By Mike Schneiter
Halfway up the pitch, I fruitlessly shook my lactate-filled arms, perplexed by the chalk a long reach away in the opposite direction of where I found myself perched. Chris swore the pitch was 10+, but now I heard a faint giggle below as I found myself stymied as to which way I should go. Both chalk paths couldn’t be right, I thought in my bewildered state, and my confidence quickly began to shrink.
We were climbing The Great Escape, a five pitch, 5.11c sport climb a few minutes walk from the car. Later, when Chris informed me he was writing a new sport climbing book for SuperTopo, I quickly insisted that he give that pitch its’ proper rating and not the sandbag one he gave me. Having spent more than a decade living and working in the Valley, Chris has surely climbed The Great Escape countless times, and perhaps it does feel 10+ to him, but most will find it significantly more challenging. Being his favorite route in the Valley, it’s fitting that a beautiful shot of Heidi Wirtz on the same climb graces the cover of the new Yosemite Sport Climbs and Top Ropes guidebook.
When most people think of Yosemite Valley, they think of long routes on the famed big walls of El Capitan and Half Dome. Or, they envision the myriad opportunities to hone their crack skills on some of the preeminent granite in the world. Rarely do people think of Yosemite as a place to bring their quickdraws. But on the hike in to the Great Escape that day, Chris pointed out the large concentration of well-bolted, chalk-covered sport climbs in the area.
On further reflection, I recall my first trip to the Valley, eleven years ago when I spied a “Yosemite top roping” guidebook, which I viewed with some disdain, and perhaps curiosity. “Why would people come to the Valley to top rope?” Now, after many years of annual summer pilgrimages, I’ve come to realize that visiting climbers are more often made up of the beginner to intermediate type than the hardened wall men and women tackling steep, difficult lines on El Cap.
SuperTopo guidebooks have widely become known for quality topos, detailed route descriptions and excellent information that will get you to and from the climb with ease. Yosemite Sport Climbs and Top Ropes continues in that vain with clear photos, detailed topos and amusing historical perspectives on climbing in one of the most storied areas in the world. If you already own Yosemite Free Climbs, you’ll see some repeats, but in this new book you’ll find many quality areas that most people hardly know of. The book features over 200 climbs, from super easy (5.1) to some of the hardest around (5.14). And while most tend to think of Yosemite bolted climbs as runout, slabby, scarefests, this book will surprise you, revealing an impressive number of steep, well-protected face climbs that would fit right in at many popular sport areas across the country.
With the summer climbing and traveling season upon us, if you find yourself in the Valley and need a break from all that relentless jamming, be sure to check out Yosemite Sport Climbs and Top Ropes.
Mike Schneiter is our resident expert on Yosemite Valley, having spent most of his summers chasing big routes in the granite mecca.