Half Dome in a Day

On the 5th of September, Clinton Martinengo, aka “Ningo”, and I made an ascent of the NW face of the Half Dome.  Ningo was on form as usual and very nearly onsighted the whole route free, falling at just one point (on the first zig zag, for those that know the route).  All things considered, it was a great first big day out in good free style (well mostly!)  It was also great to feel first hand the euphoria of topping out one of these mammoth routes and to finally feel safe again!

Night exposure of the half dome via Ben Tappe, an aspiring photographer we met in the valley.  Our route follows the left edge of the black streak

The day before our climb, we hiked our gear up the death slabs and enjoyed a lazy afternoon on the bivy terrace in our sleeping bags. We both forgot to bring something to do, so we were really bored by the end of the day.  The only entertainment was watching a pair of climbers inch their way up pitch one (of grade 25!), their climbing commands growing more and more annoyed as they went.

Unfortunately, that one pitch was all they would see of the mountain as they quickly sounded the retreat, thankfully for us, as they loaned Ningo a headlamp which he’d forgotten (along with cooking gas and an alarm!)

Half Dome in a day

Scoping out the route over dinner at our luxurious bivy

Half Dome in a day

Ningo leading us back onto the route after our two-hour detour

Half Dome in a day

Getting my layback 'on' at around pitch 19

The next morning, we started out early, getting under way 30 minutes before dawn.  Annoyingly we had to battle past two newbie American climbers who snaked us in the line after promising to let us go first the night before (while politely inquiring our planned start time!)  These whippersnappers got about five pitches up before sounding their retreat.

Half Dome in a day

Ningo “leading” down the sketchy 10b downclimb pitch

We made good time, apart from a 2-hour route finding detour due to an erroneously drawn tree on the topo!  We alternated leads, simul-climbing the easier sections (climbing simultaneously to save time) and jumaring the odd section where it was more efficient.  The highlight of the day was Ningo firing the 5.12a (25) slab at the end as the sun set.
A great finish!

Below: Getting some great exposure on the finish pitches

Half Dome in a day

Clinton hanging tough

Half Dome in a day


Half Dome in a day

The “Thank God Ledge” forms a perfect mini-walkway to the last hard pitch

Half Dome in a day

On the summit at last! (apparently serious climbers bring national flags with them)

Steve Bradshaw Junior

Steve Bradshaw

Steve Bradshaw is a South African climber and long-time Climb ZA contributor.


He is fortunate to be travelling the world for a few years with his wife while they contemplate what to do next with their lives. In the process they hope to sample some of the world’s best climbing destinations from the alpine walls of Patagonia and Yosemite to the steep limestone of China, Vietnam and Mexico.


To follow their adventures, visit stangie.wordpress.com.


Steve is sponsored by Edelrid

Edelrid Logo

Clinton Martinengo

Clinton Martinengo

Clinton Martinengo is another one of South Africa’s top climbers.


Clinton is sponsored by First Ascent, Black Diamond and Five Ten


Click here to read the 2008 interview with Clinton


Click here to read the 2010 interview with Clinton

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9 Responses to Half Dome in a Day

  1. Joe Möhle Sep 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Nice one Fellas! So stoked for you guys!

  2. Andy Davies Sep 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Nice one guys – green with envy 🙂

  3. Andy Wood Sep 9, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Good one lads. You’ve done us proud. Clinton, Ant, Julia and team are sponsored in part by the MCSA.
    Andy Wood, Chairman, Cape Town Section. MCSA

  4. MarkM Sep 9, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Nice one chaps.

  5. Cathy Sep 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Well Done Guys!!

  6. steveb Sep 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Congrats to Hectare Pringle and Andrew Porter for making the first South African free ascent (FSAFA) of the Half Dome a few days ago. Also to Gosia Lipinski for coming oh so close herself on the same day. Falling on the last hard pitch as the light faded. Good efforts all round!

  7. Silvia Sep 11, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Great guys your fantastic

  8. Pedant Sep 13, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    The national flag is upside down in that photo. Red goes on top.

  9. steveb Sep 17, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    I told Ningo red goes on top!

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