Yosemite - Long Hard Free Climbs

Several long (Grade V and VI) hard free (and nearly or mostly free) climbs are found in Yosemite Valley. This page attempts to provide: The definition of "long 'hard' free" climbs is rather arbitrary; the climbs included here are at least 10 pitches and 5.11 or harder. The idea was to include Astroman as one of the shorter and easier routes, but a few other routes seem to have slipped in.... The more climbs, the better! See also long moderate free climbs and midsize hard free climbs (including the West Face of Leaning Tower).

The purpose of this page is mainly to provide an accurate cumulative record of the facts on these climbs. Many details on style are given here, which have not always been accurately reported in the magazines. These facts have also been widely scattered in magazines over many years. The intent is not to be negative or trivially critical of the climbs and climbers. Just a plain presentation of the facts is intended. If people want to make a comparison of new ascents by themselves or others, they can refer here to a full set of details about what was involved in the previous attempts and ascents.

Jump to:   West Buttress (El Cap)   Heart Route   The Shaft (Muir/Shaft/Shield)   Salathe' Wall   Golden Gate   El Corazon   The Nose   Free Dawn   El Nino   The Prophet
Washington Column   Mt. Watkins   Half Dome   Glacier Point Apron   Sentinel Rock .

Ribbon Falls

El Capitan

Camp Four Wall

Yosemite Point

Arrowhead Arete

Royal Arches

Washington Column

North Dome

Basket Dome

Mt. Watkins

Yasoo Dome

East Quarter Dome

Half Dome

Liberty Cap

Glacier Point Apron

Sentinel Rock

Higher Cathedral Spire

Higher Cathedral Rock

Middle Cathedral Rock

Fifi Buttress

Elephant Rock

A few 8- and 9-pitch routes that nearly make it to this list:


Thanks to Jim Herson, James Lucas, Jeff Schoen and Mark Hudon for providing many details and corrections to this material. Some historical material was drawn from the "Climbing History" section of the 1987 "Yosemite Climbs" guidebook by George Meyers and Don Reid. The title of this page was copied from Mark Hudon's 1981 article Long, Hard and Free.

Any remaining errors (including interpretations) are my responsibility, of course. For example, the term "free ascent" has perhaps been rendered meaningless. I intended it to mean anything where the (non-fixed) protection was placed free on lead, but the pitch was at least led "yoyo from no hands rests". Of course "yoyo from the belay", "pinkpoint", "redpoint", "flash", and "onsight" are increasingly better styles.

By this definition, Burk's ascent of the Nose is not counted as a "free ascent", because the Great Roof was toproped. However the first ascent of Hall of Mirrors by Cantwell and Burk was counted as a "free ascent" even though some sections of p13 were toproped (clipped on aid, then freed). Then there are the routes like the mid 90s ascents of Lurking Fear, Excalibur, and Muir/Shaft where gear was preplaced on aid. No doubt this was due to the many very hard pitches, to cut down on the time required, to keep things fun and logistically feasible. On the borderline are tactics like splitting pitches or using variations to avoid certain pitches/sections. Hopefully by providing the details, not much value needs to be placed on my usage of "free ascent" -- you can draw your own conclusions. Or better yet, go out and have fun climbing!

rev. 12/2016

Please send any comments or corrections to Clint Cummins: clint@leland.stanford.edu .