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Disappearing Dome, Do It, Don't Spew It

On September 9 my daughter Lynnea, my wife Sigrid, and I completed a new route on 1,100' Disappearing Dome, in the San Joaquin River gorge. Although this is a steep, prominent formation, it has only one other reported route, done over 30 years ago and more than a half mile away (Memphis Blues, IV 5.11c, Lawrence-McCabe-Stoddard, 1978).

The easiest way to find the dome on a map is to follow Minarets Road from North Fork, near Bass Lake, past Mammoth Pool Reservoir and look for Squaw Dome (Paiyu Dome on more recent and p.c. maps). Disappearing Dome is the next formation to the southeast, about one-half mile from Squaw/Paiyu Dome and across the gorge from Balloon Dome. On Google Earth it is at 37° 28' 17.60?N, 119° 15' 27.96?W. Lots of luck with the maze of old logging roads! We eventually found a 4x4 road that came within a few hundred meters of the dome—not that it helped with the final approach.

This long, difficult approach starts on the south side of the dome and follows steep, brushy slopes and loose gullies below the east side to an obvious gully on the northeast side. Scramble up the gully for 100' over class 3/4 chockstones to the second left-facing open book. A bolt protecting the moves into the book marks the start of the route.

Figuring that two of the nine pitches would require bolts, we wanted to make sure that the line would actually go, rather than blindly climbing and drilling, so we rappelled our line first. We then completed the route over several sessions. Some may criticize previewing a route, but when drilling is going to be involved we feel a responsibility to the rock to not just bash away and hope for the best.

The climb is on perfect granite and starts up a corner system, with fun laybacking and jamming to the crux 5.11b moves out of the corner to a flake system. Two pitches up the flakes (5.10a and 5.9) lead to a vertical dike. Where the 5.1 la dike ends, a 30' traverse leads to another crack system. This crack goes for a pitch at 5.7; then a beautiful featured 5.8 face leads to an easier 5.7 face and crack climbing for three pitches to the top. The route’s name celebrates a mantra of on-line climbing forums: Do It Don’t Spew It (IV 5.11b).