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South Face the easy way

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The South Face of Washington Column is like a favorite book or movie. Every time you go there your perspective broadens, your enthusiasm stokes. Barely in the double digits pitch-wise, with only three or four of those harder than 5.10a and a palatial ledge conveniently placed at knee height, the South Face is the perfect easy/beginner big wall. I love it.

Last summer Brian and his family moved to Sacramento and I immediately suggested a reunion climb. Fresh out of the bar exam Brain wanted to relax and soak up the Sierra vibe. The South Face called.  

We wanted to go light and easy so we only brought one rope and planned on the second just jugging with the pack. Summer weather meant we didn’t need big sleeping bags or jackets. We left the Ahwahnee parking lot by 10am. The shady approach trail was singing with forest chatter.

I didn’t get a picture but Brian and I did the direct start, instead of starting in the corner. You just move a few feet left of the base to a left facing corner that leads up to a super fun 5.8 bulge. I’ve done this variation a couple times and it is the same difficulty leading as the regular corner but easier for the second to jug as the rope goes straight up.
Here’s Brian heading up the doubly splitter second pitch:

By early afternoon we were turning into lizards on Dinner Ledge.

Definitely not the way you’d want to do it your first time, but once you’ve done the South Face a bit it is nice to bypass the Kor roof zag by doing a pitch and a half of Southern Man. Brian hadn’t aided in a decade so when the sun started heading down he practiced his moves on the first pitch bolt ladder.

I led the fun thin crack that leads up to rejoin the South Face and then it was back down to our skyskraper-top sandy beach.

The next morning dawned as perfect as the last so we excitedly packed up our sleeping bags, ate bagels and took care of business before heading up our fixed rope. We had the place to ourselves.

I led through the aid climbing stuff, enjoying the endless bomber placements.

Brian rode the cool view:

This little guy made getting stoppers out a lot easier, especially when you’re jugging with a pack:

When we hit the glory free climbing I gave Brain backed the sharp end:

If you’re jugging the rope likes to get hooked on the chimney pitch, so coil that baby as you go:

Brian started getting a little tired so I took us to the summit trees:

It was hot so we found a nice sandy spot with a long view of Tenaya canyon and Half Dome and made some lunch.

Thirst eventually led us down the trail to bivy at the top of Royal Arches.

In the morning it was quick simul-rapping to the car with our 70m rope.

Ahhhh, thank you Washington Column and Brian.