Yosemite Falls 3x YVF

Thu, Sep 29, 2022

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX
previously climbed Fri, Feb 7, 2003

Jackie and I headed to Yosemite for a few days of rock climbing. We left San Jose around 5a, but that would not get us to Yosemite at an early enough time to ensure being first on a popular route. Our plan was to do After 6, a popular route on Manure Pile Buttress. When we arrived at the El Cap picnic turnout off Northside Dr, there was one other climbing party that started out about 10min ahead of us. When we'd walked the short distance to the start of the route, we found the three of them had taken up residence at the base of our route. They had an extraordinary amount of gear with them which had led me to believe they were after bigger prey, like Nutcracker. I said Hello when we arrived but I got nothing out of the trio, and they seemed more annoyed. Two of them were just sitting around while a third was practicing placing a large nut in cracks. I sized up the situation for a few seconds and decided they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. We turned around and decided on plan B, Sunnyside Bench, Regular Route. We had to drive around the Yosemite Loop a second time to reach the Yosemite Lodge parking area where we left the Jeep and headed off for our route around 9:45a.

The half mile walk took us past the bridge below Lower Yosemite Fall, and then east along the Loop Trail until the trail came close to the cliff reaching up to Sunnyside Bench. We followed a use trail to the left up to the start of a short class 3 gully that led to the start of the route at the base of the slanting chimney, marking the first pitch. We set up shop and were ready to start the first pitch by 10:15a. Jackie didn't feel like leading, so she let me take all three pitches. The first is decribed as a class 4 chimney in the Supertopo guidebook, but it felt more like the crux to me. It might be that I'm no longer flexible enough or strong enough on such terrain, but it felt awkward and I flailed a bit at a crux transition. I place 3 pieces and set up the 1st belay after about 1/3 of our 50m rope length at a large oak tree. I threw a sling around the beefy trunk, called "Off Belay!" and went about the usual duties to belay Jackie up as second. I felt a little better that she had trouble at the same spot. Not 4th class, in my opinion, more like the 5.4 the route is rated for. The next two pitches went much easier. I gave Jackie my seat on the oak tree and moved left out of the chimney/cleft and into an adjacent, smaller groove to the right. I went up maybe 1/2 the rope length before finding a shady belay at a second oak, this one looking rather sickly and mostly consumed by the mistletoe hanging from it. The third pitch is rated as the crux, 5.4, on fun, knobby holds that offer exposure with the relative safety of juggy holds. A fun bit that I could see scrambling without the rope in another setting. On this pitch I ran out most of the rope because it took that long to find a shady belay under a smallish oak. The temp outside was about 80F in the shade, and with the sunshine reflecting off the whitish granite, it was feeling much too warm in the sun.

It was close to noon when we finished the 3rd pitch. I had Jackie go above on easier ground to see if the remaining route was class 3. She reported it as so, so we packed up the climbing gear save for our climbing shoes and headed up the remaining distance to the top of Sunnyside Bench (which is the name of the climbing route as well as the 300yd horizontal ledge at the top of the lower cliff). It was a little stiff for class 3 and we might have been safer pitching the last one out, but we made it up without mishap. At the bench, we turned left to go visit the pools at the top of Lower Yosemite Fall. Two young ladies were making their way back as we neared the western end of the trail. As we were descending to the pools, two guys about 30yrs of age came up from behind. They had brought a small floatie, beer, and some weed to enjoy at the pools. Jackie asked me later if I thought they had jobs, but it was impossible to tell from the few items they'd brought with them. Didn't matter - they were there to enjoy the pools same as us, possibly more.

There are two pools just above the top of the lower fall. The bigger pool was upstream of the smaller one. At the back of the larger pool, a waterfall came down from the intermediate area above and the base of the upper fall. Normally, Yosemite Falls would be dry (save for the pools, perhaps) at this time of year, but an unusual few days of rain a week earlier had revived them, but not enough to be of any danger. The pools were colder than I would have liked, but after a brief swim, it was very pleasant sitting out on the warm rocks to dry off. A good breeze was blowing, and sometimes it was strong enough to bring a mist of water up from the lower falls below us. Jackie spent more time in the pools than I did, not surprising. Cold water is a mostly a young person's game, I think. To the east of the lower pool is a fixed purple rope along the edge of the gorge that goes out about 40ft to some rappel chains that can be used to rap the side of the lower fall. Jackie and I had visited this spot some years earlier, so we knew about the rap chains. It would have been fun to rap down, but our rope had no chance of reaching the bottom. A second rope of equal length might have been sufficient, but really I would need to research more before giving it a try. After about an hour's time, we got dressed, packed up our stuff, and headed back out along the Sunnyside Bench Trail.

The trail was longer than either of us remembered, and not nearly as flat, either. It's about a half mile in length before reaching the top of a rocky gully that descends to the maintenance yard behind Yosemite Village. A descent climbers' trail descends down the talus gully, depositing one on the Loop Trail by the corral. We followed the trail back to the base of the lower fall, now much busier than it had been earlier, and finally back to Yosemite Lodge where we'd parked. It was only 2:15p when we finished up, but it was good enough for the day. We would take it easy the rest of the day, getting showers and pizza at Curry Village, a bit of reading time at the guest lodge next door, then ice cream and finally off to our campsite near Foresta outside the valley.


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