The Easiest Place to Camp in Yosemite is 1400 ft Up a Wall

Here I was, sleeping 1400 ft above the valley floor on a forested ledge. Drinking unfiltered, fresh water directly out of a granite spring. Not a soul around except for a midnight food attack by a resident raccoon. All I had to do was ascend the longest single day climbing route I’ve ever completed and cross the worst traverse I’ve ever encountered.

After Whitney, the car top tent life moved into Yosemite. One frustrating morning we tried to get a spot at Camp 4, only to find 50 people sleeping in line, mid-week, at 6 am (two hours before they start issuing sites). Instead, we camped for free outside the part at dirt El Portal pullouts 10 ft off the road with unrelenting 90 degree heat, incessantly loud bugs and a 45 min commute every day to the valley floor.

In our six days in Yosemite we climbed a few moderate classics like Bishop’s Terrace (5.8, 150 ft) and Munginella (5.6, 300 ft) while I felt out my shoulder still recovering from an AC tear and climbed my first 5.10a trad lead without falling on El Cap with Moby Dick (160 ft).

Sadie starting up what we thought was Munginella, however, this was much harder than 5.6. We bailed and found the correct route down and to the right.
Sadie doing some great jamming on Bishop’s Terrace. Great long single pitch.
Brice agrees, its a good climb.

Royal Arches

We capped off the week by climbing the classic Royal Arches (1400 ft, 5.7 A0) on a Monday. A route that is typically teaming with people like a buzzing wasps nest we had all to ourselves. Only seeing another party simul-climbing later in the day.

Over these 16 pitches it was clear why Royal Arches was a classic. All the 5.7 pitches provided stellar hand jamming, multiple times going into fantastic parallel crack systems. It also offered up a lot of amazing, secure liebacking and nearly every belay had some shade and a nice ledge. We moved quickly in the morning knocking out the first 8 pitches in less than 5 hours by 10:30 am.

Sadie sporting some of that classic Arches liebacking
Soaking in Yosemite on Sandy Ledge

We had started early to beat the heat but now the sun was coming on strong. I felt like I was a baked fish. After enjoying the short, straightforward A0 pendulum on P9 we really slowed down.

It took us six hours to climb the remaining 8 pitches to the top of the route where you rappel the route. But we weren’t rappelling the route, we had one last traverse to spend the night on Jungle Ledge.

This was a “5.4”, no holds friction traverse with a wet 30 ft runnout. Falling on it meant swinging out over a lip and staring 1400 ft down to the valley floor. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever done. I focused on feeling out the friction with my feet, grasping for whatever crystals in the rock I could with my hands and brushing away water and pine needles out of the few divots I could find for feet in the blank face.

Sadie about to start the traverse from the last piece of gear. An old button head bolt.

I was relieved to reach the other side and belay Sadie across. We hiked up, through a forest to the sloping patch of dirt of Jungle Ledge. Having only 2 L of water for the last 12 hrs, I immediately filled my bladder with cool, pure, delicious water from a fresh spring on the ledge and then collapsed into the ground, exhausted.

Filling up from the spring

After a short rest, I was revived by trail mix, dinner and champagne to celebrate my Birthday.

Our campsite for the night. We looped some chord through the sleeping bags in case one of us decided to tumble down the slope in the middle of the night.

The next morning, sore muscles and painful feet caused us to abandon our plan to link Royal Arches with North Dome and cruised through the 11 rappels to the ground in a few hours, took a shower at House Keeping Camp and hit the road for some rest days in Salt Lake City.

A ‘rest day’ 3000 ft hike up Grandeur Peak. Sadie is showing how she really feels about summit champaigne at sunset.