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HALF DOME
AMERICA'S FIRST GRADE VI
HALF
DOME
America's
First Grade VI
First Ascent:
In Summer 1954, Dick Long, Jim Wilson, and George Mandatory trudge nine miles up from the Yosemite Valley floor and made a "courageous, but pitiful effort" on the face of Half Dome, turning back after only 175 feet. They did, however, discover the start of the eventual route: a prominent crack and corner system created by the juncture of the smooth face out right with the more broken left hand flank. Meanwhile, Southern Californians Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson, and Royal Robbins were waiting in the wings. During the last days of summer, Gallwas and Wilson spent a week in the Valley reconnoitering and photographing the Northwest Face.
During the third week of June, Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Don wilson, and Jerry Gallwas hiked to the Northwest Face of Half Dome via Vernal Falls and bivouacked at the base of the face. The next morning, an unfortunate route selection led Royal to spend an exhausting five hours on the first two pitches. Progress was slow and frustrating. The team spent the night on a gravel-covered ledge and struggled on the next day. Warren wanted to continue until the food and water ran out, which would have been by the end of the third day. Don Wilson could see little benefit in doing so.
"We just didn't have the combination for success. Simply stated, we were not at the top of our game! So on the morning of the third day, we rappelled to the base."

-JERRY GALLWAS
In Summer 1954, Dick Long, Jim Wilson, and George Mandatory trudge nine miles up from the Yosemite Valley floor and made a "courageous, but pitiful effort" on the face of Half Dome, turning back after only 175 feet. They did, however, discover the start of the eventual route: a prominent crack and corner system created by the juncture of the smooth face out right with the more broken left hand flank. Meanwhile, Southern Californians Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson, and Royal Robbins were waiting in the wings. During the last days of summer, Gallwas and Wilson spent a week in the Valley reconnoitering and photographing the Northwest Face.
During the third week of June, Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Don wilson, and Jerry Gallwas hiked to the Northwest Face of Half Dome via Vernal Falls and bivouacked at the base of the face. The next morning, an unfortunate route selection led Royal to spend an exhausting five hours on the first two pitches. Progress was slow and frustrating. The team spent the night on a gravel-covered ledge and struggled on the next day. Warren wanted to continue until the food and water ran out, which would have been by the end of the third day. Don Wilson could see little benefit
in doing so.
"We just didn't have the combination for success. Simply stated, we were not at the top of our game! So on the morning of the third day, we rappelled to the base."

-JERRY GALLWAS
Don Wilson, Day One of 1955 First Attempt
Royal Robbins Day Two, View of the Visor
Warren Harding, Jerry Gallwas, Royal Robbins, and Don Wilson
May 1957, "I was studying for finals, the phone rang and quite to my surprise, it was Royal; his message was simple. Warren was returning from Alaska in a few weeks and intended to make an attempt on Half Dome with Mark Powell. While we had not been planning a serious attempt at that time, it seemed clear that Warren and Mark were. We concluded that we had better plan and act swiftly. Certainly, if we included Warren and/or Mark but failed in the attempt, then it would only be a matter of days or weeks at most before they would return for another attempt that would ultimately be successful. Such an opportunity was not available to either of us. Royal had only one week of vacation and I was committed to work at Mammoth Lakes for the Summer."

-JERRY GALLWAS
On June 28, 1957, after five days on the wall, the team consisting of Jerry Gallwas, Royal Robbins, and Mike Sherrick stood atop the summit of Half Dome. Warren Harding greeted them on top with much needed food and water, along with his own plans for the future of Yosemite wall climbing. The Valley had its first Grade VI and the Southern Californians had begun to claim their place amongst the history of Yosemite Climbing.
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A makeshift water jug made from an old chemical container
A makeshift water jug made from an old chemical container
Royal Robbins belaying on the FA
Royal Robbins belaying on the FA
Royal Robbins leading on the FA
Royal Robbins leading on the FA
A telegram from Jerry Gallwas sent to his mother to announce a successful ascent of Half Dome
A telegram from Jerry Gallwas sent to his mother to announce a successful ascent of Half Dome
First Aid Kit: Contents Unknown
First Aid Kit: Contents Unknown
Made on
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