Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1

  • Currently 5.0/5

Half Dome

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Cheburashka crushes! Reg NWF of HD (c2c)
Tuesday May 28, 2013 1:45pm
Regular NW Face of Half Dome was fifth completed big wall for me this spring, and probably last wall of the season. Turned out I saved the best for last! It had everything I wanted - great views, free climbing, aesthetic line, long approach and a great summit. This time, not only did we complete our first IAD grade VI climb, but did so car to car (with 16+ round trip miles via Mist Trail). In addition, we packed out a load of garbage and had a lot of fun in general.

Better cover for National Geographic
Better cover for National Geographic
Credit: Scott B (sharperblue)
NW Face of Half Dome- what a beautiful wall!
NW Face of Half Dome- what a beautiful wall!
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Check out my blog for more pictures and trip reports:

To give us some extra luck we brought Cheburashka, who free soloed through Thank God ledge, becoming the first stuffed animal on internet to do so.

Alex who?

For approach, we picked Mist Trail option for a few reasons:
1) After a few days of thunderstorms Valley floor was soaked, and death slabs were wet.
2) We did not want to get lost taking death slabs for our first time at night.
3) Both of us had enough cardio to not care about extra few (16) miles, and it is good training anyway.

Mist trail was easy to follow. Waterfalls were booming and both of us got soaked - Hamik got soaked because he did not have his shell on, and I got soaked because I did have my shell on (while running up the stairs with a pack). Crux of this approach option was to pick the right spot where to turn off main trail in order to reach base of NW face. There are no cairns and no obvious trail that splits off. Two things to remember is not to go further than a big warning sign (as I remember) which is posted at the start of switchbacks/stairs. Also, it is helpful to follow the line of trees which skirts the base (there is a faint trail here which is not hard to follow).

Early morning views from the approach.

Hamik on pitch two

Exposure and views were great

North-West Face

Our strategy was to lead and follow majority of the route free. Linking up pitches was a great way to speed up our climb. Since Hamik had a few bolt ladders and low fifth in his blocks, he also got more pitches to lead to make it fair. His first block was 1-4. With a few feet of simul-climbing he was able to link up 2nd and 3rd pitch. Fourth had one of the best thin hand cracks I have climbed in the Valley. I took over and linked pitches 5 and 6 with Hamik simul climbing through third class stretch. With more simul climbing I was also able to link 7 and 8th. By the time I was getting close to the end of 8th pitch rope drag was killing me (it is important to extend those draws!).

Views towards El Capitan, North Dome, etc

Me leading the lie back above big sandy

Hamik leading upper pitches

View towards Watkins

Hamik took 9th through 11th pitch. I thought 11th had a few cruxy moves that seemed harder than 5.9. After that I took over for my final block of pitches (12-17th), first of which turned into hell. I took the 5.9 squeeze variation but went too far up before exiting. For what seemed like an eternity I was trying to inch my way up or out without any success. At last I was able to down-climb a few feet down and escape. There was a horizontal crack to place pro, before taking a 20 foot offwidth (for which we did not bring any pro) to the top. After this pitch, chimneys became much more enjoyable to climb. To be honest, I wouldn't even call them chimneys since majority of climbing here involved a mix of handcracks, stemming and chimneying. My favorite pitches on this stretch were 15th and 17th (double cracks).

Hamik traversing Thank God ledge

Views towards Conness

Hamik on pitch 22 (bolt ladder)


Garbage we hauled out

On top of 17th pitch I handed the rack off to Hamik till the top. Zig Zags had so much fixed gear, that it looked like a sport climb. It did help speed up the aid on this pitch (neither of us even tried to free it). This stretch had a few highlights - Thank God ledge for one, and 5-6 BASE jumpers that buzzed over our heads at sunset. It was an incredible experience to be on a vertical wall and witness them flying by in their flying squirrel suits. Both of us watched with our jaws dropped as one of them cleared a ridge by a few feet. We took an alternative variation to the last pitch, which provided more excitement than we wanted to have in the end of a long day. After some shenanigans we figured out where the route really goes and were happy to take our free climbing shoes off on the summit. Since we finished after sunset, the tourists were gone and we missed out on playing celebs (at least I got that treatment after climbing Snake Dike a few year back). Even though we still had to pick up our stuff from near the base of the route and hike out, we didn't care - we climbed Half Dome in a day!

Half Dome after descent back to the car
Half Dome after descent back to the car
Credit: Vitaliy M.

  Trip Report Views: 2,602
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

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Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  May 28, 2013 - 01:49pm PT
Nice! Good work on the clean up, thanks.

San Mateo, California
  May 28, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Love that Cheburashka's adventures continue! Thanks for the TR and lots of photos. Well done!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  May 28, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Nice. Thanks!

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 28, 2013 - 01:55pm PT
Чеьурашка! Такой молодец!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  May 28, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
And the legend of Vittles grows, barely keeping pace with little Chebie!

Mountain climber
Pasadena, CA
  May 28, 2013 - 02:17pm PT
I take issue with Cheburashka claiming he takes all the hard leads. Maybe he thought that riding in the backpack through the Zigzags counts?

Trad climber
under the sea
  May 28, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
Sweet!!! must go do myself....
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  May 28, 2013 - 02:34pm PT
I love that Nat Geo cover shot. Classic. I haven't been at that spot since I was 16. Far too long. Great send, BTW. Keep those trip reports coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  May 28, 2013 - 02:38pm PT
My wife loved the National Geographic cover, and I loved the entire TR when we saw it on Facebook yesterday evening. Great work, and great TR. Thanks much.


  May 28, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
nice. that cover is cool!
the route is as well...good job

Trad climber
  May 28, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
Such a great day! TFPU

Trad climber
  May 28, 2013 - 06:05pm PT
Love how you continue to seize the day, Vitaly! Thanks for bringing us along!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  May 28, 2013 - 06:06pm PT
a fuggin machine!..A monkey-climbing machine he is.... Car to car is difficult in "SLEDS"!;^)

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  May 28, 2013 - 06:21pm PT
Stud muffin.

We should start a pool on how many pitches Vitaliy climbs in 2013

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 28, 2013 - 08:02pm PT

  May 28, 2013 - 08:21pm PT
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  May 28, 2013 - 08:33pm PT
You guys are badass!

  May 28, 2013 - 09:06pm PT
Nice report! TFPU!
That's one of my favorite routes of all time. I really regret not bringing a camera on it.

"Me leading the lie back above big sandy"
You mean "below" Big Sandy right? Looks like the double cracks.

  May 28, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Badass and in May no less! Wow!
"Me leading the lie back above big sandy"
-below Big Sandy?

Great TR and love the cover of nat geo. That was Hennick who had the cover back when Galen Rowell, Doug Robinson and Dennis Hennick clean climbed it. Great Robinson artical, very inspiring.

Wow! Nice job both youse dudes!!!!!!

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  May 28, 2013 - 11:03pm PT
Hamik just did the Nose with my friend Lea, now he's at it with you on Half Dome. What a great partner.

Congrats on the climb V!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 29, 2013 - 12:36am PT
-below Big Sandy?

Above or bellow...this climb was like 3 weeks ago now, and I am getting old. Memory sucks. Yes it was pitch 17, just bellow big sandy. But it started on a pretty big ledge, so got mixed up a bit.


  May 29, 2013 - 01:10am PT
Well done, thanks for sharing this!

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
  May 29, 2013 - 01:37am PT
Yes, another great outing by the Russian dvoryanin. I can only imagine what you will be doing in a few years.

Social climber
  May 29, 2013 - 02:11am PT
Good job, and thanks for picking up the trash.
Easy Wind

Trad climber
Oakland, California
  May 29, 2013 - 11:15am PT
Great photography! Nice work up there!

Sonoma County
  May 29, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
simply awesome Vitaliy! this and all your other trip reports. :)

Trad climber
  May 29, 2013 - 10:36pm PT
Hilarious parody on the NG cover; reminds me of Harvard Lampoon.

Does anyone remember "Bored of the Rings"?

Thanks for the TR.

Oakland, CA
  May 30, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
Oh yeah, very nice.

Great job on the trash.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
  May 30, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
Good show, Vitaliy

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  May 30, 2013 - 04:10pm PT
Nice send! You are the man and going off this spring. Way to get another one done.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  May 31, 2013 - 01:37am PT
You guys are crushing.

good work

favorite part

"at least I got that treatment after climbing Snake Dike a few year back"
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 1, 2013 - 02:18pm PT
Way to keep at it!

Extra style points for taking the garbage out.
Another great Vittles TR!!!!

  Jun 1, 2013 - 05:43pm PT
Fantastic! Deserves to be bumped 8 or 9 hundred times, till something better comes along...

wayne burleson

Amherst, MA
  Jun 1, 2013 - 08:32pm PT
Great report! The pre-dawn shots brought back memories of 1980, my first big wall. The 1974 National Geo cover/article was my introduction to climbing...
Johnny K.

  Jul 16, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
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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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