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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