I was on this route a couple of weekends ago,
a great place to be for sure
there are loose blocks here and there, an especially memorable one is just under the crux, I think Linda put a #3 behind it and then a hand jam, which moved it. I was very careful when I rocked it easily... that block would be a belayer-slayer if it went. I thought of trundling it, but I could see our packs down at the base and thought better of it...
I agree. Combination of cool summit (spire), and climbing of good quality after that (for about 4-5 full pitches) make this one a must do. Exposure after you crest the ridge is great too. Few of my friends that did East Buttress of El Cap on a day prior to this thought it was even better than East Butt.
I would say climbing is usually 5.8 and bellow, with a 5.9 bulge (protects really well). Fingers section felt 5.8. Face above is not really runout, but you would want to space your pro to prevent rope drag - or sew it up and do a short pitch. On the last pitch I linked from 5.9 fingers to the top of the big flake for a full 60M pitch - 5/5 stars! Had exact # of cams for an anchor too (green alien, #1 BD and .75 BD).
The Arete is a wonderful route. The route is mostly sound rock with an interesting variety of moves - the loose blocks and grainy rock only show up when the going is easier.
The approach took us 1.5 hours, and was pretty easy to find. The description in the various guides sounds complicated and potentially scary, but it is neither. The turnoff from the Valley trail is right where you think it is, and you'll know you are on the old Indian Creek Trail within 30-50 yards. Going up the old switchbacks and wondering why this nice old trail was ever abandoned was fun, and overall comparable to a Cathedral Spires approach.
Arrowhead Spire was a burly yet uninteresting and unaesthetic way to start the climbing. The summit and rap (do two short raps to the notch to avoid stuck ropes) were *spectacular*, but the climbing to get there was unappealing enough to bring down our mood. Glad I climbed the Spire once, I wouldn't do it again.
Starting the Arete at the tree was very awkward and unappealing (especially with three of us), but the climbing was *top-notch* from there on up. I would gladly do the Arete again.
Does anyone know if there have been any variations done in the middle pitches?
The descent down the west chimney was spectacular, but full of loose rocks.
First, thanks for putting this route Arrowhead Arete in your guidebook. I have some further beta for you to consider.
One of Linda's park service friends recommended the route, so she wanted to do it. We did it this weekend.
Sunday we did the Spire. It took us about 1:45 for the approach. The rap: My 60m rope doubled made it to the notch,
but the rope got stuck behind a block and I had to climb up to get the rope, which was tricky so maybe we
should have made two short raps to the notch. The block has a rope stuck behind it. It looks like impossible to
rap and not get your rope stuck. Anyway, there was a party of three already on the Arete. The were moving
one at a time (not using simultaneous second climbers technique). They were not comfortable to let us pass, so we rapped
off. We stashed our water and came back on Monday and did the Arete.
I recommend different belay spots, more in keeping with how they are marked in the old blue book.
(1) Belay at start of 5.9 fist (more comfortable stance than the tree). I actually did a short pitch to there from the tree
and set the belay with a 3 & 4 camalot that I had also used on the starting 5.8 so.....
(2) Skip the 2-pin belay and continue to the very nice ledge with 1.5" angle, just below the crux bulge.
(3) Belay on large ledge above 5.9 bulge (as shown in supertopo) or continue to:
(4) Nice ledge with good anchors just before "5.9 fingers".
(5) Solid tree at base of "great white flake" (since you skipped the ledge after the "5.7 face poor pro" rope drag would dictate stopping).
(6) Solid tree after great white flake or continue to:
(7) Small tree on ledge after "loose 5.7" above the natural rock arch.
I thought that the 5.7 face with poor pro actually had good pro. I got in two very solid nut placements right there. Seems like
if you can lead the first pitch and the 5.9 just above the 2-pin belay, that the 5.7 section will seem trivial in comparison. The
anchors at the ledge just after the 5.7 face (where you start the traverse over to the great white flake) are in a large detached
flake. Granted it is huge and pretty well pinned in, but I was really wishing I had stopped at the great ledge just below there.
That would have meant I would have had to stop to belay at the large tree at the start of the great white flake,
but then I could have done a very long pitch from that tree, possibly nearly to the final ridge.
One disadvantage could be that the belayer at the tree might be exposed to some rock fall from the leader and that might well be why the
supertopo does not mark the tree belay shown in the blue book.
Well in any case, thanks so much for the great topo! I never did that route since I assumed it would have a brutal approach and
be a crappy route. Actually the approach is beautiful, up the old Indian Creek Trail, and the route is spectacular. I am amazed that
the route was first climbed in the 50s.
On the descent, we actually did not find the 3rd class into the gully. You might add your helpful narrative remark to the topo: "don't go up unless
forced to do so". We rapped off of the "alternate tree rap". After the first big chockstone rap, we found a single 50's piton. I backed it up with
a nice hex that Mark had given me and rigged a short extra rap to avoid a sketchy down climb. It was pretty wet in there. The next two raps
had new sport bolts with quick links. On the first chockstone rap, my 60m doubled barely made it, but I guess you could swing onto the
fin of rock if you had a shorter rope??
Arrowhead Arete. Though I have minimal Yosemite experience, I thought this route (at least the way up) was awesome. The approach is long (about 1.5-2 hours - more or less depending on whether you are moving for speed or just casually). The good side of the approach is that you get some exercise and get to get away from crowds (the bad side is the descent - more on that later). I saw nobody during the entire climb.
The route climbs a spire to start. Then you rap down the backside (be careful what you use to rap as many of the slings look older than me). From there, you continue to climb up fairly straight-forward but fun climbing. The route is rated a 5.9, but that is due to just a few moves. As a whole, it feels easier. The views of the valley and out to Half Dome are great. Like I said, the best part is the isolation from other climbers. The rock quality was pretty good also. The final knife-edged ridge at the top of the climb is fairly straight forward, but quite airy on either side. Good for pictures.
Be careful on the descent. Though there apparently is a way to descend by continuing along the ridge to hike out, we proceeded down to the left of the route (a rocky, tallis gully). This is a sloppy descent and it is easy to slip and twist and ankle (or I guess, worse). There are also a few raps down here. Bring something comfortable to descend in for your feet. I only brought my rock shoes and suffered (eventually having to descend barefoot - partially in the dark). Eventually you will end up where you started and can hike out (thus, you can leave some supplies and your pack at the base and get it on the way out). The descent basically sucks.
So why does this get a high rating -- it's an adventure for a one-day climb. To me, adventure is at the heart of a good climb. It is not a climb I will soon forget. Of course, don't blame me if you are cursing on the descent.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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