Salathe Wall



Quick Facts

Approach Time: 

5-15 minutes

Descent Time: 

2-3 hours


35 pitches


5.9 C2 or 5.13b


Your rating: 5




One of the classic Yosemite routes and one of the most famous rock climbs in the world, El Capitan's Salathe Wall has elegant slab climbing, great cracks, and horrifying bombay chimneys and, of course, the Hollow Flake. The solid 5.10 leader will spend more time out of her aiders than in them, and the solid 5.13 leader will enjoy one of the great free climbs in the world (or so I'm told). All climbers will enjoy the vertiginous heights of an El Cap climb.


Photos Notes

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the Hollow Flake, which is probably the most sought after in hopes of answering the question: how scary is it. It's position out of sight from the belayer makes it hard to photograph from below and the leader wanting to lead unencumbered doesn't usually want to carry a camera. I also only have pictures of about one third of the pitches on the Salathe Wall so far.


There is so much beta available on this route both in guidebooks and online that it would be superfluous here to describe the route in detail, so I'll skip most of that except to mention a few things.

  • A solid 5.10 leader can make it to the top of The Ear (pitch 18) without aiders, but with a fair bit of pulling on gear. The hardest pitch up to that point is 5.11c and you can generally pull through the hard sections fairly quickly without aiders. This will make the climbing both faster and much more enjoyable.
  • You may hope that you're smarter that Royal Robbins and all those folks who have climbed the route since 1961 and couldn't protect the Hollow Flake. You're not. Leave your aiders, most of your rack and anything else you can shed with your second, it will just encumber you.Take a few stoppers and small to medium cams to protect the first part before the pendulum and just go for it. And yes, it is way run out.
  • The Ear eats cams. The problem is that leaders push their cams as far as they can, then climb out and around on The Ear. Near the end of the pitch, you can place a cam out pretty far and that will keep your rope from coming under your cam and driving it up and out of reach for your second. Everyone talks about the Hollow Flake, but Robbins called this the "most terrifying 5.7 in the world" and, though tamed somewhat with cams, it's still a lot of adrenlaine for the grade.
  • Getting back across the Hollow Flake pendulum can be a chore, but it is not that difficult and there's often some sort of fixed line there if a party is working the Salathe, Freerider or Golden Gate higher up. Climbing up to El Cap Spire makes for a nice day climb except that pitch 19 is so hard.
  • The first ten pitches up to Mammoth Terraces is known as Freeblast and it also makes a nice relatively short day (it can be done in about six pitches with a 60m rope and minimal simul climbing).
  • The picture I want is this. The leader leads the Salathe Roof and back cleans pretty much the whole way up. The second jugs to the leaders last piece before the roof and yells "Ready!" The leader gets ready with the camera and the second unclips and swings way out with nothing but 2500 feet of air and broccoli trees below. It's a big swing and when Theresa came out much further than expected, and had the most surprised look on her face, I was not prepared and missed it.

Reference: Supertopo Big Walls, p 50-53


Does anyone have a photo of

Does anyone have a photo of someone on Hollow Flake. I want to show a friend the exposure of that pitch. He can't quite understand how great that pitch is.

Thanks, Rob Hynes

I did a Google search and I

I did a Google search and I can't find a decent picture anywhere (I'm sure you've looked). I've been up it twice, but no picture for the reasons mentioned in my intro. I've gotten back into climbing lately, though, and maybe I'll do Freeblast and then go up there just to get a picture. Fear expands everything, but I would like to bring a tape measure because when you get to the top of the Hollow Flake, it seems like you're 70 feet from your gear and about even with it.

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