Not the Midget Chimney (Photo TR)


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Oakland: what's not to love?
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 18, 2008 - 12:06am PT
Alternative title:
Help us figure out what the hell we climbed on Lower Cathedral.

A month or so ago we gave Bridalveil East a run, but got pushed back in a hissing douse of wind-blown waterfall midway through the third pitch. Very cool start and we'll be back for that one.

Never were sure we were on route but the climbing was excellent, and somewhere up there is the Midget Chimney: lurking unseen and menacing, in my mind at least. Damn did we want to climb this pitch. Alas, not today.

Here’s what that part of this story looked like:

8 a.m: “Waterfall looks thin, viejo – let’s charge the Midget Chimney!”

Still looking dry, spirits high, no idea what the next 16 hours will entail:

There may have been subtle indicators that we were going to get wet.

But subtlety won't get you to the Midget Chimney. Let's climb up there, viejo!

Getting wet now. Shivering:

Jumping ship:

Hiding from the hissing menace behind the Return to Stone Age buttress:

Wandering back into the sun to dry off, we passed under the Return to Stone Age buttress and after +/-150 ft. saw the start to what looked like a cool line. A clean, short splitter led up to a ramp, which angled up and (climber's) left out of view. Let's try it!

The start of climb X (the chimney left was another obvious start to the same line):

Step left here to start second pitch:

More second pitch:

The third pitch involved bushwhacking through a hanging forest before being spit out onto a steep face. Climb this face via a three-tiered pyramid of scary-ass detached blocks, and presto, you’re 200 feet from the Overhang Bypass.

The two blocks that I’m using as handholds make the top tier of the Tiered Pyramid of Scary-Ass Loose Blocks, and have to be used to traverse over the exposed face onto the ledge. Both are perched on a larger loose block that you must traverse with your feet, and both wobble in your hands. Pull down, not out! Nice lead, Nutjob.

Overall, the climbing in these three mystery pitches was really good - some wide climbing up to 5.8(?), great views of El Cap and the Ribbon Falls amp, and some scary ass loose blocks as the route’s signature forget-me-nots.

After emerging into the ramp system where the 5th class climbing starts on Overhang Bypass, we gunned for the top.

After the Pig Trough:

Nice views:

Belay after the bad-bolt traverse:

Said bad bolt:

From there, it was an easy jaunt* back to the car:

*We grunted and cussed our way down the descent, negotiating the snow-choked gunsight in the dark with one headlamp. Steep snowfields had us sliding on our asses with size 3 and 4 camalots in each hand, trying not to slip to our deaths. All rap stations were under streams of melt-water. For all three raps, the first guy to rap took the headlamp while the second whimpered in the dark under a faucet of freezing hypothermia sauce as the small globe of comfort that the LED offered dimmed further from view, leaving that poor bastard to shiver in the demoralizing and wet darkness before blind-rapping himself through intermittent sharp boulders and drop-offs and bloodying up his limbs all the while fretting over knocking his teeth out with one slip into a face-mangling edge. But hell, 4 hours ain’t so bad to slide on your ass in the snow and bloody yourself up in the dark sharing a headlamp while thrusting wide cams into the snow with frozen and lacerated fingers!

All we wanted out of the day was a run at the Midget Chimney.

The line we climbed is drawn in on this pic, not sure it will be big enough to discern. Anybody know what it is? Doesn’t appear in any of the old guides that we have.

In retrospect, a great day!

Apr 18, 2008 - 12:15am PT
Yes this route is a super climb.

Did you see my 5.11 finger crack variation to the last pitch?

Nice photos of the climb.

Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 12:35am PT
Somewhere there was a 5.11 type crack as a right variation when we exited left in a much easier spot (that was right above the easy 5th class part where we simul'd).

Hypothermia sauce -- loved it!

It was good to practice breaking down belay setups, retying knots and threading ropes, etc. in the cold, dark, and wet.

It doesn't sound like much, but using the #3.5 and #4 cam lobes for ice axes was really the part that will stick with me most vividly. It's a good thing we were racked for Midget Chimney!

The traversing steep face pitch was way out there. Think light, weight nothing. Even the steep face before the blocks was kinda weird, not knowing if we were heading into disaster or going toward something that would top out. But that's what made it so cool. Especially considering the rain drops that speckled the rocks as we considered whether or not to bail.

And Bryce, you left off the part where you were stemming between the main wall and the VW Bug sized rock near the top, and the thing rocked out 3 feet in a slow horrifying sway. That had you freaked! By that point I was not touching anything I didn't have to.

Trad climber
Butte, America
Apr 18, 2008 - 01:48am PT
Thanks for sharing that--a text book example of a successful, adventurous trad climb.

With a little (lot) of H2O thrown in for a test of will and determination.

Good omen having the wide gear, even though it was unintentionally necessary for that purpose, its functionality proved useful.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 18, 2008 - 02:24am PT
I got lost fiddling around by Bridelveil Falls once and had a minor epic.


Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 04:15am PT
Cool adventure. I can't help you with naming the mystery route (I haven't climbed in that area, unless you count rapping down Overhang Bypass after doing Beggar's Buttress once).

About getting wet - I'm reminded of how my partner once explained it - the wind shifts to blow from the West at around 11am or so, so be ready. That is what happens on the East Buttress of El Cap as well. Dry in the morning, soaked at noon....

If it wasn't wet on those raps, one trick when you only have one headlamp is to use the display on the camera as a second light - it's enough to check your rappel setup, etc.

Thanks for sharing!

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:07am PT
Cheers for adventure TR with plenty photos.

right here, right now
Apr 18, 2008 - 09:31am PT
Thanks for the TR fellas!
... now get back up there and find that Midget Chimney for us.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 18, 2008 - 05:23pm PT

Clint, that's the exact wind scenario we ran into. Must be like clockwork.


Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Apr 18, 2008 - 05:48pm PT
Hahaha.. Good one.


San Fran Cisco
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:03pm PT
fun tr.

a cell-phone display works for a little light, too (as i discovered in a very similar situation)

Apr 18, 2008 - 07:06pm PT

Did you see that shirt?

I want one.

Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Apr 19, 2008 - 01:47pm PT
Yo dudes, you have to patrol grocery and drug stores to pick up gems like that shirt. I'm always on the look-out.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 19, 2008 - 02:28pm PT
Just a brief reminder from earlier posts about Bridalveil East. There is a very fun 5.8 (5.9 nowadays) variation to the normal 5.10 route with the Midget Chimney at its top. This easier variation is called Bridalveil East Aqua variation in the Red Roper guide or the green one. Its an old Royal route. Did it back in the 60's. Its last pitch finishes by ascending from the large tree about 40 ft left of the actual falls, near its lip, above a huge grass covered, secret ledge there. Kind of spectacular. Rather steep climb, but fun and safe. I used to have the description on disk, can't find it presently. But a recommended route. You leave the East route after the first two pitches (which by the way are amazing, stuffed with secret holds and things 5.8), traversing right in several zags, following bay tree choked books, but rather novel and fun. Have to do it after August usually because of the spray.

best PH
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 19, 2008 - 03:19pm PT
Get your Haan ass up here in August and guide me up that puppy Peter. I'm scared of not finding it again! Somebody draw me a topo! I'm too new school to manage it!


Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 19, 2008 - 11:35pm PT
Thank tons Karl,

How do you do it? Year after year, this amazing, level, warm-fringed voice. We are so fortunate to know you... Even if many of us have never met you. What a cool guy.

It is true, KB, that it is also a Karl route. Certainly a guide-able one. Since I flashed it as a teenager back 43 years ago, it can’t be too stout. I remember a kind of miraculousness to this steep route: holds appearing just when they were needed, but not obviously, route just trickling onwards, improbably, and never hard, mist sometimes traveling towards us in a thrilling sort of way, but never disabling. Clawing up these weird long tongues of bay bushes, pungent wonderful odors springing out of them, covering oneself and the rope.

Magical especially in the first couple of leads, and that one keeps working right in ways that are really not obvious from below but while you are in front of it, exactly what to do. From the ground the route is intimidating and frankly not obvious. Very much all about climbing, or at least as we knew it back in time. RR hardly remembered this climb, and kind of minimized it when we talked about, when I worked for him. It is not Grand but really fun.

I’ll get a better description up soon, contact you and this is what we will do. But meanwhile, I want to do some stuff with you sooner. Will get back with you!! I need to resume the art; I’ve been wanting to return to it all for some time; it has been hard.

best PH.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 20, 2008 - 01:21pm PT
"How do you do it? Year after year, this amazing, level, warm-fringed voice. We are so fortunate to know you... Even if many of us have never met you. What a cool guy."

You might not be reading all the threads. I lose some of my cool once inwhile for sure.

Looking forward to seeing you and doing something classic (in a chossy sort of way)



Trad climber
Durango, CO
Apr 21, 2008 - 02:07am PT
Hooray for adventure climbing! Nice trip report.

It's also fun to read Karl and Peter's old stories. You guys have good memories.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Apr 21, 2008 - 11:09am PT
TR bump! Good job!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 6, 2008 - 09:54am PT
Here is the Roper Green Guide 1971 description of the Aqua Variation (named that in the Red Guide I think) and of course of the regular route that involves the Midget Chimney:

Bridalveil Fall-- East Side III 5.8 A1 or 5.10B

Mark Powell and Warren Harding 8/1957

This route lies in a very steep chimney system just left of Bridalveil Fall. Ascend a polished crack system 20 ft to the right of the main chimney for about 140 feet to a small belay ledge. Pitch 2: climb a slot for 30 feet, then traverse left into the main chimney and ascend it 50 feet to a belay ledge. Next two chockstones must be passed (5.7)) to reach a belay ledge 130 feet above the belayer. Pitch 4: move left and climb a very steep 40-foot wall to a tree. Step right around a corner and climb a wide slot, then exit left from it and belay 40 feet higher. A bit of easy climbing leads to the base of an overhanging jamcrack. Several aid pins up and left lead to a short friction slab; above this, 200 ft of class 4 climbing leads to the top. Iron: 12 pitons up to a 1-1/2” angle.

In 1964 Frank Sacherer and John Morton climbed the overhanging jamcrack to avoid the short aid section. This is 5.10 and makes it possible to complete the route without aid. ((This is the Midget Chimney pitch)).

In 1961 Royal Robbins and Rich Calderwood made a significant variation, which is also totally free. From the belay ledge above the chockstones, traverse right (5.8) for 15 feet to a prominent lieback crack. Climb this , then traverse right into a gully. Ascend this until 40 feet above a tree ((filling the gulley)), then traverse right and climb onto an obvious ledge. From its far end, descend a few feet to a spectacular hand-traverse which leads to a ((large)) tree only 40 feet from the waterfall. A steep corner containing an easy chimney leads to brush slopes. A few bongs (up to 2-1/2”) should be included in the hardware selection.
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