Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome
|Regular Northwest Face|
The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome approximately follows the red line
|Climbing Area||Yosemite Valley|
|Route Type||Aid or Free|
|Rating||5.9 A1 or 5.12|
|First ascent||Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas, 1957.|
|Fastest Ascent||1:22 Alex Honnold, 2012.|
The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome was the first Grade VI climb in the United States. It was first climbed in 1957 by a team consisting of Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas. Its current aid climbing rating is VI 5.9 A1 or 5.12 for the free climbing variation. It is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and considered a classic around the world.
Although the first ascent took five days, most ascents now are accomplished in two. The record for the fastest ascent of the route is 1:22 and was set during a solo ascent in late May 2012 by Alex Honnold, who had previously recorded the first free solo ascent in 2008. This improved on a longstanding record of 1:53 set in October 1999 by Jim Herson and Hans Florine.
On July 5, 2015, climbers Andrew Brodhead and Scott Sinner discovered that pitches 11 and 12 were missing from the route. Though the exact cause is unknown, it is likely the exfoliation slab that made up the pitches had dislocated from the wall during a storm the day before. It is unclear if the route is climbable in its current state.
On September 4, 2015, the route was successfully finished by a team of climbers from Iowa, Matthew Leavenworth and Alex Saunders. Alex Saunders was able to link up with pitch twelve by using a rope throw technique taken from a book on advanced aid techniques authored by Royal Robbins.
All of the major walls and formations in Yosemite Valley had been climbed by the mid 1950s with the exception of the Northwest Face of Half Dome and El Capitan. El Capitan, with its intimidating 3000 foot face, was obviously out of the question for at least a few years, leaving Half Dome, with a much more manageable 2000 foot face, as the logical next goal.
A more serious attempt to find passage up this cliff was made in 1955 by Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson, Royal Robbins and Warren Harding. After climbing a mere 500 feet over five days, this party, too, retreated.
Gallwas and Robbins, armed with new chrome-molybdenum pitons made by Gallwas, recruited Mike Sherrick and set off on June 24, 1957, determined this time to finish the route. Over a period of five days, they encountered repeated obstacles and, using ingenuity and tenacity, they surmounted all these difficulties.
Five days after they had left the ground, they stood at the summit. Warren Harding had hiked up the backside of Half Dome via the hikers' trail for the occasion. He had been planning, along with Mark Powell and Bill "Dolt" Feuerer, to give the route another attempt, but had been beaten to it by the successful team. Nevertheless, Harding offered the triumphant team a warm congratulations.
- McNamara, Chris, and Sloan, Erik. Yosemite Big Walls. Mill Valley, CA: SuperTopo, 2005. ISBN 0-9672391-9-2
- Roper, Steve; Steck, Allen (1979). Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. ISBN 0-87156-292-8.
- Rock and Ice. 5 June 2012. 21 June 2012 rockandice.com
- Florine, Hans. halfdome. 20 August 2004. 31 October 2005 speedclimb.com
- Half Domes RNWF: The day we found that pitch 11/12 was missing. SuperTopo.com. http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Half-Domes-RNWF-The-day-we-found-that-pitch-11-12-was-missing/t12781n.html
- Roper, Steve. Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books, 1998. ISBN 0-89886-587-5
- Roper, Steve. Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1978. ISBN 0-87156-048-8