Trip Report
Losing Our Marbles on Obscure Yosemite Offwidth: The Way Kim and I Survived Basketcase
Wednesday October 2, 2013 2:27pm
My best offwidth buddy Kim Groebner and I decided to try to use the short weekend I had to try to seek out an ‘obscure Yosemite multipitch offwidth’. All four of those words should have been a warning for us, but we felt psyched. We had read the trip reports on Supertopo and the new posting on Mountain Project. Kim is a self proclaimed “scaredy-cat”, but an amazing offwidth partner. I had spent time climbing many of the Yosemite offwidth classics: Blind Faith, Steck Salathe, Twilight Zone, Stepping Out, 1096, Entrance Exam, and more. We were ready for the adventure.

Because of my short weekend (I work full time as a fourth grade teacher), we decided to hike out to the North Dome area on Saturday morning, climb that day and then stay out there overnight. We carried our big packs out of Porcupine Flat trail head and quickly hiked the 5 miles to North Dome. We set up our tent, regrouped, and started to hike down the Manzanita filled gully between North and Basket Dome.

Approach: The gully was filled with loose rock and brush. We swacked our way down and according to the newly posted MP report by Alexey were supposed to traverse the cliff. It was hard to see an obvious way across but we took our time roping up over the exposed rock bands and slowly made our way to the base of the climb. It was an obvious beautiful looking splitter.

Psyched, finally at the start of the climb.
Psyched, finally at the start of the climb.
Credit: christinafreschl

Pitch 2: I was psyched and got ready quick, because I knew that we only had so much daylight. 6 more pitches in 5 hours, very doable, right? The sun had not yet gone around the North Dome ridge, so that first 5.9 offwidth felt very hard and halfway up I realized that I was nauseated from the blaring sun. I was moving too fast and every move was 5.9 offwidth. I slowed down and finished the pitch, 150ft of it, past the hollow sounding entire left wall. Kim followed the pitch as the sun moved behind the ridge.

Pitches 3-4: We linked the next two pitches. The pitch had some good rock, but also some super crusty flakes that I prayed would hold my body weight. The top had a small offwidth section that I got in to and thankful didn’t fall out of. The only anchor available was behind a crumbling flake. I shoved a #3 and #4 behind it and belayed Kim up. She was doing her best to move fast and keep a positive outlook, but both of us were feeling the dehydration and frustration with the way the route was turning out. There was way more loose rock than we thought would be on the route, the pitches were all hard for the grade, and we were staring up at the 5.11 crux pitch.

Kim lost in a sea of granite.  Pitches 3-4.
Kim lost in a sea of granite. Pitches 3-4.
Credit: christinafreschl

Pitch 5: It is a #4 and mostly #5 sized offwidth that curves up and around into the unknown. I was worried about gear because of the length of the pitches and the questionable belay. I began double fist stacking my way up the pitch. The entire left wall was covered in crusty lichen and I could get no traction to back step. Dirt and granite crystals were showering down on Kim. I soon realized that I did not have the energy or mental strength that late in the day to try to send the pitch. I yelled “take’’ and pulled through the cruxes. I got past the offwidth and stepped in to the squeeze chimney. It was another 60 ft. of climbing and it took all my will power and all of the skin on my knees to not slip out of it. Again it was dirty, yet polished at the same time. Like Alexey had said in the MP report, there were no rest holds, no crimps, and no cheating. The pitch ends in an alcove in the squeeze and the only place to build an anchor is behind a crumbling flake hanging down between the walls of the chimney. I built an anchor and slowly settled into the hanging belay.

Pitch 6: As I belayed Kim up the sun was setting and the chimney was dark. I kept looking up above me at the next pitch. It was a 45 degree offwidth to the right and the 2 inch thick moss covered wall to the left. Alexey calls this the next crux if you go right and the moss on the right was going to prevent me from going the way of the first ascensionists. Kim got to the belay and I started moving fast, because neither of us was happy with the anchor situation. I pulled through the 5.11 crux on gear and got up to the “double hand crack” as Alexey described it. Maybe we were off route, but nothing about the section was double hands. I placed a good #6 in the right crack and a crappy #.75 in the left crack behind a flexing flake and pulled over to a bigger ledge for the next belay. It was dark by now and Kim came up. She was glad to be off of the sketchy last anchor, but questioned my gear placements. “Christina, you know some of those cams aren’t great right?” I later found out she was judging my mental capacity. If I had thought they were ok placements, we would have been in some trouble. I reassured her that yes they were crap, but it was all I had.

Pitch 7: The last pitch was a “5.8” squeeze. After tearing off all skin on my knees from the slippery crux pitch (even with knee pads), it took all my will power and bravery to inch my way through the dark squeeze. I squeezed right then left then sideways finding a path through the darkness. It was not straight forward. I had a rattley #6 which promptly fell out after I had completed the pitch and not much else. I topped out the pitch with a sense of tremendous relief and probably would have broken down in tears if I had not been so dehydrated. Kim came up and at one point yelled up, “Tell me I won’t get stuck in here.” I reassured her that she would fit though and she followed my “trail of blood tears” (as she later called it) through the abyss.

Yes, this is with kneepads! I guess it shows how gripped I was.
Yes, this is with kneepads! I guess it shows how gripped I was.
Credit: christinafreschl

Descent: At this point it was around 10pm and now we had to get off. Thinking that all we had to do was continue up the slopping dome, we started up the right gully. It was easy climbing, but with the darkness and unknown terrain, we stayed roped up. We went up 1 more pitch like this and un-roped on a less steep slab to continue to the top. I lead the way up the slab, but soon realized that it ended abruptly. I threw my leg over the edge and realized that we were on a pillar. In front of me was a vast open space between the tower and Basket Dome proper. “You are not going to believe this Kim; we are on a f*#king spire.” As I said this, my headlamp, which had not been fully charged and had been on its brightest mode for the last 4 hours died and I was plunged into darkness.

I don’t think it needs to be said, but this was the low point of the climb.

We amazingly helped each other pull together, down climbed and found a traversing run out slab option that took us left and into another gully. We followed this upwards, until we got to the proper dome. It began to slope out and we un-roped. We felt relief as we walked up the dome, me staying close to the light of Kim’s headlamp. After another hour of hiking we arrived back at the saddle, drank the rest of our water , ate some food and went to bed . It was 1am.

Take away:
1. When attempting obscure back country offwidth, don’t rush it. Give yourself more time and don’t go to the Facelift before. Although, hearing Tommy Caldwell speak about climbing all night and having James Lucas tell me not to "kill Kim" inspired me multiple times.
2. Rock quality will be sh#t. No one climbs it. Lichen and moss grows on granite that does not get climbed.
3. Think about how mentally taxing 1 pitch of offwidth can be and realize that 7 pitches will be way worse.
4. Your rack is going to be heavy, heavy, heavy.
5. Yosemite climbers from the 60s and 70s were badasses and routes are likely to be sandbagged for us new school climbers. I am so impressed with Donini, Herbert, Bridwell and Klemons. “We are not worthy, we are not worthy”
6. You will be humbled mentally and physically. When a climb is named after someone who is unstable, prepare to dive into insanity.

  Trip Report Views: 12,855
About the Author
christinafreschl is a climber from Berkeley who still loves offwidths, but will probably never go back to Basket Dome :)


The Granite State.
  Oct 2, 2013 - 02:35pm PT
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Oct 2, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
Full value!
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
  Oct 2, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
Loved it...

  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:09pm PT


Awesome TR & adventure.

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
Pretty crazy. Good mental capacity.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
Proud effort Gals!

Once a Basketcase, always a Basketcase. No need to return.

Way to get after it and thanks for sharing your adventure!

What's next? The Sword in the Stone?!?
Doug Hemken

Madison, WI
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:24pm PT
Well written, Christina. You had me laughing and wincing at the same time!

It's funny how our worst days and our best friends go together....

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
ha ha!! nice going!

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:28pm PT

You gals got moxey. Thanks for epic'ing and living to tell about it with great photos. It's what we weekend warriors live for. Keep em coming.

You ever heard of Balch Camp flake? Whatcha doin' in November?


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Oct 2, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
Hoh man! Marbles? You half to have less Han a full deck to get on a route like this (I can't wait!) nice work! And what micro said, bluff fest is calling!

My twin brother's laundry room
  Oct 2, 2013 - 04:18pm PT
I made it into the report! Im famous!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 04:21pm PT
Epic! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

San Jose, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 08:55pm PT
Christina, congratulations to finish safely in the dark. October's days is too short for this route.
We hit same dead end as you on last pitch . You call it pilar, but it was more like huge gap in the dome.
And about " double hand" crack on second crux- do you think I was hallucinated ?
Do you want to edit or add something to MP route description?

I was impressed on this route with my partner Chad - master who lead on-site p5 and p6 and drug me out before dark to the bivi.
He is climbing much faster than writing climbing stories.
Chad , post your photos!


Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
Very well done! In my day (early 1970's) we were terrified of that route. You now confirm that we weren't crazy for being so. Your take aways were great.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 2, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
WOW. Well done. Great to see people pushing themselves on hard OWs.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 2, 2013 - 05:18pm PT

way to stay with it!

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Oct 2, 2013 - 05:22pm PT
way to go. seems like the females ruled in Yosemite this past weekend.

Trad climber
  Oct 2, 2013 - 05:46pm PT
GNARLY AWESOME! Serious sendage has occurred.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 05:51pm PT
Climbing those routes is hard on the skin and nerves, but good for the soul.

The pioneer bad asses would be proud.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Oct 2, 2013 - 06:03pm PT
“Christina, you know some of those cams aren’t great right?” I later found out she was judging my mental capacity. If I had thought they were ok placements, we would have been in some trouble. I reassured her that yes they were crap, but it was all I had.

Way to rock! At our Wednesday campfire, Lisa told the story of Tis-a-ack (Half Dome) and her husband (North Dome) and how the Basket Dome came to be placed between them. This was just as entertaining!

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 2, 2013 - 08:20pm PT

  Oct 2, 2013 - 08:53pm PT
Definitely hot !!!!!

San Jose, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 10:09pm PT
It is interesting that you ended up in the same trap ( abyss) in the end of the climb as we did.
Looks like it is logical way to go if you take right chimney on p7. How Jim Donini and Peter Haan avoided it? Probably they climbed left chimney on p7.
Also previous pith N 6 we climbed same way in 21 century- 5.11 leaning right crack.
In 20 th century they climb this mossy 5.10 chimney directly up. Now days it looks completely non climbable because of the moss.
susan peplow

Joshua Tree, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 09:20pm PT
All good until the headlamp crisis.......light in a box, curse of the modern man (or woman) as the case may be.

Fun read although I suspect a not-so-fun time.


Trad climber
  Oct 2, 2013 - 09:37pm PT
Nice GAMS!!!!

Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Oct 2, 2013 - 09:51pm PT
This really sounds like you got into a bunch of very off-route climbing after the #5 crux pitch or a little further. NONE of this above description of the upper section is what I encountered. After the #5 crux, the easy junky bottomed chimney of course and this continues to our small bivy ledge, opens up after that, and one climbs up and right on very weathered but reasonably sound rock following an arching crack that this highly featured (5.9 at most I think: I did it at 5 am in the morning remember in a t-shirt). And you are done.

No "spire", no lichen, no crappy anchors. Somehow you got left of the real route...?? Your egress sounds bizarre too. I remember walking off back up to the road with no problem that morning.

Very true that time is of the essence on this climb. What with the approach taking something like 2-3 hours....there is not a lot of spare hours up there.

Just in case someone is wondering, you could bivy at the exact base of the climbing and it would be incredible: the vantage point is just sublime. No water of course. But you would have to haul your stuff and that would be somewhat of a pain in the ass up higher but very doable.

Otherwise, Great on you two for going up there and climbing this novel and wonderful adventure-classic, even on aid. Remember Donini aided it too BITD. Thank god you had headlights at least for awhile.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Oct 2, 2013 - 10:03pm PT
Damn. BurlGirl.

San Jose, CA
  Oct 2, 2013 - 11:28pm PT
After the #5 crux, the easy junky bottomed chimney
Peter, there is no such chimney ( I mean easy) anymore after crux pitch. After #5 crux pitch Reid's topo do not match with route at present state.
It is very possible that since you climb it (40 years ago) , big chunk of rock gone and pitch #6 completely changed. Next pitch #6 felt now harder than 11b ow pitch

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
  Oct 2, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
Bad Ass!!! Nothing in the past decade, then two accents within months. It's becoming a trade route up there, ha!

Peter, it would be impossible to get off route. There is only one direction you can go... up!

I don't remember anything being too dirty. Some lichen and moss but nothing unsound or hollow accept the belays.

Well I guess I'm a little late on my TR. Been too busy lately but now I suppose I'm going to have to get after it. The comparison of perceptions will be interesting.

Author's Reply  Oct 2, 2013 - 11:44pm PT
Thanks everyone who has climbed it for adding thoughts. Interesting perspectives. Alexey, we may have gone the wrong way; it was super dark. :)And thanks for posting something. It was much more helpful than the Reid topo.

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
  Oct 2, 2013 - 11:49pm PT
it's not fun if you aren't bleeding. Awesome!

Social climber
Southern Arizona
  Oct 3, 2013 - 12:44am PT
Whew! (I'm tired and sore just reading your TR.)

You go girls!

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
  Oct 3, 2013 - 12:46am PT
I forgot to mention, this is likely the first female accent not to mention without a doubt the first all female accent.

At the risk of sounding like a sexist d#@&%ebag to the overly sensitive politically correct. That is quite a proud accomplishment definitely worth noting.


Gym climber
  Oct 3, 2013 - 12:57am PT
Amazing TR. Thank you!!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Oct 3, 2013 - 01:23am PT
great tale, way to get after that stuff!

  Oct 3, 2013 - 01:51am PT
Whoa, what a rad 4th grade teacher. I hope you dropped some hints to your class about your weekend activities.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 3, 2013 - 05:00am PT
A couple of overlays that are hopefully not too wide. Are these close?

Larger versions at:

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
  Oct 3, 2013 - 06:55am PT



nerves of steel,

toughen you right up,

supreme write up, best seller list,

good Lord after pitch #3, i'm on the phone, 911

Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 3, 2013 - 07:36am PT
3. Think about how mentally taxing 1 pitch of offwidth can be and realize that 7 pitches will be way worse.

Man, there is something seriously wrong with you.


San Jose, CA
  Oct 3, 2013 - 10:14am PT
Clint nailed dead end with his picture . It was exactly our path.
It would be better to take left chimney at the fork at the beginning of pitch 7.
Still not clear what happen with 5.11 pitch #6 since it in the shade of the bulge/corner on the photo.We

On the second Clint's photo "view from south" there is a big fin in the beginning of the p6.
We climbed it from it's left side. At the present there is no way to climb it from the right side, where probably was original route 40 years ago. Something fell from there which make transition to this crack unprobable

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Oct 3, 2013 - 11:45am PT
Yikes. I just barfed a little in sympathy....

Yea tho I climb through the valley of the shadow, I shall not trad there. You heard it here first.

Well done team!!

  Oct 3, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
wow, really cool adventure. it doesn't always have to be fun ...

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 3, 2013 - 02:26pm PT
Awesome, gnarly and w.r.t the knees ewwwww. But PROUD!

Having traipsed(*1) up behind Peter Haan on a number of squeeze chimneys back in the day, it's not hard for me to believe that something he would call easy (5.8) might seem a heck of a lot more difficult for other very good climbers. Especially if you're well worked at the end of the day. But, yeah, something falling out of it and there by changing it's difficulty is way possible, too. Was Alexey and Chad's [edit] the first in how many years.

And micronut, I like you thinking about JCA's Wide World of Sports.

(*1) traipsed = whined, whimpered and almost cried, but not been pulled.

Trad climber
the Box
  Oct 3, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
This is so badass!!

What an adventure! :] Thanks for sharing.

P.S. Especially love that picture of Kim in a sea of granite.

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Oct 3, 2013 - 05:09pm PT
Great trip report! What an adventure.
Cheers, Roy

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Oct 3, 2013 - 06:26pm PT
Ouch. Man, it sure can get hot up there! You done good. Mega-burl.
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Oct 3, 2013 - 06:58pm PT
Bravo, great report and noble effort.

Trad climber
  Oct 3, 2013 - 07:49pm PT

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Oct 4, 2013 - 04:52pm PT
Rad! What happened to Pitch 1?

Also this is a great photo:


San Jose, CA
  Oct 7, 2013 - 01:28am PT
p1 was eaten by p2. They linked p1,2 as those pitches shown in Reid topo

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Oct 4, 2013 - 05:22pm PT
Truly awe-inspiring TR. Way to persevere!!


Trad climber
Fresno, CA
  Oct 5, 2013 - 12:27am PT
Yowza. You girls are amazing. Tell this to your grandkids someday but they will never believe it. I think that a few of us had some Yosemite/Facelift adventures.

  Oct 21, 2013 - 10:45am PT
BAD ASS ! Tfpu!!!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Oct 21, 2013 - 10:50am PT
Brings back memories........especially the fact that TM supplied the gear and i only had a couple large hexes.
Nice TR!

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Oct 21, 2013 - 12:55pm PT
Fantastic! I'd never heard of this climb before but I'll never forget it now!

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Oct 21, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
I like everything about this TR.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Oct 21, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
I like everything about this TR.

Me, too, but the OP should still have her teaching credentials revoked.
She is clearly not fit to be around rug rats.

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Oct 21, 2013 - 06:23pm PT
Glad this got bumped 'cause I missed it the first time. Sheesh, I think I might like this story better than Peter Hahn's on Basketcase, which is one of the best stories I've read on Supertopo. Good adventure story, good drama, pleasant, self-effacing narrator... it works for me. Thanks - and may I say, nice photo posts Clint!

edit: my ONLY issue might be with using the word, 'obscure'. Maybe it's just me but, even though it doesn't get done much, Basketcase is not obscure. I would go with 'infamous'. But other than that...great job!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Oct 21, 2013 - 08:55pm PT
I've wanted to do this rte for a while. I climbed with Alexey last week and clean forgot to ask him about it!


I ran into Kim G yesterday we even talked about her recent travels and postings, but did I remember to ask her about this?


I'm losing it.....

Trad climber
  Oct 21, 2013 - 08:06pm PT
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Oct 21, 2013 - 09:41pm PT
J-Do, I can't believe you listened to Herbert. And it was even '72 by then, plenty of time to have seen how Ole TM fit together. There must have been some truly weird issues with your rack, over and over again. As we have said before over wine, I believe.

  Oct 26, 2013 - 05:22pm PT
restores my faith. an adventure worth sharing. thank you.

Just livin' the dream
  Oct 28, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
I was a total basket case reading this TR.

My knees are aching with sympathetic rock-banging-gobie pains.

Awesome job, gals! You rock!

Trad climber
  Oct 28, 2013 - 09:00pm PT
Sexy wide-climber legs. Is it wrong that this excites me?
D Fred

Trad climber
san francisco, ca
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:12pm PT
amazing TR, you two got grit! you gotta teach me how to climb an OW without it ending in either crying, pleading with God, or puking on myself



  Oct 29, 2013 - 02:26pm PT
Sick! Proud effort ladies. Way to keep to the obscures Christina. Great TR - it got me psyched to climb it!!!
Yeah, James, you're kind of a big deal I hear.

Author's Reply  Oct 29, 2013 - 04:56pm PT
Reilly, I hope that you are joking about not being fit to take care of children. I believe that there are many parallels to be drawn between teaching and offwidth climbing. Skills like patience, persistence, and ability to endure some pain, to name just a few.

JayBro, I wish I was in the desert with all you crazy fools.


Trad climber
  Oct 29, 2013 - 07:45pm PT
My old fourth grade teacher never did anything more rad than drive her Volkswagen from NH to Philly. If she was half as badass as you I would have found a way to stay back a year or two. Congrats on the adventure!

  Oct 29, 2013 - 08:09pm PT
Sick. Thanks for bumping this.

Teaching can be a kind of Type 2 fun, you know.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Oct 29, 2013 - 08:16pm PT
Bad Ass!

Gluttons for punishment. Probably makes returning to work feel like luxury



Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 09:04pm PT
Christina, me mum taught grade school for 30 years and raised 3 certified monsters so I already knew it was ok for crazy people to teach. Just don't show the little dears those knee scabs or you'll be out on yer ear quicker than you can say, "Bob's yer uncle!"

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Nov 19, 2013 - 07:26pm PT
There's so much to like about this TR. One of them I just noticed upon rereading for the upteenth time is the proper use of the term "nauseated." Well done, ladies. Superb.

  Nov 19, 2013 - 07:55pm PT
Great Trip Report!
Thanks for posting.
Climb On!
David Wilson

  Nov 23, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
Great TR Christina ! Thanks for posting.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Nov 23, 2013 - 09:58pm PT
Interesting to read this again after watching Christina 'flow like water uphill" on WWOS last weekend, puts this route, that I've never done, in perspective... My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Schwartz, taught us about Chanukah, I dont think she knew anything about wide climbing though. There's some kids in Oakland who will be ready for Anything!

Trad climber
  Feb 2, 2016 - 09:02pm PT
Just stumbled on this TR. Wow, this is a true adventure and a very inspiring story. Excellent job, Christina and Kim!

Trad climber
  Feb 3, 2016 - 06:38am PT
Good TR to necro!

Trad climber
  Feb 4, 2016 - 04:02pm PT
i would have rapped from the third pitch,,,ill dip your toes in ice cream and then,,,,

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Aug 18, 2016 - 11:19am PT
Bump cause I love this TR and just read it again! Burleeeee!