Snake Dike Rock Climb, Yosemite National Park,


(This) Man does not live by canyoneering alone. At least, not this year. Though I have long held that canyoneering is the basis of all outdoor sports, I have, in a previous life, held a fascination with rock climbing, enhanced by a few weeks spent in that most splendid of rock arenas, Yosemite Valley. When Ms. Scotter expressed a desire to summit The Half Dome, I recognized an opportunity to renew my friendship with the classic Yo climb, Snake Dike. From this a trip was planned, coinciding with my drive up to Salt Lake for the Outdoor Retailer Show. Time spent getting thoroughly scared in the Cascades would be put to use re-engaging the 'leader's mind' required for the easy, but rather run-out Snake Dike.

Supertopo says: Snake Dike is the easiest technical climbing route to the top of Half Dome, the most recognized rock feature in the United States. Half Dome boasts an unreal summit, 5,000' of rise from the Yosemite Valley floor and amazing views of the Yosemite and the High Sierra. This dramatic setting, combined with clean and exposed climbing, makes Snake Dike one of the most glorious moderate climbs on the planet. The long and aesthetic approach will take you past two beautiful waterfalls, through the backcountry and past an isolated lake to the southwest toe of Half Dome. The route climbs an 800' salmon-colored dike that wanders up the dramatic southwest face of Half Dome. The combination of a six-mile hike to the base, eight pitches of climbing, and a nine-mile descent back to the Valley makes a full-day adventure and may require more than one day. However, the intense effort to complete the climb makes this route wonderfully rewarding.

The long drive across Nevada was thankfully uneventful (see Horse and Buggy). Late afternoon found us at Mono Lake, a marvelous place at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, made famous (for my generation) by Wish You Were Here.

A court battle was fought over restoring water to Mono Lake, and WE (us greenies) won!

Puffy white clouds add to the drama.

Trips to the East Side should be carefully arranged to arrive at Lee Vining around dinner time, for here is the famous Mobil station with gourmet food...

Alicia tucks into Mushroom and Sherry soup, with Blue Cheese, while I have, in front of me, Fish Tacos featuring two different styles of presentation. Yum!!

Up to Tuolomne to catch the sunset (on Lembert Dome)...

... and along the Tioga road to fabulous views of Half Dome and Quarter Dome.

Clouds Rest.

And finally, a closeup of The Half Dome. Our route, the Snake Dike, is on the exact opposite point from this view.

Ah, my favorite thing to do in the morning...

The Permit Line... yes, our plan was to camp in Little Yosemite Valley before and after the Snake Dike, and LYV is THE most popular backcountry campsite in Yosemite, and thus in the Sierra. Our 6 am arrival got us third in line, and at 7:45 we walked away with permits in hand.

A quick trip to the grocery store in Yosemite Village scored us some essential supplies...

The Curry Company side-steps OSHA and Union rules by hiring bears to work the store. Shameful!

A warmup climb seemed to be in order. I selected the Sunnyside Jam Crack (5.7, 1st pitch) to see if I could REALLY lead 5.7 again. It is also a sentimental favorite, as it was the first climb I did in The Valley.

Alicia roping up to follow the pitch.

PROOF! - Tom can still get the rope up there! (at least on 5.7). Here's Alicia on the first pitch crack.

Alicia raps off.

We set up camp in the Backpackers Walk-In Campground; did the Jam Crack; went and played in the Merced; then tried to do a climb on the Apron (but it got too late); then returned to camp to turn in fairly early, after watching the first half of a classic (super-really-bad) movie, The Terror of Tiny Town.

Morning finds us packing and all, then we drive to Glacier Point. I was hoping we could take The Hall of Mirrors (and Here (AAJ 1982, pdf 1.8 Mb)) to get to Glacier Point, but Alicia forgot her Galibier Contacts and propane torch, so we took the bus instead.

Just before departure, Alicia is on the phone (who'd a thunk!).

We took the bus.

Which left from Yosemite Lodge. Waiting in line - notice everyone is careful to make sure they stand in the no-standing zone - except the renegade closest to us.

We took the bus to Glacier Point, so we could hike ACROSS to LYV, rather than steeply uphill, and so I could add a new trail to my Yosemite portfolio. Here we are on the bus.

Glacier Point has amazing views. Alicia and I (and Half Dome) from GP.

Here is a view of our hike DOWN to our campsite in Little Yosemite Valley, past the upper falls (Nevada falls).

Illouette Falls - which we walked past to get to LYV.

We walked the Panorama Trail with constant views of The Half Dome, and our route for the next day:

The Snake Dike.

Looking down on the apron of Nevada Falls.

And finally, the climb itself.

Well, first the approach, which many consider the crux of the climb. It was pretty bad. The predicted 1 hour from LYV must of been from a Michael Kelsey clone - we took 2-1/2 hour. It was hot. It was steep, loose and unpleasant. Just when it got worst, gnats and mosquitos would appear to heckle us. etc. etc. We finally made it to the base of the climb.

Strapped on the gear and started up the first pitch. Harder and less secure than I remembered but easy enough. I found a belay, and brought Alicia up, lowering her part of the used rope to re-belay for the traverse (worked well).

Alicia smiling broadly at the top of pitch 1.

Should she really be smiling so broadly, with this as the belay anchor??? Oh, plus a cam.


(It is more solid than it looks here).

Rack for Snake Dike. Shoulda had 2 3X length slings, and 4 locking biners - enough to set up 2 semi-hanging belay stations. As is, made due with quickdraws. Used everything at least once.

Alicia prepares for the 2nd pitch traverse. In this case, she untied, I pulled the rope up through the pro, and threw it back down to her, so she could do the traverse with reasonable protection. Kudos to Alicia for climbing well with a not-small pack on (a key Alpine skill).

Pitch 3: climb 80' of 5.4. Clip a bolt. Climb 80' of 5.4. Clip the belay.

Several hours later, the last roped pitch.

A cool place in the overlaps to pack up the gear, change shoes, have a quick bite to eat.

Endless third class to the summit. Nice views!

Endless third class to the summit. Here you can see the angle of the upper flank of Half Dome.

Endless third class to the summit. White puffy clouds.

more endlesssssss 3rd class toward the summit...

And finally (and not really all that tediously), the false summit with a couple cool Stupas.

Three guys from the Bay Area were just topping out on the Regular NW Face as we arrived. They spent 5 days on the wall, and were glad to be a-top the Half Dome.

Our summit shot. A quick hand of Canasta was, of course, de rigeur.

Down the cables. S-c-a-r-y!!!! At least I thought so, these kids kinda ran down it. (Jeesh, kids these days)!

Pile of litter at the base of the cables.

Back to our cozy camp at LYV. Food (yum) and a hand or two of Canasta before bedtime.

A lazy morning, pack up and hike downward. We soon found ourselves among the swarms of clean-smelling people at the top of Nevada Falls.

Top of Nevada Falls, armchair, Liberty Cap in the background.

Nevada Falls from the Mist Trail. Photoillustration by T Jones.

Vernal Falls.

No trip to the Big Ditch could possibly be complete, without spending some time staring up at the Big Stone. Not many climbers up there, in August.

But before we move on... here's Alicia's take on the trip:

Undoom on the Half Dome Tom Jones/Alicia Scotter August, 2008

What do you do when someone with no financial benefit in your death tells you that you can climb – yup, with ropes and stuff – the Matterdome of Yosemite? This was a significant ante up to my previous goal of making the 16 mile pilgrimage on the Half Dome Day Hiker Chain Gain. I decided to put my newly acquired research skills to work and had some consultation time with A Very Knowledgeable Contact (my climbing buddy Archie) who assured me that the Snake Dike’s technical ease was equaled only by its mental “run-out” horrors. Investigation complete, I accepted Tom’s invitation and went into a state of mental denial. What Mountain?

And it’s SO easy to forget the target of the exercise when there is just SO much to distract you from your imminent destiny: camp grounds that smell like PineSol factories; funny stories from people who have actually SEEN “The Firefall” in the line at the backcountry permit office; kitchy stuff at the Valley Store; and $10 pieces of pie to sample at the Ahwhanee. But, in this Happy Valley of Denial, there it always is: The Dome glowing in the distance.

In The Day, Tom had done the Extreme Thing – The Snake Dike Jihad. But we matched these former adreneline levels with cleverness and credit cards. We took the shuttle to Glacier Point, making the late afternoon saunter into Little Yosemite Valley Campground. Here, I discovered the work niche my boys must have overlooked in Career Counseling Class: Paintball Rangers! Shez, like they would even have to pay MY guys to defend Little Yosemite Camp against maurading black bears! “Volunteering for duty, Sir! NPS issue paintball rations, please Sir!”

LYV Camp was like a strange retreat with bad food, made only palatable by the inclusion of Tasty Bites. We swallowed dinner, went to bed (no Bear Box raids that night), and were up at the proverbial crack ‘o dawn. Unfortunately, in my research effort I had forgotten to discuss the ever-important approach topic. In our attempt to shave off a valuable 10 minutes and beat any Modern Extremists to Our Wall, we took the Swamp Detour, where I promptly fell over a log and gave my already ungirly-lookin’ legs a new batch ‘o cuts. Then came the burned-out forest, the Test Your IQ Cairn Trail, and some serious Lamaze-style breathing practice. By the time we got to the base of Snake Dike, I couldn’t WAIT to get on rope and far away from the Evil Approach Forest.

The climb was a joy, with one serious flaw: absolutely no Girl Privacy Spots. I mean somewhere during a 5 1/2 hour climb, a hydrating girl needs A Little Moment, please! With memories of the telescopes at Glacier Point, this becomes a serious conflict. Anyway, suffice it to say, the big crack after the 8th pitch wasn’t just great because we got to change our shoes…

45 minutes more of Lamaze Breathing topped us out where the multiday wall climbers were just popping up. Apparently an unexpected 4th day on a wall without water can create some serious group conflicts! We, on the other hand, were feelin’ GOOD! A little Canasta game, a few miles down to our digs at LYV Retreat, and - um, um, um - ANOTHER Tasty Bite dinner!

We knew the beer crisis was temporary – Outdoor Retailer was just a day away.

The rest of the story is waiting on The Rave -

Watch those horse signs in Nevada Land, and enjoy the Vaginas!

On the way out, we stopped by the Merced Grove of big trees, to stretch our legs.

Big Trees!

I didn't get any flower shots on this trip, but here's an interesting plant with spiny seed pods, probably:

Ribes roezlii

Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry family)

Common name:

Sierra Gooseberry


Yosemite National Park, near Merced Grove, August 2008.


approx 5400 feet


119.84025 long W, 37.74876 lat N


Common but not dominant groundcover in the area.




Jepson Manual

Alicia has her eye on a new little cabin in the woods...

...with a big tree in the front yard, which would be, oh, about 12 feet in diameter.

Another carefully timed stop at the Mobil station for some tasty victuals...Another carefully timed stop at the Mobil station for some tasty victuals...

We left the Mobil station, said goodbye to Mono Lake and headed east across Nevada just as the sun was setting. As we entered Nye County, Nevada, we came over a hill to find plastic pieces all over the road and a car off to the side, with a guy in a yellow shirt standing around. "What was that?" We turn around and go back...

Horse hits Bug - Bug gets crushed. (Yosemite Snake Dike)

Fred had hit a horse in his little VW New Bug. With airbags, thankfully.

Fred is my hero. His first thought, having been hit in the head with a horse was: "gotta get the car out of the road". So, glass in his face and with a broken hand, he pushed the car off the road. Stuck in fifth gear, he had to push, then wait for the compression to relax, then push, etc... Without this heroic effort, our little Mazda 3 would have joined his diesel Bug as a heap of plastic and metal in the road.

Thankfully, no serious injuries to Fred. Broke his right hand where it lay over the steering wheel. EMT holding Fred's head, as the MOI "hit in head by horse" indicates potential cervical fractures.

Horse hits Bug - Bug gets crushed.

The scene. Fred called it in himself, before we got there. All the respondants were his friends and neighbors. Oh, except the next car to stop (after us) - an emergency room nurse and a firefighter.

The horse didn't do so well, either.

Needless to say, we took it pretty easy for the next hour or so, then found a place to pull over and catch some ZZZs.

Last stop on the trip...

A few years back, Alicia had read about a female-empowered rock art site in the middle of Nevada in a Tim Robbins book. Fictional? Mythical? True? Hard to say. We tracked down the coordinates and happened to be passing nearby, ...

Not a whole lot of "rock" out here, but near the mouth of the canyon, a nice kinda abstract panel... (Yosemite Snake Dike)

Not a whole lot of "rock" out here, but near the mouth of the canyon, a nice kinda abstract panel...

Detail, left side.

Detail, right side.

Finally, a bit of the female anatomy petroglyphs...

Another abstract panel nearby...

Abstract panel with a couple-a vaginas shown.

Panel with two V's -

with a closeup of the left one.

A few other lines and abstracts were in the area.

Back near the entrance, a Vaginaglyph with a deep hole.

And as always, a few gringo-glyphs in the area.

Thanks for visiting, catch you on the flip-flop. - Tom