Revealing Routes on El Cap


How to Get to Yosemite

From the international airports at San Francisco or Los Angeles, excellent highways can be followed to the valley; allow half a day for the trip from each city. Public transportation is hardly adequate and it's best to have a car.


Springtime is the best time to climb El Cap; the days are long and the weather is often perfect for weeks at a time, though multiday storms are common also. By early June the temperatures rise and during a heat wave the wall can become an inferno. By late September the temperatures are once again fine, but the days are short and the nights can be chilly. Peregrine falcons sometimes nest on the southeast face and many routes can be closed until August 1.

Climbing Gear

Since many El Cap routes require long stretches of artificial climbing, one needs a huge selection of nuts and camming devices. Pitons are still used extensively on most routes, and hooks, rivet hangers, and copperheads are needed on many pitches. Other big-wall equipment, such as portable ledges or hammocks, sturdy haul bags, and ascending devices are necessary. One should have a copy of the latest guidebook, presently Yosemite Climbs: Big Walls, by Don Reid (Chockstone Press, 1993).


Compared to many areas, Yosemite is amazingly safe. Weather and rockfall cause minimal problems, and the rock is most often solid. Still, many climbers have died on El Cap, usually because of misuse of equipment. It goes without saying that before setting hand to El Cap one should be highly experienced in all phases of difficult aid climbing, hauling techniques, and living on vertical rock for days at a time. Be prepared for storms and self-rescue; carry a bolt kit for emergencies. Although a highly competent rescue squad is on hand on the valley floor, weather conditions sometimes hinder them.


Yosemite is becoming excessively crowded and one must plan ahead. Several lodges offer rental cabins, but most climbers will wish to camp. Most campground sites are reserved weeks ahead of time; call Destinet Services (800-436-7275) for advance reservations. No reservations will be accepted more than eight weeks ahead of time. The old Camp 4, now called Sunnyside, is the traditional climbers' site, and no reservations are needed here. The site is always jammed, but one can often find someone willing to share a spot. Supplies and equipment are available at stores in the Valley.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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