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Tuolumne Meadow’s Best Climbing Routes

Your Tick List to Tuolumne’s Best Climbs


Tuolumne Meadow’s Best Climbing Routes

Stately Pleasure Dome (left) and Pywiack Dome (center) rise above Tenaya Lake at Tuolumne Meadows.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Tuolumne Meadows offers great climbing routes that range from sport climbs to multi-pitch affairs that take a whole day. Some domes are easily accessed, being right off the highway. Others are more remote and offer a wilderness experience. Many of the classic routes are moderately graded and have just enough bolts to keep you on your toes, while others are scary runout climbs for confident, skilled face climbers. Whatever kind of climbing you like—sport lines, classic routes, or crack climbs—you will find them at Tuolumne Meadows.

The following are some of Tuolumne's best routes and some of my favorites. Consult the comprehensive area guide Rock Climbing Tuolumne Meadows by Don Reid and Chris Falkenstein for all the beta, topos, directions, and maps that you’ll need. When looking at the ratings, don’t forget that R stands for runout—be prepared to dance without protection.

Stately Pleasure Dome

Stately Pleasure Dome looms above CA 120 and beautiful Tenaya Lake. The approach is a short scramble up easy slabs. Excellent routes, up to 5 pitches long, ascend this friendly, sunny, low-angle slab.

  • West Country (5.7 R) 4 pitches. A corner and slab climb.
  • The Boltway (5.8 or 5.10a R) 4 pitches. Some fabulous and airy slab climbing. It’s easy to avoid the 5.10 by climbing a 5.8 crack on the last pitch.
  • Great White Book (5.6 R) 5 pitches. A great crack line with lots of off-width climbing, scantily protected chimneys, and secure stemming.
  • South Crack (5.8 R) 5 or 6 pitches. Excellent and popular—be prepared to queue. Fine jamming up a finger crack to a runout slab finish.

Pywiack Dome

Pywiack Dome is a roadside dome east of Tenaya Lake. The slabby dome offers classic friction and face routes. Be prepared to really dice it up since everything is runout and under-protected.

  • The Dike (5.9 R) 5 pitches. Classic must-do route. Excellent friction climbing up an angling dike with mostly moderate climbing and only a few tricky sections. Some runouts are found, but overall it’s pretty safe.
  • Needle and Spoon (5.10a R) 4-5 pitches. Left of The Dike, you’ll find 2 great pitches. Finish up The Dike to the rounded top.
  • Aqua Knobby (5.9 R) 5 pitches. A knobby face and crack climb up the dome's left side. Expect tricky sequential knob climbing that’s kinda scary, then lots of moderate crack and face climbing to the left shoulder.

Daff Dome

Daff Dome (Daff means “Dome Across from Fairview”) is a great dome north of CA 140. This popular cliff is usually quiet and peaceful. It hosts a couple stellar cracks along with the usual assortment of fun face routes. The shorter South Face routes are often busy since local guides herd clients up it.

  • West Crack (5.9 R) 5 pitches. You may queue for this one—but it’s worth it. It's a beautiful right-angling crack system up the dome’s west face. Start with the crux, then finger and hand cracks, a juggy roof on pitch 2, some wide crack climbing, and an easy slab finish.
  • Crescent Arch (5.9+ R) 5 pitches. A sustained and impressive route up an arching dihedral. Expect awkward underclinging, slick polish, and good exposure.
  • Great Circle (5.10a R) 2 pitches. On the short South Face. A fun crack (5.7) to thin face moves.
  • Hogwash (5.10c) 2 pitches. Small edges and smears with good bolt pro.

Fairview Dome

Fairview Dome, towering south of the highway, is Tuolumne’s big daddy with amazing multi-pitch routes on its steep North and West Faces. Some routes are absolute must-do classics—be prepared to wait in line or, better yet, get there early. Also, as the biggest dome, it gets its share of bad weather. Watch for thunderstorms and be prepared to beat a retreat with your rope’s tail between your legs.

  • The Regular Route (5.9 R) 9+ pitches. Classic, superb, one of America’s best free climbs! Also popular and busy. It’s mostly well-protected with gear, has lots of moderate crack climbing (mostly 5.7 and 5.8), and a short crux (5.9) on pitch 1.
  • Lucky Streaks (5.10b R) 6-7 pitches. Another great climb—on par with the Regular Route. Most belay stances are semi-hanging and uncomfortable. Climb the 5.10d straight-up variation on pitch 3 and watch out while laybacking above. The traverse at the start of pitch 5 is not obvious, making it easy to get hosed on slightly scary climbing. The key is keeping 10 feet below the left-arching roof. Above, jam awesome corner cracks (5.8-5.9) to the top.
  • Great Pumpkin (5.8 R) 7 pitches. Another excellent adventure that angles up the West Face. Run pitches together for faster climbing. Lots of variety too, with jamming and lots of face climbing.
  • Magical Mystery Tour (5.8 R) 4 pitches. Super climbing and not as hard as it looks. Also shorter than Fairview’s big routes, making it good for late starters. Expect lots of knob-pinching up a black streak with widely spaced bolts for pro.

Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome is the slabby dome overlooking Tuolumne Meadows Store and the campground. It offers great short routes but is always popular. It’s the first dome I climb when I visit Tuolumne. I find it’s a great cliff to get my slab technique together before venturing afield.

  • Werner's Wiggle (5.8 R) 2 pitches. Short but fun route.
  • Right & Left Water Cracks (5.7 & 5.8 R) 2 pitches. Polished water grooves with skimpy bolt pro.
  • Truck ‘n’ Drive (5.9 R) 2-3 pitches. Great fun. A strange move past an overlap then cruiser face moves.
  • Lunar Leap (5.9 R) 2 pitches. Another goodie. Pitch 1 is a sustained (5.8) rope-stretcher. The moves off the first belay ledge are unique—leap for a hold and mantle onto a shelf. Sustained face moves (5.9+) get you to lower angle stuff above.
  • Northwest Books (5.6 R) 2 pitches. Classic and busy. Make a cool but easy mantle below the roof then motor up a nice layback. Above, step right from the belay to fun cracks and corners.
  • Direct Northwest Face (5.10c R) 4 pitches. Excellent jamming with varied moves—fingers, hands, stems—as well as steep face moves.
  • Cryin’ Time Again (5/10a R) 4-5 pitches. Perfect sustained knob climbing on steep granite up the big Northwest Face. Well-protected with bolts. Make sure you do one of the 2 variation finishes rather than dashing right on the escape ledge. The 2-bolt left finish is a bit heady while the right one is harder but better protected.
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