(For larger versions of each picture, click on the small image.)
Via Aqua is a 6 pitch climb in Yosemite rated 5.7. It lies on the upper part of the wall to the left of Upper Yosemite Falls. The approach is up the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, gaining a fair amount of elevation on the switchbacks. We got a reasonably early start from Fresno and were hiking up by about 7am. I hadn't been in the Valley since the January floods and was surprised that the effects weren't more noticable as we drove in. There was quite a lot of silt around and plenty of signs of recent construction and repair, though.
The approach ledge is a pretty spectacular little scramble, which starts from just before the uppermost switchbacks of the trail. Sam had been out the ledge before when he did Via Aqua a few years ago so we had no problem finding the start of the ledge. Interestingly, Steve Roper in the old Sierra Club Yosemite guidebook gives the approach ledge as a characteristic example of third class terrain. The ledge is spectacularly exposed above the falls and though for the most part the going is pretty straightforward, there are a few trickier spots. The left image is Nancy making an airy step across a void enroute to the base of the route, which is visible as the broken ledges in the middle of the picture. The middle image is a view including some of the falls below us and the right image is the start of the route. The route is somewhat but not completely protected from the spray of the falls by a buttress, as the climb starts in the left facing open book in the middle of the picture.
We climbed as a party of 3 on double ropes, which worked smoothly. Sam led on the double 9mm's and Nancy and I followed with packs, each on separate ropes. There was a little tangling at the more crowded belays but it worked nicely overall. The climbing was enjoyable relatively clean cracks, mostly. There was a short steep section with some harder moves but it is possible the route may have gone a little to the right there. There were some nice moves on very steep rock with positive flakes on the third pitch. A couple of pitches up and the difficulties are mostly over.
On the left, Sam is about to traverse across a ledge to set up a belay below what will prove to be a tricky strenuous chimney pitch. Nice views across the valley from here, including of course Half Dome. In the middle is Sam moving the belay over. It was a little windy and there was some spray here. And on the right, Nancy follows Sam. It was pretty interesting being near the falls and exposed here.
Obligatory tourist shot from the top of the falls. This is not a view you want to see from a kayak, by the way.