American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, Ribbon Falls Area, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Ribbon Falls area, new routes. Nearly a decade after the passing of my father, I was searching for the ideal place to put a route up in his honor, and so my journey to Ribbon Falls began. On Father’s Day 2000 I hiked to the top, camped, and started in on the headwall, a 300-foot steep, golden wall littered with unclimbed cracks. A strip of forest separates the headwall from the 1,700-foot wall below. From this trip and many others we ended up with 17 pitches, ranging from 5.10a to 5.12a. The routes include Harold (5.11b), White Eagle Woman (5.10a), The Dreaming Tree (5.12a), Zeus (5.10c), Paiute Pride (5.10b), Universal Garden (5.11d), and Persephone Butterfly (5.11d). Partners included Tucker Tech, Blair Dixson, Boone Jones, Lonnie Kauk, and Brian Ketron. This wall became dedicated to an array of people, past and present.

In spring 2001 I went to the bottom of the amphitheatre with Phil Kettner and established Sky People, a 14-pitch Grade V 5.11d. The route went onsight and has only one protection bolt. Pro includes doubles to 2" and one each to 4". The climbing on Sky People is comparable to Sentinel, similar to the Chouinard-Herbert. It takes you to the forested ledge, giving you a choice of the exits listed above. Combining Sky People with any of the upper routes, you get 17 pitches in about 2,000 feet.

I then turned my focus to the right side of the amphitheatre. Jake Jones and I aided the 1,000- foot corner up the right side of thegolden fin to inspect the potential for a new free route. After 1,000 feet it became apparent that the route would go, as it there joins Keel Haul, East Portal Route, and Solar Power Arête routes. Knowing that these routes go at 5.9, we descended, headed home, and waited for the weather to cooperate.

We returned on November 18, 2002, and in 10 hours redpointed our new route, The Gates of Delirium (V 5.12c). It is 19 pitches long, with pro including wires and double cams to 2”, one each to 4-1/2”. The route has fixed anchors for the first 10 pitches, to allow for retreat if you don’t summit. These 10 pitches are similar to The Rostrum or Astroman. The second half of the route kicks back in angle and becomes more of a scenic adventure, for a total length of about 2,200 feet.

The technical crux comes on pitch one, a 5.12 houdini funk corner into a 5.l1d finger crack. Lots of 5.10 jamming and stemming fill the middle of the route. Pitch eight may prove to be the real crux for some, a burly 5.10c offwidth. Pitch nine offers a steep chimney into 5.1lb finger-and-stemming section and an incredible belay atop the fin. The 5.11d 10th pitch is wild and steep, and projects you out over the route below. This steep pitch is capped by a bombay chimney and another 5.11 crux of flared fingers and stemming. With the harder climbing behind you, 1,200 feet of 5.9 and under takes you to the summit.

The views and exposure on these routes are amazing. In three years and many trips back I’ve seen no one, only ravens and a million rainbows. Oh the rainbows…maybe I have seen someone after all.

Sean Jones

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