Beta for Lost Arrow Spire Direct Route, Yosemite

-Submitted by Charlie Wolf

Lost Arrow Spire Direct Route (The Reid guidebook claims the rating is VI 5.11 A3, I'd say it's closer to V C2. There is little, if any, mandatory free climbing aside from a mantle or two.)

I climbed this route in June 1999, rope-soloing the first 4 pitches, then finishing the rest in a weekend with a Polish engineer named Lukas. If you sleep at the base, strong nightly winds rake the slopes during the summer starting about an hour after sunset to just before sunrise and can make sleep unpleasant. It is also windy, but less so, on the ledges at night. There is a thin, slimy water seep a hundred yards or so up the slope (toward the Czech route) from the start of the climb. I don't know if lasts just seasonally or all summer and through the fall, but it was adequate to fill my water needs, although filling up five gallons took more than an hour. While there is plenty of potential for exciting free-climbing, we aided most of the climb and did it entirely clean. The rack consisted of 16 cams ranging from the small blue Alien to the big green Camalot, plus about 2 sets of nuts, including brass/copper nuts and few large hexes. Also necessary were a leeper cam hook, a bat hook, and a regular cliffhanger hook. You may want to bring doubles of the hooks (esp. bathooks) as several sections have consecutive hook moves. Don't bring heads, they aren't necessary and you will only end up scaring the rock. There are about 5 fixed heads on the entire route and each one can be replaced by a nut if necessary.

There is a brief description of the route with a few photos in the 1968-69(?) American Alpine Journal written by Pat Callis who, with Warren Harding, was the first ascensionist.

If you are unfamiliar with the approach, don't do it at night. While it's mostly a straightforward scramble, a misstep at the wrong spot could prove fatal. I think it's better to break up your loads and do multiple carries than to huff it once with a monster load.

Special note: Despite it's relative "remoteness", the East base of the Yosemite Falls Wall still has an alarming eyesore of litter, mostly in the form of dropped cans, webbing, poo bags and water bottles. When humping loads in or rapping out, consider making a donation to your Karma Retirement Fund by collecting a little trash and taking it out with you.

Here's the beta:

Pitch 1 - Used a leeper cam hook for pro on the traverse.

Pitch 2 - A tatty bolt ladder missing many bolts, with some cam pro at the beginning and end. Some bolt holes have nail nubbins hammered in which can be looped with a small nut. I used a cheat stick twice, and a bat hook and cliffhanger a couple of times.

Pitch 3 - A single 50m rope will reach the ground from the beginning of this pitch (swing over toward climber's right and land on the big blocks at the base and you will just make it). Big #5 Camalot was useful here. The pitch ends with two anchors within 20 feet of each other. I'd recommend passing the first one and using the second one, the ledge is better. Haul bag got stuck twice here, had to rap both times to free it.

Pitch 4 - This pitch is short. Do not go up the easy cracks immediately at the left at the second anchor, rather stay in main chimney/dihedral for another 20 feet and then go left at an easy traversing crack which leads up to the ledge. Be aware of rotten granite, I took a daisy fall here when a cam pulled out. The short bolt ladder indicated on the topo does not exist; it's a three bolt anchor, which you may already be using as a belay. Large flat ledge with first class view of falls and valley. Plenty of room for gear and can sleep 3 people easily, many more if you cram. It's big enough to saunter around comfortably unroped. Careful hauling over the coarse granite. I ruined my haul line here trying to extend my pulley out over the edge- completely ripped the core off, leaving just the frayed inner strands. Haul bag got stuck twice here again, had to rap again and free it. Ledge is sandy.

Pitch 5 and 6- Back-cleaned the pendulums to make it easier for the second.

Pitch 7 - This would be an enjoyable free pitch if you can climb 5.11

Pitch 8 - Grunt offwidth and chimney pitch, ending in another expansive flat ledge large enough for your extended family. Mice live here too.

Pitch 9 - From below, this pitch appears to be an intimidating blank vertical face. I got a glimpse of it just before the sun set and spent an anxious night suffering from anticipatory "ground grip". I discovered in the morning that my fears were unfounded, as hangerless bolts and bat hook holes abounded. Have all of your hooks ready, you will use them. Ends in a comfortable, surprisingly hidden belay ledge.

Pitch 10 - Crux of the climb is 20 feet above belay, you may have to bat hook the brittle holes of a couple fixed, rusty RURPs. No big deal, pro below is good and a fixed piton up and to your left invites security. The pitch evolves into a punishing offwidth/grunt chimney. You will lose skin and grumble unpleasantries while finishing this one.

Pitch 11 - A splitter 1" crack launches vertically off the belay. The end of the pitch is overhung. The belayer here can squeeze back into the "shade cave" to avoid the sun.

Pitch 12 - Short pitch, some hooking, horn looping and nutting down low, and fixed micro-copper heads above. If the heads happen to blow, you can easily use RP's, tiny nuts, or cam hooks to continue. Ends in another comfy ledge. Cam hook useful to supplement the anchor. The first anchor of the Rohrer rappel route lies about 6 feet below this ledge.

Pitch 13 - Easy 5.6 scramble (more like 4th class) to the notch. Several options here on how to end the climb: climb the tip and/or climb fixed ropes out of the notch to the rim; aid/free climb your way to the rim; rappel the Rohrer rap route. We got to the notch and discovered that the ropes we had fixed from the rim two nights before were out of reach, so we ended up rapping the Rohrer route. Tucker Tech professed that climbing the final 2 pitches to the rim were "not straightforward" A3 and/or 5.10ow. He had ascended it pitonless after climbing the Lost Arrow Chimney and discovering, like us, that anticipated fixed ropes were not present. I was intimidated at the thought of rappelling down the unknown face as I am paranoid about stuck ropes. I envisioned us hanging anxiously from a rusty anchor midway down the wall, pathetically ensconced like giant slabs of beef jerky slowly desiccating in the 90+ degree heat as our futile cries for help drowned by the roar of the falls. Fortunately, the Rohrer rappel route prove to be a no-brainer, and we made it down without a hitch, leaving only a bolt hanger and a couple of pieces of sling behind to supplement the in situ fixed chain rap anchors (usually composed of 3 star-drivyn (sp?) bolts linked by beefy, rusting chains). We employed double 50m ropes, but preferred to break up the rappels with intermediate anchors when we found them in order to preclude stuck ropes. Beware of the occasional lose block; there are some very big ones waiting to go which will happily take you along with them.

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