The Shield is a climb that calls all aid climbers. Idolized for its splitter cracks that cruise up a real, golden shield of a headwall above The Heart, The Shield today is harder than the Zodiac only because it is longer and therefore more complicated. The dozens of Rurps used on the first ascent of some of its infamous pitches are today easily dispatched with hand-placed 1 1/4- 1 1/2 " sawed-off pitons and large birdbeaks. The Shield is a location climb; it is an awesome, easier aid climb. Bonus Tip: The Shield headwall is fiercly windy all year, making this climb incredibly cold in early/late season. If the Yosemite Valley temperatures are in the 80s, the temperature on The Shield headwall will be in the 50s-60s with windchill; if the Valley temps are in the 70s, The Shield headwall will be in the 40s-50s with windchill.


*Plan: Most parties climb Freeblast their first day, and spend day two hauling to Mammoth Ledges and maybe fixing a pitch or two. After that, plan on 3-5 days on the wall. The final haul is very low angle so pay extra attention to packing your haulbags into perfectly haulable torpedo shapes(not too much stuff on top of the bag). The headwall pitches can be slow so be sure to bring a comfy belay seat.


*Ledge: With stellar ledges Mammoth Terrace and Grey Ledges as well as the righteous hang(but portaledge bivy) Chickenhead Ledge, many parties only spend one hanging night on the headwall.


*The Elements: In addition to the information above about The Shield headwall being a windy cold place yearround, it is also a dreadful spot in a storm. Do not attempt The Shield if a storm is forecasted.

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Speed Record

Chris McNamara, Cedar Wright
Aug 1999
  • Jul 15, 2015 3.5 days -- Steven Tata, Robbie Brown
  • Jul 15, 2015 3.5 days -- Robbie Brown, Steven Tata
    Great fun on an incredible route. Fantastic natural line. Bring Hella Beaks!
  • May 20, 2014 4 days -- Brandon Adams, Alec Zachreson
    Great adventure. Started from heart. Climbed to chickenhead completely clean! Headwall was stellar. Scarred but super fun and exposed. Alec hit in a couple pins above chickenhead to keep him off the ledge if he biffed it. Spent bivi at hang with two guys on a single portaledge. Great times and many memories.
  • Aug 2013 4 days -- mickey sensenbach, jaysen henderson
    so fun! found tons of nuts that we got out in a matter of seconds... really cool headwall!
  • Jun 15, 2011 2.5 days -- Roger Putnam, Ned Leblond
  • May 2010 2.5 days -- David Allfrey, Scott Lappin
  • Oct 2009 4 days -- Ken Bokelund, Tom carter
    Tom came out of retirement for this one!great route with an even greater partner
  • Sep 20, 2009 4.5 days -- Dominic Oughton, Bill Deakin
  • Sep 2009 5 days -- Neil Chelton, Callum
  • Jul 2004 4 days -- Jacques Lepesant, Alik Berg
  • Oct 2003 6 days -- Paul Gagner, Lee Lambert
  • Jun 2002 5 days -- Erik Sloan, Josh Thompson
    Summer climb with perfect, breezy 70 degree weather on the Shield headwall. We replaced most of the lead and anchor bolts. Weird vibe when we blasted as there was a fatality in the Valley the day before when a rope-soloist fell on Braille Book and was killed when the rescue helicopter had trouble getting out of the Spire Gully and ended up ramming the litter through some trees. The empty helicopter was sitting in the meadow of the El Cap meadow and the place was crawling with burly men asking, 'did you see anything yesterday' as they were investigating the helicopter pilot. Good times for us though, mellow cruising up golden bliss.
  • Jun 2002 4 days -- Jacek Czyz, Jacek Zaczkowski
    try clean, C4 F4-5
  • Jun 2000 15h:30mins -- Erik Sloan, Tommy Caldwell
    onsight ascent for both us! Amazing Route! We cheated a little by pre-stashing a couple gallons on Mammoth Terraces before our climb.
  • Jul 29, 1996 5 days -- T M, Mark Kelly, Per Ludvig Skjerven
  • May 1996 -- Anthony Lobay, Frank Rodgers, Charles Engel
  • Sep 1995 4 days -- Jacek Czyz, Barbara Olesiewicz-Shelonzek
    4 days + 4 first 10p of Muir Wall, Barbara was first Polish women on ElCap
  • Sep 15, 1992 5 days -- Oszkár Nádasdi, Gábor Berecz, Zoltán Simon, Zsolt Rácz
  • Jun 1991 4.5 days -- Umberto Villotta, Roberto Alberti, Roger Errington
    ......big clusterfuck on headwall with korean team with too little gear(bad!)
  • May 15, 1986 10 days -- Dean Miller, Marcos Couch
    My first Wall. First climb longer than a grade IV for my partner. Triple cracks was 5th aid pitch I'd ever led. Dropped 2nd rope from beneath shield roof. Tied lead and 9mm static togeather and rapped down to grey. Couldn't quite reach grey. swung to within 6 inches or so from the wall and let go with my brake hand. dropped about a foot or so. Feet on a good shelf hands on a sloper. freaking scary, but got the extra lead line. Good thing. Main one got caught on a flake. Had to cut it to salvage what we could. Windy as hell a couple of days on the headwall. No rope bags and too dumb to stack the ropes at the anchors. Ran out of everything at the end. But had a Killer time
  • Sep 1979 5 days -- I P, AL

Trip Reports

Trip Reports



1. Partner
Chris McNamara, Cedar Wright
Aug 1999
Rick Lovelace, Kevin Fosburg
Jun 1991 (first one day ascent)
Tommy Caldwell, Erik Sloan
Jun 2000 (onsight ascent)