The Porcelain Wall - Yosemite


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Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 22, 2008 - 06:50pm PT
We got into a discussion of the Porcelain Wall in Aaron’s 2007 climbing season thread, but that doesn’t seem like the right place to continue. So, now we have a thread to discuss all things Porcelain, and what it’s like to be that bull in the china shop.

The Porcelain Wall (Half Dome’s little brother) got its name from Harding’s original route, “Porcelain Wall.” In the mid-80s a huge rockfall ripped down the wall, decimating everything in the vicinity of the base. Today, there are seven different routes on the wall, two of which have been repeated. Until 2006, when Aaron, Nick, and Dave each climbed a different line, the wall had never seen a second ascent. It was the wall of no repeats, the wall of obscurity.

Half Dome and the Porcelain Wall from the Valley floor.

Half Dome and the Porcelain Wall from the summit of Washington Column.

The following are the seven routes on the Porcelain Wall, from left to right:

 Luminescent Wall – Walt Shipley and John Barbella, 1987
 Sky is Falling – Eric Kohl and Bryan Law, 1998
 Porcelain Wall – Warren Harding, Steve Bosque, and Dave Lomba, 1976
 When Hell Was in Session – Eric Kohl and Pete Takeda, 1995
 House of Cards – Dave Turner, 2006
 Strange World – Bryan Law and Eric George, 1999
 Sargantana – Silvia Vidal and Pep Massip, 1997

Looking up from the base.

Until recently, there hasn’t been much talk about this prominent, yet obscure wall.

Mungeclimber started a thread about Sky is Falling a little while ago:

Here’s where we began:

Aaron’s thread:

Hey, you climbed the Porcelain Wall in 2006, at the same time as Dave and Nick, right? That wall went seven years since the last ascent and there were no second ascents until you guys went up there. Do you know anything about Dave’s route? Have you seen a topo? Where does it start and where does it go? How many holes? What did you think of Strange World? Got any other Porcelain info that you would like to share with us? Nice job up there!

Hey Nick, are you out there? Got any stories for us?

minerals-yeah the porcelain rocked! one of my fav solo experiences, thanks for putting up such a stellar route! strange world was rad, by far the most natural route ive done, only 30 holes on the route and almost every belay had 2-3 bolts. the right or flight was hard but i still coulda chopped one rivet! steep as f*#k and good aid. 9 days on route with tons of storms.
i don't know much about daves route but i know the hole count was less than when hell was in session.
it was awesome to be up there with nick simul soloing right next to me. great wall but i totally botched the descent and ended up on the wrong side of the falls in spring and had to back track and wander around for hours dying of lack of beer and ice cream.

Yo guys, I´ts been I while since I posted here last time... Yeah, we had lot´s of fun on the Porcelain Wall. We went up there once with no gear to check the aproach, Aaron still had his gear on the top of El Cap, he climbed Native Son... Me and Dave started hiking our loads to the base, set up a nice base camp to the right side of the wall... Got all the water we needed from a snow bank and started fixing. Dave´s route, House of Cards, starts by Sargantana... I fixed till pitch 4, Kohl and Takeda´s anchors had just the bolts, no hangers, the first and second pitches were all mossy and wet, the upper pitches on the slab were kinda hard, specially the one before the tree. a bunch os blind beaks a couple of rivets and a huge hook traverse, it didn´t end there, I still had to bust some free moves on a loose flake and trhow a sling on the loose tree, it took me 4 or 5 tries to get the job done, once I climbed up the small tree I had to throw another sling on the stronger tree and hoping not to take a whipper on the slab, that wouldn´t be nice. Dave decided to wait for his friend Matt while Aaron and myself kept moving camp... From the tree above the thing got very steep, I had to climb the tree and get to the first rivet, as the thing got higher my biggest concern was to fall on the tree. The A4 pitch was also scary and higher up I got to this wide, loose, massive and sharp blocks pointing at me and hollow... The A5 pitch was short, about 35 or 40 meters, felt good on it, some loose and flaky rock to get to the bottom of the big roof. A couple of pitches of blank rock and a massive rivet ladder, good job for those drillers, I had a hard time hooking the hangers with the tip of my fingers and on the top step of my aiders. The highlight of the route was the Yellow Planaria feature, got really strong updrafts that day, my ropes were flying over my head and my bags were going all over making things harder... Oh that yellow feature, 60 meters of a big suffer fest. the corner was blind I almost ran out of blades and beaks, I fell on a fixed head 3 moves from the anchor, it was getting dark and I didn´t, I thought I was going for the big ride but an upside down knifeblade, somethimes I thank God I was born lightweight, had to jummar up back to the pice hoping for the thing not to pop, replaced the head and got to the anchor, this one was alright, all the hangers were there, I decided to clean in the dark, forgot my water bottle and had to clean and haul with my mouth dry as f*#k... Got the day off the next day to enjoy the view and my body was really sore. f*#king smashed my finger placing a circle head to get to the big ledge. Got a storm and couldn´t really climb again. The pitch above the ledge started with a big traverse on a big flake nad going up some rivets and a bunch of hooks climbing the "death block" to get to the anchor. Last pitch was just hard topping out, everything was wet. Couldn´t really see much up there, was foggy and snowing. Misse the trail on the descent, Aaron toped out 2 days before I did and the same thing happened to him, I spent 9 hours with a 80lbs bag on my back, I always overload myself, got to the other side of the falls, could see the tourists but couldn´t traverse, was a big epic, but I lived, oh yeah when I got to the bus stop they were not running anymore, had to walk one more mile to Curry and hitchhiketo camp 4. The monkeys sent. Peace you all and sorry if it was too detailed pitch by pitch. Good job for the firs ascenters, that was one oh the hardest things I´ve climbed. Fun though. RIP 03/18/2008

that was great fun wasnt it nick? we had a supergood hang at the base. the snow melt gave us all our water so that was good. i remember watchig nick try and get to the tree, throwing a cam on a long sling while pimping a layback! i was way gripped watching that! remember when i dumped the ledge after blasting and lost the bong in the bergschrund! the sewer pitch was running with so much water drowning was a concern. i got totally hosed becuz my stuff was on the summit of el cap still after an april solo of native son. i went back to get it right after topping out and the fixed lines were gone! so i tried to do the falls trail but the snow was over my head. no dice. went back up to the east ledges with a borrowed rack and rope to try and climb the east ledges but luckily cedar and renan were fixing it! then i could contiue my shuttle of gear directly from the summy of el cap to the base of the porcelain. i believe it was like a 5 day turnaround!

Nice one Aaron... Thank´s for the add´s on the TR bro, so much to say... That was a sick ascent for all of us... It was epic for Aaron to rescue his bags from the top of el cap, I remember watching you on Native Son from the meadow, you weren´t moving cause of that storm... Remember you got your bags from the top and hiked to the base of the Porcelain to join us, you were psyked and not f*#king around... The ringtale cats were there, The tube of fun. You dropped your device and went all the way down to get it, I´m glad you found. You found Eric Kohls beak with his initials on. Aaron kept falling and screaming like a mofo, the placement didn´t want to stick, but you kept trying and got things done. The huge blocks we dropped from up there, there was one that even hit your haul bag... Lot´s of storms... Hope to simul solo something again, was thinking on going highr up and move camp to half dome. Peace and keep adding memories from the good seasons. N


Aaron, it’s great to hear that you enjoyed Strange World and I really appreciate your nice comments; that makes my day! That route is probably my favorite of all time and the one that I am most proud of. Nice job of soloing it! There was only one rivet on the “Right or Flight” pitch, if I remember correctly… after the string of beaks off of the belay and a dicey hook move. Is that the one? I was probably gripped, hanging on that hook! I always thought that Eric’s (George) pitches were harder. He led the wickedly steep second-to-last pitch with “The Hand” and I was gripped just cleaning it. What did you think of that pitch? “Agent Orange” was my favorite pitch (and probably still is…).

Nick, I just got sucked into your blog website for who knows how long… You’ve got some great photos on there! Sweet shots of your El Cap climbs! And your Porcelain video is awesome! Way cool! I watched it three times and the music is good. Funny to see Clay Wadman’s handwriting (phone number) on the topo… You guys got the topo from “Obscurities”, Chris got the topo from Clay, and Clay got the topo from Eric? Ah, the life of a topo… You did a great job with the video and nice job on getting the second ascent of an ominous route!

“…what you call… steepness…” Classic!!!

Check out Nick’s video here:

Well, that ought to get us going. I have a bunch of photos of the two routes that we did as well as some text that I wrote a while back, but it’s all in storage. Maybe I can grab it and plug my computer in at another friend’s house this weekend where I get a wireless signal.

For starters, here’s Klaus doing his best Batman impersonation on the second-to-last pitch of Sky is Falling. Note the triangular summit block – the Diving Board.

(Edited post to add more photos)

Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 22, 2008 - 06:53pm PT
Where's Dave?

Big Wall climber
Feb 22, 2008 - 07:19pm PT
dude the hand was the gnar. it took me 4 hours spread over 2 days to climb the single move off the thumb. the inside of the palm was chimneying and awkward aid. off the thumb i placed a s.o. angle up n a roof flake. from this placement i was forced to top step out a roof to BARELY place my longest LA 1/4" upside down in a rooflet. it failed time and time again. i couldn't stand the daisy falls after the first 2 hours and built an anchor and rapped for the day. in the AM i jugged back up to the piece and took another 2 hours of daisy falls. my skydiving instructor perry noticed a curve in my spine after this. finally got it to stick and sent the pitch. gnarly sh#t man.
the right or flight only had the one rivt and youre out on beaks and heads facing a factor 2 fall but the hook is right above the rivet. its original so i left it. the rest of the pitch was tied off pins, hurps and drilled horizontal hooking to expanding cams to reach the anchor. pretty hard and i think that youd hit the ramp if you fell, breaking something from a huge whipper.
broke a rib cleaning the lawnmower pitch. lower out and dont jump off folks. i also HOOKED grass. i equalized two hooks pounded in grass and step upto a twig of a tree! threw the chunk of grass off after i used it!
the red and black was sick! super steep, good aid.
agent orange was cool solutionpockets or something and was weird cam placments, took a 20 ftr near the top of that one when a beak blew. 14 heads and beaks in a row and a 2 head held the fall. weathered good storms under the 4 roof bivi. winds strong enough to blow me AND the haulbags up off the anchor.
i got shut down on the upper slab in a storm as i could't climb 5.7 slab in the rain. had to rap back to the bags and hangout for another day.
ripped a TON of small flakes on the topout while hooking. blew screamers on beaks and fell on rivets. missed a bat hook and ended up enhancing OR chiseling hooks to get past the spot. not proud of it and someone should fill it. but i felt i had to do it.
got super lost on the descent. took the gully between broderick and liberty cap to the wrong side of the falls in raging conditions. tourists were 15 ft from me and i couldnt get there. had to reclimb 5th class with a load, traverse the slabs, throw my haulbag off a small cliff and down climb a waterfall to get back to the bridge. i was very happy to run into tom evans, dave and matt back at the lodge. great time on the wall and partying at the base.
dave is headed to the states in a week i believe. he is in chile.
Double D

Feb 22, 2008 - 09:07pm PT
Man that wall is pretty looking! Thanks for the pictures.

Cardiff by the sea
Feb 22, 2008 - 09:56pm PT
F*#king awesome thread and photos!!!

The Eye of the Snail
Feb 22, 2008 - 10:04pm PT
Turner's partner on that route lurks in here sometimes. He'd probably spray it down for us when he rolls in.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Feb 22, 2008 - 10:06pm PT
Great Stuff!

Feb 22, 2008 - 10:22pm PT
Awesome! Thanks for the thread. Was reading my old journal the other night and came upon, 7/19/87 backed off of Hollow Flake, 7/20 brunch, hiked up to Porcelain Wall with Walt and Bar. So cool to see these pics!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 22, 2008 - 10:51pm PT

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Feb 22, 2008 - 11:42pm PT
thx for sharing the photos Klaus, great colors on the stone there.

thx Min for starting the thread.

fires the imagination
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 23, 2008 - 12:07am PT
Nicola, these are completely amazing photos.....we just dont’ see this point of view in climbing and mountaineering. Although clearly we should. Spectacular humanism. I always wondered what this wall looked like, too. Thanks to Klaus. Really good stuff, people.


Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 23, 2008 - 12:08am PT

A true wall master in his element – Eric Kohl doing some “not-so-hippie” hooking... This is the traverse pitch (p. 12 – see Klaus photo above) of Sky Is Falling, where we diverged from the Harding route and went left; Harding drilled straight up from this point (mega blank). Klaus thought this section of the wall was cut by a thin horizontal crack and we were hoping for a dreamy blade traverse. When I got to the belay of the previous pitch I looked across the wall and there was no crack. Uh, oh… “Hey, your pitch is blank!” I yelled. Klaus was not happy to hear this. I’ve got a story ‘bout that for later… The next day, he managed to make some sense of some randomly dispersed features and ended up with a pretty wild pitch with a few rivets, lots of hooking, some penjis and tensions, and some effort. At one point, after a desperate penji that took several attempts, he struggled to get a hook to stick; I could tell that this section was hard because things aren’t difficult for Klaus very often. It’s a privilege to belay him and watch him work.

Crestline CA
Feb 23, 2008 - 12:10am PT
Thanks for the posts all you guys... this is what wall climbing is about folks.... love to read about it from the horses mouths!

Social climber
The Deli
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 23, 2008 - 12:37am PT
More on pitch 12…

On that traverse pitch, Klaus placed a #1 blade straight up into the top of that jagged-flake-looking-thing (the high-point of the rope in Klaus’ pic). When I got to it, I carefully lowered out from it. Later, after I finished cleaning the pitch, Klaus says something like… “Damn, I didn’t think that blade was going to hold you!” (I outweigh him by at least 45 to 50 pounds.) This was after I already had to take a big swing (more than expected) because the rivet hanger popped off of the first rivet while he was doing a penji and I didn’t have an extra lower-out line. Woohoo!!!

Nick, those pics are sweet! Thanks for posting them! In your second pic, the mid-80s rock scar is visible as the large patch of cleaner, slightly darker gray rock in the center of the wall above. That whole section (to the left of the huge roof) that is surrounded by wide flakes cut loose. And of course, Klaus wanted to climb right through it. You bagged yourself a proud second ascent there, solo.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 23, 2008 - 01:48am PT
there must be more...keep the pics comin'
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 23, 2008 - 02:24am PT
Nicola has a nice big photo of Porcelain Wall on his site, but maybe it's too wide (1024) to display directly here? It's at:

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Feb 23, 2008 - 03:16am PT
really bitchen' Klaus

Big Wall climber
Feb 23, 2008 - 09:12am PT
Aaron, Dave and Amee at Base Camp
Hanging up there
Getting close to the trees
Aaron´s camp on Strange World
When Hell was in Session´s A5 pitch
First rivet ladder, right above the roof
Pitch 7 anchor
Dave Turner climbing the first pitches on the FA of House of Cards
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 23, 2008 - 11:40am PT
Great photos and stories of an amazing and exciting big wall!

How bad is the approach?

Big Wall climber
Feb 23, 2008 - 12:46pm PT
sweet pics, the yellow planaria must be the coolest feature out there.
the approach is just like the slabs to h-dizzle. after the first ropes bust right up dirt hill, traverse right and go up a grarly talus slope andd enjoy the trundling!
super sweeet pics klaus!
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