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Leaning Tower, West Face V 5.7/A2


Very steep and spectacular route (as can be seen on the pictures) Technically rather easy because of the fixed gear. If you have a sensitive nose, you might not like the smell of the ledges -- lots of bird and human urine, not rinsed by rainfall due to the overhangs. If possible, start on other than Fri or Sat to avoid the weekend crowds.


The beginning of the climber's trail is left to the restrooms, behind the huge boulders. Cross an eboulis (lots of cairns) aiming at the left of the Tower, and them walk all the way along the base of the Tower. It is useful to fix two ropes on the 4th class ledge, since it is exposed and has some loose rock. In May 1999, there was a fixed static line there. The trail is easy to miss if you don't find the begining, otherwise obvious.


Remember that conditions can change.

1. Used to be a bolt ladder and fixed gear (no placement necessary) with one reach move. In May 1999, Mark Fletcher found that the A2 seam is no longer entirely fixed. The first fixed head has a pulled cable with a 1/2 inch webbing hitched around the swedge on the remaining cable. How long before this webbing breaks or the remaining cable pulls is anybody's guess. Then the seam opens up to allow a small Alien placement. Above the Alien placement is another fixed head, but the cable pulled on me. A 1/2 inch webbing piece is also attached to the second fixed head, which I was also attached to, so I only fell less than an inch when the cable pulled. Above the second fixed head, the seam is blank for 10 feet, with the exception of some fixed heads completely missing cables. Parties will either need to use pecker or birdbeak hooks to pass this or will need to refix the seam with large and medium heads. You can also use a 10 foot cheater stick to clip a sling between two bolts above the remaining A2 section. Two bolts on the remaining bolt ladder above the A2 section are broken off and will need thin rivit hangers or Fish doubloons.
2-3. (Combine pitches 2-3 on topo for 150' -- gains time and a nice stance). Bolt/rivet ladder (more rivets than the previous pitch). A couple of reachy moves + one hook and cam move to reach the old belay. Rather difficult for fixed gear. Continue up 40' corner, with easy aid + lots of fixed gear. 10/95: difficult reach move in corner, from hook to reach bolt (bolt and head recently broken here).
4. Thin stoppers/TCU close to belay. Bolt/rivet ladder + fixed gear, one hook move, a couple of delicate free moves on slab at the end to reach TCU slot and bolt. (Or possibly, hook broken bolt shaft, or maybe file it to make a notch that might hold a rivet hanger?). Don't try to traverse directly to Awahnee. Difficult to haul. 10/95: fixed line connects this belay (Guano Ledge) to Awahnee.
5. Awkward traversing aid (mostly cams) + fixed gear.
6. Delicate (face with flat holds, essentially no protection) free at the beginning, then bolt/rivet ladder (one reach move near end). From the top of this pitch, you can fix 140' to Guano (this avoids hauling through two traverses).
7. A long pitch, possibly the crux of the route. Small stoppers (smaller than #1 Rock) or maybe RPs in thin crack at end of pitch. Not as difficult as p3 or p4 (when done without cheater stick, given existing fixed gear as of 10/95).
8-9. (combine, 150' -- gains time and a good ledge). Easy aid on slab. Then very steep, mostly fixed (a couple of easy placements)
10. Easy aid and fixed gear. Difficult to haul. Large terrace to bivy just under the top.
11. 4th class move and short traverse to reach summit arete.


3 raps on easy slabs (belays on the arete, a tree, a depression) scramble to chimney ( descent chimney is just right and slightly uphill from the bottom of the initial 3 raps) and rap/scramble (short raps). Finally, traverse to the left (west) on a ledge with a tree. Rap 60' to a station with one tree (and one bolt?), above a big blank slab. 50m ropes just touch the ground from there.

You can avoid rope length problems on the final rap over the slab at the bottom. Use a double rope rappel at the rap that begins to drop your ropes over the slab, but instead of going down the slab, traverse left (right if you're facing up) at the top of the slab (dirty path) and down a chimney/groove at the edge of the slab. You'll then see slings on a tree in the groove/chimney. Easy double-rope rap to the ground from there.


nuts, small cams to #3.5 Friend, lots of free biners/quickdraws (you'll have to clip a lot because it is very steep and if you backclean excessively it will be difficult for your second). Rivet hangers are nice, otherwise you can do with some wired stoppers, a long cheater stick is a good insurance in case one of the (old) bolts/rivet or heads blows away. A Chouinard hook is useful. A lowe-ball is useful (forget what size I had). Only used an RP once. (many small stoppers, though). Only small cams I had were a #1 and #2 tcu, and a .5 friend. More small cams might have been nice.

Unless the first pitch becomes fixed again, add the following to the equipment list: Two pecker or birdbeak hooks (or) Large and medium heads and pasting equipment (Perferred if you know what you are doing.) (or) Long (10+ feet) cheater stick.

Remember that conditions can change.



2.5 Day Plan:

  1. Hike up in afternoon, fix line(s) on traverse, leave bag below p1, sleep at base (beware of frisky ringtail cat).
  2. 5-6 pitches (fix 2 above Guano/Awahnee with one rope).
  3. 3-4 more pitches, back at car at around dark.

3 Day Plan:

  1. Hike up early, reach Awahnee. 3-5 pitches.
  2. 4-6 pitches, bivvy at end of p9 or p10.
  3. top out and descend.

First version: Quang-Tuan Luong, Nov 1994
First update: Clint Cummins, Oct 1995
Second update: Kevin Normoyle, June 1996
Third update: Mark A. Fletcher, May 1999

For more recent updates: View or add comments

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