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     climbing roadtrip 
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SEPT
10-14
2016
Category: California
Trip Report #: 235
Partners: Nathan Petrosian (Climbs 1-3) / 
Ryan Richardson (Climb 4)
Rock Type: Granite
Elev: 4,000-7,500 ft
YOSEMITE 2016: 
4 Classic Long Moderate Climbs
Climb 1: Nutcracker, Manure Pile Buttress (5.8, 600')
Climb 2: East Buttress, Middle Cathedral Rock (5.10c, 1100') 
Climb 3: East Buttress, El Capitan (5.10b, 1400' )
Climb 4: Northeast Buttress, Higher Cathedral Rock (5.9+, 900')
Finishing off my summer with four Yosemite classics.
INTRO

On my way back to Washington after climbing in the Wind Rivers and touring Yellowstone with my parents, I took a 900-mile detour to Yosemite. I met up with my friend Nathan and we climbed three Yosemite moderate 5.8-5.10 classics, stepping up the grade a notch each day. The first day we only had an afternoon, so we braved the sun and climbed Nutcracker on Manure Pile Buttress (5.8, 5 pitches, 600'). The second day we climbed East Buttress on Middle Cathedral Rock (5.10c or 5.9 A0, 11 pitches, 1100'), which is Fifty Classic Climb of North America and features just over a thousand feet of awesome Yosemite cracks. The third day we climbed the East Buttress on El Capitan (5.10b, 13 pitches, 1400'), which features a variety of climbing from steep knobby face to cracks and is one of the best long 5.10's in the valley, especially with the thrill of being on El Cap itself. These were all sunny routes, but with the late-summer temperatures (high 70's to low 80's in the Valley and 10 degrees cooler up high, plus a nice breeze) the climbing was comfortable t-shirt weather.

After Nathan left, I still had one more climbable day in the Park before I needed to head home. So, I swung by Camp 4 to check out the message board for partner queries. As luck would have it, I never had to contact any of the 20 or so partner queries posted on the board, because I ran into a climber at the board looking for a partner for the next day. Before we even exchanged names (his name was Ryan), we were making plans about route, wake-up time, rope, and rack. The next day (my last in the park before I drove home), Ryan and I climbed the Northeast Buttress on Higher Cathedral Rock (5.9+, 11 pitches, 900'). This route is one of the classic 5.9's in the park, featuring nearly a thousand feet of sustained jams, offwidths, and chimneys and known for its strenuous and demanding nature. It definitely had a more adventurous and old-school burly flavor than the three other routes I had climbed on this trip. I love a good adventure route.

The following page gives some photos from these four awesome climbs in the Valley. I'll be back for more. Again and again.


PHOTOS

CLIMB 1 - SEPT 10 
(/w Nathan)
Nutcracker on Manure Pile Buttress (aka Ranger Rock)
(600', 5 pitches: 5.8, 5.4, 5.7, 5.8, 5.8)

Nutcracker is one of the most popular routes in Yosemite, with a quick approach and descent, clean cracks, good protection, and 600 feet of stellar moderate climbing. The route was named for the fact that it was one of the first routes in Yosemite done entirely with nuts (no pitons).
Route Overlay
Photo on right: High res photo of Manure Pile Buttress taken from the Sentinel in June 2017. Nutcracker is the whitened streak up the rock.
Photos:  Photo descriptions: 
Approach 
Park at pullout 1.6 miles N of Camp 4. Hike ~5 min to base of route. 1. 1. The standard start of the route is at the tree. An alternative start is up a 5.9 crack to the right. We set our first belay at the tree.
Pitch 
1
5.8
2.   
3.   
   
   
   
   
   
   
2. Climb the crack/corner system.
3. Higher on the pitch. The 5.8 layback crux comes at the top before pulling over the top of the corner.
Pitch 
2
5.4
4. 4. Easy climbing along the ramp to get to the belay below Pitch 3.
Pitch 
3
5.7
5.   
6.
5. Nathan starting up Pitch 3.
6. Some fun 5.7 climbing on Pitch 3.
Pitch 
4
5.8
7.   
8.   
9.   
10.
7. Steph leading off Pitch 4 (photo by Nathan).
8. 
The 5.7 roof at the start of Pitch 4. Above and left is the 5.8 friction climbing. It is possible to avoid this section by climbing left from the belay to a bush instead of climbing right to the roof.
9. Climbing on Pitch 4. Pretty sustained at the grade. A very good pitch.
10. Looking down Pitch 4 from the belay.
Pitch 
5
5.8
11.   
12.   
13.
11. Nathan just below the 5.8 mantle crux on Pitch 5.
12. Looking down the 5.8 mantle crux on Pitch 5. It is not too hard, but it is a committing move above gear and you don't want to fall.
13. The 5.6 crack that finishes off Pitch 5.
Top
yay!
14.   
15.
14. Looking up-valley from the top of the route. The Sentinel on the right. The edge of Half Dome just visible behind ridge.
15. Looking down-valley from the top of the route towards Middle Cathedral.
Descent 
Follow climbers’ trail back to base. A short section of 3rd near the top. ~20 min. 16. 16. On the 3rd class near the top of the descent.


CLIMB 2 - SEPT 11 (/w Nathan)
East Buttress on Middle Cathedral Rock
(1100', 11 pitches: 5.6, 5.8, 5.8, 5.7, 5.10c or 5.9A0, 5.8, 5.7, 5.8, 5.7, 5.8, 5.7)

Included in the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, this route offers pitch after pitch of moderate Yosemite cracks occasionally interrupted by short, well-protected crux sections. The views of El Capitan across the way are unbeatable.
Route Overlay
Photos:  Photo descriptions: 
Approach 
Park ~300 feet before the turnoff for El Cap Meadows. Hike ~20 min to base of route.
1.   
2.
1. The climbers' path up to the base of the East Buttress is marked by a carabiner post.
2. The view of El Capitan from the base of the East Buttress. The beautiful sweeping Nose is the shade-sun line.
Pitch 
1
(we linked Pitches 1&2 with a 60m rope)
5.6
3.   
   
   
   
   
   
  
 
3. The base of the route. Pitch 1 starts middle-right in the photo.
Pitch 
2
(we linked Pitches 1&2 with a 60m rope)
5.8
4. 4. The 5.8 roof at the start of Pitch 2. This is a short pitch that we linked with Pitch 1. If you have rope drag or want less rope out when you pull the roof it is a good idea to climb it as a separate pitch.
Pitch 
3
(we linked Pitches 3&4 with a 60m rope)
5.8
5.   
5. Nathan on the 5.8 stem/lieback low on Pitch 3.
Pitch 
4
(we linked Pitches 3&4 with a 60m rope)
5.7
6.   
7.
6. Fun corner and crack climbing on Pitch 4.
7. More 5.7 fun.
Pitch 
5
5.10c or 5.9 A0
8.   
9.   
10.
8. Nathan on Pitch 5. This is the crux pitch of the route, face climbing on tiny edges. It is tightly bolted. Done free, it is 10c. As a bolt ladder, it is 5.9 A0. Nathan almost did it all free until the last couple of bolts. When the FA'ers put up this nine-bolt ladder in 1954 it was the longest bolt ladder in the country.
9. Looking up the bolted face. The 5.9 roof is above the face.
10. The 5.6 climbing near the end of the pitch.
Pitch 
6
(right variation)
5.8
11.   
12.   
13.   
11. Looking up from the belay at the top of Pitch 5. Here, the route splits into two options which meet again after 3 pitches. The original route goes left up a chimney system. The popular variation goes right up cracks and flakes. We went right. 
12. Pitch 6 is a face traverse into the crack systems. Protection is sparse but there are a couple of pitons and medium cam (green, yellow, and red aliens) placements.
13. A piton on the face traverse of Pitch 6.
Pitch 
7
(right variation)
5.7
14.   
15.     
 
14. Looking down at Pitch 7. This was a really fun pitch.
15. Nathan enjoying the fun 5.7 climbing on Pitch 7.
Pitch 
8
(right variation)
5.8
 16.
16. Looking up at Pitch 8 from the belay. This starts off with a sort of groove-like crack, with features on the face as well.
Pitch 
9
5.7
17. 17. The corner on Pitch 9.
Pitch 
10
5.8
18.   
19.   

18. Looking up Pitch 10.
19. Nathan nearing the top of Pitch 10. The last half of this pitch is awesome sustained 5.8 climbing.
Pitch 
11
5.7
20.   
21.   
   

20. Nathan starting up Pitch 11.
21. Nathan stemming to avoid the chimney moves with a pack.
Top
yay!
22.   
23.   
24.   
25.   
26.
22. The top of the route.
23-24. The view up-valley from the top of the route. 
25. The Sentinel.
26. El Capitan from near the top of the route.
Descent 
Scramble around and down gully between Middle and Higher Cathedral (gully involves 3 single-rope raps). ~1.5 hours
27.   
28.   
29.   
30.   
31.   
32.   
33.   
34.   
35.  
27. The path toward the gully between Middle and Higher Cathedral Rocks.
28. Higher Cathedral Spire (not to be confused with Higher Cathedral Rock).
29. Higher Cathedral Rock.
30. Rapping down the gully between Middle and Higher Cathedral Rocks.
31. Rappel station 1 (of 3).
32. Rappel 1 (of 3).
33. Rappel station 2 (of 3).
34. Rappel station 3 (of 3). 
35. The old bolts on Rappel station 3.


CLIMB 3 - SEPT 12 (/w Nathan)
East Buttress on El Capitan
(1400', 13 pitches: 5.9, 5.10b, 5.6, 5.6, 5.5, 5.8, 5.8, 5.9, 5.9, 5.5, 5.8, 5.7, 5.6)

This classic route is one of the best long 5.10s in Yosemite, especially with the thrill of being on El Capitan itself. The route is long, somewhat wondering, and of beautiful quality distinguished by golden rock and knobs.
Route Overlay
Photos:  Photo descriptions: 
Approach 
Park at "Zodiac pullout". Hike ~45 min to base.
1.   
2.   
3.   
 
  
  

   
   
     
   
   
 
   
   
  
   
 
1. Approaching the East Buttress via the talus field below the towering walls of El Cap. The East Buttress is on the right skyline.
2. Morning sun on The Nose, seen from the base of the East Buttress.
3. Cathedral Spires (Lower and Higher), Higher Cathedral Rock, Middle Cathedral Rock, and Lower Cathedral Rock as seen from the base of the East Buttress.
Pitch 
1
5.9
4.   
5.   
6.   
7.
4. The start of Pitch 1. We set an intermediate belay at the tree about 30 feet up to give a visual for the upper chimney and reduce rope drag on the final cruxy moves before the belay.
5. Nathan in the chimney of Pitch 1. We just dangled our packs from our harnesses which worked well. There were enough features and cracks that the climbing in the chimney felt pretty secure.
6. Inside the chimney. It is pretty well-protected. The crux of the pitch is not the chimney, but rather the last few moves before the belay.
7. The wild wide stem at the top of the pitch, just before the belay. We found this to be the crux of the pitch.
Pitch 
2
(can link Pitches 2&3)
5.10b
8.   
9.   
10. 
8. Nathan starting off Pitch 2. This is the 10b crux of the route. There is a good micronut placement on the left before making the move (when we climbed it, a micronut was conveniently fixed at this placement). You can tension off the micronut to provide a bit of assistance on the crux if needed.
9. The flaring groove after the crux.
10. As I climbed the pitch, Nathan was stomping around at the belay yelling "Ants!" Turns out the tree at the belay spot was covered in them.
Pitch 
3
(can link Pitches 2&3)
5.6
11.  11. Looking up Pitch 3, a short and easy pitch. This can be linked with Pitch 2. It might create a bit of drag to link it, but if there are ants in the tree it is worth it.
Pitch 
4
5.6
12.  13. 12. This pitch traverses a runout 5.6 face to the arete and climbs the arete. It is a pretty awesome pitch. The exposure combined with poor pro makes it quite exciting. (photo by Nathan)
13. Looking down while leading Pitch 4. 
Pitch 
5
3rd
14.   
15.
14. Looking up at the 3rd class scramble that comprises Pitch 5. This goes to the base of the steep gully above.
15. We noticed a fire in the valley near the Yosemite Lodge and Half Dome Village. We kept on climbing, but were worried a bit that it would grow...(I later found out this was an intentional fire. From the nps.gov website: "Yosemite National Park fire managers are planning a 62 acre Ahwahnee Meadow prescribed burn the week of September 12, 2016.")
Pitch 
6
5.8
16. 16. Looking up Pitch 6, which ascends the steep gully. The rock is pretty polished.
Pitch 
7
5.8
17.   
18. 
17. Nathan had not set much pro on Pitch 6, so he still had most of the gear and decided to lead Pitch 7 as well.
18. This pitch regains the arete at the top of the pitch. We checked the fire status and were pleasantly surprised to see that it had been contained and that the smoke was almost out of the valley. Notice the clouds above created by the fire.
Pitch 
8
5.9 19.  20. 19. Steph leading Pitch 8. This pitch starts off on the exposed arete, then follows an arching crack left. I climbed this like a hand traverse, with my feet smeared on the wall below. This pitch was pretty sustained and challenging. Yosemite 5.9. (photo by Nathan)
20. Nathan nearing the top of Pitch 8. Really awesome pitch.
Pitch 
9
5.9
21. 21. Climbing on Pitch 9. We chose to traverse left to a 5.9 face option rather than go into the 5.9 offwidth directly above.
Pitch 
10
5.5
22.   
23.   
24.  
22. Easy and fun climbing up polished knobs on Pitch 10. 
23. The traverse right at the end of Pitch 10. This is the start of Pitch 11 on some topos. Climbing it at the end of Pitch 10 allows you to have better communication with the leader and less rope drag on Pitch 11 but gives you a somewhat-small belay perch; climbing it at the start of Pitch 11 gives you a nice belay ledge but more rope drag and less communication with the leader. 
24. Looking back at the traverse. This is pretty wild climbing, and not al that hard but quite exposed.
Pitch 
11
5.8
25.   
26.
25. Nathan starting off Pitch 11, which features steep knobs. Half Dome in distance behind.
26. The steep slightly-runout knobby 5.8 face on Pitch 11. The topo calls this a mental crux.
Pitch 
12
(we linked Pitches 12&13)
5.7
27. 27. More fun climbing up knobs. The East Buttress route seems to have just as much face climbing as crack climbing, which keeps the climbing interesting.
Pitch 
13
(we linked Pitches 12&13)
5.6
28.   
29. 
28. The final easy climbing to the top. I linked this with the previous pitch.
29. An old piton/blade near the top of the route.
Top
yay!
30.   
31.   
30. Half Dome as seen from near the top of the climb.
31. About the time we reached the top, we noticed a helicopter hovering near the steep walls of El Cap below. Probably a rescue in action....
Descent 
East Ledges Descent.
32.   
33.   
34.   
35.   
36.   
37.   
38.   
39.   
40.  
32. The start of the East Ledges Decent. This was pretty easy to find just by following a path right and then down from the top of the East Buttress route.
33. Wild Dikes on the descent.
34. Descending the slabs after passing the Wild Dikes.
35. The location of the beginning of the rappel route (4 rappels, with a 5th optional).
36. The first rappel. All four (five) rappels were conveniently fixed with a rope. The ropes were in decent shape.
37. Back down on easy terrain (this is at the base of a 5th rappel, which is sort of optional since you could downclimb, but we took advantage of the fixed line and rapped it).
38. Hiking out the trail (just after we intersected the trail for Manure Pile Buttress).
39. The smoking remains of the fire that we had seen start in the Valley earlier that day. This was a prescribed burn. From the nps.gov website: "Yosemite National Park fire managers are planning a 62 acre Ahwahnee Meadow prescribed burn the week of September 12, 2016."
40. Evening light on Half Dome, as seen from the road driving to Half Dome Village.


CLIMB 4 - SEPT 14 (/w Ryan)
Northeast Buttress on Higher Cathedral Rock
(900', 11 pitches: 5.6, 5.8, 5.8, 5.7, 5.6, 5.9, 5.9, 5.8, 5.5, 5.8, 5.9)

With pitch after pitch of amazing climbing in a spectacular location, this is one of the best long 5.9's in the Valley. This route is known for its strenuous and demanding nature, featuring nearly a thousand feet of sustained and steep jams and mandatory offwidths and chimneys. This route has an old-school and adventurous flavor to it.

Some comments:
• We did not bring a #5. This piece would only be needed to protect a wide 5.8 section on the final pitch. We didn't find this wide section to be too terrifying without the #5, so we were glad we did not lug it up the route. We had a double rack from black alien to #3, one #4, and a set of stoppers. We found this rack was plenty sufficient. The route was very well-protected apart from the wide section on the final pitch.
• We led in blocks. I led Pitches 1-5 and 9-10 and Ryan led Pitches 6-8 and 11.
• We linked Pitches 1 & 2 by soloing up the first 70 feet. We linked Pitches 4-5 by being wise with long slings to reduce rope drag. We linked Pitches 6-8 into two pitches; this allowed us to have a more comfortable belay spot than the small stance at the top of the standard Pitch 6. We had a single 60m rope.
• From reading other trip reports, there is a wide range for how long it takes to do this route. Some parties get benighted. Some take 4 hours from base to top. We were somewhere in-between: we left the car at 6:45am and got back at about 6:45pm, for a 12 hour no-headlights car-to-car day; we never rushed and we took a lunch break en route to allow a speedy Swiss team to pass us. 
• I'd say the route earns the "+" on the 5.9+.  An excellent adventure.
Route Overlay
Photos:  Photo descriptions: 
Approach 
Park ~300 feet before the turnoff for El Cap Meadows. Hike 1-1.5 hours uphill to base of route.
1.   
2.   
 
  
  
 
  
  
  

   
1. The Camp 4 message board. I never got as far as reading any of the partner queries, since Ryan was standing right there at the board also looking for a partner. Perfect!
2. The approach took us just over an hour to the base on a pretty good trail. By Yosemite standards, it is a steep and long approach, but by North Cascades standards, it is quick and easy.
Pitch 
1
(we linked Pitches 1-2 with single 60 by scrambling 70 feet up to our first belay)
5.6
3.   
4.   
  

3. Looking up the route from the base. In order to link Pitches 1 and 2, we soloed up the first 70' to a pair of bolts just past the tree in the phtoo. This was mostly 4th with a short 5.6 section. If you start this pitch from the base, you cannot link it with Pitch 2.
4. Climbing on Pitch 1, just above the bolts we belayed at. From here, the pitch goes about 100 more feet to a pair of bolts, or you can link it with Pitch 2.
Pitch 
2
(we linked Pitches 1-2 with single 60 by scrambling 70 feet up to our first belay)
5.8
5.  5. The belay at the top of Pitch 2 is at the tree and 10' pillar. I had linked Pitches 1 and 2 and belayed just short of the end of the pitch. A 70m rope would make it.
Pitch 
3
5.8
6.   
7.   
8.   
9.  
6. Looking up Pitch 3 from the start of the pitch below the 10' pillar (on the left in the photo).
7. Midway up Pitch 3, looking upwards.
8. Midway up Pitch 3, looking downwards. I really enjoyed this pitch.
9. Ryan on the 5.7 layback at the top of Pitch 3.
Pitch 
4
(we linked Pitches 4-5 with single 60)
5.7
10.  10. Looking up Pitch 4 from the belay below.
Pitch 
5
(we linked Pitches 4-5 with single 60)
5.6
11.   
12.   
13. 
11. Looking over at the traverse of Pitch 5. Notice the pair of bolts on the wall. You do not belay here, but pass by these and belay below the big corner system of Pitches 6-8.
12. Ryan at the beginning of the traverse. This is really fun juggy exposed climbing.
13. Climbers topping out on the Regular Route  on Higher Cathedral Spire. I climbed this popular route in 2007.
Pitches 
6-8
(we climbed as 2 pitches with single 60m, with a belay halfway through the SuperTopo Pitch 7)
5.9, 5.9, 5.8
14.   
15.   
16.   
17.   
18.   
19.   
20.   
21.   
22.   
23.   
24.  
14. Looking up the corner that comprises Pitches 6-8. This is where the burly climbing commences...
15. Climbing on Pitch 6. The SuperTopo belay is at a tiny stane about 20 feet above, but we had read that this was an uncomfortable belay, so we belayed about 80 feet higher at a larger sloping ledge.
16. The acute handcrack corner of Pitch 7. I found I could reach my hands back in and get good jams the whole way up by just climbing it straight in. Protection is good the whole way up.
17-18. An old pin and piton in the corner. There are lots of old pins and pitons and bongs in the corner, although not quite as many as on the SuperTopo topo (some have evidently fallen out or been removed). Interesting note: For the first ascent in 1959, Dick Long had brought along some of his prototype giant angle pitons, early 3 inches wide, the largest ever made. These made a "bonging" sound when they were pounded into the rock. And hence the bong—a term referring to any piton wider than 2 inches—came into being.
19-20. A climber nearing the top of the first pitch in the corner (this would be midway through Pitch 7 on the SuperTopo). He also belayed where we did, although he had to take a hanging stance until we vacated.
21. Ryan starting up our second pitch up the corner.
22. The narrowing 5.9 squeeze. This is on Pitch 7 on the SuperTopo. The crux was exiting the squeeze. Both Ryan and I managed to get out helmet stuck while reaching in for gear at the top (we both had the more bulky foam type) and experienced a couple slightly panicked seconds trying to free our head from the slot (I don't even want to think of the consequences of slipping while your head is wedged in there!). So if you have a foam helmet, it might be a good idea to take it off for this pitch.
23. Dangling the pack through the narrowing squeeze. This worked out pretty well.
24. The 5.8 chimney section at the end of Pitch 8. A burly end to a burly pitch. 
Pitch 
9
5.5
25.  25. The traverse on Pitch 9. I really enjoy these sorts of easy yet exposed traverses across steep faces.
Pitch 
10
5.8
26.   
27.   
28.   
29. 
26. The tree at the belay between Pitches 9 and 10. Pitch 10 goes up past the tree.
27. The 5.10a thin hands variation on the left.
28. The standard 5.8 layback, which is the way I went.
29. Looking down from midway up the pitch. The rock on this pitch is different than the rest of the route—more white and rounded and granular, with soft cracks and rounded jugs and good friction.
Pitch 
11
5.9
30.   
31.   
32. 
30. Ryan starting up the final pitch of the route. Having read the comments about this pitch on mountainproject, we were a bit intimidated by the upcoming 5.8 squeeze that was apparently terrifying without a #5....
31. This might be the notorious 5.8 squeeze section on the last pitch that you can only protect if you lug a #5 cam up the route. We didn't find it nearly as terrifying as the mountainproject comments made it out to be. It is indeed unprotectable if you don't have a #5, but it is also 5.8. Ryan led it without a problem. (Admittedly, I would have been a bit uncomfortable with the runnout, but Ryan was not uncomfortable.) We were glad to have not lugged up the #5 just for this section (the #5 was not needed anywhere else on the route). After this section, the actual route as per the SuperTopo goes left at the tree and up a 5.8 chimney that is out of view, but Ryan forgot this and continued up the direct line into the chimney above. This is labeled as the "dirty chimney" on Clint's drawing on this SuperTopo post. The chimney was actually pretty decent 5.8ish climbing underneath the dirt, and made for a nice direct line to the top.
32. Old pin in the "dirty chimney".
Top
yay! 33.    33. Ryan at the top of the NE Buttress route. This is not quite the top of the spire but the top is a short and easy scramble away.
Descent 

34.   
35.   
36.   
37.
34. The pleasant 3rd class descent.
35. The popular route Braille Book ascends the obvious open book. This route is on the left side of the wall (climbers' left) of the NE Buttress route. I climbed this route in 2005.
36-37. Higher Cathedral Spire as seen on the descent. That north side is steep! The popular Regular Route (which I climbed in 2007) goes up the side seen in the photo.