Skull Queen is more of an aid climber's route, with a little free climbing, compared to the South Face, which is more a free climber's route with a little aiding. The climbing is mostly small cam cracks with an occasional hook or camhook move. Short, not too difficult, Skull Queen is much less classic than the South Face but is the perfect excuse to revisit Dinner Ledge, and to learn the basic aid climbing skills you need for bigwall climbing. The experience of climbing on this gentler side of the Column, and sleeping on Dinner Ledge, is pure Yosemite bigwall magic.
*Plan: Most folks make it to Dinner Ledge and settle in their first day. The going is slower on Skull Queen because of more aid climbing than the South Face, so fixing off Dinner the first day is necessary for parties who want to finish the route their second day. Three days allows a relaxed ascent. (beginner parties should just plan on a 3 day ascent as aid climbing is much slower than free climbing at first).
*Ledge: Dinner ledge, which has two tiers, is a palace for 6-8, squeezable to 12+. Most folks spend a day getting to the climb and climbing to Dinner ledge hopefully with time to fix a pitch or two. If time allows it can be much more enjoyable to give yourself an extra day for fixing off Dinner Ledge, and enjoying the views.
*Descent: Rapping the South Face route(with separte rap stations in sections) has become popular, but is not the best option when there are crowds. It is often very windy in the afternoon which makes rapping difficult. The nice thing about rapping the route is you can leave your bivy gear on Dinner Ledge and rap back down to it, maybe spending an extra night if you have time. The downside is the summit of the Column is an outrageous fin of rock, with sweeping views back beyond Clouds Rest, the Clarks Range, and down the Valley to El Cap; a true spot to savor. The rap route starts from the top anchor of Skull Queen, and raps back to anchors 10 and 9 on South Face, before leaving the South Face route and rapping straight down using two independent rap stations, before reconnecting with the South Face route for the final two raps to Dinner Ledge.
*The Elements: Skull Queen is in the Sun most all day, though it is often windy and much cooler in the afternoon.
*The Elements: South Face is in the Sun most all day, and is often very windy in the afternoon.
Jan 26, 2014
-- Roger Putnam, Ryan Kirtland
Ryan's first wall. Perfect weather.
-- mickey sensenbach
- Jan 2013 1 day -- Jarad Stiles, Justin Cory
May 01, 2011
-- John Greer, Jim
Jim's first wall. Second attempt at this route to complete it.
- Jun 2010 3 days -- Ian McEleney (solo)
-- David Allfrey, Carmen Johnson
Carmen's first wall. I dropped the lighter so we ate cold food. Woops..
- Sep 2006 1.5 days -- Paul Gagner (solo)
- Sep 07, 1995 04h:55mins -- Erik Sloan, Brian "Way" Knight