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Yosemite Valley Free Climbs

 Yosemite Valley Free Climbs

by Sean Hudson

July 23, 2003

Excuse me while I step onto my soapbox ...

I hate crappy guidebooks! You know the ones I am talking about … incorrect or incomplete descriptions, crypticlly hand drawn topos that must have been drawn in some drug enduced stupor, crappy directions and fuzzy black and white photos so shitty you ask “why bother?” You probably have a few guidebooks like this laying around the house (propping up wobbly table legs or used as beer coasters) because they are almost useless to keep in your backpack.

For this reason we don’t usually review guidebooks. I hate telling the world that I wouldn’t even wipe my ass with the pages of Guidebook X. Well, Chris MacNamara, creator and visionary of SuperTopo, asked me if we would be willing to review their latest guidebook Yosemite Valley Free Climbs. I was familiar with the SuperTopo website and had seen some of the their topos that had appeared in the major climbing mags, so I was excited to see what a complete SuperTopo guidebook looked like.

I’ll start off by making one statement to all the other guidebook writers out there ...

Hey guys! This is what a guidebook is supposed to look like. SuperTopo has set the new standard for guidebook quality. If you want to produce a quality guide - buy this book, study it hard and try to replicate the style.

Now, about the book ...

Yosemite Valley Free Climbs is a collection of the best routes in Yosemite Valley. From topropes to multi-pitch climbs (many hardcore but most in the 5.4 – 5.9 range) the Valley visitor whether veteran or newbie will benefit from this clear and concise collection of climbs. See a complete list of climbs. The press materials states that "as in all SuperTopo books, the authors personally climbed and documentated each route with meticulous care to create the most detailed and accurate topos ever published."

Just a few of the features each climb description include: a five star rating, estimated time required to climb the route, approximate approach time, approximate descent time, sun exposure the route endures, height of route, history of climb, a graphical breakdown of each pitch difficulty, strategy and sometimes speed climbing tips, retreat directions/suggestions, clear crisp photographs, a superbly detailed topo and a list of suggested gear to bring. Whew. If you are still not sure, download the Washington Column, Astroman (V 5.11c) or Half Dome, Snake Dike (III 5.7 R) topo as a free sample.

More than just beta, each climb description has bits of historical anecdotes that make interesting reading. One such example written by Steve Roper and listed under the history of Arch Rock is excerpted as follows:

Punchline, the most controversial - and hardest - climb in the Arch rock area was established in 1988 by Ron Kauk, who had done the unthinkable by placing the protetion bolts from above, while on rappel. Trad climber John Bahar soon chopped these, resulting in an incident back in Camp 4 where Bachar was suckerpunched by Chapman, Kauk's sidekick. Mike Kennedy, editor of Climbing magazine, facetiously suggested that Kauk and Bachar "duel to the death so the rest of us can get back to actually climbing rather than arguing about it." The name, of course, stems from this affair.

The conclusion ...

If you are ever planning on a visit to Yosemite Valley, buy this book. If you have ever been to the Valley, buy this book. And, above all, if you are another guidebook author, buy this book (and learn something).

To get more information on SuperTopo or to buy a copy of Yosemite Valley Free Climbs, visit their website at

This comes from: Camp4
Live To Climb