The Crucifix viewed from the ground on a hot summer day. Photo by Walker Emerson


The Crucifix is a beautiful line that ascends Higher Cathedral in Yosemite Valley. The route follows a series of cracks with a prominent horizontal feature at two thirds that forms a cross. Endless wide cracks split colorful clean rock, and stunning views of the valley, making this route one of the best. A must do for the aspiring trad climber. This is a great route to escape the valley heat, and it receives shade for the second half of the day. With a casual start, climb the first half of the route in the sun and strategically time your arrival with the shade at the base of the more difficult climbing at noon.


Able to lead 5.11c trad

sufficient at 5.9 wide climbing

Can climb a 10 pitch route in a reasonable time



Park at the intersection of El Capitan Drive and Southside Drive. As if going to the Cathedral Boulders, keep the boulders on your left and sniff out the dirt trail leading up the hill in the direction of Higher Cathedral. The trail switchbacks through the woods for about 20 minutes, it then joins the talus field that runs down the gully between Higher Cathedral Spire and Higher Cathedral. Continue for another 20 minutes up steep talus, until the base of Higher Cathedral is visible on the right. Tunnel through manzanita for the final few minutes to the base of the wall. The climb starts a few hundred feet to the right on a blocky terrace.


Ethan Pringle does battle with his fists on pitch number six. Photo by Walker Emerson



Pitch one: 5.9  Climb up a short corner to a ledge, continue up and left to a another ledge with pine trees, past two old anchors. Climb a series of low angle cracks and featured faces to a large flat ledge with good gear placement for an anchor, #3 – #.75. Some symul climbing is necessary.

Pitch two: 5.9  For your first taste of desperation, bust up a short fist crack, meander up the face on featured holds and cracks to a belay at a bay tree and a 10 foot rock pillar.

Pitch three: 5.9  Climb the steep cracks, pillars and laybacks past an intermediate belay. Stop at a nice ledge, you will see the anchors for the Crucifix start and the ledge leading to the North East Buttress 5.9+.

Pitch four: 5.9  Traverse across the short face up and left, on good edges and abundant feet, protect with a #1. Easier than it looks.

Pitch five: 5.12b The Crux.  Belay from a three bolt anchor at the base of the boulder problem and 5.10c flaring chimney. Place a small cam #.3 in the first good finger lock. Pull a powerful move out around the arching corner, place a #.5 and make one more strenuous move and mantle onto the ledge. (Very possible to pull through this short section if the 12b rating is keeping you from doing this climb.) Place a small finger sized cam to protect the beginning of the flaring chimney. Charge up the chimney left side in using two or three small offset micro nuts to protect the corner. Near the finish, a hidden crack behind you appears, protect with a #.75. Turn the roof to the left and climb an easy hand sized crack to a belay at a bolt and a #2 placement.

Pitch six: 5.10d  The Pitch.  Take the #2 out of the belay and bring it with you. Climb the endless #3 fist crack. Walk the #3 till it gets steep and pinches down to hands. Climb to the first of two pods, walking a #3. At the first pod you can place a #.4 or yellow c3 behind a flake jammed into the crack. Taking your #3 with you continue to the next pod. From here the crack becomes thin hands and can be protected with #.75. Continue over the bulge on hero juggy flakes to a single bolt and #1 belay.

Pitch seven: 5.10  The Wide Pitch. Climb a perfect hand crack off the belay to a short wide section. If comfortable climbing 5.10 wide, than a #4 or #5 is not necessary. Protect the start and end of the chimney with a #3. Climb double cracks to just under the intersection of the two cracks that make up the cross of the crucifix. Climb right via a baseball sized pocket to a ledge and a belay behind a block.

Pitch eight:  Traverse across a red stained ledge about two feet wide, past a #.3 placement and then a bolt. Down mantle the ledge and step across into the corner via another basket ball hueco. Place a bomber #.5 and wipe your shoes. Stem through the short crux to a good crack. Continue up the finger crack to a thought provoking redpoint crux. Place a red C3 and handle the final moves of the day. Grab a good crimp with your right hand and lock off to the side pull out left, a kneebar provides a quick shake. Continue up the double cracks to a small roof and an easy steep finish. Belay here with an assortment of gear including a bomber #2.

Pitch nine:  I went left on jugs to a dirty finger crack and over a short bulge to belay by a tree. but I hear this is not the correct finish.



Continue exosed ledges to a large dead tree and a false summit > Traverse left below the true summit > to the southwest side of Higher Cathedral > through manzanita. Follow easy terrain > down to the saddle > on the north side of Higher Cathedral > Continue left down the saddle to the talus field and eventually around down to the base. Not my favorite descent in the valley.


An up valley view of Royal Arches and Sentinel Rock from the route. Photo by Walker Emerson


1 BD #5

3 BD #3

2 BD #2

1 BD #1

2 BD #.75 thru .4

1 BD #.3

1 BD yellow c3

2 BD red c3s

DMM micro offset nuts

10 slings

70 Meter Rope

60 Meter Tagline

Small pack



  • Climb fast.
  • Consider simul climbing the first three pitches speeds up the ascent . The second carries the pack.  **Only do this if you and your partner are experienced climbers and understand the dangers of simul climbing.
  • Bring a thin tagline and haul a small bag on the second half of the route
  • Bring headlamps
  • Both you and your partner take pictures of the topo with your phones.
  • Tweet at the belay to avoid boredom.


crucifix side overview

The approach and descent are highlighted for your convenience. Photo

Warning!  Rock climbing is dangerous and there is inherent risk in all forms of this sport.  The comments in this blog do not necessarily represent the thoughts or ideas of Planet Granite.  The information provided is one person’s opinion of how this climb worked for them; treat it as such.  The information provided may contain mistakes therefore we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided; it may be incorrect or misleading.  This is not a substitute for a professional climbing instructor.  This is not an instructional post; do not use it as one.   If you have any doubts about your ability to climb this route, do not try it.  You must use your own judgment when choosing, approaching, climbing or descending from this route and please seek a professional guide for instruction or information.

walker bio photo
Walker Emerson is a contributing writer for the Planet Granite Blog. He also sets routes at Planet Granite under the alias ‘Smash’. When he’s not plugging grips and jugging lines, he can be found on weekends clipping bolts at Jailhouse or sailing the granite seas of Yosemite.

To keep up with Walker’s adventures, follow him on the PG Blog, join him on InstagramVimeo and Facebook.