West Crack on Daff Dome (5.9) & Yosemite


For our first big roadtrip we planned to travel down to California from July 25th through Aug 2nd for some high altitude rock climbing. We arrived at Mono Lake east of Lee Vining in time for the last sunlight on July 25th, and took the chance to soak in the picturesque ambiance will grilling veggies for dinner.

Sunset at Mono Lake

The next morning we started our adventure by climbing West Crack on Daff Dome. With fresh warnings from the guidebook about slow parties and lines, we rushed to the base of the crack, and found.. nothing. It was at least an hour before anyone showed up to this classic climb on the weekend, so we wandered around looking for the bolt for awhile. In turned out you skip the first ~50 feet of slab climbing by taking a treed ledge to a short bolt protected slab move, and start there.

Pitch 1 and some of pitch 2 shown in the above image
Zoomed in image of beginning of pitch 1. Bolt is below the image.

After clipping the bolt and making the traversing friction moves to the crack feels quite insecure. There aren’t good feet much much of the pitch, but there are excellent finger locks. The crack is low angle at the start but steepens right before the only hanging belay of the route. Rick confidently led the pitch and belayed me up.

The start of second pitch is also visible in the above image. It starts with a couple over hanging moves which feels very hard for a 5.8 until you find big jugs on the left side. This pitch isnt very sustained but has a lot of variety. Above the first few moves, a delightful hand crack awaits with several knobs for feet. Rick took us up to the base of 5.7 finger crack.

I found that Tuolumne has several such moderate grade hand cracks, finger cracks, offwidth and chimneys, all of great rock quality. These offer fantastic practice for different kind of techniques required for trad climbing, something that I haven’t seen very much in the North Cascades. The finger crack takes .5 to .75 cams and also offers good toe jams, before converting to a sweet low angle hand crack. As you get to the end of the hand crack traverse right to another crack and continue up. I probably ran out of rope or lost hope to find a big ledge to belay from, therefore I stopped when the crack widened quite a bit and built an anchor using #3s and #2s.

The last pitch is low angle slab climbing with hardly any pro. Although Rick said I missed some small cam placements and chicken heads that I could have slung, I was focused on finding a ledge system that traverses left-right-left and up to a large boulder. I used my quad around the base of the boulder and clipped to my harness then belayed Rick up.

Rick grinning for the summit shot
Reversing the forward pull action of shoulder and upper back during climbing
Rejoicing at the view of our next objective
There are two rappels at the back of Daff dome which safely deposits you on flat ground

Our next objective for today was to climb “South Crack on Stately Pleasure Dome” but as we racked up and prepared to head up we saw dark storm clouds right above the dome. We acted upon the advice of some local experienced climbers who said our climb would be one of “quiet desperation” if we continued, and drove down to Yosemite Valley instead.

Sentinal Rock
Lower Yosemite Fall
How did Tommy climb this face ?
The majestic Nose and a possible future goal
Salathe, Freerider
Rick on a solo attempt of Salathe with approach shoes

We’ll definitely be back here soon!

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