The Surprise, Five Open Books 5.10a
Yosemite Valley, California USA
Avg time to climb route: 2-3 hours
Approach time: 20 minutes
Descent time: 20-30 minutes
Number of pitches: 4
Height of route: 350'
OverviewThis is a dirty 5.8, a good 5.10a, or an awesome 5.10c depending on which pitches you start or finish on. We consider the 5.10a variation the standard route because the 5.8 original route is much less classic and more runout. Unlike most Five Open Books routes that ascend big corners, The Surprise mostly climbs splitter cracks on a clean face. This route is usually uncrowded. It's tricky but possible to pull through most of the crux sections on gear.
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Five Open Books HistoryClimbers have always appreciated short approaches, so it’s not surprising that the area around Lower Yosemite Fall attracted attention in the 1960s. Only minutes from Camp 4 lay a wealth of possible routes on the various tiers of cliffs. One trouble: these cliffs were not exactly composed of pristine granite. Trees, bushes, munge, loose dark rock—you name it, these cliffs had it. In a valley renowned for its sparkling white granite, this place was an aberration. But let’s not forget that approach! - Steve Roper
FA: Wally Reed and Jim Posten, 9/63.
StrategyFrom lieback cracks and steep faces to offwidths and chimneys, Selaginella requires a full arsenal of climbing skills. Prepare for committing and sustained 5.7 and 5.8 cracks all the way to the route’s great final crux. Because of the sustained wide cracks and tricky routefinding, this route is recommended for the more experienced 5.8-5.9 leader.
There are two starting variations. The recommended right start has many wide cracks. An alternate start to the left features meandering climbing and bad rope drag and no wide cracks. As with all climbs at the Five Open Books, the ledge at the top of this route is loose. Be mindful of dislodging rocks onto climbers below.
RetreatRetreat by rappelling the route with two 50m ropes.
ApproachWalk toward Lower Yosemite Fall for 100 yards looking left for a climbers’ trail marked by a carabiner post. Follow the climbers’ trail marked by three more carabiner posts. The fourth post is within 15 feet of the wall and the start of Munginella. For Commitment and all routes to the right, climb the first 20 feet of the Munginella 3rd class and move way right on a ledge. Another option is, from the last carabiner post, to skirt the base of the wall down a few hundred feet then up.
DescentThe descent takes about 15 minutes back to the base (no fun in climbing shoes). Walk west and a little down for a few hundred yards on a climbers’ trail until you reach the open slabs area. Continue west across the slabs to a 3rd/4th class descent trail. Consider rappelling this section when wet with one 60m rope (or 50m rope by staying a bit to the left at the bottom). Below the slabs, follow the trail east and downward along the base, then slightly back uphill to the last carabiner post at the start of Munginella. Reverse the approach.
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