Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1

 
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Half Dome


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Half Dome RNWF by big wall ignorants
Monday June 22, 2015 9:19pm
Let us start this report by acknowledging that both me and my wife are big wall ignorants. We have never aid climbed or jumared before. Our entire climbing lives were devoted to free climbing. Still, as any climber that has ever visited the valley, we wanted to send the RNWF on Half Dome. Unfortunately, freeing the route was out of our league (the hardest route we have freed in the valley was Freeblast) but after studying other climbers reports, we’ve concluded that french freeing should be possible. We have based our climbing strategy on Aaron Cassebeer’s trip report with slight modifications. The leader carried 18L backpack with:
 3L of water
 long sleeve

The follower carried a 35L backback with:
 3L of water
 12x probar meal (powerbar snack)
 2x down jacket
 2x bivvy sack
 2x approach shoes with socks
 long sleeve

We wanted to climb the route in two days, spending the night on Big Sandy ledge (since we are big wall novices, we wanted to experience spending the night on the ledge - it is a truly unique experience).

Day 1

We drove into the valley and parked our car in Curry Village. After taking the shuttle, we started the death slab approach around 1:30pm (wearing our harnesses and all the gear on us). After studying all the reports describing how dangerous the slabs are, our “near death” expectations were so high that we took the wrong way on the first slab. Instead of going right into the forest, we went to the left and started climbing a slabby crack. After ~20m of climbing we’ve noticed our mistake and reverted back into the forest. From that point, we have followed the cones all the way to the base of the Half Dome wall. We did not find the approach very challenging or dangerous (all fixed ropes were set up). Climbing RNWF is so much more challenging that the death slabs should not cause much of a problem.

Eva linking the fixed lines in the middle of the death slabs approach.
Eva linking the fixed lines in the middle of the death slabs approach.
Credit: lukasz

We’ve reached the base of the route around 4:30pm. The spring was still running. There was a single party ahead of us. Since we still had a lot of time, we’ve decided to fix the first pitch before going to sleep.

We took the bivy sacks instead of sleeping bags to cut on weight but it turned out to be a better idea than we anticipated. There are so many mosquitoes at the base of Half Dome that sleeping without any protection for the face would probably mean no sleep at all. The bivy sack protects face from these little vampires.

Day 2

We woke up at 4:20am. It was still dark when we ate the powerbar breakfast. I jugged the fixed rope to P1. My lack of big wall experience was immediately apparent. I’ve wasted more energy jugging the rope than I would have free climbing the pitch. It probably also took more time. The only benefit was that I could have started the jugging before dusk. We only had a single ascender so Eva followed me free climbing the pitch. From this point, we switched to our normal rhythm where we would both free climb as much as possible and additionally the follower would seldom pull on gear to go faster.

Eva following P2/P3 with the bigger backpack.
Eva following P2/P3 with the bigger backpack.
Credit: lukasz

This strategy allowed us to average 40 minutes per pitch. We could go faster but there was a party ahead of us that had a slightly slower pace (they chose more big wall style of climbing with the second jugging the rope). On all bolt ladders, we would pull from quickdraws and stand on rock and bolts to clip. If the bolts were too far, we would clip a sling and step into it to increase reach. On the first chimney pitch, we took the free variation through the hole. It was absolutely spectacular (for us, it was the best free pitch of the route). IMO, the 10c rating is at the exit of the crack which cannot be pulled on gear (bouldery face move). Choose this variation only if you feel comfortable climbing 10c.

Eva climbing out through the chimney hole (she had to take her bac...
Eva climbing out through the chimney hole (she had to take her backpack off to squeeze through). You can see the bouldery face move where the chalk is.
Credit: lukasz

The remaining chimney pitches are perfect for linking if you have a 70m rope. The first pitch takes small gear, the wide 5.7 chimney takes micro gear or no gear and the third pitch takes large gear. There are lots of fixed pitons on all three pitches.

Lukasz chimneying through the 5.7 section. Placed the backpack on the ...
Lukasz chimneying through the 5.7 section. Placed the backpack on the front for this part.
Credit: lukasz

Climbing the awesome last pitch before the sandy ledge.
Climbing the awesome last pitch before the sandy ledge.
Credit: lukasz

We have reached the sandy ledge at 4pm and enjoyed the big wall bivy. The party ahead of us (Bria and Riki) went for a single day ascend and kept climbing to the top - great spirit!

Eva taking a nap on the big sandy ledge. It was reasonably warm during...
Eva taking a nap on the big sandy ledge. It was reasonably warm during the night. Still, since we only had down jackets, the legs were not isolated. Eva used our ropes to improve the isolation.
Credit: lukasz

Day 3

We started at 5:30am. We french freed all three zigzags pretty easily. The crux sections have plenty of fixed nuts and take small cams almost anywhere. I would hang on the rope, pull on the highest gear and reach far out to place next gear and clip the rope. Then repeat the process. The process was slightly harder for the follower with a heavier backpack (still 2L of water at this point + all bivy stuff). We did all three zigzags without linking in 2 hours. If I were to repeat the zigzags, I would leave less gear on the first pitch so that linking the second pitch would be possible.

Pulling on the gear through the first zigzag.
Pulling on the gear through the first zigzag.
Credit: lukasz

The 5.8 offwidth does not take BD #4. We carried it all the way to protect this part but it turned out to be useless. Next time, I would not carry any protection for that part. There is literally half a meter of crawling after which you can reach reasonable holds. We hung the backpack on a sling before entering the OW.
On the tension traverse at the final bolt ladder, there are two small holes which took BD C3 perfectly. The size didn’t seem to matter but the width did matter. After stepping into a clipped sling, the second bolt ladder was within a reach. We topped around 9:30am.

Eva and Lukasz on the last pitch (photo taken by one of the hikers...
Eva and Lukasz on the last pitch (photo taken by one of the hikers from the top of Half Dome).
Credit: lukasz

Happy couple on the top of the Visor.
Happy couple on the top of the Visor.
Credit: lukasz

We took the hiking trail descend which is awfully long and has no water for a very long time. Next time, we would choose to descend back to the base of the route to refill the water and take the death slabs down.

Detailed gear

Climbing:
 60m double rope (European legacy)
 2x BD C4 rack up to #3
 BD C4 #4 (did not use it)
 BD C3 rack
 set of DMM nuts without the largest nut + few doubles + nut tool
 few offset nuts (brass and DMM) (did not use it)
 6x quickdraws
 12x carabiners
 8x slings
 Petzl ascender (seldomly used - could have been avoided)
 2x BD ATC, 6x screwgate carabiner + other personal gear

Other:
 18L & 35L backpack
 2x down jacket, long sleeves
 2x bivy sacks
 2x approach shoes
 2x headlamp
 12x probar
 6L of water
 1x camera
 2x knife
 2x sunglasses
 ziplocks for poop

All our gear including clothes.
All our gear including clothes.
Credit: lukasz

  Trip Report Views: 6,636
lukasz
About the Author
lukasz is a climber from Poland

Comments
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Jun 22, 2015 - 09:24pm PT
hey there say, lukasz, and wife... wow! thanks for sharing...

loved the humble begining intro, too... :)


nice photos as well! and happy 'arrived at goal' pic, too!

thank you so much, again, for sharing... :)
many more happy climbs to you both :)
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
  Jun 22, 2015 - 09:27pm PT
thanks for sharing that even plebes like me can have big fun.

I am happy for you both!
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Jun 22, 2015 - 09:42pm PT
Good job! Congrats!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 22, 2015 - 10:43pm PT
nicely done
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Jun 22, 2015 - 10:50pm PT
Great job!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:15am PT
Fantastic adventure in great style. Yall moved fast and light and got it done by breakfast on day 2. Well done. Happy for you two. Keep sending! Thanks for a well written and helpful/useful report!

Scott
lukasz

Big Wall climber
Bay Area
Author's Reply  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:17am PT
Thanks to all for the kind words!

@moosedrool
Dzięki za pozdrowienia - miło wymienić pare polskich słów.
overwatch

climber
Arizona
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:36am PT
Nice job, definitely sounds like the way to do it
pc

climber
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:36am PT
Great report. Good going and thanks for sharing.
pc
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:50am PT
Full props! For a great write up!
Awesome for the best opening line.
As a way of joining the kamp Fire!
Thanx for takin' us along.
And I can only guess ?
What's Next?
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:50am PT
Great route, eh? Especially the top half.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:52am PT
Stellar job climbing.
Excellent trip report.
Sounds like a wonderful time on a beautiful rock!
Roots

Mountain climber
Somewhere Fun
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:53am PT
I liked your TR. Gave me hope that someday I can climb that route.
jonnyrig

climber
  Jun 23, 2015 - 08:58am PT
Nice TR. Makes me think there's hope for a noob like me.
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Jun 23, 2015 - 01:02pm PT
Nice TR!

It brought back memories of just 2 years ago, when I was up there with my son. I also remember how slow I went, since I'm close to 70.

I have great respect for Polish climbers, having climbed with some of your legends, many years ago.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jun 23, 2015 - 01:22pm PT
You two are my heroes! Doing HDRNWF with no aid or ascender experience and pulling it off in a day and a half - and writing an excellent, inviting, TR. Thank you much.

John
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 23, 2015 - 03:36pm PT
Mice job ,
You are not noobs anymore!!!
rodermck

Social climber
san jose ca.
  Jun 27, 2015 - 11:30pm PT
Got to hand it to you for big wall novices that you were able to pull this off in fantasic style and your easy breezy style of writing made it enjoyable to read with excellent pics to boot!!.. Now that your not big wall neophytes looking forward to reading your next big wall adventure!!.. Berg Heil !!.. Cheers!!..
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 28, 2015 - 04:16am PT
You're spoiled now
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jul 7, 2015 - 11:21am PT
Well done! Thanks for the TR!
Aaron Cassebeer

climber
Mojave, CA
  Jul 7, 2015 - 12:24pm PT
This is awesome! I'm really glad you found my trip report useful and that you were able to realize your dream before the rockfall this past week.

Nice Job!
-Aaron
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
  Jul 7, 2015 - 02:36pm PT
Awesome. Making my husband read it - in hopes he will agree to do it with me.
Kironn Kid

Trad climber
  Jul 7, 2015 - 05:11pm PT
Nice. Well done.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Jul 7, 2015 - 06:20pm PT
Wow! Well done! Thanks for the report!

Is that chimney thru pitch the one that fell off? How does is feel to be a candidate for last known ascent? Lol
NutAgain!

Trad climber
https://nutagain.org
  Jul 7, 2015 - 06:32pm PT
Nice reportage and good job getting up there and getting it done.

(re: last known ascent candidate... I was just thinking the same thing Mike!)
lukasz

Big Wall climber
Bay Area
Author's Reply  Jul 9, 2015 - 07:39am PT
Apparently, the chimney pitch with the window is no longer there. Such a pitty - it was a spectacular pitch.
Jdizzle

Boulder climber
Lander, wy. Born 1992. student of physics and pain
  Jul 9, 2015 - 05:02pm PT
Sad, the window was my favorite pitch..

erosion is the fate of all rock
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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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Snake Dike follows an amazing feature to one of the most incredible summits in Yosemite.
Half Dome - Tis-sa-ack A3 5.9 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
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Half Dome - Zenith A4 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Zenith, A4 5.8
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The first part of the route is hidden.
Half Dome - Direct Northwest Face 5.14a or 5.10 C2+ - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Direct Northwest Face, 5.14a or 5.10 C2+
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The Direct Northwest Face.
Half Dome - Blondike 5.11b R - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Blondike, 5.11b R
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Blondike is the red line and Two Hoofers is the Blue Line.
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