South Face, North Dome 5.7
Avg time to climb route: 5 hours
Approach time: 2-3 hours
Descent time: 2-3 hours
Number of pitches: 8
Height of route: 700'
OverviewThis climb has long been overlooked. Though not quite as classic as its neighbor, Crest Jewel, this route offers quality moves worthy of the long approach. A large arch at the start is followed by spectacular moving onto the clean South Face. Thin cracks and friction moves lead to 300' of sustained liebacking. Most climbers link up Royal Arches with this climb for 20+ pitches of great climbing.
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HistoryWally Reed and Mark Powell were the two best Valley free climbers during the late 1950s. In the spring and summer of 1957 they got together and established five exceptional routes. Among these is one of the classics of today, the South Face of North Dome.
Reed described the climb later in his matter-of-fact style. “After three pitches of easy friction and lieback climbing we were at the base of a 15-foot overhanging wall which diagonals to the left across the lower third of the face. Three sixth-class pitons overcame that problem, which was followed by two moderate friction pitches.” Soon the pair arrived at the crux, a right-facing open book that stretched upward out of sight. Reed again: “Arranging a belay stance from a lieback position 100 feet up was difficult, as was the single crack which continued to a small ledge above and which was partly filled with dirt and grass. Thirty feet beyond the ledge all cracks terminated. By placing a piton at his feet, Mark was able to make a difficult pull-up and a delicate friction step to easy scrambling and the summit. It took us about six hours.”
Reed and Powell had accomplished the route in superb style, using only three aid placements. Other climbers of the time would have used many more.
Because of the gruesome approach, no one repeated this route for more than three years. One cool October morning in 1960, I wa... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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