Dome
3. North Dome Gully
4. Kat Walk (potential for big rocks to come crashing down and not much of a place to hide)
5. East Ledges (not really dangerous, just long)

Aug 15, 2007 - 11:05pm PT
Try the west gully descent off El Cap. It's nasty.

All those that have done this one please raise your hands.

Another one is Eagle creek from the top of El Cap. A Narley bitch.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 15, 2007 - 11:06pm PT
We did a descent in the Bugaboos that involved terrible weather (thunder and lightning and rain and hail), and a lot of rappels. Something like 15. For the last few, we were using the slings from our chalk bags, and taking slings off our hexes and things, and tying them together. The only thing we had left was our shoelaces, and the ropes.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Aug 15, 2007 - 11:16pm PT
Grade III in the mountains
My partner is slow
It rains on crux
He falls
We don't reach rim until 20 minutes before dark
Ropes jam on rappel
We descend in dark w/o light
When it seems to get too hard we climb back up and bivy with nothing
When light comes we descend again only to find we did the crux of the descent 1) down 2) then up 3) then down again in that morning

DOH !!!

Trad climber
Tucson, AZ
Aug 16, 2007 - 12:36am PT
The descent off of Elephant Head in the Santa Ritas south of Tucson. After the first half mile or so, there is no trail. Just pick a friendly looking drainage and begin the cactus-whacking. Fun Fun. Made even moreso the last time by discovering that my friend's truck had been trashed by asshats on motorbikes.
Handjam Belay

Gym climber
expat from the truth
Aug 16, 2007 - 12:45am PT
The hike OUT of the Black Canyon with a pig.

Aug 16, 2007 - 12:46am PT
Off the top of granite mountain in the dark, without headlamps. Our clothes were pinned to our bodies from falling into prickly pear.

I have carried a few climbing casualties in litters down in daylight, and suffered more of the same.

Aug 16, 2007 - 12:50am PT
Having done several of the potential candidates offered above, i gotta say that...

"The hike OUT of the Black Canyon with a pig."

...sounds like real hell. How many ticks did ya get? And how much PO?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Aug 16, 2007 - 12:53am PT
I'll second the nomination of Sentinel.

If you tried to descend from North Dome by sticking close to the dome (like I mistakenly did once) wading through the brush, and then did the NDG, that would be worse.

Werner, I'll always wondered about EL Cap Gully. Tell all!

HD slabs are no picnic


Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Aug 16, 2007 - 12:53am PT
I've done the Black hike, but that's not a descent. That's a retreat.

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Aug 16, 2007 - 03:05am PT
the thing about the north dome gully is that everyone talks about how insane it is. So then when you do it, its like "Oh, that was it? No ring of fire? No pit of magma? No giant flying boulders to dodge while hiking a steep narrow trail jumping through the ring of fire and over the pit of magma?"

at least that was what i thought..
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Aug 16, 2007 - 03:41am PT
With North Dome Gully being a descent from the Royal Arches (many folks first long, long trad climb) and also the South Face of the Column (many folks first wall) it's just been the "trad descent" that's taken the Descent Suffering Virginity away from a lot of folks. That accounts for the impression it's left on many.

The first cut is the deepest...


Wild Bill

Aug 16, 2007 - 10:50am PT
They are all hard when it's dark.
J. Werlin

Aug 16, 2007 - 11:00am PT
Third on the Sentinel.

Long out of H2O,
off route carrying pig.
Ah, the mazanita.

North Dome gully seemed like cake.

The Black sure has some good "approach" descents.
Not fully appreciated 'till the ivy rash breaks out later.

Trad climber
Aug 16, 2007 - 11:28am PT
cables route down longs with full bigwall gear complete with an all nighter death march back to the car ranks tops of my list thus far.

had we not tunnlevisioned on returning to civilization a bivy at chasm view to finish our whiskey would have softened the blow.


Gym climber
Aug 16, 2007 - 11:39am PT
I'd rather it be dark than it be raining. I got caught in a downpour on a route in the Meadows once. The rap station was next to a waterfall, my chalk bag looked like the inside or a washing machine that had too much detergent.

State of Mine
Aug 16, 2007 - 11:58am PT
i dont know what the worse on is. but slipping down the 1/2 dome slabs in a hail/thinderstorm freaked my ass out. in comparison the east ledges was a piece of cake and also far better than the Black's approach descents. thank god i never had to go back up those.

one time i descended the gully just west of Warbonnet in the winds. after we got down hige blocks rolled down the sucker, that was scary.

Trad climber
Aug 16, 2007 - 11:58am PT
1000 foot walk off after Snake dike broke my heart, and burned my thighs.
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