Trip Report
Yosemite Falls Middle Tier
Tuesday September 25, 2012 3:28pm
After talking about it for a couple years and aborting one attempt due to excessive water flow, we were back to the Yosemite Falls Middle Tier on 9/22/12 for some Yosemite style canyoneering.

The morning began with stuffing ourselves at the Curry Village buffet and pounding coffee/tea till we were suitably amped. Our leisurely pace was designed to put us in the water once the day had warmed to an acceptable level. As it turned out, starting a little after 8:00 AM meant that it was pretty hot on the approach, and near perfect for the decent of the middle tier (afternoon temps in the Valley were in the low-mid 80’s).

Ready to go
Ready to go
Credit: rocknicenut

Cruising Sunnyside Bench Reg Route
Cruising Sunnyside Bench Reg Route
Credit: rocknicenut

After topping out on Sunnyside Bench Regular Route, head upslope for 100’ or so, then work up and left to a groove with a slightly exposed bouldery 5th class start. We’ve been up this approach twice and got sucked up a false trail to the right both times and ended up back-tracking to the left.

It's a jungle out there
It's a jungle out there
Credit: rocknicenut

After the groove, work up and generally right on slabs for a few hundred feet until you start to see cairns leading to the right around a short steep section guarding the tree/brush slope below the Lost Arrow Chimney. Despite appearances in the prior photo, we didn’t do anything that I’d classify as even minor bush whacking.

Hiding from the sun
Hiding from the sun
Credit: rocknicenut

Follow the yellow brick cairns
Follow the yellow brick cairns
Credit: rocknicenut

Once you enter the tree/brush slope there is a fairly distinct trail with cairns. Follow this trail for a couple hundred feet until it becomes a little like a shallow gully. Don’t go too far. Look for breaks through the trees and trend left and slightly up until you drop down and left past cairns to slabs leading to the base of the upper falls.

Go left well below LA Chimney
Go left well below LA Chimney
Credit: rocknicenut

On route
On route
Credit: rocknicenut

Hike the slabs to very near the base of the wall before heading left/down toward the middle tier. You can scramble/butt slide (or possible rap if wet) directly down some steep steps towards the first rappel, or go right and down through boulders before cutting left to the first rappel.

What an awe inspiring place!
What an awe inspiring place!
Credit: rocknicenut

Once more into the breach
Once more into the breach
Credit: rocknicenut

The first anchor is on broad slabs to the right of the entry to the middle tier proper.

1st anchor
1st anchor
Credit: rocknicenut

From the first anchor onward it would be very hard to get lost as the terrain funnels you where you need to go and there aren’t many options. All the anchors were bomber and fairly easy to locate.

The first two raps are short with a bit of scrambling, and the third rap was a full 60 meters. Use a bit of caution when approaching the third rap anchor as there was a bit of slime on the slab and the edge was near. For the water level we had the third rap ended at a slot/stance at the waters edge with a bit of waist deep wading around the left to the other side. With higher water level you might end the rap by treading water as you pull the ropes.

Scramble to 2nd anchor
Scramble to 2nd anchor
Credit: rocknicenut

Don't slip here!
Don't slip here!
Credit: rocknicenut

Look (very) close & see Zander in the LA Chimney
Look (very) close & see Zander in the LA Chimney
Credit: rocknicenut

Cave dweller
Cave dweller
Credit: rocknicenut

After exiting the water at the third rap stay to the left through boulders and descend a couple knotted ropes over short steep bits. The first mandatory swim for us came with a choice to jump from a boulder 20+ feet into the water, or as we did it, down climb to the right (it’s easier than it looks, 4th class) until you slide on you but off a slab into the water for maybe 100’ of swimming.

After the first swim another long rap left us at the waters edge for another short swim to boulders. Once again, with higher water level you might end the rap by treading water as you pull the ropes. We were able to avoid a final swim by scrambling up a short 4th/easy 5th class step to the right and down to the top of the lower falls.

Rapping the lower falls is definitely quicker than the standard descent from Sunnyside Bench. There is a hand line over to the anchor which is a little exposed but no big deal. With 60 meter ropes you rap, with 25-30’ of rope to spare, to a good stance for two that could accommodate four in a pinch. A second rap takes you a full 60 meters to boulders at the base of the lower falls.

Cheated death once again
Cheated death once again
Credit: rocknicenut

Take a couple heavy duty garbage bags or dry bags so you can do the swims without getting all your stuff totally soaked. We had very fresh 8/8.1 mill dry ropes which got a little wet but not too bad. If you have old, fuzzy, non-dry, fat ropes, be prepared to soak up some H2O. If you go with skinny ropes like we did you’ll be happy to have gloves on a couple of the raps. Once you get to the top of the third rap you’ll be happy to descend in Tevas (or neoprene booties if you’re a wimp about cold feet like I am).

We took our time drying/soaking up sun after the swims but otherwise mostly cruised and spent just under 8 hours car to car. For comparison I think we spent about 12 hours doing Tenaya Canyon.

It's beer:30
It's beer:30
Credit: rocknicenut

If (when!) we do this again we might opt for some water flow to ratchet up the adventure level and freshen up the swimming holes (very little flow would go a long way) though my more cautious(sane?) spouse might not agree that any extra adventure is called for. The swimming holes weren’t rank by any measure, but it definitely wasn’t crystal clear either. For the temperatures we had the swimming was brisk but not frigid, and there was plenty of sun to bask in after each water session.

Never turn your back when your spouse has the camera!
Never turn your back when your spouse has the camera!
Credit: rocknicenut


  Trip Report Views: 1,529
rocknicenut
About the Author
rocknicenut is a climber from Everett, WA.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Sep 25, 2012 - 03:35pm PT
This has always seemed like a fun day out. Gotto go sometime!

TY for the TR
eKat

Trad climber
  Sep 25, 2012 - 03:36pm PT
That's SO bitchen!

TFPU!
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  Sep 25, 2012 - 03:39pm PT
Looks fun, thanks for the route info, will have to try it some day. Glad you guys had a great time.
10b4me

climber
  Sep 25, 2012 - 03:41pm PT
hey TFPU!
seneca

climber
jamais, jamais pays
  Sep 25, 2012 - 04:12pm PT
Way to go guys. Looks like a ton of fun!
Bob
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 25, 2012 - 04:51pm PT
Thanks for a TR about as far off the beaten path as one can be, so close to the Valley floor. Looks like great fun.

John
Anxious Melancholy

Mountain climber
Between the Depths of Despair & Heights of Folly
  Sep 25, 2012 - 07:11pm PT
What's the status of rapping the lower falls? I thought it was generally accepted that the climbing and canyoneering community would respect the NPS request to restrict our activities in the lower amphitheater.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 25, 2012 - 09:54pm PT
Thanks. I never had an opportunity to take a hike to the base of the Upper Falls. This was one heck of an eye-opener and I wish I could do just the same as you two. Loved it! If she isn't willing to go higher-water levels, I'd do it in two shakes. Brr...NOT!
Zander

climber
  Sep 25, 2012 - 11:32pm PT
Woo hoo! Looks like fun!
Z
David Wilson

climber
CA
  Sep 25, 2012 - 11:33pm PT
Great TR. I love seeing the nooks and crannies of the valley. Never been up there in such low water.
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Sep 25, 2012 - 11:56pm PT
hey there say rocknicenut...

oh myyyyyyyyyyy, i wish i could see these pics... i love the falls and never seen much 'up close stuff' as i suspect these pictures must show, :)

thanks for sharing such an adventure...

don't think i've read, yet, on this type of climb??




note to anxious melancholy:
also, please, not meaning anything wrong, but i just want to learn, as to this quote:


What's the status of rapping the lower falls? I thought it was generally accepted that the climbing and canyoneering community would respect the NPS request to restrict our activities in the lower amphitheater.


what does this mean, please... is this as to danger, as i'd suspect? from other things i've read, as to waterfalls and repelling, or as to tourist getting in the way, or what?

thanks, please--just wanting to understand better, is all..


can't wait to come back and see the pictures, later, when time
allows...



edit:
wow... 'as to the nook and crannies' that someone just mentioned...
yosemite is soooo full of hidden beauty, tucked into these rocks...
special, near yosemite falls...

i have a picture poster of it in the bathroom--like to pretend its
our shower, ;))
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Sep 26, 2012 - 12:07am PT
hey there say, rocknicenut...wow! the pictures showed up, while i did my email, :)

oh,i love these pictures... .very very nice!!!!
different type of trip, all right, too!


well--the last picture did not show, yet, though,
the ol' wife got the camera, hu? :)

got to wait to see that!
*couldn't see zander in the chimney, though, :)

thanks again!
rocknicenut

climber
Everett, WA
Author's Reply  Sep 26, 2012 - 09:25am PT
To tell the truth, you can't really see Zander in the photo. We could barely pick them out with our mini binoculars from a position just above where that photo was taken. The acoustics up there are pretty good though and we could hear them discussing the route from a ¼ mile or so away.

We thought about the issues with rapping the lower falls but since there were a couple parties climbing in the cirque anyway we went for it and were pretty much ignored by the non-climbers in the area. We rapped by a fantastic looking mixed trad/sport route that had an old bleached out coyote scull bolted to one of the anchors. Anyone know anything about that route? We’ve been referring to it as the Scull Route :-)

If it weren’t for hearing voices on the falls trail and vehicles on the valley floor it might feel like some sort of lost world in the Middle Tier. It’s a special place for sure. Check it out!

Anxious Melancholy

Mountain climber
Between the Depths of Despair & Heights of Folly
  Sep 26, 2012 - 10:11am PT
My reference to a voluntary climbing restriction in the lower amphitheater is due to the visual impact/distraction. The lower falls are amazing in their own right, and soooo many people take the short hike to the bridge at the base to witness its slender, and there are so many other places to climb, it's generally(?) felt that we, as a climbing and canyoneering community, can leave this area to the tourists.
Ing

Trad climber
California
  Sep 26, 2012 - 12:51pm PT
We did consider our impact before rappelling and thought that with the falls all but dry and the few tourists in the area we would be barely noticed-and I think we were.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 26, 2012 - 02:33pm PT
Nice, thanks!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Sep 26, 2012 - 04:58pm PT
Anxious Melancholy,

My reference to a voluntary climbing restriction in the lower amphitheater is due to the visual impact/distraction. The lower falls are amazing in their own right, and soooo many people take the short hike to the bridge at the base to witness its slender, and there are so many other places to climb, it's generally(?) felt that we, as a climbing and canyoneering community, can leave this area to the tourists.

I'd like to discuss this on a separate thread, if you are interested.
Although my basic point would be that there is not much difference in visual impact between all the tourists who are scrambling up along the base of the falls in the summertime, and people climbing (usually far left of the falls), and the extremely rare rappellers descending the gorge.
LB4USC

Trad climber
Long Beach
  Sep 27, 2012 - 04:54pm PT
Bump for my bud.
the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
  Sep 27, 2012 - 05:46pm PT
Great post.

But wouldn't it be dangerous if they turned on the waterfall while you where in there?
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go