Steck-Salathe

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addiroid

Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 26, 2005 - 08:12pm PT
I know the Steck-Salathe is 5.9 but I was wondering if the harder parts were aidable if necessary? I do lead up to around 10a/b, but was wondering what the crux might be on it. If it's the chimney's that's cool, I would just suffer up them (and enjoy it) but my "hot greasy slab" limit is more like 5.9. Thanks for the input.

Also, is 5-6 days on NA Wall a reasonable estimate if we have taken 2 on Zodiac and 2.5 on TT? If not, does any one have any recommendations of a good one for 5-6 days (Muir, Dihedral??)
steelmnkey

climber
Phoenix, AZ
Apr 27, 2005 - 11:08am PT
SS is probably more like 10a/b anyway. Crux is supposed to be the Wilson Overhang now. The slab is probably one of the more managable pitches on the thing. The endless variety of wide cracks will demand way more of your attention. The route is just plain old school seriously BURLY from the get go to the top. Train those core muscle groups.
Kevin

Social climber
Oak-town
Apr 27, 2005 - 12:44pm PT
Did the route free last may-


The cruxes of the route are aidable or avoidable by aid variations, but unless you are damn fast on aid, you will end up benighted with no good ledges to sleep at, and a multiday ascent, is well, way more work than I want to do. Also, you will need a sh#t load of wide gear to aid the route.(like a couple 8 in pieces and doubles of all the big camalots)


Also, the parties who will be freeclimbing the route will be pissed because you are too slow and passing can be tricky since most of the route is in a chimney, and even losing half an hour can just ruin the route since time is an issue on the route for most mortals who don't climb 5.11 trad onsight.

If you want to aid on the sentinal, do the chouinard herbert- The aid is straighforward, and the nature of the route is not the runout wide freeclimbing of the steck- much more civilized and french-freeable

Wait and do the steck when you can free the thing in a day-

If you want to know if you are ready, do the e. but of middle and then the NEB of Higher. If you like those routes and send them in an afternoon, you are ready for the steck
flamer

Trad climber
denver
Apr 27, 2005 - 12:55pm PT
Did it last fall.

I didn't think the route was anywhere near as bad as the hype.
The wilson overhang is not the crux...and I'd rate it 5.9(maybe 5.9+) it's just not that bad...and it's not a sustained pitch.

The crux is the pitch below the narrows....flared, slick, chimneying... 5.10- but it is also fairly cruxy....only the first 25-30ft are 5.10. the Narrows are one of the coolest pitch's ever...and the mother of all grunts. The rest of the wide stuff really isn't that bad.

Have Fun!!

josh
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 27, 2005 - 02:22pm PT
The Steck Salathea is a 5.10 minus route custom made for 5.11 climbers. A 5.10A climber could get up any of the pitches, but the problem is there are many 5.9ish leads stacked on top of each other. A honed and fit 5.11 crack climber can blast up the SS; most others will find the route a handful owing to pitch after pitch of stuff near their limit.

JL
addiroid

Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 27, 2005 - 02:32pm PT
Thanks for the reply guys. I know it is best to free it and I probably will (I LOVE o.w. grunts/squeezes) and I do aid fairly fast. I also would never plan on a multi-day on it. Although I am not a 5.11 tradster, I appreciate the beta about the continuous 5.9ish climbing. I wouldn't be asking the question if I thought the route was going to be easy. Thanks again for the input.

Paul
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Apr 27, 2005 - 09:04pm PT
I've been practicing squeeze chimneys to make my next ascent go better. The narrowest part of the Narrows is about 10 to 10 1/2 inches. The entrance is a little wider. The chimney move below the narrows pitch can easily be partly aided with a small cam and a sling. The Wilson overhang is well protected and burley anyway. Just two cents from mister "5.9 on a good day".
Zander
flamer

Trad climber
denver
Apr 27, 2005 - 09:43pm PT
One more thing...When I was getting ready to do the route, friends who had done it several times gave me some good advice. They said the route start's out exactly how it climbs. In other words the first 2 or 3 pitch's are very good indicators as to the difficulty of the rest of the climb. If you have trouble with, or are moving slowly on the first couple of pitch's...you might want to git while the gitt'n is good!!!

But I really didn't think it was that bad(in fact I really liked the route!!).

josh
yo

climber
NOT Fresno
Apr 27, 2005 - 11:21pm PT
SS Father-Son 1996?

This was back when I was a wee lad, just a whippersnapper, before I could grow a moustache or knew what girls were or how to make them work for me. So I was around 18. This is the age in cultures all over the world, where parents try to figure out how to make their snot-nosed son into a man. Junior's first hooker, say, or lashing with a cat-o-nine or some ceremony involving poison ants. My dad reckoned the Steck-Salathe might do the trick.

I didn't climb much at this age, .10a hands about my limit, with that limit reducing in reverse proportion to increasing crack size. Very heady stuff. My dad, though, was a hardy old-schooler who ate rocks and frowned at springy-thingies. He could've been Harding's granddaddy. He could've been Whymper's mentor. So, paraphrasing Largo, the only thing preventing me from roping up with my dad was the chance to rope up with the guy who roped up with Whymper, who was my dad.

Let's skip ahead a few paragraphs. My mom dropped us off at Four Mile trail at about four. We had one headlamp, cuz old-schoolers can't be bothered to carry two of them--it would actually be convenient. We thrashed our way toward some notch in the skyline that my dad proclaimed the start of the route. The ramp was a little scrambley but fine. And gray dawn revealed that notch, yes, that was the start. Wow. Geezers can home in on wide cracks in the dark.

What flamer said is true, the first pitches are the real deal. Wilson lurks pretty low, this being the good old days when people still called a lot of this crap 5.8. Now Chris Mac comes along and bumps the thing two grades and it's no fun anymore. But I digress. Wilson seemed hard. He's sort of a dick. The pitch either before or after that (the squeeze) is exactly as wide as the distance between my two ears. It'll let you know whether you'll fit in the Narrows. I doubt a helmet fits.

Then some jumbled crap climbing, manteling huge talus blocks and stuff. Then you sit on the Flying Buttress and eat the lunch of old schoolers, like gecko tails and spit. Rumor has it Chongo spent a week right here slurping relish packets. Then, if you're still pretending it's 1953, you can aid the Headwall. Because real men don't climb 5.9 cracks, they dog around on bolt ladders. Obviously. The slab pitch was gripping, although I was a headcase and sloppy with my feet. Got up it. But, again agreeing with flamer, the flare below the Narrows is greased death lightning waiting for soft gumbies to wander past. This pitch was 5.8 in the old guide, Mac calls it what, .10b? Your everyday run-of-the-mill holdless proless .10b flare smeared with Crisco and the thin blood of sport climbers.

We'll assume I wasn't killed and continued climbing. We can assume anything. The Narrows is the best pitch in the Valley. It's not really that hard, you sure as hell can't fall out of the thing. Nor can you move up. So feel free to hold your breath in there and nap all you like. There's half a dozen old cams to be had if you can reach them. Which you can't. I will say this, though: be solid on arm bars. Getting into the Narrows your upper body will be in the squeeze, whilst your wee gobied chicken legs dangle out under. It's like arm bar campusing. Another note, go out to the chockstone and pass your haul line underneath it so the little pig will swing free with a barely suppressed Soooeeee!

I don't really recall any of the rest of the climbing, except that it kept coming and coming. Everytime I thought it would ease off there was another steep nasty. You're drained by this point. Either that or you're not drained and you're thinking about simuling the Nose later on. But if you're like us, you'll top out at dusk, stumble down the gully to the other gully, stumble down that one, sharing the light of one lamp, miss the improbable stepthrough, go right into slabs, do battle with some satanic manzanitas, do a half dozen abseils off shrubberies and stout saplings, wander out onto Four Mile at about midnight, throw yourself Steck-like facedown in a creek, then walk back to Lower Pines because your mom, waiting since dusk, had been chased from the trailhead by gentle-hearted tools afraid she might nod off in her seat and technically become an OB commando and enemy of the state.



All true. Send it.
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Apr 27, 2005 - 11:43pm PT
Damn Yo, I didn't see you when I was climbing but you must have been watching the whole time to describe my climb so well.
Z
WBraun

climber
Apr 28, 2005 - 12:01am PT
Hell of a great tale yo ....... I loved it! .... "yo" described it perfect.
bhilden

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 28, 2005 - 02:31am PT
When we did SS we didn't take anything bigger than a #4 friend. Got caught in a horrible thunderstorm in the Narrows. It was a veritable waterfall. I would jam myself up into the slot and then just get flushed back out. After a couple of tries I was finally able to stick.

Also, it is not over once you top out. The descent is long and involved. If you are fast, you can do it in daylight. If not, bring a good headlamp and a lot of patience.

Bruce
dmitry

Trad climber
Chita, Russia
Apr 28, 2005 - 11:24am PT
Great post, yo!
Thorouhly enjoyed it.

Cheers
Melissa

Big Wall climber
oakland, ca
Apr 28, 2005 - 11:34am PT
That's the best TR I've read in ages! Bravo!!!
flamer

Trad climber
denver
Apr 28, 2005 - 03:35pm PT
Agreed!! That was awesome!!

josh
Mike.

climber
Apr 28, 2005 - 04:26pm PT
Dogpile!... Yo, great account. Your writing is very entertaining/captivating. I hope it's as fun to write as it is to read... = ]
Prod

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Jul 10, 2008 - 02:38pm PT
Bump for a good, Great, TR by YO. Although it will be pushed off the front page by some political drivel, or stupid crotch shots.

Prod.
Crimpergirl

Social climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Jul 10, 2008 - 02:46pm PT
Great read as usual. A bump for the great post and an attempt to flush the political stuff off the first (and second and third) page.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Jul 10, 2008 - 02:49pm PT
Your everyday run-of-the-mill holdless proless flare smeared with Crisco and the thin blood of sport climbers.

Ahh, I could smell that pitch as I read this...
Jaybro

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 10, 2008 - 02:51pm PT
A fred of mine is trying to seduce me to the dark side and drag me up this rte during the facelift. Been up there twice, what's left to see?
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 10, 2008 - 03:04pm PT
Well, Jay, you may have to climb awful fast to get down in time for sushi. Though it shouldn't be a problem making it for pancakes. :-)
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Jul 10, 2008 - 05:52pm PT
Great scott, yo, were you perched on my shoulder the whole time? You totally captured it (except the part where we stumbled down in the daylight, because, well, you know...)

The Steck-Salathe remains the hardest thing I have ever climbed in my life.
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Yonder
Jul 10, 2008 - 06:03pm PT
big bump for yo.....
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Jul 10, 2008 - 06:19pm PT
Kirk you will perhaps recall Sean Easton of Canada with the floppy dreads; this 24 hours of toil took place with him. I think he's since transcended this level of climbing, but at the time it was a Great Leap Forward for us. Life was different after that.
Dingus Milktoast

climber
NorCal
Jul 10, 2008 - 06:40pm PT
Yo I never read that TR before. Killer! Ya mon that pitch below the Narrows caused me some soul searching haha. My partner, this dude:



Assured me a single rack of Friends to #4 was 'adequate.' What the hell did I know?

That route is the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway the TR inspired me to take the custom framed 3-series photo down from the wall and scan it. Couldn't get the pics out of the frame so I just scanned em through the glass.

Here is a great shot of the entry to the Narrows, shot on Labor Day, well, a while back I'll justt say:



and being swallowed by the whale



I had one helluva time squeezing through that f*#ker! Thought I was gonna pass out a couple of times. Probably physically the hardest 30' of climbing in my life - about a 1/4 inch to spare on my chec cavity betwixt half-a-breath and max expansion.

Cheers
DMT
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Jul 10, 2008 - 07:11pm PT
At the height of my groveller days, I actually bought a #4 camalot at retail from the Mountain Shop specifically for the route. This we then assessed as 'too heavy' and left behind:

Not really a great choice.

Which epiphany came to me whilst attempting to yard through the pitch below the Narrows with a single #3 camalot.


And so anyway here I am, having moved to the area, and I'd really like to get on this thing again since it's been a solid 14 years since this formative effort and the thing is pretty much up the street. The next partner that indicates any sort of interest will definitely get a bite from me.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 10, 2008 - 07:18pm PT
Jaybro: "A fred of mine is trying to seduce me to the dark side and drag me up this rte during the facelift. Been up there twice, what's left to see?"

Well, there might be some garbage and junk that you could pick up en route, at the summit, or on the descent. That would be very much in the spirit of the FaceLift.
Jaybro

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 10, 2008 - 07:47pm PT
anything we find is coming down, you betcha!

First did that one (same party) 20 odd yrs ago, pretty much same time of year, we were down, showered,(?) getting hassled by Walt, on the slideshow benches, way before dusk.


since I'm involved, there is every reason to suspect that this ascent, if it happens, will be slower. Though I think Fred, tf anything, is stronger now, than he was then!

Tami

Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Jul 10, 2008 - 08:12pm PT
I'm prolly the only person on the planet who enjoyed The Narrows. But that's c'os I'm a mutant. I'm not very tall & I have exceedingly short legs.

It's been mentioned but it's worth really beating the drum in saying the Steak-Salad isza TOTAL FULL BODY PUMP. It's cardio & Pilates a go-go and then a full-on descent when yer real good'n'thrashed. Multiply yer fatigue by ten if U were silly enuff to carry a pack.

We had a coupl'a waterbottles clipped to our harnesses & some candy bars & that wasabout it. But that was 25 yrs ago. The route wasn't greasy then.

Cheers, Tami

yo

climber
I drink your milkshake!
Jul 10, 2008 - 08:27pm PT
Whaddaya mean there's nothing left to see up there, Anderson? I can't remember a thing, man I was gripped reading that TR! hahaha Turned out OK though.

I'm sorta with Rhodo, kinda itching for the beast again. Next partner that mentions it...

Maybe I'll try out that opposing arm bar shizz from that other thread, could be key for the crux! (wherever the hell that might be)



(Killer photos DMT)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2008 - 01:32am PT
"...the thin blood of sport climbers."
I think there is a BAWC tee-shirt concept with that phrase on it!
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Yonder (out in the sagebrush)
Jul 29, 2008 - 02:05am PT
I remember when you guys did that , Rob. You were Kings! Well, that day, anyway. The Sentinel ain't no roadside crag, is it?
Proud....
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Feb 25, 2009 - 01:44pm PT
Gotta bump this baby because of Yo's TR.
Ahbsolutely!
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Feb 25, 2009 - 01:55pm PT
The yo post made my freekin' day!
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Feb 25, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
Ya know Kirk, it felt like different people came down from there than what went up.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Feb 25, 2009 - 02:02pm PT
The trick to enjoying the SS is to be climbing a bunch of cracks beforehand. If, for instance, you're coming off a winter of cragging out at Josh, bagging a slew of cracks each weekend, you'll cruise. Just jumping onto the SS cold will be tough.

None of the SS is very hard - but it's all strenuous, even the 5.7 stuff, and it burns people out not used to that much jamming.

I think the late, great Chuck Pratt did the SS over 20 times. Now that's old school.

JL
scuffy b

climber
just below the San Andreas
Feb 25, 2009 - 02:13pm PT
I wonder what it would be like to do this climb while believing
that everything was going to work out fine.

I know what it's like when you think you just might die and rot
on the thing.

After climbing it and knowing that repeating it would be the
stupidest (I mean SUTPIDEST) thing possible, it took me damn
near a whole day to start thinking it wasn't such a bad time
after all.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland: what's not to love?
Jun 7, 2010 - 07:49pm PT

Bump for what has to be the best piece of writing on ST, Yo's run down above. "We can assume anything" is going to be my go-to phrase for June 2010.

From C-Mac: "Steve Roper refers to the time period around the first ascent as the “technical age.” By today’s standards, however, Salathé and Steck used archaic gear. On a climb filled with wide cracks, the largest pitons they had were only an inch wide."

An inch?! I can't imag - I don't even...
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 7, 2010 - 07:58pm PT
Already posted a photo including the Ford axle piton of Salathe's that Kyle Copeland, expert salvager, recovered off the SS.

Gotta show it to Yvon and Ken.
Sonic

Trad climber
Folsom, California
Jun 7, 2010 - 08:06pm PT
You should read the Salathe article in Alpinist 29? maybe. This guys is free soloing the route and actually passes Salathe at 75 years old! Bad ass article
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:03pm PT
Steck-Salathe....

It's kind of an engima. I had done it once or twice years back and, when I was in shape and free soloing most of the NE Butt of Higher (roping up for a pitch or two) I went up there to scope what kind of free solo it would be (taking way too small of a rack) I could hardly find a pitch I'd free solo and it kicked my butt to boot.

Good preparation, get a huge piece of plywood, lay under it while 4 guys sit, one on each corner, and you try to wiggle out. (maybe it's just because I'm big that the narrows hurt so bad.)

People have tried to talk me into guiding it, but mostly were duped by the low ratings. Talked them out of it but here's a trip report from one guy who made it.

http://www.yosemiteclimber.com/Return_of_Gunks_Gumby.html

Except

"In the retelling, Steck-Salathe becomes a pretty lighthearted excursion, starting when I finally called my wife, who I didn't want to worry. "Yeah, we finished by headlamps, got to the top around midnight, no, not too cold -- we brought up some extra clothes anyway, it's not like we didn't expect it. And we knew once on top we could build a fire. It was really nice!"

But in reality it was a profound experience for me too, a "vision-quest" in Karl's words. My muscles stayed strong but my mind and body were both shot. I could climb most of the pitches clean and still be quite certain I couldn't lead any of them. At the top, I had plenty of energy to collect some really nice firewood, but suddenly collapsed, couldn't talk or strike a match. I had an extra sandwich in my pack for "dinner" and was too tired to eat -- my friends would whip out a stethescope if they ever saw that. I slept for an hour and awoke to find my muscles feeling the same asleep you feel when you cross your legs for too long. My entire body probably hadn't moved an inch for sixty minutes. I stretched and promptly did the same thing for another hour. Finally Karl and I lit the fire, slept a bit more, and chatted through to dawn. I felt better and could eat my sandwich. The river Styx had been crossed."

I swear I'm not going up there again (for repeat #5 or #6) but I've learned to never say never

Next time I lead the Narrows (and there will be no next time, after being STUPID EVERY TIME) I'm not going to hang a pack or the rack below my harness, it stays at the belay until I get past the birth canal part and I'll tag it up

Peace

Karl

Edit: Another narrows memory. dropped a tcu in the narrows with a sling and biner on it. I caught with my toe and pinned it against the wall. It was excruciating to try to touch my toe to retrieve the piece but I'm so cheap I managed to brush it with my finger. No cigar... just as I almost grabbed it on the second try, it flew off into oblivion. Good thing I had scored a #4 camalot at the beginning of the pitch with equal thrutching.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:17pm PT
Great thread, and all-time great TR, yo. You're sure you aren't from Fresno?

John
TripL7

Trad climber
san diego
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:18pm PT
I wonder who salvaged the fixed pin that was at the crux(or just below)the Wilson Overhang? It was there for years, throughout the '70's!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:22pm PT
casual
Pate

Trad climber
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:25pm PT
Yo- that was an awesome post!!! Thanks for that.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 7, 2010 - 09:47pm PT
Would it look like a prototype for the first generation lost arrow with file marks, Tripl7?
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Jun 7, 2010 - 10:44pm PT
Those who would like to practice the Narrows have an excellent resource. There is an almost perfect replica 100 feet west of Swam Slab. It doesn't go anywhere; once you are up in it, downclimbing is necessary. For what it's worth, we called it 5.7.

My own recollection of the hardest pitch was the lower narrows, ably led by Tom Gerughty.
TripL7

Trad climber
san diego
Jun 7, 2010 - 10:55pm PT
Piton Ron!

I'm pretty sure it was an angle, because if it was a LA, I probably would have snagged it!!
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom
Jun 7, 2010 - 11:45pm PT
SS should be required climbing for anybody who's ever tied into a rope.
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Mar 6, 2011 - 11:15pm PT
So...we were talking about the Albatross tonight, and I pulled up that one...which made me pull up this one b/c it's my favorite. So. Bump.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Mar 6, 2011 - 11:30pm PT
I'm with Jaybro-

"Casual"


It surprises me how unexposed that route is - right up the middle of that huge wall and the only airy spot really is if you do the outside of The Narrows.

Kind of a mountaineering route in my mind.

The line, its position across from Camp, and the history of it are what make it a classic.

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 7, 2011 - 12:47am PT
Unexposed, but really classic Valley climbing. Did it last Fall for the first time since 72 and it was better than I remembered. Should be on everyone's tick list.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Mar 7, 2011 - 12:50am PT
Maybe the grit's gotten worn off by now, JD.

It must've had thousands of ascents since '72, which is the first year I did it also.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:31am PT
Great warm-up for Serenity Crack...
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:41am PT
After the Wilson, I recommend the improbable 5.8 traverse over that 5.9 squeezy thing. Very exposed just there (you stem out over this gap), and no pro gives it some excitement, but one move and you're off and running...
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Who'll stop the reign?
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:48am PT
For mood:

Ready:



Into the maw.... (that's the largest cam we had lol)



Stu Pollack, Labor Day, 1991 or 92 I think (damn has it really been TWENTY YEARS???)



DMT
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:51am PT
Wow, I can't believe that's Stu, Dingus...

Taught me many of the basics, way back when. Now my buddy flies with him...
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Who'll stop the reign?
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:55am PT
Taught me many basics (I should have already known) too bro. Notice the Mark Tuttle chalk bag on prominent display.

DMT
wildone

climber
Troy, MT
Mar 7, 2011 - 02:34pm PT
You sickos wanna do something fun, go do Laid To Rest by Call of The Wild. I've never done ss (it's #1 on my Life List), but after Sean and I did LTR, he told me we could do SS in less than three hours, and he's done it a few times, so I'm sure it's my kind of route. Soon. Very soon.
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Mar 7, 2011 - 04:20pm PT
Bump for some great reportage!

Le_bruce, now that we got it wired with the unplanned bivvy, we have to get a clean one-day ascent this season.
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Mar 7, 2011 - 06:54pm PT
A pitch above The Narrows (the morning after):


About 2 pitches above the Narrows:


k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Mar 7, 2011 - 07:57pm PT
I've done the thing a few times, and I always end up rapping that one short pitch--just so easy to drop down...

And then I keep saying "I gotta get it clean!"
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Mar 7, 2011 - 08:10pm PT
Must've done it a least 5 times including once with Dick Cillie and once as a free solo. I love this route...it's been long enough since my last ascent that I remember just about nothing about it. High time to "on-site" it again.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 7, 2011 - 08:30pm PT
SS, the gold standard for Yosemite multi-pitch moderates. Too many of the other moderates are low angle adventures reminiscent of Red Rocks.
Rankin

Social climber
Greensboro, North Carolina
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
I love the SS!

I was intimidated beneath the Narrows, but it wasn't that bad. Well protected and fun. Once you're in it, you're loving life. The preceding pitch is definitely the crux and the Wilson Overhang is super solid.

Lots of great climbing up an incredible line. The descent kind of aches. One of the best climbing days of my life.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:19pm PT
eeyonkee, maybe it's time for a team geezer resolo?
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Mar 7, 2011 - 10:38pm PT
You're on Jaybro. This spring. The Steck-Salathe is like an old friend.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 8, 2011 - 01:02am PT
uh-oh!


When we did the West face in late May there was a lot of snow on the descent. The other times I've done SS were in the Fall. Is it wet in the spring?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Mar 8, 2011 - 02:09am PT
I don't remember any 5.10 on the route, and all the
pitches are quite well protected or, like the Narrows,
not necessary to protect. For both me and Pratt (with whom
I did it last), the crux is the little slot about
fifty or so, if I recall, feet above the
Wilson Overhang, but one can easily put in a piece
and with a hand on a carabiner pull past the one tight
move... The bigger issue might be that one should be
prepared for the climb. Get in shape, get comfortable
with cracks and chimneys, don't just go up thinking
you can save yourself with aid. If you need to aid the
climb you might not be ready for it, really. I like Largo's
idea of thinking in higher terms, I mean, that it's 5.10
for a 5.11 climber. In the same sense it's a 5.9 but
for a 5.10 climber, really. It's a wonderful climb and
very friendly and straightforward mostly. But do the work
to prepare for it. Don't just think to add it to your tick
list of climbs you want to say you did. It's a far better
experience to go up and really have it in the right way.
This may sound a little pompous or condescending, but
I only mean to suggest that you should not think about aid.
Think about doing some shorter climbs, learn how to do cracks,
then go up there and let your consciousness spill over
one of the most beautiful and great climbs
in the Valley.
NigelSSI

Trad climber
B.C.
Mar 8, 2011 - 02:53am PT
WOW!!!

Got to get in shape for this in the fall!
wildone

climber
Troy, MT
Mar 8, 2011 - 03:15am PT
Well said Pat.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 8, 2011 - 10:46am PT
There wasn't any 5.10 on the route Pat, but there is now. It's called grade inflation and if the intent of grading is to indicate a climb's relative difficulty, you gotta give it 5.10- in today's market. Think about the way houses are appraised for value by doing comparables.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Mar 8, 2011 - 10:50am PT
Grade inflation?? What?

No way. It's just that the folks who originally did that thing, and graded it, had no idea how to grade things. They were way off.

Ollie, I agree, that short squeezy slot thing above the WO is a nasty piece. That's why I highly recommend taking the improbable 5.8 by-pass.
msiddens

Trad climber
Mountain View
Mar 8, 2011 - 01:16pm PT
Nutjob- the picts from the unplanned bivy report make me smile. Sufferage
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Mar 8, 2011 - 01:45pm PT
All due respect to the geezer contingent, but the route is not the same route, period. There is ample photo evidence...giant hold in the middle of left side Wilson is gone -departed the wall mid 90s, inside passage below the narrows is blocked. Don't believe me? Ask Steck or look at the pics.

The pitch below the narrows used to tunnel inside, at ~5.5, and rockfall has blocked that passage with the resulting alternative (not really an alternative, mandatory)now being the crux of the route at a reasonably graded .10- that is not particularly well protected at the business. Those old school "hardmen" also used to aid up a bolt ladder instead of climbing the 5.9 pitch after the flying buttress and had two freshly placed bomber rivets in the upper part of pitch below the narrows that were hanging halfway out of the wall with no other pro possible circa mid 2000s.

So yeah, when the Wilson had a big hold in the middle and went at 5.8, the pitch below the narrows was an easy chimney with pro, and you routinely skipped a pitch that was the only one I felt like I might fall on...it was probably 5.9. Today? two 5.10a-ish pitches.

But if it makes the geritol go down easier, by all means call it whatever you want...cause you know those weaklings today couldn't possibly match the derring-do of the REAL hardmen of days gone by. MUST be grade inflation.

Jebus H Bomz

climber
Mar 8, 2011 - 01:55pm PT
Yet another accolade for Yo, great tone and story I hadn't read before.

Now, I really want to do the SS, but I need the right partner.... Although, I really, really hate a tight squeeze, the Narrows pitch sounds atrocious to my claustrophobic mind.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland: what's not to love?
Mar 8, 2011 - 02:16pm PT
Top three routes I've done. Unforgettable climb.

I remember looking up at the Sentinel before having done the climb, and feeling a cool mix of intimidation and wonder. Now I gaze up there and feel that same mix, tripled.
bergbryce

Mountain climber
Oakland
Mar 8, 2011 - 05:04pm PT

A buddy and I were scheduled to do this last fall. I got to C4 after midnight as usual and of course, no you can't put a tent up, bivy behind that rock there... zero sleep on account of half a dozen others checking to see if that bivy spot were taken, bear boxes being opened and closed all night and oh not to mention being scared to death of the route.
So when the alarm went off at like 4:30 I reported I'd had maybe 45 minutes of sleep all night and didn't think this was a good day to do it. My partner was not too upset. We knew it was going to be difficult for us.
So yeah, I chickened out. It ain't going nowhere and maybe I'll get to it this year.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Mar 8, 2011 - 08:08pm PT
elcapinyo...

I don't remember the need for any hold on the Wilson Overhang. It was
just a stem that got stranger and narrower. In fact I have a distinct
memory of having basically no holds, so one accepts the nature of
the pitch as a step handless stem mostly. No rivets have I ever
used on the lower Narrows. Never have I even heard of any. If
something like that existed it was certainly after my geezer time.
But when you say "blocked," do you mean rockfall
came down and blocked something? I hadn't heard about that. But where
on that slab below the narrows would rockfall grab? And where would
rockfall come from out of the Narrows? Maybe I don't understand what
it means to say "blocked." No one is trying to slight today's
climbers, and thank heaven I don't use geritol yet. Growing old
isn't fun, but then when we consider the option... I personally
like to hear from the older folk and want them to communicate
openly and honestly, even if I disagree with something they say.
I think Jim Donini is still fit and is one of those people who has
more or less crossed through several generations. He and I both have
seen grade escalation. I have agreed with some of it. At least two
routes Royal did in 1964, Final Exam and Athlete's Feat, have been
upgraded from 5.10 to 5.11. It's always nice to know we were climbing
harder than we thought we were, but remember also that when the early
guys did SS, such as Royal, he was in tennis shoes... Myself, I thought
that slot above the Wilson Overhang was hard, but I climbed it as on
offwidth on the outside. Pratt showed me how you can sneak in and wiggle
up through it. I thought the most strenuous pitch was the lower crack
of the Narrows, just after you move left off the slab (yes the slab has
one delicate move). Later I learned one can do a wide stem out around
the upper Narrows, out the way Salathe bolted, and it's about a 5.7 stem,
but very exposed. I wasn't aware of a variation around that lower slot
pitch, but now I know. We're always learning something new about
these climbs. Every generation is its own generation, and one
cannot be compared to another. I admire the guys who went up there in
tennis shoes and lousy ropes, full of youth and adventure, the Don Wilson
types... I might have climbed harder stuff in a later generation, but I
have never felt I surpassed anyone. Everything is always relative to its
own generation. The real point of Sentinel is the beauty and grandeur
of that great route, whatever the grade it's given.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 8, 2011 - 08:12pm PT
Whether or not the route has been subject to grade inflation, what about that "relaxed fit" business?
mueffi 49

Trad climber
Mar 8, 2011 - 09:17pm PT
Credit: mueffi 49

Wilson pitch Summer 1969 - first trip to the Valley... climbing "
Euro-Style" with mountain boots... chimneys we could climb - in cracks we died with those boots.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 9, 2011 - 12:02am PT
I've long heard that rockfall had changed the nature of some of the pitches ie W.O., since the last time I've done it.

time to go check it out, i guess.
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Mar 9, 2011 - 12:47am PT
Why Coz? You and Ronnie James Dio gettin the band back together and need a guitar player or something? Like a Rainbow in the Dark, brah.

Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 9, 2011 - 12:57am PT
Pretty sure 'he' is just a made up internet artifact. An amalgam of the top 100 media stars, or something. A leftover from an old Cobol string, perhaps.
Bargainhunter

climber
Central California
Mar 9, 2011 - 07:50am PT
Started up the Wilson Overhang, promptly crapped my pants and baled. I was not ready.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Mar 9, 2011 - 09:35am PT
It is now forty years or so since I've done the SS (twice). My ascents were back in the Iron Age before nuts, and before Wunsch's free route. We did the short A3 pitch off the Flying Buttress, looping hero loops on fragile moveable flakes.

The Wilson Overhang was, as I remember it, fairly graded at 5.8 in those days; flared but with features. The crux was a short shallow bottle-shaped crack higher up; the "neck" of the bottle only took about half of your chest and your feet were kicking around in the larger part below. I seem to remember foot-stacking making a difference the second time up it.

The Narrows was interesting but didn't seem like a big deal; a combination of arm-barring (which I learned from Pat Ament in Eldorado) with the left arm and mantling motions on ripples with a low right hand got you up into it without too much of a struggle. I don't remember any protection at all, however, not that is seemed possible to fall out of the thing.

Before our first time, Dick Williams warned me to turn my head upon entry so that I would be looking out at daylight, rather than having to grovel up peering left into the gloom. And I remember Pratt telling us to ignore Roper's various downgradings, mentioning which pitches he thought were 5.9.

I think our first time up it we needed 10 or 11 hours for the ascent, partially because we crawled into the back of all the chimneys and made them harder. The second time we were a little better (which is not to say I ever got any good at Yosemite offwidth) and made it up in maybe 7 or 8 hours.

Half a lifetime later, it remains perhaps my all-time favorite climb.
426

climber
Mar 9, 2011 - 09:50am PT
I have only done teh Chuey-Herbert and am not qualified to speak on SS (a serious gap in my wides, I know), however, TM hisself said that the route has changed for the stouter, i.e. W.O. has become stiffer over the decades...

perhaps he was yanking my chain in inimitable TM style, but as we were talking of routes getting harder, he also pointed @ the Reg Route on Fairview as a bit stiffer in 2006 than bitd, key foothold "ground down" by human geologic forces...

steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Mar 9, 2011 - 11:20am PT
Climbed with Jim Donini at Indian Creek in October and he told that he did the NEB of Higher and the SS back to back, leading every pitch. That's some stamina for a 67 year old!
I did it with John Bouchard, back in 72, and I was skinny then. I thought the narrows were tight. Thank god for arm bars! I bet that I would find them really tight now.
I couldn't even get thru the Harding Slot on the W.C.
Definitely a classic route and great history to boot.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 9, 2011 - 11:40am PT
rgold's recollection is close to mine. Dave Bircheff and I did the route in the early 70s, after Steve had found a way around the aid. We got up at 5:30, drove the wrong way on the road to the trailhead and were back in camp 4 by 8:00pm. We cleaned up and found something to eat at the Lodge.

I only remember a few bits of the climbing. I don't remember anything about the WIlson Overhang, but somewhere on the buttress there is a chimney that is wider on the inside than the outside. I stayed inside on the lead--tight but secure--and exited at the top. Dave climbed on the outside.

I remember down-climbing off of the Buttress and then climbing up in the cracks below the Narrows. I climbed as high as I could before belaying and did some back-cleaning of my protection so that Dave would have a reasonable belay. I led the Narrows and can still remember the arm bars and sideways climbing to get into it when I see pictures.

We were in great shape and could see why there were still climbers who thought the climb was 5.8 not 5.9. But, we were exhausted in those chimneys near the top. We thought it was a great climb but I never had any desire to climb it again.


In other discussions on ST, people who have done the route multiple times have reported that rockfall has changed the route and that a 5.10 rating is warranted.
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Mar 9, 2011 - 01:59pm PT
Here's a TR where Inez D., Brutus Of Wyde (RIP bro) and Steck climb the route and discuss the missing foothold on Wilson.

http://www.terragalleria.com/mountain/info/yosemite/sentinel2.html

I've been up the Wilson Overhang four times and wether it is 5.8d or 10b may depend on how you are feeling that day but it is safe to say it is no longer 5.8a.

Zander
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Mar 9, 2011 - 02:42pm PT
5.8d....I love it! Now us old infirm fogeys can split hairs with the best of them.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
Mar 9, 2011 - 05:44pm PT
If I had to choose between:

a) doing the route with some missing holds and some awkward chockstones, but modern gear and shoes, or

b) doing the route with the holds there and no chockstones, but a rack of pins and a pair of mountain boots...


nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Mar 9, 2011 - 06:15pm PT
Le_bruce, when do we go back for a double helping of glory? Let's set a date! I think May is the month....
lucaskrajnik

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 11, 2011 - 11:42am PT
I have a question about the size of the narrows. I have read once, maybe twice that someone couldn't fit through the slot. Also that inhaling can hold your chest (looking at their climbing pictures online, they don't look like wide people at all) I'm kind of a big guy, and hoping someone has done this who is bigger than I. If I were to get stuck, is there an alternate route?
Im 6'3" 200lb
42 long, in jacket size, but its been awhile since I've worn one of those.

Any big guys done this?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
May 11, 2011 - 12:08pm PT
I've led the narrows five times or more at around 190 lbs, give or take 10.

Sucks but doable.

And it's possible to chimney to the outside edge and climb that without the squeeze, which I hear ain't so bad but looks horrifying when you're there

Peace

Karl
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 11, 2011 - 12:08pm PT
I recently finished writing a chapter about Salathe for the Tom Frost book and it makes me want to go and repeat the line of original ascent to be able to appreciate John's uncommon talents and effort sixty one years ago.

During my original seven-hour interview with Tom he had this to say:

“You really do have to experience that route to appreciate Salathé and Steck. There are good reasons why Salathé is the hero of all Yosemite traditional climbers. He opened up big walls and Royal took Salathé’s mentality onto even bigger routes. We studied what John did and that’s what we did. Salathé is so big in our vision, minds, and psyches in being somewhat the next generation to follow him that he just blots out the sky. When you do his routes, especially the Steck- Salathé and the Lost Arrow, those are so big and so bold and so beyond what anybody else in his generation could have done that they wouldn’t have been climbed otherwise.”

Salathé, Steck and Ax Nelson; these were the original Valley hardmen.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
May 11, 2011 - 12:37pm PT
I had the honor of doing the route with two of my favorite Yo friends, one of them being Brutus. I was amazed at how physical the route was, and I sorta like that style of climbing.

We had a party of three, and at the Narrows, time was getting thin. There was no way I was going to try to cram my 46" chest through that sh*t, so after Brutus did the lead (in about 43.5 seconds), he pulled up the rope, tied some cams on it, and then swung the rope back into the chimney on the outside of the chockstone(s). So when I climbed it, I went out the Salathe way. I recall it being very doable, with some cool stemming pirouettes to rotate around and head up after getting out of the starting chimney. Salathe's bolts were still out there swinging in the breeze.

Brutus on the Wilson Overhang... June 10th, 1995

dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
May 11, 2011 - 12:45pm PT
"Rubideaux" Jim Wison and I climbed the SS in 1975 as our first "big wall." To us and at the time that is what it was. We wanted to bivvy and hand hauled a pack with minimal bivvy gear, just water, snacks, sweaters and cagoules. We hiked up in the afternoon and bivvied at the top of the 7th pitch. We topped out around noon the next day. Jim got the narrows (no pro needed)and I led the aid slab clean. We wanted to go the way the heroic FA party went. We thought the original ratings were accurate. I got the last pitch (5.9) and was so gassed after hauling that pack that I could barely coil the rope.
What a great view it was from the top of the Sentinal!
EdBannister

Mountain climber
13,000 feet
May 11, 2011 - 01:35pm PT
Bump for on topic
Alexey

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
May 11, 2011 - 01:36pm PT
lucaskrajnik, you can have the problem there with your body size. Once we climbed it , - two Brits pass us early around Wilson Overhang. They were, athletically build , wide chests but did not look huge.
They were very fast and they quickly disappears above. To our surprise - we started to hear them back at slab pitch. And realized that one of them stuck in Narrows because - he was screaming in panics. Probably un hour or so.. . By the time we approached to Narrows - they gone
lucaskrajnik

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 11, 2011 - 08:11pm PT
Hmmmm, can anyone be the judge of my comparison? Generator to Narrows

Idk if its typical practice but about half way up generator I had to grab the jug/flake on the outside, and pop my chest out of the crack, pull up, and squeeze back in because it got really tight. (maybe everyone does this?)

Any similarities between the two?

tahoe523

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
May 11, 2011 - 08:20pm PT
Generator typically demands offwidth technique and then transitions nicely to a squeeze and then chimney. There are of course difficult exceptions to any rule.

The narrows is pretty straight forward. Entrance is easy. Protectable with a new BD #5, but if you don't feel like hauling along a boat anchor, you can do just fine without it. Once you're in, you gotta work it like Santa Clause after dumping the gifts. You're inside. Groveling.

An agoraphobic's paradise.

Edit: see my profile photo. There it is in all its glory. Type I fun. Unless you're festively plump.
lucaskrajnik

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 11, 2011 - 08:27pm PT
Tahoe, on generator once finished with the offwidth section, you start the squeeze, did you have to get out of the crack to continue upwards progression? That's my question...

Has anyone also had to leave the squeeze part to progresss?
If so, have you done the narrows?

Edit* this might be cheating trying to find this out.
but IDK if i want to do the route if I have to pull a "harding slot layback"
Alexey

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
May 11, 2011 - 08:34pm PT
Idk if its typical practice but about half way up generator I had to grab the jug/flake on the outside, and pop my chest out of the crack, pull up, and squeeze back in because it got really tight. (maybe everyone does this?)
Lucas, the way you do Generator around jug is harder than I do - squeeze inside in the flare. I think at this part - Generator size is very alike to narrowest part of Narrows. Try Generator again and if you can squeeze in with your right side all the way - you'll be fine in SS
tahoe523

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
May 11, 2011 - 08:41pm PT
No, I might be vertically challenged, but horizontally blessed enough to stay inside and squirm upward. However, my partner was a bigger gentleman and although he was cursing, he made it through. Eventually.

In fact, he hated the first squeeze pitch way more (which you can escape with the variation to the right).

The first time I climbed Steck-Salathe there was a party behind us. One man was B-I-G, 220 pounds easily. I saw him down at Camp 4 a few days later. It took him an hour and a half to get through (staying as far on the outside); they ended up benighted at the top of the narrows (great spot to shiver bivy).

TL;DR: Unless you're a 250 lb. gigantasaurus, you will probably make it.

Have fun! It's one of the best 5.9s in Yosemite!
marv

Mountain climber
Bay Area
May 11, 2011 - 08:43pm PT
Valley 5.9, go for it
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
May 11, 2011 - 08:53pm PT
That was the gotcha with Brutus... he liked to tell a story about a friend of his who got stuck for a bit in the Narrows. Big guy, big chest. He finally started making progress when he would scream and that would expel enough air so that he could make an inch at a time.

Ooooh, what fun that must have been.
yo

climber
a tied-off Tomahawk™
May 11, 2011 - 09:15pm PT
I want to do this route again bad.

This summer for sure.
lucaskrajnik

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 11, 2011 - 10:33pm PT
Alright!! thanks dudes!
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 12, 2011 - 06:12am PT
Did it twice. The first time was with Donini, maybe the '72 ascent he referred too. My memory is that the crux was a lieback, possibly on the second pitch (liebacks were never my strongest suit). We were only the second or whatever party after Wunsch and ? put up a variation to avoid the half pitch of aid. Roper really knocked this in a guidebook or magazine piece he penned. As a writer he has a right to editoralize but I thought his "this devious and dirty variation will hopefully fade into well deserved obscurity " (maybe a paraphrase but pretty darn close) was really really unfair. I always wondered if Roper did it in some misguided attempt at defending the integrity of the route as originally done by his friend and colleague first ascentionist Steck (of course in his defense about this pyschoanalysis of his motivation he didn't knock the upper chimneys "variation" to the bolt ladder out on the face, those chimney pitches of course lending most of the character of the route. But there's rarely anything classic about aid. And it wasn't devious and also it was obvious that with a couple more ascents it would be clean. I thought it was a good pitch, one of the better ones on the route. What I considered the unfairness of what Steve wrote has bothered me to this day. I thought rating-wise, Steck-Salathe was 5.9+, that there were three pitches of that grade, and that the variation was one of them.
I can't address the issue about the route having changed, gotten harder. But I do totally agree with rating inflation.,,and it's not from any ego as an ancient hardman. Rating inflation has troubled me for years and rightly or wrongly I've attributed it to sport and indoor gymnasium climbers facing something they're not so familiar with -- cracks, especially wide ones. Nova Express (5.9+, east face of Snowshed Rock, Donner Summit) has had a few bad, even ground, falls and there's no excuse for this. Once in the crack protection can be had just about every inch of the route.
My second time, with Paul Cowan, was unfortunately somewhat akin to Yo's description. Paul wasn't feeling well and I ended up doing most of the leading. Despite having finished all the technical stuff, ascent and descent, we got a bit lost in the dark and force bivied, with a smoky campfire, way down on the hiking portion of the descent. It was really annoying to have had that happen on my second ascent in view of the fact of the first time having gone more or less like clockwork and due to familiarity the second should have gone as well or better. It's been awhile. I've been thinking it's time to revisit the route, make up for that bivy.. But, being in my 70th year, I'm anticipating problems in the chimneys...and maybe elsewhere. Two headlamps for sure.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 12, 2011 - 10:38am PT
Our linear measurement system has been altered over time.

Our clocks, nay, time itself has been altered over time.

Whole calendars come and gone.

LANGUAGES TOO. Entire languages have fallen into disrepair and disuse.

In fact entire civilizations have vanished or nearly so.

If a measurement system remains static and unchanging in the face of new requirements, that measurement system is destined for history's rubbish heap.

Like old school 5.9, lol.

Old dogs! NEW TRICK!

DMT
scuffy b

climber
dissected alluvial deposits, late Pleistocene
May 12, 2011 - 12:49pm PT
I have to climb Generator crack on the outside but I could climb the
narrows.
I had plenty of trouble, but most of it was from having some incompressible
items attached to my harness and from trying to lead it with the rack on.
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
May 12, 2011 - 01:54pm PT
Scuffy, you could easily squeeze in on Generator below the jug, I can. Even when I was 20lbs heavier I could. First couple of times went around thinking no way, but tried it and fit,everytime since then I've gone inside.
Adamame

climber
Santa Cruz
May 12, 2011 - 02:11pm PT
On Generator Crack, if I have my right side in I can go under the flake into the squeeze, but if I stay left side in then I have to go outside the flake for a very unpleasant foot or two.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
May 12, 2011 - 02:57pm PT
Every generation is its own generation, and one
cannot be compared to another. I admire the guys who went up there in
tennis shoes and lousy ropes, full of youth and adventure, the Don Wilson
types... I might have climbed harder stuff in a later generation, but I
have never felt I surpassed anyone. Everything is always relative to its
own generation. The real point of Sentinel is the beauty and grandeur
of that great route, whatever the grade it's given

Great perspective Pat
scuffy b

climber
dissected alluvial deposits, late Pleistocene
May 12, 2011 - 03:02pm PT
I can squeeze in below the jug, true, but I can't go in any direction
more than a couple feet before it gets too tight.
okie

Trad climber
San Leandro, Ca
May 12, 2011 - 03:26pm PT
Yeah, that squeeze on the pitch above the Wilson Overhang is tighter than the Narrows. I couldn't fit through that one and had to down climb and do the variation instead which is a lot quicker way to go anyway. Maybe some folks off-width on the outside of it but it's bombbayish so that would be miserable to me. I was linking those two pitches (Wilson and the next one)and I lost time messing around with that chimney.
On the next pitch there's a short OW crack on a "5.7" rated pitch. It's probably not more than 20' but it's there.
Rick Sylvester's 5.9 pitch off the Flying Buttress is one of the best pitches on the route.
edit: After reading Rick's post again, he says it was Wunsch who first climbed that variation.
tahoe523

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
May 12, 2011 - 04:08pm PT
"To practice for the Steck-Salathé, crawl across asphalt parking lots in the summer, on your knees and elbows." — Dingus Milktoast

Bump for the best and most apt description of the route if I ever saw one. A gem of a quote.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 12, 2011 - 04:28pm PT
I MUST credit Stu Pollack, the man what uttered it to me (on the approach, lol)



DMT
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
May 12, 2011 - 07:21pm PT
The narrows is pretty straight forward. Entrance is easy. Protectable with a new BD #5, but if you don't feel like hauling along a boat anchor, you can do just fine without it. Once you're in, you gotta work it like Santa Clause after dumping the gifts. You're inside. Groveling.

This was not my experience at all. I thought the entrance was the crux. You are in an alcove trying to work into a squeeze chimney. You get an awkward fist jam and then your feet are bicyling in air as you try to inch up. I would take the big piece. The entrance is the only place you could fall and the fall without pro (to the extent I remember) would suck.

I found the narrows, after getting into them, an easy 5.7 cruise (seriously). The rock inside has waves that you can mantle with your palms and push with your toes, but I am also on the skinny size.

But the real crux of the route is the pitch before the narrows.

My partner lead the Wilson overhang. I found it pretty mellow on toprope. I followed much further out where the chimney was much wider. Probably would not have had the gumption to do it like that on lead.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 12, 2011 - 07:26pm PT
Man! Not me? The kip to get into the thing felt trivial vs trying to make upward progress with my massive barrel like chest. It was so tight in that middle 's' section I could not take a full breath of air.



From this position I swing my right leg out towards daylight and up into a leg bar all in one motion then levered my way in. There was actually room to move here!

Man I learned SO MUCH following this guy up routes I could not send myself, lol. But I swung leads with him on SS and it remains one of my favorite climbs, proud to have done it.





DMT
Alexey

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
May 12, 2011 - 10:17pm PT
But the real crux of the route is the pitch before the narrows.
It depends.. I climbed SS 3 times and once the real crux of the route for me was 5.9 squeeze pitch just above Wilson overhang
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
May 13, 2011 - 12:08am PT
Beta alert. Hard men and women-stop reading and go climb the fricken thing.

I'm sort of the noob expert on SS. I've got to the top twice and backed off twice at the Wilson Overhang. Basically if I can do it, you can, so go for it.

The squeeze above the narrows may well be the crux so I went the 5.8 way twice. If...if you are good on your feet- this 5.8 will be pretty easy as will the 5.9 friction pitch before the great chimney. Balance.

Read carefully DMTs beta on entering the narrow. That's it.

I weight 175 and I got stuck in the narrows, twice. I had a green bruise in the shape of a figure eight from trying to push my way through. Push all the air out of your body and try moving a few inches to the side. That is how close it is in there. Of course my body looks like a wood flour barrel with legs, arms and a head.

The pitch before the narrows has been tamed a bit by the replacement of the two funky "studs" with real hangers. Still be real solid on 5.9 chimneys. Not squeeze- chimneys- for that pitch.
Read Yo's report again, "slick with the thin blood of sport climbers".

Be fit. Be aware that above Wilson you are committing yourself. Either you'll make it, you'll epic and make it, or you'll epic.

Report back when you do it. " We want to believe you"!

Climb on!
Zander

Lovegasoline

Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
May 13, 2011 - 12:38am PT
I'm a night owl.
I rarely make it to my bivy across the Valley from Sentinel before about midnight.
Two great yet simple pleasures often cap off my day.

Late at night, alone, fully relaxed and enveloped in the clear Sierra air, I stare up into the sky clustered heavy and traced with evanescent shooting stars, their decisive trajectory like a chalk line drawn across a blackboard for emphasis.
Silence.

It is unusual for a count of thirty to pass without that sudden motion in the sky.

Eventually my gaze lowers. Across the Valley I watch tiny, weak, tragic headlamps in the dead hours grasping on Sentinel. There are a few variations on the theme but usually it entails headlamps desperately sweeping back and forth, up and down, some ground covered, direction changes, lots of stopping, and eventually the lights extinguish. Silence.

Like a king, weary supine bones cush in my sleeping bag, eyes sated with the ancient spectacle of valley and sky, and suffused with the simple pleasures derived from epic beauty and the suffering of unknown others, I drift to sleep.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
May 13, 2011 - 02:57am PT
Now that is the shizz-ell.


I've been to the base of that thing, more than once. And I'm here to tell ya. When you cannot fit through that narrow, your world will roll. On the outside, it's where it is at, the best view on the whole thing. Don't take my word, find it there yourself.

Oh, and a 4 Cam works just fine, not need for more. Write me when you fall out of that thing.
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 13, 2011 - 03:27am PT
Speaking of squeezes, how about the third pitch of the Hourglass (the one near Ribbon Falls, not at Lover's Leap).? I did it with Bates and Donini. You started on the outside. After a while there was a bolt. I'd heard that most people had to go about 7' above the bolt before getting in one of the tightest chimneys in my experience. It was the only -- ? -- time I couldn't turn my head without scraping off nose skin. But at least once in no way could you fall (almost no way could you make upward progress initially). But Barry had to go something like 40' above the bolt (old quarter incher of course). I was surprised; I'd never thought of him as all that much bigger than I. But he was -- all muscle of course. And that's why it wasn't traumatic for him.
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 13, 2011 - 04:38am PT
One weird Steck-Salathe story I just remembered from the past. Some guy had been leading the entire route and on the second to last pitch, one of what I considered one of its three 5.9+ pitches, he fell. His hammer fell out of its holster and jammed in the crack. Due to his leg being inside or whatever it tripped him so that he fell head first and struck something with his head and with fatal consequences. It seemed so odd. The guy was good enough to do all the leading then succumbed so close to the top due to a freak occurrence.
Captain...or Skully

climber
or some such
May 13, 2011 - 08:51am PT
Great post, LoveGasoline. I've watched those desperate lights, too.
Thinkin', those poor bastards.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
May 13, 2011 - 01:53pm PT
Yea, I was thinking the piece to protect the entrance to the narrows was smaller than a new #5 camalot, but I wasn't sure.

Of course, the main reason to take a piece for that spot is to have the C1 option for getting into the narrows (not that I would know anything about that ;-).
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
May 13, 2011 - 01:57pm PT
It is interesting to hear what different climbers found hard. I understand the narrows is size dependent. I probably weighed around 140~145 when I did it.

But other pitches are curious. I can understand the Wison Overhang being a hard lead. But for those of you that followed that pitch, did it really seem that hard? Of the famous, wide pitches on SS, I thought it pretty easy. Maybe I just hit it correctly and really screwed up in other places such as the pitch below the narrows.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 13, 2011 - 01:58pm PT
That is a #4 Friend in my pic and you can see it fits quite well. That was the largest piece we had.

DMT
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
May 13, 2011 - 03:30pm PT
That squeeze above Wilson I thought was the hardest thing on the route, I tried it and couldn't fit finally took the flake on the right (note that I'm NOT a big guy).

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 13, 2011 - 06:04pm PT
Rick- The guy's name was Roger and the version of the accident that I heard was that he simply had his hands come out of a jamcrack while both feet stayed put and he pivoted and struck his head. Roger's partner was Tucson climber Kem Johnson who had to rope solo out and get a body recovery going. Kem doesn't post here.
scuffy b

climber
dissected alluvial deposits, late Pleistocene
May 13, 2011 - 06:21pm PT
That story (the fatality) was simmering in my mind for 35 years or so,
so when I did the climb for the first time just a few years ago, I was
really apprehensive.
I was very relieved when elcapinyoazz told me that in fact all the 5.9
was below us, at the end of very very long day.
A lethal 5.9 jamcrack at that point (full dark) would have been just too much.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
May 13, 2011 - 06:21pm PT
I thought the pitch after the rap was the hardest 130 ft on the route.

I think the "crux" of S-S is best described as the long, slow drain that occurs over the course of the day (edit: or days, as in our case!). Whenever that draining of your energy hits bottom, the bit that you're looking at is going to be the crux for you. For me it was right after the rap, and I gained a second wind for my lead on the face pitch above that.

If this climb is a challenge for you (I realize that for many here it's no big deal; it was a beast for me), you really need to have yourself psyched for the four pitches that come after the rap. Don't let yourself crash!

Here's the TR of our trip, there are many good ones on the site:

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Steck-Salath-photo-TR-captions-in-10-words-or-less/t10672n.html

murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
May 13, 2011 - 07:35pm PT
I love this thread.

And thanks for the link to the great TR, le_bruce. I clicked on some links and found your video, which gives a much better sense of the start of the Narrows than I'd seen before.

http://www.youtube.com/user/EvaArrow#p/u/108/QGOsJpiqi50

I would love to climb this, assuming someone pre-places gallons of water and a comfy bivy along the route.
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
May 31, 2011 - 05:06pm PT
Speaking of squeezes, how about the third pitch of the Hourglass (the one near Ribbon Falls, not at Lover's Leap).? I did it with Bates and Donini. You started on the outside. After a while there was a bolt. I'd heard that most people had to go about 7' above the bolt before getting in one of the tightest chimneys in my experience. It was the only -- ? -- time I couldn't turn my head without scraping off nose skin. But at least once in no way could you fall (almost no way could you make upward progress initially). But Barry had to go something like 40' above the bolt (old quarter incher of course). I was surprised; I'd never thought of him as all that much bigger than I. But he was -- all muscle of course. And that's why it wasn't traumatic for him.

Man, I wish we had read this before le_bruce and I headed up to Hourglass Right yesterday. We backed off the last pitch because I couldn't squeeze inside near the level of the bolt, and it wasn't clear that I ever would be able to fit inside. That pitch would be utterly horrifying (and physically impossible for me) without being able to squeeze inside. Even inside it would be scary run-out, but the wedge factor would make it plausible. Next time I might sack up enough to run out the part until I can squeeze in. That plus a bigbro or two will help.

It is also scary because the belay tree is not in great shape, and I couldn't help but imagine a fall onto that tree causing the whole belay and tree to rip out. Probably not all at once, but in a slow cracking and bending way that gives plenty of time to panic and dive at the bottom of the crack with tipped out #6 in hand.... not a good head space to be in while looking up at that pitch.

Edit: Murcy! Thanks for posting that link! I didn't remember there was a video of me in the fetal position. Well, would have been fetal if there was room to curl up more.
steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
May 31, 2011 - 08:34pm PT
I remember the Narrows pitch some 40 years ago. I did it with John Bouchard and he was even skinnier than I was.

Jim Donini told me that he did it last fall leading every pitch.

There is a difference between Jim and me. He still climbs all the time and is still skinny and I'm a little chunkier than 40 years ago and much stiffer.

Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jun 1, 2011 - 12:12pm PT
Time for a go then, eh what?
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 2, 2011 - 06:58pm PT
Is this thing still full on alpine style? Still full of snow and ice?
Lace

climber
las vegas, nv
Apr 9, 2012 - 03:06pm PT
Bump for "Your everyday run-of-the-mill holdless proless .10b flare smeared with Crisco and the thin blood of sport climbers."
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
Apr 9, 2012 - 06:35pm PT
Conditions bump... I assume the rain/snow this week is going to put a damper on the Steak & Salad

 Luke
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 9, 2012 - 08:13pm PT
The original Al Steck account of the FA can be found here:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1547377&msg=1772872#msg1772872
Jim Smith

Trad climber
sunnyvale, ca
Apr 27, 2012 - 05:43pm PT
bump

anybody been up there yet this year?
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 11, 2012 - 05:52am PT
The SS is a GREAT route. It has a little bit of that alpine feel because of a fair amount of broken areas, and for the most part it isn't that exposed, despite being on a big vertical wall.

OK. You don't need to be able to do generator crack. You don't need to be able to do Astroman. You just need to be fit. Since everyone has their own opinion of where the crux is, you can think of it as sustained. It isn't sustained for full pitches though. It is sustained in having short little cruxes here and there. The rest is groveling, and damn fun groveling, with great pro even before cams.

No kidding. When I did it I couldn't climb 5.11 or beat my way out of a wet paper bag.

I was embarrasingly skinny, 18 or something, and all of the chimneys were easy. I had never done a chimney of any difficulty, so there ya go. I was also no hot kid prodigy. I think that the hardest crack I had done was CPOF. It was my first trip to yo.

Perhaps it is because the old green Roper guidebook or the Reid topo showed most of it as 5.7. Not having heard a single scary story, we thought it was a total romp. From the old description, it said that the slab was the crux, so I did my quiet trick of counting the pitches to make sure that my partner got it. You know, "I'll take this first one." Or, "Hey, why don't you take this first one. It looks easy."

So maybe a lot of it is psychological. I thought that the slab WAS the crux.

I was yacking about that route with a buddy last fall, and he said that on the Narrows, he just climbed outside and that it was super easy. I had heard that it was scary but he said not so. Are there modern bolts out there now?

Those chimneys keep you from experiencing any exposure, so I can understand how leaving the womb of the narrows pitch being pretty scary. He said it was piss easy. He looked at the narrows and just went outside. I suggest barrel chested people do that as well.

Having the physique of Nicole Kidman, I had no problem with the squeezes.

Don't waste time at the belays. The route is long. Pro is everywhere. Go fast on the easy stuff, and there is plenty of easy stuff.

Go do it. It isn't bad at all. I'm living proof.
steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Jul 11, 2012 - 06:46am PT
Base,

I agree with you on all counts. I was about 22 years old, when I did it, and I wasn't a particularly gifted climber. I don't remember any problems, except I was pretty skinny, 32 inch waist then, ( 34-36 inches now). My chest was not nearly as big as it is now, so I might have problems in the narrows.

We did it in about 7 hours, back in 1971.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Jul 11, 2012 - 12:45pm PT
Most exposed part of the route is on the outside of the Narrows. Totally drops off, like, Wow!

And no, the bolts out there are the originals--Star Drivin's with flat aluminum hangers. I found the climbing to be about 5.8 OW ...

Lots of folks have trouble with the squeeze after the Wilson, but I take the very exposed 5.8 improbable traverse out right. It's a bit scary starting off, and there's no pro for a few moves. But once you commit, it goes fast and you're quickly on your way.
cliffhanger

Trad climber
California
Jul 12, 2012 - 01:59pm PT
By traversing deeper into the Narrows Chimney a wider passage can be had. I went in about 15' or so to avoid the horrendous squeeze out near the face.
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