Serenity Crack, Royal Arches Area 5.10d
Yosemite Valley, California USA
Avg time to climb route: 3 hours
Approach time: 5 minutes
Descent time: 30 minutes
Number of pitches: 3
Height of route: 350'
OverviewThis exceptional route is climbed free due to a myriad of pin scars. The pin scars are extremely pronounced at the start and become smaller as the route progresses. Alhough ugly, the scars make for some fun climbing on what often feels more like a face climb than a crack climb. Due to this and a very short crux, Serenity Crack is a great climb for the fledgling 5.10 leader trying to push his or her limits.
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HistoryAnyone who doubts that pitons can damage granite should check out this climb. The dozens of atrocious pin scars on the lower route allow the line to go free at a moderate rating—a mixed blessing. Glen Denny and Les Wilson established this classic in 1961, using huge amounts of aid up a long, bottomed seam that could hardly be called a crack. The team battered chrome-moly pitons into this seam an inch or so and then tied them off. Since it was a perfect place to learn the art of moderate aid climbing, the route was done hundreds of times in the early 1960s. The scars appeared early on for the simplest reason: steel is harder than granite. The back-and-forth pounding done during piton removal scraped out a hole in the seam, and this is where the next party would place its own pin. When an excavation became wider than it was deep—meaning the pin placement could get dicey—the process would begin once again in an untouched part of the seam. It’s amazing that any portion of the original seam is visible!
By 1967 so many holes existed that many people were doing the lower two pitches free: this segment had become a 10a jamcrack! A much harder section at the top of the route—a steep and strenuous finger crack—resisted free attempts for a time, but Tom Higgins and Chris Jones managed the feat in 1967. For several years this short section, rated 5.11, stood as one of the toughest free climbs in the Valley. Around 1976 it was downgraded to 5.10d.
– Steve Roper
StrategySerenity Crack is extremely popular. If the route is too crowded, consider climbing Super Slide. In early season, the first 50 feet are wet, making this infamous, hard-to-protect section even more intimidating. A few poor cam placements lead to a bolt 35 feet up, the first solid protection.
Pitch 2 has two options: climb 30 feet and traverse to the right crack (less intimidating) or climb up all the way to where the crack ends and make delicate face moves and a big reach (very intimidating). Use many slings to avoid rope drag.
The third pitch crux has few footholds and gear is strenuous to place. Some hang out and place gear while more confident climbers run out the bulk of the crux. The variation to Pitch 3 is easier, but much less classic. The rock is slightly decomposing in sections and the gear can be tricky.
While some climb only Serenity Crack and then rappel, it is a crime to quit before doing Sons of Yesterday. The combination of the two climbs is probably the best and most sustained 5.10 crack route in Yosemite.
RetreatRetreat by rappelling with two 50m or one 60m rope using bolt anchors west of the route.
ApproachFrom the northeast corner of the Ahwahnee parking lot, take the hikers’ trail east. After 250 feet, just before a stream crossing (may be dry in summer and fall), locate a climbers’ trail on the left. Follow this for 100 feet toward the base of the wall. Skirt the base up left for another 100 yards to the second major corner system on the right. Scramble up 4th class to a platform.
DescentRappel the route with two 50m or 60m ropes. From Pitch 2 of Serenity Crack, use the rap anchors to the west of the route (can rap these pitches with one 60m rope).
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