Peter Coward and I made the epic approach to The Chief, a 5.11, A1 face climb on Yasoo Dome in Tenaya Canyon, last Saturday. No information regarding approach, gear, and quality was available; however, the 3 star rating in the Yosemite guidebook was enough to entice us to give it a try. After summiting late in the day, we both agreed it was worth every drop of blood lost in the 2 hours spent bushwacking to the base.
We approached the route from the Tioga Pass Road across towards the top of Mt. Watkins. The 1st hour is a mellow hike through pine forest. Then, two hours of gulley descent, class four scrambling and bushwacking to get to the base. By the time we started climbing it was very hot and we were already worked.
The first 6 pitches we combined and simuled as three. Then the business begins on climbing up this awesome steep slab. The climbing is fabulous, the views of Tenaya Canyon are amazing, and the setting feels remote and committing. The lack of fixed belays and the traversing nature of some pitches adds to the committment and would make retreat difficult and expensive! Several pitches get the "R" rating but generally the hard climbing is less than half a rope length above the last piece. Peter quickly pulled through the short A1 section and I was able to free this seconding at about 5.12a. (It would require a bolt to safely climb this section on lead.) Every pitch above the Golden Bowl Ledge was exceptional.
We topped out to more spectacular views of Half Dome and the High Country having burned two rolls of film. We instantly consumed our water and Powerbar stash at the top of Yasoo Dome and headed back to the car.
The climb gets my highest recommendation. The bushwacking more than compensates for the lack of any off width climbing. (From the route we spied an alternative approach that may cut out the bushwacking and would shorten the approach time considerably.)
Gear: Doubles on cams to #3, one each #3, #3.5 and #4, 6-8 draws, one set of stoppers, and 5 long runners. (no crescent wrench or #5 required)