No trip to Yosemite would be complete without spending some time on the trails! We opted to climb to the shoulder of Half Dome, one of the most famous hikes in America. Actually the hike to the top of Half Dome using the cables to ascend the 5.4 finally few hundred feet is the famous trip, but this late in the season most of the caple setup is removed and only a length of chain remains on the icy rock. So we decided to just get as high as we could.

We had a bit of a rocky starting finding the right trail to take from the Happy Isles Nature Center. We found finally that we had to go to the road and cross a Bridge to get to the Mist/John Muir TH. The trail is not terribly steep here and is on broken up concrete which kind of took away from the wilderness experience. There are also restrooms and concessions (closed for the season) at the Vernal Falls Bridge. But we had the trail to ourselves this crisp November morning as we walked deeper into the Valley.

Eventually we met an intersection where the mist trail stems off left. This is a shorter way to Half Dome, but its much steeper and Damien expected it to be icy with all the “mist” from the falls along that direction. We continued on the John Muir Trail which now began to gain elevation stradily. We cam across massive patches of ice and really wanted our micro-spikes, but alas we did not have them so we did our best to skip along the very edge of the trail or protruding rocks. It wasn;t too bad until the forest opened up and we could see marvelous views of Nevada Falls, Half Dome and Liverty Cap. However, the trail was now between a low stone wall barrier to the left and a massive rock wall to the right. The trail was basically an ice skating rink with large shards of ice on top of it that had fallen off the rock wall. To cross we had to hang onto the barrier and move quickly as some smaller pieces of ice fell on us!

We made it to the top of Nevada falls and paused for a snack. A few other people who had come up the Mist trail passed by and headed back down the Muir Trail. We continued on the now snowy trail toward Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, well signed. High up now the world was white and once again if felt like winter compared to the sunny dry valley below.

The trail makes a massive circle around Half Dome before climbing up once again. The snow and grade slowed us down some, but it wasn’t enough to require snowshoes and the snow was well packed down by other hikers. Finally we reached the large slab shoulder of Half Dome. Here there are spare trees and expansive Views of the Sierra Nevada Wilderness. We had the option of scrambling to the top of the sub-dome from here to the base of the cables. However, it was steep, snowing and icy. It is sketch in dry summer conditions too so we opted not to take the chance in these even more treacherous conditions. Instead we enjoyed the view from the shoulder.

The way down went very quickly. we opted to take the John Muir Trail back as we feared from other hikers reviews thatt he Mist Trail would be too dangerous to go down (normal route down). The ice was a little melted on the John Muir Trail, but not as much as we expected. We made safe passage though back to the Valley.

Regular Route on Sunnyside Beach  is known as the best introduction of Yosemite Multi-pitch in the Yosemite. However, it’s description was a bit deceiving (at least we though so). The route is described as a three pitch 5.4 route with mostly 3 & 4 class scrambling and some exposed  5.0-5.4 moves. Gear was supposed to be up to 2″. Sounded easy enough, but Yosemite is a trickster!

Finding the base ofnthe route was pretty simple. We walked along the Lower Falls Trail for about .5 miles until the trail curved left and a rock wall joined the right side of the track. We then turned off the trail and followed the rock wall left and up until we came to a very obvious gully. We climbed up the class 3 gully to the start of the route on w huge platform by a tree.

Damien took the lead on the first pitch which was supposed to be class 4 with some chimney moves. Damien did not think this was class 4 and after following I would have to agree. There was a far amount of smearing and awkward exposed moves in which I would call the 5.5 range. Also, in my case, I am convinced the route was rated by a tall person… reach was abig issue for me and many moves required me to have my knee practically up my nose. The pitch protected well.

It is important to not that the top of the first pitch is at the first big tree on a smallish ledge and not the second big tree on the bigger Ledge above. We had to back-track a bit. I led the next pitch. The route goes around the corner right and into an open bookish slab with a tree in the center of it. I opted to belay at this tree even though it was only half the pitch due to rope drag fear in the turn around the corn below. I continued the lead again once Damien was up. A few feet after the tree there was a few tricky moves in some steep cracks. I thought this was the “tricky boulder problem” in the topo. It was tricky but protected will with a red tricam and a nut. Above i found myself on a ledge. The belay was just on top of the vertical short wall to my right by a tree. This ended up being the tricky boulder problem… There is diagonal finger/hang crack and a massive good jug above. If i could get one foot to hold to the wall i could throw for the jug, but foot couldn’t get purchase on the polished wall. I knew, sadly, that Damien could just reach up at grab the jug. I peaked around the corner at the very exposed wall leading up to the tree. This was unprotected but had some good foothold and okayish hands. After a few more tries on the boulder i opted to climb the exposed variation. Damien just reached up and pulled himself up on the jug as I expected.

The third pitch beta warned of being wary of getting lost. There was a flaring crack just a few feet up in front of us. This was the 5,5 variation and the 5.4 jugs were supposed to be around the small corner right of that. Damien was up to lead, but when he looked over the corner for the 5.4 jugs he claimed that there was so safe way to get over the exposed unprotected corner and the jugs were not so juggy looking. After some evaluation he doubled back and headed up the flaring crack. From below it was very clear to be that this was not a Washington 5.5, but more like a 5.7-5.8 crack with awkward moves, standing on particles of granite and scary exposure. Damien made it half way up to the wide part of the crack. He was out of big gear. He already already used the one “just in case” 3′ cam. Mentally he was drained too. He put in a second piece and I lowered him. My turn…

I took out some of the bigger pieces from below the toprope as I climbed and when I entered the crack I saw why Damien was so tried mentally. Yikes this was gnarly! I moved above his final pieces and was on lead. The moves were certainly awkward. I focused on making the 1-3 moves on no footholds to the tiny more solid ledges as I jammed. I had to moved from the top of the crack onto a wider ledge to the left. This proved to be very intimidating and the hardest move for me. I had to get off this comfy my left foot was on, foot switch with my right foot on a jug in the crack and put my right foot on the exposed park of the wall (friction). Then I had to take my left foot off the jug and mantel onto this ledge on top of the crack. It took forever for me to go for the move… but I did eventually. From there the climbing eased a bit and I focused on getting from one tree to the next and following the path of least resistance. The ran the rope out to the last two feet before belaying from a tree. I was above what was supposed to me the top of the route as we were supposed to walk on “easy” slabs to the descent trail, but it was exposed and had some techy moves so we actually ended up roping up for a fourth pitch.

The view from the top of the route of the Valley is amazing with Half Dome being the star of the scenery. We unroped and decided to take the trail left to get a look at the famous lower falls pools. This easy to follow climbers trail led us to the top of the falls, but there were no falls. It was a wonderful cool place to take a break though. Then be backtracked and followed the trail along the edge of the cliff (DO NOT FALL HERE) for about 3/4 of a mile. Here the track drops into a gully that seems sketch for the first few yards, but the crummy terrain changes once you get in the trees. Then its a easy scramble down. We followed the wide footpath left back to the Lower Falls Parking lot for .8 miles. We were tired. We were hungry. We were Yosemite climbers.


Damien and I spent our first full day in Yosemite getting a feel for the granite and valley climbing style at Swan Slabs. This area has a fair amount of good top-ropes and “easy” leads. I put easy in quote because Yosemite rating are very stiff compared to WA. We found that we had to add 2-3 grades to the rating.

We started the day out a bit rocky. We walked around the back of the crag on the left set to set up a top rope for West Slabs (5.6-5.8). We walked a bit to far and found that what appeared to be s simple scramble to the top of the crag was more like a few 5.5 moves. I retrieved our trad gear and Damien led to the top of the ledge. It turned out that we ended up way too high and were several ledges above the slab. We rappelled and found that we simply had to walk to the top of the slab… I guess we like it complicated. We built a gear anchor and walked down (there is a tree but its rotten).

We climbs a few variations of the slab which was not all that fascinating, but a good warm up. Damien led the 5.1 Unnamed Gully to get a feel for leading again.We moved the top rope to the next wall by climbing up a short 5.3 to a large tree where we set up the rope. From here we had access to three fun routes. Unnamed Flare Crack 5.8 is usually climbed at a V0 boulder. It is more like a modern 5.10 a-b with polished foot smearing and bumping hand movements on a  a lieback diagonal crack. We then moved to the 5.7 Unnamed Crack which was a general study is good jamming technique. This was my favorite. The final Unnamed Crack 5.9 featured a horrendous start to a stiff lieback.

Damien and I decided a month ago to drive down to Yosemite National Park and explore the famous Valley Climbing. The Valley had just received snow a few days earlier so there was a white sparkle to the tops of the massive walls. We spent our first and second evening bouldering.

Camp 4:

This was the first place we climbed in the Valley. As so many have warned: the ratings are super super stiff! I climb V4 in the gym and V3 outside and I struggled on V0s in the Valley. There was also some intense variation in difficulty with problems of the same rating too. We climbed on a few different boulders. By far our favorite was Energy Boulder which had some fun cracks. Plus Damien sent his first outdoor boulder problem here! This bouldering area is massive and has something for everyone. Lots of problems are on the high side though.

Swan Slabs:

On the second day we climbed at Swan Slabs Boulders next to cragging. This is a smaller area (three boulders) with a few less highball problems. Many of the boulders you have to down climb though as there is no walk off. The center boulder was my favorite features problems with high throws.