Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Third Pillar of Dana and Crescent Arch

On Saturday morning, when my climbing partner Allen and I headed out for the The Third Pillar of Dana, I was aiming for speed. But the plan was soon doomed when Allen decided to “just relax a bit and enjoy” when we arrived at the plateau. I thought it was not smart to offend a ropegun by pressing him on; plus, it was indeed a beautiful backcountry setting under the clear blue sky that deserved our attention. Once the ambitious plan was crashed, our day turned into another relaxing climbing day — we, or rather I, did all sorts of things to slow it down: having to move two belay stations due to poor planning, backing off of a 5.10b section (on the third pitch) due to my lack of experience in placing protection, and taking a much longer descent route because of a combination of my poor navigational skills and strong self confidence. See beta below for how to avoid the mistakes I made.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed every moment of the day, including the approach, the climb, and the descent. We did the variation posted in Supertopo Route Beta and it was indeed an awesome route. Taking it slow also gave me the opportunity to lead the first, second, and fifth pitches at my leisure and gave me the option to back off that 5.10b lieback when I didn’t feel secure. The approach and the descent were really mild even when we lost the trail on the descent. This climb had officially made to the top of my favorite list along side with the Sun Ribbon Arête at Temple Crag.

That night, we got a rare 10 hour sleep out on the east side of the park. On sunday morning, feeling refreshed, we stopped by our friend, Bill’s campsite to hang out and make breakfast. Socializing is always an essential part of climbing culture.

Sunday’s climbing destination was Crescent Arch on Daff Dome. We had the entire route to ourselves when we were up there. By setting up belay according to Bill’s recommendation (consistent with Supertopo’s Beta, later I found out), we did the real climbing in three pitches where I led the second. The climb was one of a kind — very awkward almost the whole way up, but there was not really a move that was very hard. I liked its unique character. Not wanting to getting back home too late, we ran up Great Circle and It is Finished on the South Flank of Daff Dome on our way hiking out. A couple of heady face climbs compensated our crack climbing weekend perfectly.


Dana Plateau in the morning light. The picture was taken from the road where we camped.

A stunning view of the Third Pillar of Dana on the descent to the start of the climb

Mei belaying from the slings on top of the second pitch.

Mei negotiating the 5.10b finger crack on Pitch 5. Route setter, is the arete on?

Allen at the end of the Crescent Arch.

Beta for The Variation of Third Pillar of Dana

  • Do not be sucked in to the slings for the 2nd anchor! Instead, set up anchor down low — below the 5.10a hand traverse.
  • The 5.9 step left on the 2nd pitch is very heady, especially for a short person who cannot gain a good hand hold while making the move on the exposed face above a ramp. Slinging the tree above the ramp (shown in the topo) can protect the leader better, but you need to watch the rope drag after you make the move stepping left. I moved a yellow TCU up with me when I climbed the crack above the 5.9 move until I was high enough that the rope drag was no longer an issue, which worked out really well.
  • The 5.10b lieback section on the third pitch of the variation was a bit tricky to protect because the crack is flared. It takes experienced eye. That was the crux for me on the whole route. (The 5.10a “wild hand traverse” felt hard too, but was short and very well protected.)

Beta for Crescent Arch

  • The first couple belays in the published Supertopo suck! Follow the suggestions in the Beta page. There will be only three pitches of real climbing with all the belays on comfy ledges.