/ Snake Dike Half Dome

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Molly - on 11 May 2013
I'm heading off to Yosemite in a couple of weeks and one of the routes i'd like to climb is Snake Dike which tops out on Half Dome.
I understand that if hikers wish to walk up Half Dome, they have to apply for a permit. Do I need a permit as i'd be descending back down the cables used by the hikers?
John_Hat - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

If I recall correctly, you don't need a permit to get up half dome, but you cetainly do need a permit to wild camp.

The issue is this. Its a huge walk in (5 hours? - though I'm sure someone will be along shortly to say they did it in 2!) with significant height gain to get to the start of the route, and actually finding the start has been reported as tricky route finding.

So given the route is (generally) a whole day in itself, then its either a VERY early start to walk in, do route, get down, and walk out, or (much easier) you wild camp at the base, for which you DO require a permit.

Or you try and dodge the rangers and wild camp without a permit but I understand the penalty is high enough to make this a bad idea.
altirando - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly: It is a few years since I went up the cable route on Half Dome. I don't remember getting a permit. If you can't get a response from someone else I will email my daughter who lives in California, but at the moment in Stamford Hospital there recovering from yet another op on her leg following a 1500 bounce down an ice slope on Mt Shasta two years ago.
full stottie on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly:
We needed a wild camping permit (free) and bear canister at the Yosemite Rangers office in 2007 to bivi at the foot of snake dike. There is a campsite at Little Yosemite Valley, but there are some big boulders at the foot of the climb. More info here: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/half-dome/half-dome.htm#little-yosemite-valley

Hope you get better weather than we did!
BenTiffin - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly: You have to have a permit to wildcamp there but not to walk up/climb up the mountain. People do bivi at the foot of the route without a permit - nice flat grassy area.

Ben
alan1234 - on 11 May 2013
In short, nope you don't need a permit if you are climbing it and then using the cables to come down it.

Ben - you do need a permit to use the cables to go up.

For the approach, you finally depart the John Muir trail just after walking past the little wilderness campsite that often has no tents in it (but does have a sign) - the guidebook isn't very helpful for this part. After that you roughly follow the cairns (lots are wrong), pass to the left of a massive lake and then spend a couple of hours getting lost before you find it. Look on flickr or something similar for lots of pictures so you can recognise it from the base - I met a fair few groups who spent the whole day trying to find it!
Rob Parsons on 11 May 2013
In reply to alan1234:

We had no problem finding the start of the route - it all seemed pretty obvious. And also no problem doing it in a day from Camp Four.

This is all a long time ago - twenty five years or so - but I just offer it as a counterpoint.
BenTiffin - on 11 May 2013
In reply to alan1234: I stand corrected - you didn't in 2001.
Simonfarfaraway - on 11 May 2013
'the guidebook isn't very helpful for this part. After that you roughly follow the cairns (lots are wrong), pass to the left of a massive lake and then spend a couple of hours getting lost before you find it'

Yep thats pretty accurate.

Its a great day trip to do snake dyke, long but great. We set off walking at 4.30am I recall. No permits for the day, a pain if you bivy, because I wouldn't want to carry the bivy stuff on the climb, and its a big walk back for it.

Best done as a single long day

papashango - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

Permit was required to go up the cables in 2011
Derek Furze - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly: Walk up is pretty steep and long, but wonderful even with all the clobber on your back (including summit beer). Finding the route seemed really easy, but maybe we were lucky. No need for a permit as it is a reasonable day trip, even with plenty of time on top enjoying one of the most spectacular spots in the Valley. Walk down feels a long way and lonelier in the evening (bears), but did it all on an October day. A great day out
Enty - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

When I did it in 2010 there was a ranger at Happy Isles (at 6:30am)which is the start of the Mist Trail - we just told her we were going to climb Snake Dyke and she let us through. She's there for the regular hikers who are going to do Half Dome via the cables because you need a permit and I think they are limited to 300 a day or something like that.

The other thing is - no matter how early you start there will be a couple of teams beat you to it ;-)

E
Stevie A - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Molly: It is a great route. Lovely climbing, if a little odd. The base of route bivvy only adds to the adventure. Less keen on the annoyed rattler we encountered though.
Molly - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Enty:
Cheers for the info, thats great to hear. I guess I might be seeing that ranger at 6:30am as i'm planning to make my start from the valley instead of higher bivi's.
Ian Parsons - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

Just another perspective on the possibility/likelihood of comfortably fitting it into a single day. Steve Clegg and I did the route in October 2005; we were both already the wrong side of fifty, neither particularly fit, and encumbered with all the usual creaking joints, etc. On the day in question this was a hastily cobbled-together Plan B, Plan A being the Serenity/Sons combo. After a leisurely start we were sorting gear and racking up in the Ahwahnee Hotel parking lot. We were camping on a site out by the western park entrance, some miles beyond Crane Flat, so probably forty minutes drive away; at a guess it was sometime shortly after 10am. We noticed a group of three doing likewise nearby and wandered over to ask the obvious question; yes, they were Serenity-bound as well. Trying to beat them to the start seemed a bit underhand, and probably wouldn't have worked; they were almost ready to go, and looked rather younger than us. Not wishing a crowded day on any of us we had a quick think and decided that we could probably just about manage Snake Dike in the time available, so drove to Happy Isles and set off at about 11am.

The approach, as I recall, took three hours, putting us at the start at about 2pm. The roped climbing took just under two hours, followed by a further half-hour or so up the seemingly endless upper slabs to the top; that would have been at something approaching 5pm. We headed down apace and had got to somewhere around Nevada Fall when progress was slowed considerably by the onset of darkness; I can't recall exactly when that would have been at that time of year, but I think that another half hour before the necessary deployment of our solitary headtorch would have seen us onto easier terrain, or at least very close.

Don't get me wrong; we were obviously very comfortable with the climbing, we didn't get lost on the approach, and we didn't hang about any more than was dictated by advancing decrepitude. I would certainly advise starting your day in the knowledge that the route is your planned objective, leaving a bit earlier than we did, and taking a headtorch apiece; the Mist Trail is a very damp and slippy place when you can't quite see where you're going! But unless you find the actual climbing particularly challenging there's very little reason to have difficulty in fitting the experience into a single daylight cycle - particularly at this time of year with its much longer days.
Offwidth - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Ian Parsons:

Another perspective from a normal couple ticking through 5.7 and 5.8 US classics (rather than experts on an easy day). We set off at 4am in mid September and started climbing at 8:30am just in front of the queue. We climbed the route in just over 3 hours (way ahead of the next climbers) and got to the top an hour later. It was freezing at the start of the climb and I was really suffering from heat on top. The crux was hard English 5a right next to a bolt (that given the glancing sunlight I couldn't spot initially and clipped it at my ankle) I was glad to do this on cool rock. The main dike is like soloing a huge VD: 30m run-outs with no pro between bolt belays. On the descent we ran out of water.

You absolutely need to check the permit situation as its definitely needed to go up the walking route but I'm not sure about the climb.
jon on 12 May 2013
In reply to Ian Parsons:

An uncharacteristically early start, Ian!
Ian Parsons - on 12 May 2013
In reply to jon:

Indeed; I probably needed a lie-in the next morning to compensate. That Clegg is a monster!
steveej - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Molly: No you don't.
steveej - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Molly: do it in a day. don't have to faff with bivvy kit. don't need a permit, great route. fantastic experience. you wont regret it. leave early, take a headtorch
David Coley - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Molly: we left after lunch, climbed the route in an hour something by simul climbing. I wish we had done it over two days. Magic place.
Edd Reed - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Molly: Have a look on the supertopo website for GPS information regarding finding the route, wish we had this after we spent all day looking for it without success
Enty - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Edd Reed:
> (In reply to Molly) Have a look on the supertopo website for GPS information regarding finding the route, wish we had this after we spent all day looking for it without success

GPS? it's easy to find.

E
Edd Reed - on 13 May 2013
In reply to Enty: Stupidly started following cairns
jon on 13 May 2013
In reply to Edd Reed:

Got to agree with Enty here. It really isn't hard to find.

Whilst it doesn't show the way to the start of the route, have a look at this. It shows the whole of the route with several parties on it, and also shows the terrain at the start of the route which would help you to locate it: http://www.xrez.com/yose_proj/yose_deepzoom/index.html Simply start zooming in and find the Glacier Point viewpoint. Then continue zooming. Snake Dike is towards the right hand side of the face.
Offwidth - on 13 May 2013
In reply to jon:

It's not hard to find nor is it easy. Most brits will be going up there for the first time; the correct route up through the vegetation isnt trivial; you have to think a bit to work out the exact start (two parties geared up super fast tried to overtake us and got it wrong... glad they messed up as they were real slow later compared to us) ; if you start early its harder to see where you are going in the dark; then there are possibilities of rattle snakes and bears to distract you from thinking straight.
Molly - on 13 May 2013
In reply to jon:
Cheers for that, the detail is amazing.
Molly - on 13 May 2013
In reply to steveej:
Brill advice, thanks. Headtorch usually comes to every crag in England anyway!!
David Coley - on 13 May 2013
In reply to Molly: I you see a lost and lonely Brit in camp 4 from the 12-20 June, that will be me. Come and say hi.
cat22 - on 13 May 2013
In reply to Molly: Check the closing time for the Curry Village pizza place before you set off - it's the perfect end to the day :-)
Adam Long - on 14 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

The main piece of advice brits should heed is not to take a rack. There are two bolts per pitch and two bolts per belay - so three quickdraws and a few screwgates. I don't recall passing any gear you could have placed. We did overtake a few parties with massive racks they were regretting...
HeMa on 14 May 2013
In reply to Adam Long:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
>
> The main piece of advice brits should heed is not to take a rack. There are two bolts per pitch and two bolts per belay - so three quickdraws and a few screwgates. I don't recall passing any gear you could have placed. We did overtake a few parties with massive racks they were regretting...

Rumor has it, there's some chickenheads to be slinged... so perhaps a few slings with crabs would also be best added.

steveej - on 14 May 2013
In reply to Adam Long:

there are a few gear placements which make it a bit safer both on the first pitch and on some of the later pitches.

I would take a small rack of 3 cams - 1, 1.5 & 2, a set of nuts and six quickdraws + plus a few slings & screw gates for the belay.

But I remember in total less than half a dozen pieces in the entire route + a few bolts here and there. Prepare yourself for Loooong run out 150ft pitches with 2 or 3 bits of gear.

The climb is an excercise in mind control.
Offwidth - on 14 May 2013
In reply to Adam Long:

That advice depends on ability and prior knowledge. I took a cut-down rack and if you don't you are soloing VD/S terrain at the bottom and a very long mod with massive exposure at the top with no possibility of absail escape if you mess up. Knowing what I know now I could have cut further but I'd still take 4 cams.
Offwidth - on 14 May 2013
In reply to HeMa:

I didnt see a reliable chicken head that mattered.
HeMa on 14 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:


Might be the case, my friend still slinged a few. But that was almost 10 years ago and they might have been mental protection.
Offwidth - on 14 May 2013
In reply to HeMa:

I'm normally all for mental protection but on that route you shouldnt be there unless you are happy soloing sustained VD slab moves. Faffing and breaking the flow is a bad idea.
David Coley - on 14 May 2013
In reply to Adam Long:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
>
> The main piece of advice brits should heed is not to take a rack. There are two bolts per pitch and two bolts per belay - so three quickdraws and a few screwgates. I don't recall passing any gear you could have placed. We did overtake a few parties with massive racks they were regretting...

Given Molly's profile, I would suggest a half rack for the first pitch and a belay on the final easy pitch.
Chris Sansum - on 14 May 2013
In reply to David Coley:

I agree - I seem to remember getting a cam and possibly a sling in on pitch 1. But you don't need any gear on the other pitches unless you want to look for chicken heads on the dyke. Pitch 1 is definitely the crux - I thought about VS or HVS climbing with not great gear. The rest of it is easy climbing (about severe?) but with crazy runouts. We had a really good day out. Fantastic rock in an amazing position. The walk in (from memory 9 miles) and out (11 miles) are a bit lengthy!

We did it in September. We left the car park at 5am. We were first at the route, but didn't identify it straight away - we spent about 15 mins trying to decide where the start was, and by the time we came back and found it there were a few groups in front of us. There was a cocky American guy who seemed to think he should be in front of us because he was going to be quicker. I think he was trying to big himself up to the girl he was climbing with. Needless to say we wasted him and left him behind!

Anyway, the point is expect big queues so get going early!
Offwidth - on 16 May 2013
In reply to Chris Sansum:

The padding on what is labbelled pitch one is easier than some grit VD's its also easy to bypass: the crux most certainly is not there. The technical crux and part of the adjectival crux is the thin slab moves to reach the main dike with a bolt for protection which is the 2nd/3rd pitch depending on where you belay. Are you sure you didnt run these together? The other adjectival crux is long unprotected sections on easier terrain between bolt belays. Maybe best as VS 5a (VS 3c) or 5.7 (5.3 X)

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jkarran - on 16 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

Do it, it's a great day out you'll remember for a lifetime.

We did it in a day setting off an hour or so pre-dawn (5am?) and returning in time for last orders at the pizza place, I think it's about 16 or 17miles round trip with a lot of height gain/loss and ~6pitches. Finding the start wasn't trivial but it's more annoying than difficult, you essentially can't miss it but there's quite a lot of ledgy slab to cross en-route that gets tiresome.

The route itself is unique in my experience, the climbing is mostly trivial but in an amazing position with wonderful views. Given the run outs and my propensity for cowardice I guess it felt quite secure (with the exception of the fairly thin bolted crux). After the crux it eases progressively for a few pitches until you're walking more than climbing. We moved together for a couple of hundred meters after that in case we slipped on the scrittle. Doing it again I'd take 2 or 3 cams, a small bunch of nuts and the lightest rope I could find.

No idea about permits for the cables, a lot's changed in a decade but you certainly used to need one if you were stopping out overnight anywhere other than on the wall.
Chris Sansum - on 16 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

I guess different people find different things difficult. For me padding across a steep slab with poor gear on pitch 1 was the bit which I remembered as being the crux. If it was a grit VD I would have expected far more gear. I think you are right that there was a technical bit higher up, but it was next to a bolt, so didn't seem as serious. And apart from that the climbing was very straightforward, albeit with not many bolts (although more than on the first ascent)!
Solaris - on 18 May 2013
In reply to Molly:

I agree with those suggesting doing it in a day and carrying a modest rack, and have a few things to add:

In my experience, it's not so much finding the start of the climb itself that's difficult: it's finding the best way off the main path, through the scrub, and up the approach slopes to the start that's tricky. (Lake? What lake?!)

There's several different ways of doing the first pitch. The way we took may have had more gear, but it traversed glassy slabs and felt (to me) about E1.

One distinct advantage in doing it in a day is that you will be descending the cables later on when they aren't crowded.

It's a great run down from the bottom of the cables, but spare a thought for Batso who ran up in some pretty astonishing times, iirc.

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