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The Hourglass Wall, Blue Collar

Climbing around Yosemite Valley has been tremendously rewarding over the past few years, as obscure walls have delivered excellent new routes and solitary experiences. In the spring, Steve Bosque, Josh Mucci, and I established another of these routes, this one on the left flank of the Hourglass Wall, located right (east) of the Ribbon Falls Wall. The only other route on this wall, found a couple of hundred feet to the right of ours, is Indecision Time (VI 5.7 A4), authored by Eric Kohl; it climbs the namesake “Hourglass” feature to the aptly named “Sherwood Forest” summit (AAJ 1994).

Upon initial inspection, the first pitch did not present an obvious line; this was the crux in reaching the impeccable splitter cracks above. All three of us took turns establishing the first rope-stretching pitch, which involved every trick in the book: counter-balanced placements on loose flakes, upward driven knifeblades barely a millimeter deep, horizontal full-body stretches to hand-placed and wobbly Bugaboos, and intricate hooking up the featured and rolling vertical face. Steep and bulletproof stone proved to be the norm—it would continue for nine more very long pitches.

The pitches leading up to the midway ledge, which we called the Horticulturist Bivy, involved a mix of moderate hooking, a big pendulum to ultra-thin beaking, and also clean climbing up splitter cracks on cams. The only questionable rock on the route was a band of diorite found just above this ledge. Extreme caution was needed to navigate this loose section, complete with shifting pillars and blocks.

Above the diorite, perfect cracks awaited to the summit. Some were climbed all clean, and some with a few pins; however, the final 250’ ascended a perfect wide crack, which gobbled all of our big gear with a mix of free and aid climbing. We finished the climb on May 20 and descended the same route: Blue Collar (V A3). The route was climbed completely via aid, which is why there is no free grade. Many of the pitches will go free, but how many and at what grade will be for those that follow to determine.

Overall, this route was a gem—just hard enough to keep it interesting while following some of the best features one could hope for in a new route. The name of the route seemed fitting, as the nature of “blue collar” climbing demanded that our route pushes were made only on the weekends, after which our ropes were left fixed in order to return to our 9-to-5’s. Adding up the many weekends we spent approaching the wall, ascending our lines, unpacking gear, pushing the route higher, repacking our gear, descending our lines, and reversing the approach would have us spending approximately 11 days on the route in total.

We equipped the route for rappel from the summit with bolted stainless the whole way down. Fixing a rope on pitch 7–8 is necessary for retreat, as there’s a large roof to pass.

– Kevin DeWeese