South Face 5.8
About the Climb
The South Face route ascends a huge corner system up the fantastic North Dome. This challenging route is fairly sustained and very continuous with plenty of friction moves, thin liebacks and physical climbing. With amazing views of Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley spread out below you, this is a great route if you want to stay away from the crowds.
North Dome sits up high above the Royal Arches and Washington Column, and just down valley from Tuolumne Meadows. The South Face is a fun and varied route on solid clean rock featuring slab, corner and chimney sections. Expect a long day of stout laybacking and jamming, and some runout slabs on smooth rock. The exposure is amazing, and with a long approach, a long descent and no fixed gear on the entire route, it is a committing and strenuous climb that is best suited for solid 5.8 and 5.9 climbers.
Reaching the base of the route involves a fairly long approach any way you look at it. Three main approaches are possible to get to the base of North Dome. If the road to Tuolumne (Hwy 120) is open, use the Porcupine Creek trailhead. This is the easiest way to approach North Dome, and it will allow you to simply hike back the mostly flat trail to return to your car after climbing the route. If you climb fast and want to start from the Yosemite Valley, combine this route with the Royal Arches. This will allow you to link 20+ pitches of trad climbing in a day, which makes for an absolutely fantastic adventure. However, from the top of the route, you’ll have to descend back to the top of Washington Column, and then head down the North Dome Gully, which is long and very treacherous if you’re not familiar with it. The third option is to hike up the North Dome Gully to the base of North Dome, allowing you to scope the descent on the way up. However this third option involves a lot more hiking than actual climbing! Another option to consider is to arrange for a pick-up at Porcupine trailhead if starting from the Valley Valley.
Make sure to bring lots of water and be prepared for a long, strenuous day. It is a good idea to wear pants for the Porcupine Creek approach, as it involves a fair bit of meandering and bushwacking around manzanita bushes.
The best combination is to start from the Yosemite Valley and climb Royal Arches in order to access the base of North Dome. By combining these two routes, you will rack up 20+ pitches of amazing climbing in the same day, which is really hard to beat.