Crest Jewel, North Dome 5.10a
Yosemite Valley, California USA
Avg time to climb route: 4 hours
Approach time: 2-3 hours
Descent time: 2-3 hours
Number of pitches: 10
Height of route: 700'
OverviewCrest Jewel is a treasure. It says something about a climb when many climbers will endure a 3+ hour approach to get to a route. Those willing to make the trudge are rewarded with ten pitches of great face climbing in a spectacular setting. The views from this climb are astounding and arguably better than the views from Half Dome. Many climbers link up Royal Arches with this climb for 20+ pitches of great climbing.
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HistoryFA: Dan Dingle and Michael Lucero, 9/81.
StrategyMany parties epic in the dark coming off Crest Jewel. Start early, go fast on Royal Arches, and don’t dawdle on the climb, which like many low-angle climbs looks much shorter than it is. Alternate approaches include hiking up North Dome Gully (not a bad idea if you’re planning on descending that way and have not been there previously), and hiking down and back from Highway 120. The latter has a long bushwacking descent that is difficult to find, but a relatively mild hike from the top back to your car. Crest Jewel Direct adds five more pitches (with a short and tightly-bolted crux pitch) to the mix.
All lead and protection bolts were replaced by Larry Scritchfield and Greg Barnes with support from the ASCA in 2002.
RetreatRappel is possible from any pitch with two ropes; care must be taken on the severely traversing pitches at top and bottom. Because of this, rappelling in the dark is a dangerous proposition.
ApproachAccess North Dome from Porcupine Creek Trailhead, by climbing Royal Arches, or by reversing the North Dome Gully (see North Dome Gully page). Porcupine Creek Trailhead is the fastest and most popular approach. However, if you climb fast, the Royal Arches option makes for a combined total of 24 classic pitches. Both approaches are long and make for a demanding day.
Approach from Porcupine Creek TrailheadThis approach is about 5 miles long and is flat until it descends to the base of the dome. Park at the Porcupine Creek Trailhead (1 mile east of Porcupine Flat or 4.5 miles west of Olmstead Point). Hike the trail for 4 miles to just before North Dome. Leave the trail and hike cross-country down the drainage on the west side of the dome. Traverse across when steep slabs are encountered. When you hit the large ramp system, hike up. You may encounter bad bushwhacking. Contour around when possible to a ramp leading to the base of the South Face route, which is marked by the huge obvious dihedral. Note: This approach is only viable when Highway 120 (Tioga Road) is open, usually between June and November, depending on the snow year.
Approach from Royal ArchesAfter climbing Royal Arches, head east on a climbers’ trail toward Washington Column. At the slabs, walk up and slightly right over the slabs aiming for the lower of the two obvious terraces with trees at the base of North Dome. Skirt a large rock ridge along its left side and gain the base of the dome at the eastern end of the terrace. The route is the obvious left-facing dihedral. From the top of Royal Arches, the approach is 0.8 miles long and gains 500 feet of elevation.
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