Leaving from the Bay Area, Donner Pass Road is about a three hour drive East towards Truckee. Once there, you drive around the lake up onto Donner Pass Road and once you start gaining elevation the crags come into view. The road is literally surrounded by climbing. You can park at any of the several pullouts and find something to climb. The great thing about climbing at Donner is that everything is super accessible. No crag is more than a 30 minute approach on well established trails.
We parked our cars right across the ravine from Snowshed Wall. (Snowshed along with Black Wall, holds the most routes at Donner) We made the quick walk across the dry creek to the wall and Ryan decided to warm up on Hair Shirt. A nice 5.8 Off width. Before I start, I have to explain Ryan. He’s a very strong climber and an even more controlled climber. He will crush 5.12 on sport but the moment he feels uncomfortable on trad, he won’t push it. So Ryan starts up the off width with a few small cams and a #4. About 40’ up he places his only #4 and then realizes he’s out of gear for the second half of the climb. Ryan lowers off and before I tie into lead it, I run over to a couple nice looking gentleman with a fantastic dog and borrow a large cam. I lead the rest of the climb. I run out about 20’ to place the second large cam and run it out some more to the anchors. I feel super secure running out on trad just because your jamming your feet and hands into the crack. With off width, you jam your whole body in. It feels even more secure, Id be more worried about getting suck in an off width than falling out of one.
I set up a top-rope and everyone enjoyed them selves on it. Akela has only been climbing for a couple months and she had a real interesting time figuring out the off width. It seems simple to jam your body in and move up but its an awkward thing to do. She had the idea down and after countless tries finally topped out on top-rope. It was pretty cool seeing how she managed to work up for not really knowing much about crack climbing.
I decided to lead it. I cruise through the first half just clipping the gear. I get to that section Ryan bailed from and move through it nicely. I placed a piece and gained the head wall. The last 1/3rd of the route is a nice finger crack with some decent feet. I cruised through the finger crack section feeling really good. I top out at the anchors and since it was a Friday with not many people, we had the luxury of setting up a couple top ropes.
Its an overhanging wall full of 5.12s-5.13s all on permanent draws. So you can try any route and easily pull your rope through if you decide its too much. Ryan (being the only capable 5.12 climber of the group) has been projecting Warp Factor 5.13a.
The first couple moves to clip the first bolt are pretty gnarly and you would definitely not wanna take a fall below the first clip. We all give a go trying to rodeo clip it but after numerous failed attempts Ryan decides to climb the route to the left Taste The Pain 5.13c and gets get to the second clip, lower and then clip the first bolt on Warp Factor. The first two clips of Taste The Pain are very doable and he gets situated on Warp Factor and lowers off.
We arrive at the Ahwahnee (sorry, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel) at around 9am. Jump out, sort the gear and start the light approach to the base. Already, we messed up. Instead of taking the first left with a sign signaling the climbers trail, we walked past that and took the second left. We started up a mix of 4th-5.5 scrambling up to the their pitch. From there, we were straightened our selves, getting back onto the route. The next few pitches went by and due to us not being roped up, felt like a long scramble of 5.5-5.7 “climbing” to pitch 7 where we finally decided to tie in.
I then linked pitch 11 & 12. Pitch 11 offered an interesting hand crack on slab that felt more like climbing up a refrigerator with cracks on either side. I finished pitch 11 and then started up 12. In my opinion pitch 12 offers the most actual climbing on the route. You find the best way to enter this giant flake where I threw in fist and worked my way up. The giant flake only goes 5.7, but for me, this was the most fun pitch on the route. I scrambled up and out of the flake past the belay and about 100’ below the belay for 13, I found a manzanita bush I deemed appropriate for the anchor. Doug followed up and lead the remainder of pitch 13, about 100 feet or so. I scrambled up below him and linked pitches 14 & 15. Both were a ridicules scramble and I thought pitch 15 was the most interesting. After climbing pitch 14 (a long scramble up a face) you emerge onto a giant slab wall with some pretty good exposure. You traverse along the top of it to a three bolt belay. Since Doug & I were going to rap the route, our Royal Arches adventure ended here.
We packed up our gear and headed to get some thing to eat. By the time we got to the gear shop it had began to down poor. We were fortunate enough to grab a seat outside under an umbrella and enjoyed some burgers and fries. It wasn’t looking like the rain was going to stop anytime soon, so we hung around the gear shop for a while and decided to spend the rest of the evening at the bar in El Portal playing pool.