Yosemite National Park is now open (with limits; campgrounds remain closed). As a local climber, this means I’m taking day-trips into the nearby park and revisiting my favorite famed routes in the “Center of the Universe,” as it’s known to climbers all over the world. The park offers climbing options unmatched anywhere for their length and grandeur—waterfalls flow down giant golden granite, cracks split the rock vertically for hundreds of feet, and slender spires pepper the canyon walls.
Finally, after months of training at home on hangboards and trail running to stay fit, I’m scrambling over the boulders in historic Camp 4, jamming splitter cracks, and running up cruiser lines like the 2,000-foot Royal Arches route. The walk-off for this route snakes its way across the precipice of Yosemite Valley, following a faint climber’s trail of worn lichen before descending slabs and narrow ledges. Half Dome commands the view. The final descent gully is one of the most scenic—not to mention one of the most exposed and dangerous—areas of the park (not recommended except for the most experienced climbers).
To complete this descent safely, I wear sticky-soled approach shoes and a fleece top, as the hike is often done at last light while it’s cool outside, and I carry a fully charged headlamp that’s bright enough to help me navigate the circuitous trail and do the down-climbing sections safely.
Even if you don’t plan or execute a route this ambitious, you still want to know that your climbing gear is built to handle these rigors. And if you do want to set Yosemite National Park as your target bucket-list climbing destination, selecting the right kit is a good place to start—stocked with gear that can stand up to these long, demanding climbs, from shoes to headlamps to custom fleeces. Below are six new items that excel in Yosemite, and that can be used in any big climbing area (or even if your climbs are shorter and you’re just thinking Yosemite big).
Silva Trail Speed 4XT 1200 Headlamp The Silva Trail Speed 4XT 1200 is a compact and water-resistant headlamp that comes with an adjustable spotlight and floodlight. Tilting it down makes the beam wider to cover more ground and tilting it up makes the beam narrower for long-distance focus. It has a detachable battery pack that can be worn on either the rear of the headlamp or stashed in a pack. The light and battery weigh a scant 245 grams. Light output is 1200 lumens and the rechargeable battery lasts up to 20 hours. $246; silva.se
Black Diamond Circuit Approach Shoes Yosemite lies inside a 21,000-square-mile granite batholith, which means rocks are everywhere. Black Diamond’s Circuit approach shoes are made with breathable knit uppers so they stay cool on hot days, with sticky rubber soles for scrambling over slabs, technical hiking and light bouldering. $99; blackdiamondequipment.com
AirNET Climbing Harness This no-frills harness designed for competition climbing is what the world’s best climber, Adam Ondra, uses. It’s soft, supple, comfy to hang in at belays, and it folds into a small stuff sack so it takes up little room. Utilizing Black Diamond’s latest technologies, AirNET features low weight and high comfort, plus the new low-profile Infinity Belay Loop. The AirNET harness works equally well on everything from short sport climbs to the long cracks found on El Capitan. $160; blackdiamondequipment.com
Allez Outdoor Limited Edition Upcycled Chalk Bag Generously sized so it can hold enough chalk to cover thousands of feet in a day without needing a refill, the Upcycled Chalk Bag is durable, fashionable, and comes with a large zippered pocket for keys or energy gels. Additional items from Allez include alpaca and merino wool beanies, biodegradable cleansing cloths and repair and recovery salves, with or without CBD. $30; allezoutdoor.com
PolarFleece Customizable Pullover Through PolarFleece.com, Polartec is offering fully customizable pullover fleeces in either mid-layer weight Andover or heavy-weight Shearling. These pullovers are a nod to its original release in 1981, now offered in a variety of styles and colors that are designed entirely by you, down to the snap color and pocket ribbon. Made from 100 percent recycled bottles and sewn in New England, these layers are equally at home on chilly High Sierra mornings as they are halfway up a rock dome in Tuolumne Meadows. $140 Shearling, $120 Andover; polarfleece.com
Five Ten Grandstone Climbing Shoes Founder of Five Ten Charles Cole (1955-2018) climbed the hardest big walls on El Cap and Half Dome in Yosemite. Inspired by climbing in the park, in 1985, Cole started his iconic shoe company and formulated the stickiest rubber in the world. With the shoes of his design laced onto his feet, Cole climbed demanding face and crack routes from Joshua Tree to Yosemite.
The all-round Grandstone has a protective, high-top design to protect ankles from sharp cracks, a stiff sole for all-day support, and low-stretch fit. They ship with Stealth C4 rubber, the grippy compound that put Five Ten on the map. on sale for $108; adidasoutdoor.com