Thursday, November 8, 2012

Romulan Warbird 5.12c - Fifi Buttress, Yosemite Valley

One of the really special things about a place like Yosemite is the history and legends that are still present in this magical place. To me, its rad to be able to ask the first ascentionist about a classic Yosemite route that they did 30 years ago, when they were not much older than I am now. And what is most special is when I get the opportunity to rope up with some of these climbing legends. Dan Mcdevitt is one of those guys; he's super nice, psyched, experienced, and motivated. Personally always an honor to climb with him. Since my first couple of years of climbing in Yosemite I've been involved in first ascents. Some of the first routes I put up were chossy and adventurous; I probably would not recommend them for a repeat, but others are definitely worth climbing. Through this practice I learned quite a bit and in the past few years have established some of what I think are some pretty good rock climbs.

Last summer Dan told me about a big-wall aid route on Fifi Buttress he had done. He described his route as having "big black jugs up high off the deck, steep clean cracks and really fun wild climbing". Dan having put up mega classics like the Silver Bullet at Tioga Cliff and The Great Escape at the Chapel Wall; I knew it would be a good route. Having recently established or climbed other "hidden gems" myself the previous year in Hetch Hetchy,  Tuolumne, and the High Sierra. I knew good lines were still out there waiting for the picking.
Looking down on the 1st pitch, a hard 5.12 warmup

In early Spring 2012 I went to Yosemite with rain in the forecast. I was tired of being in the city and tired of the noise pollution. I had to get away; I wanted to try something new. Something to build my psych back up. I made a plan to walk up to Fifi with Dan rain or shine to get a closer look at his route.

The approach to the climb follows a gully up to a giant slab that sits just west of Fifi Buttress. On the way up to the cliff it started to rain. With the heavy rains the gully had turned into a funnel and had become a raging creek near the top. Dan and I hid behind a giant boulder wedged in the upper part of the approach gully and waited for the downpour to let up. Eventually the rain stopped and we made it the last few hundred feet to the base of the route. It was hard for me to tell exactly where the route went past the second pitch but I was excited to find out. Looking up my mind ran wild with all the steep cracks and corners above. I fully pictured myself climbing one of the corners, glorious and exposed. We came back the next day with his friend Gabe and started up the climb.

Kenny getting his first glimpse of the laser cut seam on the 6th pitch

Over the next month Gabe and Dan went back and did some work to clean some of the cracks to get them set up for free climbing. My friend Kenny and I came and pushed the route higher as well as checked out certain parts of the wall that were going to be obvious cruxes for the free climb. Dan had freed the majority of the route years ago so most of the "homework" had been done. Kenny and I also had to see if it was even possible for us to climb it free.

Gabe cleaning the first pitch of Romulan Warbird
Toproping a variation on the 6th pitch

After over two weeks of work spread out over a five month period I came back to lead the entire route with Dan holding the rope.

I could not have asked for a more perfect day of rock climbing in Yosemite. Many thanks goes out to Dan and the Mcdevitts for their support and for discovering such spectacular rock climbs. Gabe for helping us with the route early on. Kenny for his support on those overnight missions. James for jugging the water up. And of course my love Mecia for hiking up there practically every time just to hang at the base and watch it all go down.

The first free ascent of the Romulan Warbird V 5.12b/c or now the Romulan Freebird as we're calling it is an incredible rock climb. To quote a recent second ascentionist "Its as good as the Rostrum". I couldnt agree more, in fact there were moments when I was up there working out different sections that I thought the exact same thing.  Just another awesome Yosemite climb. A modern classic!

The man himself Dan McDevitt
Enjoying a real snack after the last crux pitch of the route

Romulan Warbird can be rappelled with a single 70m rope. All the belay anchors have been replaced with stainless ASCA bolts and hangers. Thanks ASCA!


  1. Sick!! congrats bro!!Amazing looking line.

  2. If you keep submitting well written articles just like this then I will always keep returning back to your blog. Really good material.

    Employee shuttle in walnut creek
    San Ramon school bus