Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1
Trip ReportHalf Dome - Regular Route - Big Backpack Strategy
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
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