As I trolled the internet for a topo I came across an old post of mine from three years earlier. Had I really been wondering about this route for that long? Luckily I’ve come a long way since then and now readily recognize the yellow lined paper that provides a background for most if not all of Dave Nettle’s topos. I’ve never met Dave but I keep seeking out his routes. Between him, his partner Brandon Thau and Peter Croft it seems like there is an endless list of huge routes to do in the mountains.
I’d been in Yosemite the weekend prior over Memorial Day, and was in desperate need of solitude and less heat. Ben was willing to follow one of my hair brained schemes and so started another trip of the Stefurak and Steel Hiking Academy
Ben on one of the early pitches.
This time a big influence had come from my wife. There are so many routes to do and it is often hard to figure out which should come first. The weekend was supposed to be cool, with possible freezing overnight lows. Lizzy had just been to Kings Canyon for some recon on the Rae Lakes Loop, but fell ill and never made it off trail. We determined that a join hiking and climbing trip would be a good adventure and give Lizzy much needed company in the SEKI backcountry.
Lizzy on the hike in to Charlotte Creek Camp
Ben leads the crazy pitch 4 corner on Samurai Warrior
As we started figuring out logistics a friend came through with a topo for Samurai Warrior, a route put up by Dave Nettle and Brandon Thau in 1997 and finally freed by Dave Nettle and Peter Croft in 2005. A few friends had climbed the route but I didn’t hear many more details than “Awesome”; “Best Backcountry Route” and some advice about how not to get lost on the leg pounding descent.
Ben crushes the first 5.11 face crux.
Ben, Lizzy and I had a flexible schedule so we drove out mid-week and hiked in on the first day from Road's End to the Charlotte Creek Camp. There is a very small bear box here, plentiful access to water and a 20 minute stroll to the Bubb’s Creek Wall. The topography of Kings Canyon on the drive in was crazy and I am still blown away by how much backcountry granite exists in California. I’ve been living in the state for almost seven years and I’ve only been to the more accessible locals.
As the canyon opens up on the hike in you really marvel about all of the formations, most which I had never heard of, or seen mentioned. The height of Bubb’s Creek wall is remarkable and shoots right up from the bottom of the drainage.
Ben on the steeeeeep Brown Headwall
The theme of Samurai Warrior is slab and face climbing on bullet white granite. Many features of the route show the lack of ascents, from crispy crimps to loose chalkstones and occasional flakey rock. This is not your standard crack route, but the quality of the climbing is phenomenal. We swung leads up the route, both of us sharing in the exciting run-outs, thought provoking scoops and plentiful knobs.
pose... Not quite.
As an arm-chair first ascentionist I was impressed that the whole route linked togeather. Midway up after fighting through a tough layback Ben shouted down he was going to dyno. Standing on a huge knob with no hand holds he leaped through the air to a higher knob the size of a large pizza. His legs windshield wipered across the rock as he stuck the move and kept going up the pitch.
Many of the pitches weaved around the face linking subtle features that let the route go free. The pitches below the crux followed dikes and knobs up the smooth face, nothing but bolts for pro. After Ben had onsighted the crux it was up to me to keep the send train going. With the moves firmly imprinted in my mind I mimicked Ben, best I could, and smeared my way through the 12 feet of blank rock.
Chillaxing up high on the Bubbs Creek Wall
A few pitches from the end Ben and I splayed out on a comfortable ledge. The weather had been perfect and we had lots of food and water but our feet were destroyed from so much technical footwork. So in heroic fashion Ben set off to link the last two pitches which would take us to the top of the route. The final pitch, a bolted tips layback, ended up being one of the hardest pitches of the route. Three well-spaced ¼” bolts protect solid 5.11 climbing and not many other opportunities for pro. I barely followed the pitch, multiple times breaking foot holds or small hand holds. Often I couldn’t even crimp the crack and would end up slab climbing and pressing up the wall desperately.
Ben getting ready to gun it on the final pitch to the summit.
It was a fitting pitch to end an amazing day of climbing and the most pitches Ben had ever climbed. It’s a full package on a badass backcountry wall. If you are into face climbing and don’t mind a bit of hiking I highly recommend it.
There’s pitch by pitch beta on Mountain Project