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This climb looks easy (short, mostly fixed pitches) however it is not necessarily a good idea to learn how to aid climb there because of the impressive exposure, cleaning can be somewhat technical in the second pitch because of traverses (which adds up to the knot-passing skills and tyrolean skills required) and the route can be crowded. It is the most pretty when there is a lot of water in Yosemite Falls (ie during spring).
By Brian Sassone
We did the climb in four pitches belaying at the large ledge below the 5.10a crack, again on another good ledge just above, and once more from a small stance on the exposed southwest side of the spire. From the second ledge to the top is 165' so I jugged the last two pitches as one.
Rigging the Tyrolean without binding your ascenders is the key. You may have your own ideas how to do it, but here's what worked well for me: Clip directly into the line with a locker from a short sling girth hitched into your harness. Clip the rear of the front (top) ascender into the line, and clip the rear of the back (bottom) ascender into the locker. Both ascenders are in front (above) your harness clip in point. Clip a long sling or small diameter loop of cord into the front ascender's rear biner. Run this though a biner clipped to the front of the back ascender and clip an aider to this. When you stand in the aider, it will pull the back ascender (and thus you) forward. Leave the lines a bit slack to allow you to jug more vertically when you get to the rim. Two of the four in our party were quite miserable trying to traverse with a binding rear ascender!
You can also avoid the Tyrolean by leaving the fixed lines slack and rappelling about 40 feet or so off the spire and then jugging. But, I'd recommned doing the Tyrolean: it's a classic!
By Wes Wagnon
Get an early start. While only three pitches of climbing, the rap to the notch and the traverse back, plus the slow rate of climbing if you do a lot of aid, can require significantly more time than expect3ed. [My partner and I once didn't get off the climb until 1:00am due to a very late start behind a slow party.] Bring a non-climber with a good camera and zoom/tele to get the classic photo.
Some of the aid (A3) can be tricky due to cracks about 1" wide and only about 1" deep. I recall relying on some smashies that had obviously been there a very long time. I would bring a few tri-cams for those cracks, as I found they weren't deep enough for friends. I found several hangers missing from the 1/4" bolt ladder on the last pitch. My solution was to use small wired stoppers: slide the stopper down a bit, slip the loop over the bolt stud, and move the stopper up to keep the sucker on there.
There are some rope management problems that are a bit unusual. Assuming you want to do the tyrolean traverse, I suggest the following plan. (I did it this way the second attempt -- obviously didn't get the photo the first time -- and it worked much better.) You need three ropes: two for the rap/traverse and one for the climb. Tie the two rap ropes together, anchor one end securely and rap to the notch. You will have to bypass the knot on the way down, but there is a place to anchor in temporarily to do this. At the notch, climb, dragging the rap line behind you, making sure it doesn't get hung up. When you reach the top of the spire, pull in the rope to set up the traverse.
We found that the mistake with the tyrolean is in attempting to get the rope as taut as possible. Instead, let it drop down in a loose "V". rap down to the bottom of the "V", then jumar up the other side. This is much faster than rapping all the way down to the notch and jugging all the way back up. Trying to cross on a taut rope is far more difficult, because you are returning "uphill" to an anchor that is about 50 feet higher than the top of the spire. It is a very good idea to rig this up for practice beforehand, so you and your partner can practice the hardware management. On the real thing, the intensity of the exposure can be a bit distracting, and hardware problems such as jammed jumars can create some read difficulties.
Keep in mind that the spire is at approximately 7,000 ft, and it can get very cold and windy. Be prepared with adequate clothing and take a flashlight (better yet: headlamp) just in case things take longer than planned.
Good luck and enjoy! This is truly one of the classics, and a climbing experience that is not to be missed.
By Jim Bowers
The only "difficult" aid is the pin scars above the second belay. The first pinscar is bomber for a medium metolius cam but the 2 above this are really scary. I used Metolius cams with only about 2-cams actually in and this was way scary. I wished I had brought tricams or even hooks for these 2 placements.
There is an extreamly easy way to to the traverse that takes about 1/3 the time of the methods mentioned above yet is also rather fun. Drag up the ropes you used to rap into the notch and pull tight. Do not affix this rope to the spire but attatch your jumars to it like you are going to jumar on this rope. Rapell off the top of the spire on a double rope. As soon as you get about 10 ft down, the rope from the rim will pull you right accross to the rim wall. You only need to jumar up a short distance on a rather low angle wall. Very easy.
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