Middle Cathedral

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sling512

Trad climber
Chicago
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 13, 2006 - 07:48pm PT
Middle Cathedral's North Face exudes a dangerous attitude. The very nature of its location keeps the sun from touching the face for even a minute 4 months out of the year. It's wet for probably 6. When it is dry, when there is some warmth, when you've hauled your water and gear up the steep talus approach, it still dares you to stay away with its slick rock and lack of continuous crack systems. The lower slab entices you that maybe it isn't steep, but the upper 700 feet shoot straight vertical and is surprising blank. And if that wasn't enough, there is a 15 foot overhanging diving board that looks to fall any day. The freshly white granite bombs that line the base of the rock don't help ease your nerves any. A closer inspection of the cracks reveal that if they're not just seams they're filled with dirt or some plant or tree. Now if you still think you want to climb it - turn around and look at what’s across the way... would you rather climb that? Maybe next.


--excerpt from a journal entry of mine from an attempted FA trip back in 2000.

Never did make it back to finish it. This face has always lured me in more than the other great faces of the valley. Maybe it’s that it seems to be forgotten, or that it is always standing stalwart staring at the backs of El Cap gawkers. I’d love to hear of any high adventure on the north face of Middle Cathedral if anyone has a story!


-Sling
aldude

climber
Monument Manor
Jun 13, 2006 - 09:22pm PT
Sling, Did aroute there in 99' w/Way. Morning Lumber 11a/b starts just uphill and right of Spank the Monkey in a curving , shallow diehedral to face,5 or 6 bolts. We used a number of fixed pins in the corner and Cade Lloyd announced he would proudly "booty"said pins in the grand Yosemite tradition. Never did...probably couldn't get off the ground! We put all the pro in on stance and pins seemed to be the way to go in the book. My understanding is that bolts are a last resort...so the correct sequence for pro should be a) gear, b) pitons, c) bolts. Many disagree. BTW,Way and Ben-wah later added seven more pitches up to 11c...but succumbed to aid,placing bolts higher...Too Bad.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 13, 2006 - 09:32pm PT
Up on El Cap last week, we looked across and saw lights on the North Face, well above the Freewheelin climbs and right of that too.

Somebody had a mouthful of the obscure they were chewing on

Peace

Karl
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 13, 2006 - 10:32pm PT
Karl: Any chance those lights were on Mother Earth? Or might it have been Ed and Eric, worrying D sick?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 13, 2006 - 11:28pm PT
not us, though North Face of Middle has come recommended...
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 14, 2006 - 02:52am PT
I thought Middle Earth might be a possibility, Roger.

Anybody here done it?

I talked to some folks (Dimitri) who had done "the Flakes" (5.8)

Now there's one for Eddie Cartooni!

Peace

Karl
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 14, 2006 - 08:07am PT
I thought the 'Flakes' was a very good route. However, it is way to the right of the North Face Slabs, up in the Gunsight. I don't know how close to 'Freewheeling' it would seem from El Cap. For its grade it is an excellent multipitch route--lots of characteristic Middle climbing.

I would be interested in any reports from anyone who has climbed 'Mother Earth.' Meyers spent so much time on that route, it seemed like it did him in. I think John (Largo) finally got him over the hump.

Ed, the North Face is probably the biggest route in the Valley to have nothing to recommend it--it's not even obscure. Started out in 1959 as a big wall, rated VI, 5.9, A4 or something. Scary Pratt leads and all. Then Kor did it in 10 hours or so. Then Roper, who was on the first ascent with Pratt and Kamps pronounced it junk. I have a recollection of a write-up of the first ascent, but I cannot think where. (The North Buttress is a fine, alpine style route.)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 14, 2006 - 09:06am PT
I know the reputation of the North Butt. of Middle, and that it doesn't have much of a fan base. But I suspect that I'll find myself on it with someone sooner rather than later. Eric's done it and moved on, not on his "repeat list" I believe.

The whole Cathedral Rock thing is brewing up in my mind, I suspect one of these seasons I'll have to dedicate myself to just climbing there and getting the classics and the obscure under my belt.
ablegabel

Trad climber
Livermore,Ca.
Jun 14, 2006 - 11:53am PT
Did the North Face Traverse of Middle Cathedral Rock(5.8,A3) two weeks ago. It was a grand adventure. It started at the Gun site, and traversed all the way over to the Cat Walk and then into Cathederal Chimney. It was a grand adventure that was shared with my good friend Ian. We had to do some hook moves and pound a few pins, pull on some tree limbs, belly crawl through some bush tunnels, and negotiate some loose rock. All in all a great time! -Eric
Matt

Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Jun 14, 2006 - 01:01pm PT
ed- the NB of MCR is a cool route. great views of el cap and no traffic, plus you get to traverse the kat walk. the only rock i remember being bogus was right at the end of the very last pitch. the bomber pro was sorta sparse on the 10a pitch, but it was ok. the 1st 5 pitches are kinda disjointed and broken up by bushes and ledges, suggest not roping up until you feel like you need to. it's like a bunch of 5.7 boulder problems w/ no exposure to speak of, and then there is an obvious chimney pitch that you will likely tie in for (p5 or p6?).
Marshall

climber
bay area
Jun 14, 2006 - 01:25pm PT

Just did the NB of MC on Sunday with my buddy Dan. Found it to be mostly non-chossy with lots of nice ledges and a heads-up crux pitch. Some pics:

Wandering earlier pitches:



Dan leading off around p8


Finishing the last hard pitch, a thin thing with ancient bolts


And the killer top-out:


All in all a good day. No classic pitches, but you get to cover tons of rock.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 14, 2006 - 01:27pm PT
Hey Eric: Bonifide obscuritas. Two out of three is a good start. What's the plan?

"While Harding was making his ascents, three other routes were done. None of them has become popular, and there is something curious about their locations. One feature of climbing on Middle is short approaches, but there routes are exceptions: all require climbs or hikes to get to their starts. The so-called North-West Buttress, climbed in 1953, is a short route on the slabs on the west side of the rock, above Bridleveil Creek; the North Face Traverse (1954) starts above the top of the Gunsight (the gully separating Middle from Lower Cathedral Rock) and ends on the top of the North Buttress. The North-West Face, located on the West Face Slabs and climbed in 1957m also fits into this category. Because these routes are seldom done, little is known of their qualities. Certainly, climbing any of them would at least be an adventure."

The picture of Ed above the bowl on "A Walk in the Park", with Bridleveil Falls behind, him probably shows the other two routes.

You are the only person I know who has climbed the North Face Traverse.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 14, 2006 - 04:07pm PT
Yeah, George spent a ton of time on Mother Earth--like six or seven trips. A lot of tricky route finding down low and scary on-the-lead bolting, sometime pretty far out there. One of those 5.9/10A pitches down low only has one bolt and little else.

On my second try I recruited Ron Kauk and Mark Chapman and we did the whole McGilla, which sort of completed our education on Middle. We thought it was one of the best walls we'd ever done--the bottom ten pitches are steep and go-for-it, with supurb open face climbing up to 12a, and many interesting pitches of 5.10.
All on that perfect, orange, Middle C stone.

The upper part is truly big-wallesque, with several hard (some A4) and steep aid leads off the big ledge, then back to free climbing way the hell up there. We all thought (in '76) it would become a sort of hardman big wall. The location (some gigantic air on the upper bits), the climbing and the line were as good as anything we'd ever done, even on El Cap. It has an other worldly feel, especially on the last four or five pitches, above the aid--mostly 5.10+ face, all naturally protected, and so far up there you can't believe it. Middle is really huge right there, well over 2,000 feet high. Looking at the profile of the buttress from down by the Tower, you get the feel of the great size and vertical rise of the thing. It just sweeps up into the sky like a dream.

But verily, it's had few ascents to my knowledge, and I sure wonder why. That route absolutely rocked. One of those routes that left you with a glow for months afterwards.

I'm sure modern climbers would have a blast on those face pitches, which are probably exciting still.

JL
Lambone

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Jun 14, 2006 - 04:22pm PT
I think Ropers account of the North Buttress is in "Camp 4."

but I might be wrong...
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 14, 2006 - 05:31pm PT
Thanks for posting about your ascent of 'Middle Earth,' John. I have had no information since Geroge was working on it on the earlier tries. I do rememeber seeing a note somewhere emphatically stating that the pitches above the main ledges do not go free.

Lambone, I think you must be right about Roper's account to the first ascent of the North Face--I forgot about Camp 4. He also talks about the first ascent of the DNB with Chouinard in Camp 4.
bobmarley

Trad climber
auburn, california
Jun 14, 2006 - 05:37pm PT
marshall, sweet pics man! tell me, did you guys do the middle cathedral descent, or traverse to higher and do that descent? i heard if you're all the way up there on middle, it might be better to hike over to higher and descend that way.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 14, 2006 - 05:50pm PT
"Thanks for posting about your ascent of 'Middle Earth,' John. I have had no information since Geroge was working on it on the earlier tries. I do rememeber seeing a note somewhere emphatically stating that the pitches above the main ledges do not go free."

As I remeber, there's only two or three pitches just off the ledge with aid--but they're real aid pitches, like a bolt ladder off the ledge and a lot of blades and Rurps on the next pitch, all on vertical to overhanging rock. The buttress sort of scoops in there for a few hundred feet before kicking back a little up above, so the upper pitches have the feel of climbing above a sort of headwall. There's no ledges up there, and you're hanging right out there on the convex part of the buttress--nice and airy and with enough features that the free climbing is steeper than that normally found on Middle. And it's good right to the end. After one last hard face lead. There's a short 5.7 pitch off a sling belay and bam, you're on top. You wander right for a few minutes and you're in the Gunsight, which you can wiggle down pretty fast. Literally an hour or so after topping out we were hiking back along the base and looking up at what we'd just spent three days clawing up--always a strange experience. I remember we met a couple friends at the base, around the DNB, and they said it was a trip watching up earlier in the day, pasted way the hell up there, dead center on that buttress. It's all coming back to me now . . .

JL
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 14, 2006 - 08:07pm PT
It sounds really cool, John. What climbing is made for. I remember the routes on the North Face slab--'Freewheeling' and the 'Flakes' off to the right on easier ground. Both low angle. Must have been pretty neat climbing such steep stuff so high up.

Of, course, I am sure that you have a photo essay hidden way there somewhere, don't you?

I'm guessing not. We were all sort of lame about that it seems.

So, does anyone know any one who did a subsequent ascent?

Best, Roger
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 14, 2006 - 08:35pm PT
I loved the North Face of Middle--it was like mountain climbing. And what a trip to hear someone did that traverse that cuts across the face and ends up, where?? In the U-Shaped bowl? That always looked way adventurous.

Per Mother Earth, I believe Max Jones and Mark Hudon did the second ascent, but who knows after that??

JL
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 15, 2006 - 01:20pm PT
Here were my two cents in about 1974:

"There is another route, as yet unfinished, to the right of the North Face Slab. George Meyers began it in 1971, by climbing a pillar at the base of the wall. He has returned at least eight times, gone through as many partners, and is seven pitches up. Though slow, this sort of climbing project, which, as Steve Roper comments, 'sound like a job!", lacks none of the sprit and adventure of most first ascents. Climbing a 10ft. 'blank' section free can be as absorbing, time-consuming and serious as an entire pitch.

George often feels oppressed by his 'Big One', as it has come to be known, and would like to get it finished. He is not trying to do impossible feats on the route: he is doing what climbers know to be possible, but he trying it on a big, almost blank wall. His route in some ways epitomizes the newer routes on Middle, and perhaps points the direction for other new routes. Those who are repulsed by the elements of drudgery in his ascent should rest assured that some day the route will be a pleasant romp for some young climber."

I do not remember if the ‘began it in 1971’ is accurate. Might be. However, when we started climbing on the North Face Apron in 1973, nothing else was over there.

I guess that we are still waiting for the 'pleasant romp' prediction to come true. Ha.

ps: Note to what has changed over the years--originally typed on an Underwood manual typewriter, double-spaced, edited by hand.
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