Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1

 
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Half Dome


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Cheating death on the Half Dome Death Slabs: an epic tale of n00bery and bromance.
Thursday March 20, 2014 9:06pm
This is from Summer of 2013 and is my first ever TR, so go easy on me.

We had just left the maintained section of the Half Dome approach trail and started our way up the first few sections of 5th class terrain, hand-over-handing old knotted climbing ropes, I yelled down to my buddy Jard, “This is it?! I’ve heard all this lore over the years about these dangerous slabs and the crappy fixed lines, but these ropes look fine and these slabs are EASY!” I could still see the ground 100ft below.

“This is it?! I’ve heard all this lore over the years about these dang...
“This is it?! I’ve heard all this lore over the years about these dangerous slabs and the crappy fixed lines, but these ropes look fine and these slabs are EASY!”
Credit: tallmark515

Once the ground disappeared and we made our way up mostly secure 3rd and 4th class terrain things began to get a bit more tricky (and wet). However the lure of the giant North West face of Half Dome loomed over our heads and kept our psych up and continue to inspire our confidence. With this new found confidence, I took the lead and charged my way up to the second section of fixed lines. At the base of the second set, we reached a fork in the road; intimidating, steep terrain to the left and intimidating steep terrain to the right. After some discussion and a brief view of another party ahead of us topping out the path to the right, we opted to go to the right.

Wrong way bro!!!
Wrong way bro!!!
Credit: tallmark515

I went first and started hand-over-handing the two redundant fixed climbing ropes, after bypassing about 50+ feet of 5.6 terrain it became impossible to continue to use the climbing ropes, as they disappeared over a steep cliff. Fortunately, there was an easy looking escape out left, another rope, some little ledges and vegetation. I grabbed the rope to the left and yelled down to Jard, “Hey duder! This looks like some sh#t hardware store rope, what the f*#k?!” He yelled back something about being careful. Fueled with excitement about our route, I charged my way up, hand-over-handing the sh#t rope, getting closer to the tie-off point. About 80+ feet out from my partner, I lunged my arm out to grab the tree trunk, my fingertips within inches of the trunk and…

**The f*#king rope snapped.**

I instantly fell backwards with the rope still in my hand, sliding down on my back, headfirst. A split second later, little juniper sapling appeared to my right side so I grabbed it and was able to face my body feet-first to the ground, however the force of the fall pulled my hand right off and I continued to barrel down the slab. I peered down and there was Jard’s frightened face below me and it was getting closer. I thought to myself, “Do I try to steer toward him to break my fall, or steer away from him so I don’t kill him… f*#k!”

I continued to fall uncontrollably, foolishly thinking to myself about how tore up my pack is going to be when I hit the ground, then before I could finish my thought...

…oh shit! There’s Jard!

...and it looks like he’s assumed a linebacker position and is prepared for my collision. Seconds later, BAM! He body checks me over onto a plush, little sloping ledge just feet before another big sloping section of slabs.

I stopped, holy sh#t, I stopped.

As the dust settled, I carefully stood up and dropped the piece of sh#t rope that, for some reason, I was still clenching in my fist. I shook out and explored my body for damage and was happy to find that with the exception of a bloody arm and a freshly torn pair of shorts, I was relatively unscathed from the fall, a little shaken up, but in one piece.

Hardware store ropes don't belong on Half Dome!
Hardware store ropes don't belong on Half Dome!
Credit: tallmark515

“Sh#t man, you just saved my ass!”

Jard was still google-eyed and once he saw that I was okay, I could tell from his face that he knew our dreams of Half Dome that day were crushed. Not wanting to ruin his psych, I said, “Hey man, maybe we should use those lines out to the left?!” He affirmed and on our way we went to conquer our first Half Dome in a day!

Onward! The final fixed line.
Onward! The final fixed line.
Credit: tallmark515

Sending!!!!
Sending!!!!
Credit: tallmark515

Pulling on to Big Sandy.
Pulling on to Big Sandy.
Credit: tallmark515


  Trip Report Views: 5,911
tallmark515
About the Author
tallmark515 is a trad climber from San Francisco, CA.

Comments
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overwatch

climber
  Mar 20, 2014 - 09:19pm PT
So it is literally a death slabs tr...cool?...glad your alive
mcbaker

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Mar 20, 2014 - 09:35pm PT
Marcooooooh. Mega tale. Nice writeup!! I think I missed the bromance.... Was that when Jard "body checked" you towards the end of your slide?
Tork

climber
Yosemite
  Mar 20, 2014 - 09:47pm PT
Good judgment is gained through experience, experience often due to poor judgment. I guess it sometimes takes several bad experiences?
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Mar 20, 2014 - 10:10pm PT
One of the best scary-story TRs in a while! Glad you survived to tell about it. And it's funny how the RNWFHDIAD is a footnote to the story :D


And this must be reserved for a classic route name:
"n00bery and bromance"
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:37am PT
My wife was just asking me why they're called the death slabs. I'll show her this.

TFPU!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:41am PT
I want more details about the bromance! Very funny report, aside from you NOT getting seriously hurt.
In any case, you are jugging the fixed lines on the Salathe first! :)
froodish

Social climber
Portland, Oregon
  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:41am PT
however the force of the fall pulled my hand right off

Whew! Imagine my relief when I saw the pictures further down!

Nice TR!
10b4me

climber
  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:42am PT
Thanks.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:46am PT
Good judgment is gained through experience, experience often due to poor judgment. I guess it sometimes takes several bad experiences?

Sometimes you just get lucky, but you'd be a fool to not learn from your errors or miss-steps.

This is why you have to be on yer game, check yer systems. Sh#t happens.

Be ready for anything. Everything.

Nice TR!
tallmark515

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Author's Reply  Mar 21, 2014 - 12:55am PT
however the force of the fall pulled my hand right off

Whew! Imagine my relief when I saw the pictures further down!

Lol!
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Mar 21, 2014 - 05:55am PT
I was up there last June with my son, and those fixed ropes were pretty manky.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
  Mar 21, 2014 - 06:07am PT
EEk!

Whymper said 'Look well to each step'..... Still good advice.

As someone else has suggested, the lesson to be learned wasn't found on the route. Thanks for sharing.

Regards,

Steve
patrick compton

Trad climber
van
  Mar 21, 2014 - 07:59am PT
good story.

bro's dont let bro's .... climb slabs.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 21, 2014 - 08:18am PT
No love for sending?

Good job!
jonnyrig

climber
  Mar 21, 2014 - 11:08am PT
That's a pretty good tale to tell.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Mar 21, 2014 - 02:00pm PT
Daaaaaaaamn. Snapping rope, two words that should never go together.

Going by the look of the sunlight when you were hitting Big Sandy, you guys must have made good time. Top out in daylight? We're all ears (eyes I guess) if you want to give more details on the climb itself, your strategy, all of that. Look at how many views the detail-intensive Big Backpack Strategy TR has! We love that shit!

Thanks for the TR!
j-tree

Big Wall climber
Typewriters and Ledges
  Mar 21, 2014 - 07:02pm PT
Love it!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 22, 2014 - 03:09pm PT
Nice!!!
The Jardness

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Mar 22, 2014 - 04:34pm PT
I'll match your TR with my own account:
http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Marks-Near-Onsight-of-the-Half-Dome-Death-Slabs/t12294n.html
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Mar 27, 2014 - 08:37pm PT
we were doing the slabs in the 70;s,, and they were called the same thing,,bottom line ,do;nt trust other peoples sh#t,,something we all gotta remember,,thanks,,
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Mar 27, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
"I'll match your TR with my own account:"

Remarkably similar stories!

Thanks for sharing.
Erik
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
  Mar 27, 2014 - 10:43pm PT
Two things in climbing really freak me out.
The first is realizing I'm WAY off route.
The other is having to rely on some ancient off-route mank. Old hardware store rope? AAAACK
You managed to escape a two-fer.

Well done with carrying on!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Mar 27, 2014 - 11:02pm PT
excellent!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 28, 2014 - 01:01am PT
Wow! Thanks for a most engrossing TR! Not too often I see someone with more uncertainty over the approach than over the send. Well done!

John
ionlyski

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
  Mar 31, 2014 - 03:04pm PT
I'm not sure i completely get this. I'm assuming you are not technical rock climbers as I can't see doing that route, relying on fixed ropes through easy terrain if you were, so how do know for example that you were on 5.6 terrain?

Sincere not condescending.
Arne
Alpamayo

Trad climber
Davis, CA
  Mar 31, 2014 - 03:16pm PT
I'm not sure i completely get this. I'm assuming you are not technical rock climbers as I can't see doing that route, relying on fixed ropes through easy terrain if you were, so how do know for example that you were on 5.6 terrain?

Sincere not condescending.
Arne

Huh? Have you been up the death slabs? It's pretty common to use fixed lines up this easy terrain to get to the base of HD, especially if carrying a load. Not technical climbers?....dId you not see the pictures of them up on the RNWFHD?
aspendougy

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Apr 1, 2014 - 06:42pm PT
If your're still in hiking boots and have a huge load, you're not exactly going to stroll up 5.6 to get to the real climb. Maybe kind, generous soul will replace the fixed lines, and they'll last another 30 years..............
littlehammer

Mountain climber
Land of frozen crags
  Apr 1, 2014 - 10:22pm PT
I always heard stay to the left but never
climb into the bush.
budmiller

Trad climber
California
  Apr 1, 2014 - 10:24pm PT
The title of this story is hilarious!
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Apr 1, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
hey there say, tallmark515... wow, very nice trip report and great photos...

what a shot, all those multi gray-layers in the wall... so crisp and clear... great rock pic...
Dr.Sprock

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
  Apr 2, 2014 - 04:35am PT
no big, just another day at the office,


(holy f*#kin sh#t batman!)
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Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The Regular Northwest Face.
Photo: Mark Kroese
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