Yosemite Valley’s mile high walls of granite intimidate the sport climber in me. After couple of big wall attempts I have come to conclusion that free climbing is just not my thing. I like the simplicity of bolted anchors and strenuous nature of sport climbing, yet at the same time I envy my free climbing friends who can explore the big walls.
Luckily there is a route that offers the spectacular big wall experience in nicely a bolted package. Crest Jewel Direct offers 15 pitches and 450 meter of challenging slab climbing ranging from 5.8 to 5.10d. The more difficult 5.10+ pitches are bolted very well, but on the easier 5.8 pitches you can expect some palm sweating runouts. The handholds are far and apart and the climbing is all about footwork and balance. You better train your calves and do few high-stepping practices before hitting the route.
We started our day at 6:30 am from the Porcupine Creek Trailhead and hiked towards North Dome. Just before the North Dome crossing we left the trail and descended down to the drainage on west side of the dome. We found that it was easier to follow the slabs on west side of the forest than scrambling on the climbers trail. After the ramp that leads to Crest Jewel we followed climber trail that went around the base and finally lead us to the start of the Crest Jewel Direct. The approach took a bit over three hours and finding the route another hour. Avoid going up the another bolted route on left side of the Crest Jewel Direct.
The map on the left from http://www.gearlooptopo.com/selectedTopo.html?area=tuolumne&topo=crestJewel
After 10 am we finally hit the route that many have been describing as “the ultimate slab-fest”. The first two pitches gave us a good impression that this was not going to be just any day on a rock. The third pitch was the 5.10d crux with very delicate moves on minimal footholds. Luckily the crux section was short and can be aided by using the bolts that almost form a bolt ladder.
Ville enjoying the last bit of the 5.10d crux section.
Finishing a sparsely bolted traverse on small dikes.
It’s all about balance and footwork!
Top of the route 7 after hours of climbing. Tired but still smiling!
Views from the top of North Dome are breathtaking. You just can’s have a better view of the Half Dome anywhere else.
After finishing the climb we found our water stash (highly recommended to stash some water on top of North Dome) and continued to hike back to Porcupine Creek Trailhead. The hike took less than two hours which of half we had to use headlamps.
Car to car 13 hours
Approach 4 hours
Climb 7 hours
Hike back 2 hours
Crest Jewel Direct was the longest sport route I have done and I’m happy to recommend it for anyone who wants to explore the big wall feel in a nicely bolted package!