Posted on 1 Comment

Climb the Nose of El Capitan in a Day = NIAD!

Climbing The Nose of El Capitan is one of the greatest joys a rock climber can experience – well several days worth of the greatest joys as most folks spend, on average, four days climbing the route their first time. The Nose has it all: a short approach, perfect rock quality, an abundance of stances and ledges, and, of course, endless splitter cracks. Once you’ve climbed it once, climbing the Nose in a day, or doing a Niad, is a reasonable goal for many climbers.

Are you good enough? Onsight?

For most folks, onsighting a Niad would be epic. The Nose, while relatively straightforward, has a million quirky moves that flow much smoother the second, third, or fourth time. It’s 28 pitches, so a few extra minutes per pitch, learning the lay of the land, could quickly add hours to an onsight attempt. I’d say you have to breeze up Astroman in 6 hours or so, and knock off the Regular NW Face on Half Dome in 8 – 9 hours, to even consider going for an onsight Niad. Burly, but onsight is the purest style, for sure.

Once you’ve climbed the Nose once, you may find that you begin fantasizing about ascending those endless perfect cracks unfettered with haul lines, haul bags, extra gear, etc. To be free on the Nose! Just cruising pitches with a good friend, following quickly with a light pack, maybe even simul-climbing the 5.5 climbing on and off of Sickle Ledge. FreeBird! To consider going for a Niad you will want to climb some ‘warm-up’ routes, like (these are onsight times):

South Face of Washington Column in 8-10 hours

Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral 6-8 hours

Regular NWF on Half Dome in 16-18 hours

Southwest Face of Liberty Cap in 10-12 hours

Pegasus on Quarter Dome in 9-11 hours

How do you do it?

Fitness is the ultimate requirement for a Niad. Fitness, and you need at least one member of your team to be able to lead 5.10 trad in Yosemite smoothly/quickly. Most likely, you will have already climbed the Nose once, so personally I would recommend resisting the temptation to endlessly practice the first 4 – 9 pitches – you will get a much better challenge, and learn to think more sharply on a long climb, if you do the excellent ‘warm-up’ climbs on the list above.

Does any special equipment make a difference on the Niad?

Cams: For sure the lightest cams you can get, because you need an extra set for short fixing, are best for the Niad. As of 2017, Totem and Totem Basic cams are miles ahead of the competition, with Fixe Aliens (the new ‘revolution’ model, or the older ‘original’ versions only) work great, and BD X4s are a distant 3rd place behind them. (The other small cams on the market aren’t worth mentioning they’re so much worse than these three). The Totem’s unique shape means they fit in the flared pin scars of Yosemite incredibly well. If you are going to aid the upper part of the route (mostly steep 5.10 and 5.11), then one each of the Gold and Red(two bigger sizes) Omega Pacific Link Cams can also be a huge help on the Niad. The top 8-9 pitches of the Nose follow mostly 1″ – 2″ cracks, so you can just push a Link Cam up, while free climbing, or walk two Link cams up, if aiding.

Shoes: For sure you need a pair of free shoes that you can wear somewhat comfortably for several hours, including occasionally standing in aiders. The pair you wore when you climbed the Nose are probably perfect.

Rope: Just like with traditional, overnight, bigwall climbs, having a new rope for a big ascent can put a little extra bounce in your high step – just make sure to take it to the gym or crag a couple times before the big climb to get all the kinks/coils out. While many folks bring just one rope on the Niad (60m, 9.8 – 10.1 is best), sixty meters of four mil rope weighs just a few pounds, and could save you from having to leave a lot of gear if you have to bail.



Posted on Leave a comment

El Capitan Speed Climbing: 7 in 7 by Dave Allfrey

Alex Honnold_Dave Allfrey_Zodiac7 in 7
I looked up the rope to the anchor above that I was lowering myself away from. I was out of rope and still far from being directly under the piece of gear above. Alex had climbed nearly the entire pitch without any gear, a typical situation. He glanced down and saw me hesitate. “The swing is
clean, just go for it!” he shouted. I immediately let go of the rope, a guttural yell escaped my throat as I swung along the wall covering nearly 100 feet from side to side. My feet touched the stone and I ran like I was in a Flinstone car. Hitting the apex of the swing, turning and running the other
way until the momentum died and I could begin jumaring upwards. I let out a loud whoop of excitement. Despite being exhausted, we were still having fun up here.

Continue reading El Capitan Speed Climbing: 7 in 7 by Dave Allfrey

Posted on Leave a comment

El Cap Report 8-30-15

Wowza the 2015 Fall Bigwall Season is off with a bang!

Lurking Fear: Keiko set off yesterday for a week long solo of this route. Proud! So whenever things go bad this week, just think of Keiko up on Lurking Fear, fighting hard to complete her first bigwall solo ascent ever. Proud! Here she’s trying to enjoy her last meal, and fight off the hordes of adoring fans and climbing rangers, while I badger her for a picture. No doubt wall climbing will be a vacation from this chaos!


Continue reading El Cap Report 8-30-15

Posted on Leave a comment

A Case For Aid Climbing

Alex Honnold El Capitan Ropeless
Alex Honnold ropeless in the Stovelegs, El Capitan

Nothing evokes awe in the aspirant climber like a high exposure picture from El Capitan. Seeing tiny Beth Rodden, or a ropeless Alex Honnold looking Sunday afternoon bike ride casual on the 5.13 fingers of the Great Roof, or the 5.14 houdini-corner that is the Changing Corners on The Nose, are great – great for making the mountain look gigantic, and our own personal skills and abilities comparably miniscule.

Continue reading A Case For Aid Climbing

Posted on 4 Comments

First Ascents: An FA Story of Good Ol’ Boy

Daydream Lines

Routes are like people, who we discover and learn from in life; they are vertical books whose ideas stretch us physically and mentally; they are meridians of current that sing the energy of each particular mountain. In the dizzying, wrap-around granite world of Yosemite, the routes outnumber the local humans by tens of thousands. The lessons and boons are endless.


Continue reading First Ascents: An FA Story of Good Ol’ Boy

Posted on Leave a comment

First Ascents: Ethics and Yosemite Guidelines

First Ascents are a coveted climbing prize for many experienced climbers. The feeling of setting off into the vertical unknown, on relying on your and your partner’s wits and expertise to unlock the mysteries of the rock puzzle in front of you, are incomparable to the everyday, follow-the-line-in-the-guidebook experience. First Ascents happen all year long in Yosemite. There is always something new being discovered, or a route that was previously paid-climbed is being free-climbed for the first time, a la The Dawn Wall on El Cap. Here are some basic First Ascent ethics, as well as some rules about First Ascents in Yosemite.

Continue reading First Ascents: Ethics and Yosemite Guidelines

Posted on 1 Comment

Rock Fall

Climber with haul bag on the half dome approach walking by fresh talus
Fresh talus on the Half Dome approach

July 14, 2015

The recent rockfalls on the Regular Route and the summit area on Half Dome highlighted a basic Yosemite truth: Climbers in Yosemite need to know that rockfall is commonplace and that it happens every week, not every once-in-a-while. While geologists are not yet able to predict when rocks will fall, they can give us helpful tips about how to climb as safely as possible. In this post, Roger Putnam, professor of geology at Columbia College and co-author of Yosemite Bigwalls: The Complete Guide, shares his wisdom on the subject. Contact Roger directly at:

When the glaciers retreated from Yosemite Valley 15,000 years ago, they left something that climbers adore, but physics dislikes: big steep cliffs. Large cliffs, even when made of nearly flawless granite, are inherently unstable. Until recently, it was believed that, on average, one significant (greater than 1 m3) rockfall happens each week in Yosemite.

Continue reading Rock Fall