Trip Report
An Adventure on the Chouinard Herbert
Thursday November 17, 2011 3:00pm
Technically, it was morning but the night was still holding on. It was late October, the end of an amazing season of climbing in Yosemite. Daylight hours were precious and our head lamps illuminated the trail to Sentinel Rock.

Morning Light on El Capitan

Casey 4th classing up the huge approach ramp.

I was on this trail at this early hour three months before, almost to the day. Back in July, twilight was already filtering through the Valley and we were sweating before we even left the car. This day I wondered if we had packed enough jackets because there would be no sun on the Chouinard-Herbert.

We started 5th class climbing here (just to the left of the big pine in the sandy gully)

Casey and I hiked up the climbersí trail, with the morning glow helping show the path. The air was crisp and multi-colored leaves covered the hillside. We made our final preparations at the base, sorted our gear, and tightened our climbing shoes. We scrambled up the ramps, quickly working our way towards the route.

Casey on the last chimney before Chessman Pinnacle

We deviated from the topo, taking a more direct and fun variation, but eventually made our way to Chessman Pinnacle. Occasional marks of chalk showed signs of prior parties on the seemingly abandoned route. The Sentinel was ours, the shade and cold our partners for the day.

Casey took the sharp end off the Pinnacle and smoothly onsighted a less than straightforward pitch. The cracks demanded attention as they varied in size and angle before blanking out at the belay. Casey picked his way over the slab, approaching the first crux. As he worked past a smattering of fixed gear, he was looking good until his foot slipped. The crack was barely a fingerís width across.

Casey leads the first 5.10 pitch off Chessman Pinnacle

Casey right before the first crux section.

As I started climbing my confidence was wavered and I had Casey drop a loop of rope to haul the pack. Unencumbered, I worked my way up the tips crux. Foot high, I tried to locate a good spot in the crack. My body tensed as my foot came off, but I recovered. I got my breathing back under control and reset my foot, quickly smashing my fingers into the crack and snagging a good fingerlock. Moments later I too was on the ledge.

Psyched for a chilly but fun day on the Sentinel

The plan was to swing leads for efficiency, so I racked up for a face climbing challenge. Despite having already climbed five hundred feet, I felt rusty or perhaps just tired. The pitch was leaning and I had to transition mentally to the new style of climbing. Pitons guided me up the face. With plenty of gear left, I linked into the next pitch. I moved nervously careful not to pull the wrong way on the hollow and loose flakes. Finally at the belay, I relaxed on the spacious ledge. The two new ASCA bolts instilled some confidence and mellowed my attitude.

Casey links pitches 9 and 10. <br/>
Casey links pitches 9 and 10.

Credit: cultureshock
Casey links pitches 9 and 10.

Casey swung through and easily climbed the next two pitches bringing us to the base of the my first 5.11 lead. I started up the offwidth, thrutching slightly and spending far more effort than then 5.8 rating implied. The crack narrowed down below a roof and I fought to keep my pump under control. Swinging my legs up over the lip, I slipped. My arm was still wedged in the crack, so I caught my self and struggled to avoid falling. Casey would show me an easier sequence when he followed, but for now I still had more climbing to do. My mind was fried and at the next hard sequence I gave up. The crack thinned out and I could see neither hand holds nor gear placements. I faltered.

Casey make quick work of the long 5.11 corner (pitch 11)

After cleaning out some dirt, I fought my way up, pumped to the max, and eventually clipped the oddly placed anchors. Casey barely struggled, climbing smoothly with our pack to the belay. I tried to regroup, but it seems that my mental energy was gone. The hundreds of feet of climbing had slowly chipped away my armor.

Mandatory shot of Afro-Cuban Flakes (not very big in person!)

The Afro Cuban Flakes were next and I worked up to the traverse. With the picture of Honnold fresh in my mind, I crimped and crossed up into the underclings. The flakes were loose and rotten so I traversed to a better stance and fired in an anchorís worth of gear. But from here I was faced with the unknown. With my mental energy sapped and my arms filled with lactic acid, I hung. It is so funny how small mental shifts can be the difference between sending and giving up.

Inobvious holds and body positions lead over the roof and eventually I worked my way to the belay, resting on pins and gear to save my energy. I donít know what I was keeping it for, since the next few pitches quickly flew by. Casey was able to fire the crux with my running beta and we linked and simuled to the top, where we were treated to warming rays of the setting sun. Sadly there was no time to dawdle or soak in the views.

Casey is totally psyched to finish climbing in the daylight!

The descent gulley was loose and long, but rarely technical and not as bad as the hype. We made good time and arrived back at our packs just in time for the darkness to surround us once again. Headlamps illuminated our steps as we trudged back to the car.

Itís been a while since Iíve gotten up in the dark and returned to camp in the dark. We got back to the car just under 12 hours after leaving it. Iíve waited a while to try the Chouinard-Herbert and was glad I squeezed it into this fall. I know Iíll be back!

Rough topo of the Chouinard-Herbert. Pitch 10 is a little off and there are a few more bolts and an optional belay on pitch 11.

So I usually just post links over to my blog. But it seems people really like to have everything on Supertopo. Click the link below if you liked the TR :-D I'm curious how the metrics will compare...



  Trip Report Views: 2,798
About the Author
cultureshock is a trad climber from Mountain View, CA.

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Trad climber
Golden, Co
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:03pm PT
Thanks! Valley bump

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:04pm PT
Nice! This is on my radar for next year, with some hanging, gear pulling, and sling standing.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:09pm PT
Nice! This is on my radar for next year, with some hanging, gear pulling, and sling standing.

Me, too! I've managed to ignore it for the 42 years I've climbed in the Valley, but this TR shows me I've made a mistake.

Thanks, cultureshock.


Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:17pm PT
Way to set the bar high nutjob! Give yourself a little credit, you have all year to train.

Thanks for a big diversion in the middle of my workday!

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:22pm PT
Great TR! Not too many people can muster up the psyche to do the Sentinel approach and decent twice in a season. The Chouinard Herbert is a well known route but sees so much less traffic than its neighbor to the right. Glad to see other weekend warriors straying away to check out some decent Yosemite obscurities.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:36pm PT
That topo is awesome!

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Nov 17, 2011 - 03:46pm PT
Awesome! Cool to see another look at it after all these years. Was my very first route in the valley.

Trad climber
  Nov 17, 2011 - 04:37pm PT
Nice work. Fun TR.

Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Nov 17, 2011 - 04:50pm PT
Fine, fine TR. I think I'd have to pull on stuff if I were to pull this one off.

East Bay, CA
  Nov 17, 2011 - 06:30pm PT
I could see doing it to with a bit of gear pullin'.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 17, 2011 - 06:48pm PT
Way to go!
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Nov 17, 2011 - 07:01pm PT
Outstanding. Thanks.

  Nov 17, 2011 - 07:06pm PT
Great TR.
I like the topo too! Thanks for posting this on Supertopo.
I would not have clicked over to you blog, which would have been my loss.
Climb on!

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Nov 17, 2011 - 08:03pm PT
yeah man, great TR!

thanks for posting!

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Nov 18, 2011 - 12:16am PT
That shot of p11, sick!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Nov 18, 2011 - 01:06am PT

JE, maybe we should team up next year for some "hanging, gear pulling, and sling standing". We could do it in a (long) day, so as to avoid lugging too much junk. And if you thought praying would get us up, well, as long as it doesn't frighten the horses...

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 18, 2011 - 01:31am PT
Nice Send!

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Nov 18, 2011 - 09:04am PT
Thumbs up! Love the manzanita tunnel grovels off the top eh? Good job.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Mar 27, 2014 - 02:00pm PT
Kinda hot out, I could use some Sherbet bump.

Oakland, CA
  Mar 27, 2014 - 04:44pm PT
Strong work on the bump.

Also: not bad on the climb ha ha

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Mar 27, 2014 - 04:46pm PT
Luke, just re-read your TR now after having finally done the route last Season. We ended up doing the same start as you (which is not traditional start) and both Mac and I thought it was pretty hard, wide, slick and awkward.

And just as we were starting up a hang-glider launched off the top. Pretty cool.

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Mar 27, 2014 - 05:45pm PT

Maybe you are talking about a different start. The way we went was none of those things. Perhaps some grainy 5.9 cracks and a touch of dirt, but nothing crazy to write home about.

I still need to get back on this rig. Time sure flies. 2011 was a great year season in Yosemite for me.


Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
  Mar 27, 2014 - 09:34pm PT
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Mar 27, 2014 - 10:57pm PT
Thanks Culture. One rarely sees photos from this route. Maybe ever. There are some from the Afro-Cuban flakes area but not the rest in my knowledge.
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