The Whitney Survey first noted the impressive bulk of Charlotte Dome in 1864. The first ascent of the broad south face featured the combined talents of three of America’s finest alpinists: Galen Rowell, Chris Jones, and Fred Beckey. Rowell had scoped the wall previously, and had planned a direct route up the center of the face. As the team approached the base of the wall, Beckey expressed his dismay at the lack of obvious crack systems and proposed an easier line to the side. Rowell later recalled, “Beckey was a little intimidated by the prospects of the climb, but I was sure it would go and Chris agreed.” Jones reported their climb in the 1971 American Alpine Journal. “Beckey, Rowell and I had only a weekend in mid-October to make the climb, and the closer we came to the face, the more it looked as if we would have to settle for an easier route on one side or another. The real problem was the smooth, 1,200-foot central wall, but it appeared so blank and slippery that we expected [we might] have to return in the spring equipped for a hammering affair. The following morning we selected a route that would ease our conscience.” “However, while looking for something even easier on the ridges, it appeared that our direct start might connect to a dihedral on the upper wall. So, believing that it better to retreat off a good climb than succeed on an indifferent one, we pressed on up the grooves. We were rewarded with some of the finest climbing we had ever done anywhere, all free and on wonderful, mostly face climbing on chicken heads with some good cracks thrown in. Every pitch was excellent, none easy, all interesting.” Jones ended his report by making an ill-fated prophesy. “In Yosemite, the climb would be recognized as one of the best in the Valley. In the backcountry, it will probably remain unknown.” Included in Allen Steck and Steve Roper’s book Fifty Classic Climbs in North America, this route has become one of the most popular climbs in the High Sierra.
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