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
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