Splitter, like an alpine Nose, South Face is 5 stars. The cracks are a little dirtier/more slippery and therefore often slower than you expect, but the ledges are incredible and the tricky sections are not too tricky. This is a beginner route but not a first wall unless you have ample alpine climbing experience, owing to the length of approach(which includes 800' of circuitous 4th and 5th class slabs which often have to be hauled). The cruxes are a few fixed heads/pitons, and few short sections of thin cracks.
*Plan: Unlike Half Dome, hauling on Watkins is no problem, as the rock is cleaner and there are no crowds; so spending a few days on the wall is perfect. Allow a full day to hike to the wall, fill/filter water from Tenaya creek which passes within two hundred feet of the cliff, and scramble/climb/haul up the approach slabs to the base of the route. From there most folks spend 2 nights on the wall and a night on top.
*Approach: You'll love yourself if you jog out this nice trail once to get familiar with the terrain, as the trail gets vague in places but will seem easy and cruiser once you've done it once.
From Miror Lake begin hiking around the Miror Lake loop, stopping before crossing the Merced river and following a faint trail up canyon close to the river's edge. The trial stays near the left bank of the river, veering North temporarily in Spring to cross a raging creek, and eventually leads you right to the base of Mt. Watkins--a long 1.5 -2.5 hrs from Miror Lake, but still relatively gentle and beautiful hike with no real scrambling until you reach the wall. You can filter water right near the base of the wall and start to scope the circuitous, 800' of 3rd class-5.6+ approach slabs.
*Ledge: Sheraton Watkins is big but slightly sloping. The ledge at pitch 11 is good for 2-3.
*Descent: The top of the South Face climb is several hundred feet below the true summit of Watkins. If you are planning on hiking down the Snow Creek Trail to the Valley(recommended unless it is Summer and you've made plans to hike the short three and half miles out to hwy 120 near Olmstead Point) you don't need to go all the way to the Summit but can start to hike up and West, eventually gaining a ridge that leads to a forrest and the top of the Snow Creek Trail. In Summer, hiking the three miles to the Hwy 120/Tuolomne and hitchhiking back to the Valley can be fun.
*The Elements: Watkins is in the Sun nearly all day so skip this one in July/first part of August.
Feb 01, 2015
-- mickey sensenbach, Eric walden
Fun adventure from car to top!
Sep 22, 2012
-- Adam Long, Scott Lappin
Great one day climb up an incredible wall
Jun 02, 2010
-- Roger Putnam, Eric Grove, Harrison Forrester
Great time with good bros. Hiked down the back to a food/booze cache at the Snow Creek Cabin.
- Jun 2008 2.5 days -- David Allfrey, Matt Touchette
Oct 05, 1994
-- Erik Sloan, Jeff Benowitz
An awesome backcountry Wall. So much Sunshine! Love the Hawk flybys, and the cool ledges. The Alpine Nose, for sure. We hiked in to do climb Quarter Dome but after a cold bivy beneath this beauty we switched objectives.
-- Paul Gagner, Steve "Shipoopi" Schneider
Our first wall - in epic conditions.