Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1

 
  • Currently 5.0/5
Search
Go

Half Dome


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Half Dome - Regular Route - Big Backpack Strategy
Wednesday November 10, 2010 11:24am
Part photo documentary, part mega beta pack, part Big Backpack Strategy handbook.

Our goal was to climb Half Dome in two days without hauling. What to do? We went with a slightly different but far from original approach - the big backpack strategy. Basically go as minimalist as possible so that all the stuff fits in a backpack that is light and small enough for the follower to jug wearing it. No hauling but still enough luggage space for all the necessary stuff to sleep a night on the wall.

What was good about this strategy? It allowed us to move more quickly, freeing us from the inefficiencies of hauling. What was bad about this strategy? Tipping the scale at 30 pounds, our 40L backpack made free climbing for the follower pretty much impossible or at least very difficult. This was a bummer since we both vastly prefer to free than aid. We compromised by dividing the leads into blocks for efficiency but more importantly, for the fun of climbing.

Here's a link to the photo documentary of our trip. Loads of pitch-by-pitch photos with time stamps for your planning and research. Also some "gee whiz - that sure looks purdy" kind of photos to inspire and reminisce. We noticed a relative paucity of photos of the Death Slabs so we purposely posted extra photos of the Slabs for y'all to scope out. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Brett W who studied, strategized and trained with me for months - even gave it a try with me in July but we had to bail at P5 (for full story, see photos). Also, thanks to all my climbing friends and the Supertopo community for the beta and encouragement. Here's a partial list: Brent G, Chris Mac, John S, Eric B, Tyler W, Woody H, Roberto G, Daryl T, Colin S and Stan M.

If you try it with a big backpack, would love to hear about your experience. Post-up!


ADDENDUM - Couple of notes since I've been asked this a few times now

1) Some tips for Big Backpack Strategy: a) Go light. Look over your stuff and your partner's stuff and question everything that you bring; b) Practice jugging with 30 pounds on your back BEFORE trying this on Half Dome. Jugging in a more upright position using short strides will make you more efficient; c) Dedicate a sling and locker to the backpack will make it easy to secure and transfer at belays; d) Set pro in as straight of a vertical line as possible to make life easier for the follower. It's a different game when jugging with an extra 30 pounds

2) Death Slabs safety: I got sketched only once on the Death Slabs - a slab traverse about 2/3 of the way up on the approach. Some of the steeper sections are incredibly dangerous but well featured and I never felt exposed. Even the one sketch slab traverse, after having done it, wasn't that bad. I would definitely favor the Death Slabs over Muir/Mist. Nobody mentions this but not only is Muir/Mist much much longer, it gains a bunch of unnecessary elevation. You actually need to DESCEND ~900 ft from the shoulder which sucks with all the gear. Check out photos of Half Dome from Olmstead Point to appreciate the overshoot

3) Crowd factor: On Sunday, Sept 12, 2010, we were 1 of 2 parties to blast off. In an "attempt" earlier in the year, (Friday, July 16, 2010), we were 1 of 4 parties to blast off. In the July attempt, college kids being on summer break and it being a Friday definitely had something to do with the added climber volume

4) Water availability: July 16, 2010, main spring was flowing nicely at a rate of 1+ liters per minute. Sept 12, 2010, main spring was dry but the alternate spring (10 feet left of main spring) was still trickling at a rate of ~1/3 liter per minute. For persepctive, winter of 2009-10 was a big snow year for Yosemite

Credit: Danholio
Big backpack strategy in action
Big backpack strategy in action
Credit: Danholio
Summit shot
Summit shot
Credit: Danholio

  Trip Report Views: 11,734
Danholio
About the Author
Dan is a trad climber from San Francisco, CA.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Nov 10, 2010 - 11:35am PT
Good work! Guttsing it out and pulling it off is so rewarding!
charlie.elverson

Trad climber
St. Paul, MN
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:01pm PT
Awesome trip report. I love the pictures and descriptions. That seems like a great style for doing half dome.
eKat

Trad climber
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:03pm PT
YAY.

Good job on the captions for the photos!

TFPU!

eKat
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:08pm PT
Superb. Thanks for the great pics and the detailed narrative!
Gene

climber
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:13pm PT
Real nice job on the climb and TR. TFPU!
max factor

Trad climber
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:42pm PT
Awesome! You guys rocked it. Great photos. Thanks again for letting us start in front of you that morning!
Mr_T

Trad climber
Northern California
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:44pm PT
Awesome tr guys!
Mikemcee

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  Nov 10, 2010 - 12:55pm PT
That was awesome Dan..thanks for sharing.
sac

Trad climber
Sun Coast B.C.
  Nov 10, 2010 - 01:02pm PT
Hey!
Thanks man! Enjoyed the TR
Stoked my fire for this route!!
A.
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Trad climber
  Nov 10, 2010 - 01:59pm PT
Really cool photos - thanks for sharing.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Nov 10, 2010 - 02:04pm PT
Excellent work and TR! I've thought about that strategy before (though for warmer times) and even tried it once on a different wall -- and it worked, somewhat.

Thanks.

John
brotherbbock

Trad climber
Alta Loma, CA
  Nov 10, 2010 - 02:12pm PT
Inspiring TR. I need to do this soon.....
Bad Acronym

climber
Little Death Hollow
  Nov 10, 2010 - 03:19pm PT
Great photos! Thanks.
the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
  Nov 10, 2010 - 03:21pm PT
Great send and photos. Great beta photos for the death slabs.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Nov 10, 2010 - 03:26pm PT
Nice!

DMT
monolith

climber
SF bay area
  Nov 10, 2010 - 04:12pm PT
What happened to the party of three?

Did not see pics of them at Big Sandy.

They must have topped out at night.
Danholio

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 10, 2010 - 04:26pm PT
So the party of three slept one night at P5 then noticed the early the next morning that they were moving too slow to finish the route in good form. We passed them around P5 as they were bailing. The full story is that they were originally a two parties of two but then one guy bailed. The three remaining guys decided to team up as a party of three which ultimately didn't work out. Sucks to get bailed on!
greasemonkey

Trad climber
Davis, Ca
  Nov 10, 2010 - 04:34pm PT
Awesome TR and good job sending guys! The photos were great and thanks for the inspiration!!!
delendaest

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Nov 10, 2010 - 04:37pm PT
Thanks for all the pictures and comments!
Zander

climber
  Nov 10, 2010 - 04:38pm PT
All right! Good TR. Thanks for posting it. Definitely a climb I want to do. Cool to see so many good pics.

Zander
Phil_B

Social climber
CHC, en zed
  Nov 10, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
Very cool! Thanks for sharing. That remains on my tick list. Good on ya for getting it done.
clippinalong

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Nov 10, 2010 - 08:14pm PT
Heck yeah guys!! Thanks for putting together such a great report, Dan!!
Clara Campagnolo

Gym climber
San Francisco
  Nov 10, 2010 - 08:42pm PT
Wow, looks beautiful up there. What an accomplishment! Thanks for sharing with the rest of us. Such an inspiration :)
roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Nov 10, 2010 - 08:43pm PT
Hi,

Great trip and an excellent report. The photos really give a good idea of what to expect.

Cheers, Roy
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 11, 2010 - 11:41am PT
GGGGRRREEEAAATTT!
roadman

climber
  Nov 11, 2010 - 12:35pm PT
dude, great TR!
rwedgee

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
  Nov 11, 2010 - 12:54pm PT
Great adventure, and love the strategy too! Thanks for taking the time to do the write up.
bmacd

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Nov 11, 2010 - 01:22pm PT
Wow, awesome and innovative ascent ! TFPU !!
skywalker

climber
  Nov 11, 2010 - 02:13pm PT
Bump! Nice job fellas...

S...
Hendo1

Trad climber
Toronto
  Nov 11, 2010 - 04:05pm PT
A really enjoyable trip report. It was like going on a mini-vacation for 20 minutes.

I hope your knee is better.
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Nov 11, 2010 - 09:29pm PT
Thanks!
Mikey V

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Nov 12, 2010 - 11:17am PT
Awesome series of photos. Also great story telling in the captions. I feel like I climbed it! Always wondered if you could climb a wall with the big backpack strategy. Maybe I'll try it next year. Proud send!
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
  Nov 12, 2010 - 12:07pm PT
Good Work Men.
crossman04

Trad climber
Ventura, CA
  Mar 1, 2011 - 01:00pm PT
Great TR! The death slabs pics were nice. I'm hoping they'll help me out when I give the route a try this spring!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 1, 2011 - 01:54pm PT
Thanks for bumping, crossman, because I missed this one the first time. I like the strategy, and loved the TR.

John
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Mar 1, 2011 - 02:35pm PT
Nice! I'm taking notes for a similar style ascent possibly this summer.

Edit: Just finished reading through the photos and commentary. Really great report, thank you :)
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Mar 1, 2011 - 03:56pm PT
Nice TR!!!!

I enjoyed seeing the Death Slab approach.

TFPU!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 1, 2011 - 05:01pm PT
Excellent Adventure fellas! I hope to be up there sometime in the next year or two. Well done! Thanks for the detailed photos and beta.
EddieH

Trad climber
Berkeley, CA
  Apr 1, 2011 - 10:48am PT
Thanks guys-
Im planning regular route with the same strategy in 8 weeks. It was great to preview!
Bobling

Trad climber
Bristol, UK
  Apr 4, 2011 - 04:10pm PT
Awesome! I'm a UK climber with a brother in SF so I dream of Yosemite. This let me live the dream for a few minutes, great job!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Apr 4, 2011 - 04:58pm PT
Good job guys!

'Cept climbing with a pack SUUUUUUCKS BBBBBIG TIME!

(unless it's super light, I'd rather haul)

Hauling a 30 lb pack is easier than trying to jug with it, even on the Reggae Route if you ask me, but you didn't.

So glad you got it done. Congrats!
Jager824

Trad climber
Gresham, OR
  Aug 9, 2011 - 12:58pm PT
Fantastic report, thanks a lot!
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Aug 10, 2011 - 11:14am PT
Great! I love it when someone takes a ton of pictures. The routes seem to look a lot cleaner than my old noggin remembers.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 10, 2011 - 03:52pm PT
I LOVE THIS TR!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 10, 2011 - 06:54pm PT
The photos are so far beyond the normal on-route quality that I get, and that mostly we see here (though I love the lower quality photos, too). WELL DONE!

Ed: wanted to add that this TR was helpful in our strategizing for the route this month. We had a great time, too - I should write up that TR.
theHammer

Sport climber
San Diego
  Nov 16, 2011 - 11:54pm PT
love it! been thinking about half dome in 2012 summer and great to see a detailed report about it with first hand pics!
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
  Nov 17, 2011 - 06:38pm PT
Thanks for an excellent write-up and beta for doing the route in this fashion! Now I have some studying to do . . . :-)
Murzerker

climber
Away from Walhalla
  Nov 18, 2011 - 02:19pm PT
Awesome job. Great pics!
JSpencerV

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Nov 20, 2011 - 06:28pm PT
Great photo TR. Way to get after it.
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
  Jul 17, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
Great TR. This is still on my list of routes to do. Maybe next year!
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
  Jul 18, 2013 - 04:07pm PT

Great TR, TFPU

Good tips you make for jugging with a pack.
RNWF of HD was my first ever wall and that's exactly how we did it.

Bomber pack shoulder straps and/or an integrated chest harness/pack straps is essential. You have to be able to hang the pack weight from your upper jug !
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
  Aug 13, 2013 - 07:26pm PT
TFPU! Not only was it a fun and inspiring read, but it was helpful in us deciding whether and how to do a 'big backpack' strategy. Ours was a lot lighter than 30 lbs as we packed a little differently. This made jugging much easier (only one pitch where I needed to hang on a diasy to rest a couple of times) and allowed free climbing with the pack. In the follower pack we had:

*1 liter of water for the day (to refill the 3 liters in the leader pack)
*2 liters of water for the second day for both team members.
*Food for both team members (whatever was not left in the leader pack or stuffed in pants/jackets)
*1 down quilt sleeping bag and lightweight air mattress (weighed about 3 lbs total)
*1 pair of approach shoes
*1 puffy jacket, 1 fleece jacket (sometimes carried in the lead pack or worn on Nic), 1 soft-shell (sometimes worn on me).
*Headlamps, extra batteries, 2 wag bags.
*Birthday Party luxuries for Big Sandy (very optional!): 2 cupcakes, 2 bottles of rootbeer, 3 glow sticks.

The pack had a stiffener that comes out as a 3/4 length ground pad, so while Nic slept with the bag, I just slept in the backpack and wore my puffy jacket, which was plenty comfy for August. Leader pack was a camelback backpack that weighed very little and was very easy to trail in the chimneys.

Our pack was light enough that the follower was able to free climb all of the freed pitches with it. That was probably faster on some of the pitches, maybe not so much on others, but definitely more fun overall than jugging a lot!

To keep things light overall, we also only brought 1 set of jumars, and whoever was following pitches that might be jugged brought alpine aiders instead of big wall aiders. These are very small and lightweight.

One other note: As I don't like exposure, I opted to lead the 5.9 squeeze in the chimneys over the 5.7 airy chimney variation. To allow Nic to follow more easily with the large pack, I only clipped the piton above the squeeze just at the point where you have to go back out into the airy chimney. There is optional pro in the squeeze, but only near the top, which can protect the exit to clip the piton and then cleaned after a downclimb, or just skipped all together as it isn't that helpful. Also, a 70m rope allows the entirety of the 3 chimney pitches after the 5.11/C1 crack pitch to be led as one mega-pitch.
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go
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
Other Routes on Half Dome
Half Dome - Snake Dike 5.7 R - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Snake Dike, 5.7 R
Half Dome
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

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.
Tis-sa-ack, A3 5.9
Half Dome
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Half Dome - Zenith A4 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Zenith, A4 5.8
Half Dome
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The first part of the route is hidden.
Half Dome - Blondike 5.11b R - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Blondike, 5.11b R
Half Dome
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Blondike is the red line and Two Hoofers is the Blue Line.
Half Dome - Two Hoofers 5.12 or 5.10b A0 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Two Hoofers, 5.12 or 5.10b A0
Half Dome
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Two Hoofers follows the blue line.
More routes on Half Dome