South Crack, Stately Pleasure Dome 5.8R
Tuolumne Meadows, California USA
Avg time to climb route: 2-4 hours
Approach time: 5 minutes
Descent time: 20-30 minutes
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 500'
OverviewSouth Crack is the ultimate all-time classic 5.8 finger crack. It offers beautiful, long, splitter crack, sustained climbing, beautiful position with great views and the sparkling deep blue lake below you. The catch is the run-out slabs above. For those experienced on slabs, they are trivial. For those who have less experience, they can be terrifying and potentially dangerous. The climb is south-facing and generally climbable anytime the highway is open. However, on the rare hot, windless days, it can be an oven. It is often windy up high, and balmy temperatures at the lake can trick the unwary into leaving windjackets in the car. As with all climbs in Tuolumne, do not start if thunderstorms are approaching.
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StrategySouth Crack often generates big lines. Once on the route, there is no way to pass other climbers until the slabs at the top. Faster parties often wait until late in the day to avoid the crowds. Amazingly, the route often goes unclimbed in perfect weather very early or late in the season. Watch for Highway 120 to open and quickly head up for a more serene and beautiful experience. You may even be lucky enough to see a big slab avalanche on Tenaya Peak!
The right start, with some thin face climbing protected by small nuts, gains the bottom of the crack. Itís the more clean and sustained option, but a bit harder than the standard start. When the crack runs out at the end of the third pitch, the original route heads up and left across slabs. An easier escape heads up right.
If you finish early, consider climbing West Country, Hermaphrodite Flake, or Great White Book.
RetreatYou must leave gear, and two ropes are mandatory for retreat. If retreating from the end of the crack on the third pitch, your rappel anchor must be good for a direct outward pull, so cams are often the only safe bet. Below the right-traversing crack are several climbs, and aggressive searching on rappel will likely find a bolted anchor quickly, although most anchors will likely be old 1/4-inchers (take care not to pull directly outward). Once on the upper slab sections, retreat is even less appealing.
From the three-bolt belay below the top pitch, you can also rap down Great White Book, but youíll have to tension/pendulum far to the left on the first rap. Youíll be leaving slings and gear down Great White Book, although there are many spots for nuts and/or slung blocks/horns.
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.
Itís 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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