“Robbins ventures up onto a virgin El Cap, ‘the friction pitch,’ thousands of feet of rock overhead”.  Pat Ament’s caption for this image in Royal Robbins, Spirit of the Age summarized perfectly the Salathé Wall adventure.

         El Capitan’s southwest face was to us the finest face in Yosemite and, for all we knew, the most beautiful granite wall in the world.  For this reason the Camp 4 community named it the Salathé Wall in commemoration of that great pioneer of modern American rock climbing, John Salathé.  The first ascent of the wall naturally took that name.

         Royal wrote of our discovery of the route up this face in the Sierra Club Bulletin: 

         “As we were casually observing the wall in September 1961, Tom Frost and I came to the giddy conclusion that a magnificent route lay there.  We accosted Chuck Pratt and were surprised to hear that he had been seriously and quietly thinking of this wall for months.  We three immediately agreed to attempt an ascent within a few days.”

         Here, on the fifth pitch, Royal delicately face climbs the “friction pitch” area of the route.  The rock in this section is devoid of cracks and was the only part of the climb that required expansion bolts – 13 total – for protection.  Now, the fifth and sixth pitches boast thin free climbing for all who are fortunate enough to pass this way.

         Above Royal is the Half Dollar.  The El Cap Spire, where we are headed, is far left and the Salathé Roof and Headwall are directly above it at the skyline.  The Great Roof and upper dihedral of the Nose route are visible near the right skyline.  What a wall!  And what a climb!  My favorite ever.


ROBBINS VENTURES UP onto a virgin El Cap, pitch 5, the Salathé Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California.  First ascent in 9½ days by Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost, September 1961.