Hermaphrodite Flake, Stately Pleasure Dome 5.8
Avg time to climb route: 1-2.5 hours
Approach time: 5 minutes
Descent time: 20-30 minutes
Number of pitches: 5
Height of route: 400'
OverviewWith great protection and an easy retreat, Hermaphrodite Flake is an exceptional introduction to Tuolumne multi-pitch climbing. With rappel stations at each anchor, this climb can be done as a three-pitch 5.4, or a five-pitch 5.8. The tunnel-under variation to the 2nd pitch is adventurous, and the undercling variation is exciting. The 5.8 climbing on Pitch 4 is tightly bolted, especially compared to other easy routes in Tuolumne. With almost no approach and the beauty of Tenaya Lake and surroundings, Hermaphrodite Flake is deservedly popular.
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HistoryThe flake Hermaphrodite is so named because it “goes” three ways: you can climb left, right, or chimney between the face and the flake. The dictionary definition of a hermaphrodite is an “individual in which both reproductive organs are present.” The flake sticks up and the chimney goes in.
In the summer of 1992, I climbed to the top of Hermaphrodite Flake and led Eunuch and was totally disappointed that it veered right and didn’t go straight up. I came back to the top of Hermaphrodite Flake and led straight up to the big dish that became the first belay for “The Boltway.” The pitch was runout so I rapped down and put in a number of bolts to better protect the climb. I hated the scary walk-off by the headwall so I decided to continue the route to the top and put in an anchor rap station. It was time for a 5.8 leader to have a safe and fun climb in Tuolumne.
– Marty Steiger
StrategyAs with West Country or South Crack, be prepared to take a number and wait in line. The climbing is not well-protected in several wide cracks and in the tunnel-through. Yet no wide gear is needed since the cracks are either too wide for pro or it’s possible to place small cams in other spots.
While this route climbed in its entirety is 5.8 or 5.10b, many parties rappel before the top. If you rappel after three pitches, the route is 5.7. If you rappel after two pitches, the route is 5.4.
You can toprope the excellent and sustained thin slabs Footnote (5.10c) and Cross Reference (5.11a) if rappelling from Hermaphrodite Flake.
RetreatFrom the two bolts at the Pitch 3 anchor, rappel with two ropes to the top of Hermaphrodite Flake. From Pitch 4, an intermediate station straight above the flake is used to gain the flake. Rappel straight down over the flake to a hidden station only 50 feet below the top of the flake. From here, two ropes reach the 3rd class ledge.
From the bolts on Pitch 2, either rappel to the Pitch 1 belay and leave gear (thread slings and/or large nuts), or rappel and aggressively pendulum left to gain a walk-off ledge.
If you top out just as it starts raining, either rappel or consider a long walk-off around the back, as the normal 4th class slabs can be treacherous if wet. If thunderstorms (puffy clouds) are coming, rappel before you get any rain—remember that lightning can strike before the first raindrops do!
ApproachStately Pleasure Dome is located next to the east end of Tenaya Lake. From the car, scramble up slick 3rd class slab to the base.
DescentTraverse up and left toward the headwall and a big tree about 200 yards away. Rappel from the tree or downclimb (4th class). Hike down intimidating 3rd and 4th class slabs, generally staying near the headwall. Climb down a short 4th class friction section (beware of water on the slab!) below a big roof. Then head left through a small notch to get down a 4-foot drop-off, followed by more 3rd class friction traversing below the 4-foot wall. Then, head straight down long 3rd class slabs toward the road and lake.
You can also hike up the dome above the tree, head west, and hike down behind the huge headwall. This requires a bit of routefinding, but is an option for those fearful of the 4th class friction, and is the wiser option if the slabs are wet.
It’s also possible to hike up and north, then down the gully between Stately Pleasure and Harlequin Domes, but the bushwacking will get ugly.
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