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Royal Arches Route

Yosemite '98

Royal Arches
Royal Arches from Monday Morning Slabs (PC: gs)
The route heads up to the left of the arches and finishes in the widows peak of trees. The descent requires hiking over toward Washingtons Column, below North Dome, and then descending a gulley off the right side of the photo.

Party: Dave Ryan, Tracy and I

Weather: Hot..... too hot... 90s (30's for my Worldly friends). We packed 3 litres of water each... a total of 9 litres which I packed or  hauled up a couple pitches. We had exhausted our water supply about a third of the way up and thus, by the end of the climb and descent, approached our own exhaustion.

The Climb

This would be, and will probably remain for some time, the longest climb I've done.... Who can remember how many pitches it is (17ish depending on which ones you count).... and at some point who cares?

We got an early start at about 6:30AM on the rock. Dave,  lead most of the pitches.... in fact until I saw the picture below, I didn't remember leading any pitches myself. I had the unenviable job of packing and hauling our 9 litres of water and other odds and ends in the pack. This definitely slowed us down for the first few pitches.... even some of the class 4 traverse pitches were tiring and at times difficult with that weight. For a while, I was glad when we finished the water supply.... for a while, I repeat!

I think the weight of the pack, having to haul it on a couple of the initial pitches, and travelling in a team of 3 really slowed us down in the beginning. Dave commented that we were moving too slowly, but we decided to continue anyway, feeling that the slow pitches were behind us, and the pack was getting lighter.

Most of the climb is very straight forward, with only a few interesting pitches: I recall a particular flaring chimney low on the route that at the time I didn't think I'd ever be interested in attempting to lead, the pendulum pitch, the 5.7 tree hugging pitch which bypasses the now non-existent log crossing, and of course the 5.4 slab traverses were probably the most entertaining from both a leading and following position.

After running out of water sometime before the pendulum pitch, with the heat still bearing down on us, we really started to get drained. A little heat exhaustion doesn't help ones climbing ability.

There is a narrow ridge of trees just after the second traverse pitch that had a trickle of a creek flowing over the trail. Tracy swore she wouldn't drink the water untreated, so I only filled one water bottle for the descent... just in case we got desperate. Lets just say, I got desperate sooner than Tracy, or perhaps my risk tolerance is different.... When Tracy finally caved in, sometime while descending the gulleys, there was no water left: she was not impressed! I tried to convince her that she swore that she would never want to drink that water.

We descended by traversing along the top of the arches and over Washington Column. Apparently finding the right descent gulley has caused problems.... including death, for parties. Fortunately, we had Dave, our all knowing friend and effective guide, who knew the way. The descent gulley is pretty much a blur in my memory. I dont recall it being too bad, and any frustrations were probably more due to my lack of mental coherence at the time.

When we got back down to the valley we walked the road until we came across a camp-ground facility. There was a guy calmly washing his dishes at the sink when Tracy approached wielding water bottles..... its only a slight overstatement that she nearly knocked him over getting to the water tap. We all guzzled at least a litre of water on the spot and filled another bottle for the remainder of the walk back to the truck.

All tolled, we got back to the valley at about 7PM, a 12 hour day... not a lot of food and not enough water. We were dirty, ragged, tired and drooling when we decided to go to the Mountain House Restaurant for dinner. I dont know if thats the right name or not, but rest assured it has to be the fanciest restaurant in the park... fine dining, steaks, water, dessert, water, beer, more water... The service, especially on the part of the water boy was outstanding.... and they didn't seem to mind our appearance, nor odorous condition. I guess its a normal occurence in Yosemite.

The Pictures

Not a great collection, but a little proof that we were there. (All pictures taken by Dave Ryan)
Royal Arches Route 

Me leading a pitch...5.4ish if I recall.


The Traverse after the Pendulum pitch. 
Something is twisted here!

Tracy on the pendulum pitch
Tracy with Half-dome in background
Two views of Half-dome - different times and aspects. (PC: dr)
Tracy and I view Half-dome from the top of Washington Column on descent. (PC: dr)

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Last updated: Aug. 2, 1999

Copyright © 1999 Gordon Schryer.