Direct Northwest Face, Half Dome 5.14a or 5.10 C2+
Avg time to climb route: 3 days
Approach time: 3 hours
Descent time: 4 hours
Number of pitches: 23
Height of route: 2000'
OverviewThis is less popular and classic than the Regular Northwest Face but more dramatic, exposed, and remote-feeling. It is climbed only a few times a year compared to the Regular Northwest Face, which is ascended a few times a day during peak season. This route has many chimneys, including the laser-cut Crescent arch. The Grand Terrace is a spectacular bivy ledge perched out over the face. The free climbing is as hard as Salathé with aid as tricky as Zodiac.
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First Ascent HistoryRoyal Robbins and Dick McCracken swapped leads over five days in June 1963 to make the first ascent. This would be the team’s second big wall first ascent together, having climbed the Misty Wall on the Upper Yosemite Falls wall earlier that month. The team wore helmets – this was a first for them in Yosemite, though Robbins had worn one previously in the Dolomites – to specifically protect themselves from tourists throwing rocks from the summit.
They started by bypassing fixed lines low on the route placed by Galen Rowell and Ed Cooper, who were preparing to climb the route. Robbins was making a statement that first ascents should not involve fixed lines. But Rowell took it as more as Valley insiders (Robbins and crew) nabbing a route from Valley outsiders (Rowell and Cooper). This was one of the reasons Rowell left the Valley and mainly made first ascents in the High Sierra and around the world.
The first pitches were notorious offwidth and chimney followed by more thin cracks. Said Robbins: “I do remember using a lot of RURPs up there o... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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