Middle Cathedral North Face Apron rebolting photo TR 6/14/08


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 71 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 27, 2008 - 08:25am PT
Middle Cathedral North Face Apron rebolting - summer 2008 - first weekend

Last summer I spent a few days helping fix a couple of ropes for
Roger Brown, and he was able to replace over 200 bolts at the Arches
Terrace and Glacier Point Apron. In the previous summer, Roger had replaced
over 260 bolts in Tuolumne Meadows over 2 months. There was also
his staggering project of rebolting the upper slab of the Harding-Rowell
route on the south face of Half Dome, by packing over 1000' of fixed rope
to the top of Half Dome, then rapping down, drilling, filling, jugging out
to replenish his water supply, then packing all those ropes back out
again.... Roger is a force!

There was lots of interest in rebolting the routes on Middle Cathedral's
North Face Apron, thanks in part to a virtual reunion (supertopo forum style)
of the Stonemasters, uncovering the stories and photos from the first
ascents of the classics there in the 70s.
So for summer 2008 Roger's strategy was clear - get there first thing while
early summer temps were still moderate, so we could get some help in
leading up a few of the routes and fixing ropes for the bolt replacement work.
Kelly Rich joined in to provide some much needed leading talent, and I knew we
could get ourselves up *something* - maybe even a couple of somethings?
It had been over 20 years since my first and only attempt to lead there -
back in the 80s I managed to follow a few pitches on Quicksilver but nearly
froze in fear when I didn't want to unclip from a bolt while following a
traverse! So I knew a return to this place would challenge me seriously on
lead (good thing we had Kelly!).

Shortly before the first planned weekend, Roger emailed me with some bad news -
he had a back injury from a freak accident at home. Apparently minor, but
it was a fracture, so this was a potentially big setback. Roger seemed
to think it would just be a delay, but I was concerned about complications
and the priority was Roger's health; the project had to be put on hold
and hopefully he would heal up OK at whatever pace it took.
Greg Barnes had just dropped off 250 ASCA bolts and hangers for the project,
and plans for Yosemite were uncertain at best, so I detoured on the original
first weekend and did some bolt replacement at Chiquito Dome with Joel.
When I got back, Roger said he was ready to start the next weekend, only
2 weeks after the injury instead of the expected 4+ weeks.

Kelly, his climbing partner Bruce, and I drove in on Saturday morning and
met Roger at the base of the wall. Roger was pleased to inform us that
additional help for the rebolting party was on the way - Jesse McGahey,
Megan McGahey, Eric Bissell and Roger Putnam were joining us!
This was great news. Jesse and Eric are the Yosemite climbing rangers,
and chose to spend their own time (day off) to help with the project!

After going over the topos, we came up with a plan which would hopefully
yield fixed ropes to three high points. Roger could then use the
fixed ropes to access bolts in the arcs below the high points over the next
few weeks. Jesse, Megan and Roger P. took Quicksilver, Kelly and Bruce
took Exodus, and Eric and I would try to do a few pitches on Mother Earth.
Before starting, Roger P. ran down and ran back up with Roger B's new 600'
static line!

Saturday 6/14/08


Jesse leads the Quicksilver p1 corner as Roger P. belays.
Eric and Megan confer to the left.

Megan follows Jesse on Quicksilver p1

Megan raps down the static line from p3 on Quicksilver; Jesse above in white.

Jesse belays while Roger P. places a new bolt at the Quicksilver p4 anchor.


Bruce belays Kelly on Exodus p1. Lower Cathedral east face in the background.

Kelly. Note the typical disturbing scarcity of protection

Bruce belays. Quicksilver p1 corner in the background

Kelly gets some temporary shade

Bruce follows Exodus p1 (he climbs barefoot)

Roger B. replaces the Exodus p1 anchor, judged way unsafe to risk the long runout right off the belay on p2.

Mother Earth

Eric leads the "5.7" p1 corner on Mother Earth (more like a delicate 5.8, after brushing debris off the holds as the first recent party)

Looking down at Eric from my high point on p2, a little above the 3rd rusty bolt.
Actually I had only advanced our progress by one bolt, after pulling on all the bolts and doing the mantle on my second try,
then desperately pulling up on the tail of the tat sling just above it!
Note bail biners on bolts 2 and 3 (upper one with initials JM, from Jesse's high point last year).
But I was happy to make a contribution to the lead, even if it was minor.

Eric starting the moves above my old high point; he also freed the pitch instead of using my aid style!
Tat slings on all 3 lowest bolts, plus 2 bail biners. No tat slings on the upper visible bolts.

Checking out the climbing above the last bolt.

Eric finished p2 to the belay stance, but found no usable anchor bolts!
(broken hanger on left; hole / missing bolt at upper right).
It was a good thing Jesse had bailed below this on his attempt last year - he would have needed a bolt kit to get down safely!
Eric climbed up higher and placed some marginal gear, then belayed me with a hip belay on the very narrow stance.
I batmanned the rope a couple of times, but he held me without weighting the marginal gear.

There was a block teetering at the belay, ready to fly, so we double-checked
the base and I advised Eric to trundle it before I started following.

With the left bolt replaced, Eric enlarges/deepens the hole for the right anchor bolt.

Eric removes the marginal gear he had placed for the anchor before we replaced the anchor bolts
(we tried not to weight the gear - note detached flake).

p2 anchor replaced (right hanger to be swapped for double ring hanger later by Roger)

Sunday 6/15/08

Roger B. jugs his 600' static line on the start of Quicksilver, which Jesse, Roger P., and Megan had fixed to the top of p4 on Saturday.
The white back brace is for Roger's recent back injury.

Roger jugs Quicksilver p3

The East Buttress of Lower Cathedral Rock, mid-morning light.

Kelly attempts the runout Exodus p2.
Bruce wisely belays from a rope tether 20' below the anchors.

Kelly and Bruce on Exodus p2.

Bolt proliferation - Quicksilver p1 anchor.
Bolt at upper right is likely an original from the first ascent (old thin SMC chrome-moly hanger).
Two bolts on left with Metolius rap hangers are 3/8" but not stainless.
Roger will clean this up by removing all but 2 bolts and patching the holes.
This is typical of casually reinforced anchors - people add bolts but do not know how to remove the old ones.

A Bugaboo fixed pin in good shape, Quicksilver p2

Quicksilver p2 anchor
Original bolts are the lowest two; top two bolts are 1/2" stainless, probably placed with a power drill
in the late 80s when they were in use in Yosemite.

Quicksilver p3 anchor

Jugging up to join Roger at the top of Quicksilver p4

Original bolt with Dolt hanger on Quicksilver p4, where Freewheelin' joins it.

Quicksilver p4 anchor
Top bolt added by Roger P. on Saturday so he could belay Jesse safely.
Bolt on right is a 5/16" buttonhead.
Original bolts on left; note broken drill bit in hole just right of bolt - typical problem with 70s 1/4" Rawl drill bits.

Roger at the Quicksilver p4 belay; I'm starting up the lead on p5

We spied this bolt way up and left from the belay. Up close, it doesn't look so great! :-)

Roger sent up the bolt kit

The bolt must have been placed in desperation - very shallow hole.
Clearly not placed by the first ascent team, who placed good bolts, and not on the topo.

I had to stack Lost Arrows under my tuning fork because it was sticking out so far.
This was not enough, so I turned the Lost Arrows over, with their eyes against the rock to get enough thickness to extract it.
It wasn't original, so I didn't replace it. I was also off route
on the pitch, so I reversed a 40' traverse back to my only pro,
then traversed a bit higher, seeking the "pointed flake" shown
on the topo.

Nice view of El Cap from up here

After some extended wandering, I found this anchor, hidden from below by the "pointed flake".
The topo did not show a bolted anchor, but the vintage of the hangers looked about right to be original or placed shortly after the FA.

While I replaced the p5 anchor, Roger tied off the lead line and could finally start fixing the p4 anchor

I placed the new p5 anchor bolts at head height, visible from below

Pulled the old p5 bolts

On the way down, I fixed a rope to the anchor atop Ticket to Nowhere (p5)
Note 1/2" SS bolts with Metolius rap hangers added by someone, but original bolts with thick SMC stainless hangers (from the 80s) not removed (yet).

I finished rappelling and we all hiked out. I drove out with Kelly and Bruce.
Roger has been busy on the fixed ropes since then, still healing up and replacing 9 to 10 bolts a day most recently.
He estimates there are 100 bolts within reach of the current fixed lines.
Once he has fixed those, we'll work to fix to other high points and continue the process!

See Roger's "Bolt Replacement 2008" thread on the supertopo forum for more reports and news on the project.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Jun 27, 2008 - 08:29am PT
excellent work
beautiful pics
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Jun 27, 2008 - 11:30am PT
Many thanks for the maint.....Quicksilver has been needing some care for a long time....

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 27, 2008 - 02:44pm PT
I always thought the climbing on Mother Earth (the firsty 10 pitches that is, which are all free at around 11.c) was the very best on the Middle Apron. Hope you guys can replace all the bolts on that lower half of the route - that would provide an all-time classic. Once you hit the big ledge at the end of pitch 10 you can traverse (10a) right into the Gunsight and return to the base.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 27, 2008 - 04:33pm PT

We will definitely replace all the bolts on Middle Earth. Probably I will be taking my aid approach and approach via the traverse, then fix down the route!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 28, 2008 - 02:38pm PT
Clint- those frighteningly thin stainless steel Leeper hanger look alikes were made by Vern Clevenger. Hopefully one or two can make it into Ken's collection as they are pretty unique. Nice work on the bolting.

What no "Leap or 5.12?"

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 28, 2008 - 06:48pm PT
Steve G. wrote: What no "Leap or 5.12?"

How Steve knew about this is beyond me but on the 8th (9th??) pitch of Mother Earth there was a leap for a hold (at least that's how we did it on the first ascent). Kauk was too short for the leap and managed to boulder around the leap (looked totally horrendous) after a few tries. Since that was 30 years ago (that in itself seems incredible) I imagine the moves aren't too hard by modern standards.

We rarely rated anything 5.12 back then. But I do reckon that with new bolts the first 10 pitches of this one would be fantastic as a day climb. It's steeper than most of the climbing on the N. Face Apron, and you get way up there. Perhaps a few new protection bolts should be added. Couple of those pitches are like 10- with almost nothing for pro. The hard stuff is protected okay, as I remember.

As is, Mother Earth is largely a mystery route. I don't think those initial (first 10) pitches have been done in close to three decades, and they were some of the best ones I ever did on Middle.


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 28, 2008 - 07:10pm PT
Clint, thx.

Is it odd that I read all the rebolting trip reports? :)

tidbits of history unearthed in your efforts, ya know?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 28, 2008 - 08:33pm PT
I have insider knowledge JL----The Warbler topo from 77 or so. Feast your eyes on a truly classic topo drawn straight from memory on a page from the original Meyers looseleaf guide.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 28, 2008 - 08:38pm PT
I like the way it was possible in 1977 for Kevin to warp space so that Mother Earth was to the left of the Kor Beck.

I think those Dolt hangers that you show on pitch 4 where "Quicksilver" meets "Freewheeling" are probably from my bolt kit--state of the art, man.

Cool thread, lots of great memories. I have a few B&Ws from the first ascent of "Freewheeling." I'll have to scan them.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 28, 2008 - 09:34pm PT
very cool Steve!

talk about un-"earthing" tidbits right before you eyes.


I must be pre-cognitive.

and for my next trick, nothing up my sleeve, PRESTO!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 28, 2008 - 09:47pm PT
I recall that Kauk refered to doing that Mother of a leap statically as the "hardest moves he had done on rock."

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 28, 2008 - 10:06pm PT
All of this makes it all the more interesting for someone to go up there in this century and find out what the hell's up there. Maybe we're all just dreaming here and the thing's cake. But I sorta doubt it . . .

It's up to Clint now, and his friends. Going down from the big ledge up high (end of 10th pitch) is the only way to rebolt this one, IMHO.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 29, 2008 - 10:05pm PT

> When rapping Mother Earth, because the last two pitches are straight up the corners, and those corners are reached by a Long traverse, an option would be to continue east past those corners on the North Face Traverse route, before descending.

Yeah, I think that would be the plan - essentially to rap the Smith-Crawford.
Dogtown Climber

Trad climber
The Idyllwild City dump
Jun 29, 2008 - 11:31pm PT
Very impressive Lads. Bravo!!

Social climber
Jul 2, 2008 - 07:57pm PT

Awesome photos and TR fro the weekend. I haven't gotten back since that day. Quicksilver was a lot of fun, and I'm sure it will be even MORE fun for the next party.

Yes, very good thing I bailed on Mother Earth last year. I wasn't interested in the 30' plus run-out over those old rusty 1/4"ers. Eric Bissell, or Grasshopper as we call him, is a great face climber and cool under pressure. I'm psyched to have another climbing ranger to share the fun! We really want to get back on the Mother Earth and continue the project. Have you been back over there?


Maybe we ca talk about "a few more protection bolts", I think if this master piece is going to be appreciated in this century we might want to add a few more bolts. I'm sure I'll catch hell for that comment. I talked to Ron K. last year, and he made a similar comment. He said it was incredible climbing, but he didn't mention "leap or 5.12".



Awesome stuff over there

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jul 2, 2008 - 09:38pm PT
I think the whole approach of running the rope out has been junked as of about 1980 so of course, if someone goes back up there and rebolts Mother Earth, by all means slap in enough bolts that folks will want to get on the thing, otherwise it will never get repeated. And that would be a shame since the climbing is fantastic.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 3, 2008 - 01:18am PT

The original bolts will be replaced using the Fixe SS 4mm thick hangers stamped ASCA. Those only go onto original bolts (as far as we can determine, using the topo, etc.).

If somebody wants to negotiate with George, Eric, Kevin, John and Mark on adding new bolts, that would need to be done separately from the ASCA rebolting.
John, Mark and Ron were on the FA of the complete route, adding the upper half above the North Face Traverse route.

There weren't any 30' runouts on the first two pitches. I think it will feel less runout once the bolts are replaced and you are no longer wondering how many might break and how far you will go if you fall. We tested the 1/4" bolts on the second pitch before leading above them.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 3, 2008 - 01:36am PT
Stories and photos from the first ascent of Mother Earth are on the "Welcome to Kevin Worrall" thread.


I have put these together on a separate thread "Mother Earth - stories and photos from the first ascent" to make them easier to find.


For Sewellymom and others, here are the first two posts in the above thread on Mother Earth. They explain the origin of the route with George Meyers, and how he recruited "special forces" to push the route further.


Sep 18, 2006, 10:07am PT
Author: Largo
Sport climber From: Venice, Ca

Yo, KW--

Tell us the story about you and three others on Mother Earth, and how you battled up to the big ledge after many heroics only to find that George had mistakenly bought dog food for dinner.



Sep 18, 2006, 09:57pm PT
Author: The Warbler
climber From: the edge of America

George Meyers climbed with barely contained excitement - his fingers would flutter on each feature as he chose the exact position to move from. His gapped tooth grin was ever present on Middle, and his enthusiasm for the mind game played on her burnished flanks quickly worked it's way into some of us and grew to a passion ordinarily reserved for the fairest of maidens. John Long and I became two of her most ardent suitors.

General Meyers had found a weakness on the slab laying just right of the massive triangular North Face Apron, and had recruited one of my earliest climbing partners, Eric Schoen, to help explore the possibilities. As John will remember, we were together at the base of the Dihardral on Slab Happy Pinnacle when Eric, after sending the crux, uttered the classic "Jams are good, protection's good, I'm coming down!" All other versions credited to someone else are just that. Eric was the original. His mild manner, juxtaposed with an uncanny mantling ability and a herculean build, earned him the nickname "Mellow Brutus".

Eric and George boldly pushed upward little by little following the route as it led them. George's vision was a free climb ascending the entire slab, crossing the old North Face Traverse route, and continuing up the sweeping Northwest Buttress to the highest topout on the most massive Cathedral. An ambitious project for the era. I kept track of their progress as I climbed elsewhere, always pinning GM down for details after one of his skirmishes. Then one day they reached an impass. I don't remember the details, but chances are Mellow Brutus was a little too mellow for the increasing difficulty. General Meyers needed special forces.

George and Eric had pioneered six pitches of increasing difficulty and angle to a lonely belay seemingly within striking distance of a deep corner system leading down 200 feet from the North Face Traverse. Steeper climbing had stopped them, but George believed only a short section remained and that it was doable. I had been hoping for just such an opportunity, and John shared my interest. My regular climbing partner, Mark Chapman also joined the team.

Our plan was to stock the huge ledge on the North Face Traverse with bivy gear to eliminate hauling on the route below, and to have a base camp for the upper thousand feet of rock. That done, we spent the night at the base to get a jump on the first half.

We were immediately impressed by the beauty and boldness of the climbing. George's descriptions of the route deliberately hadn't done it justice, and he reveled in our experience as section after section of perfect stone and variety greeted us. The last pitch they had done was a continuous barrage of technical moves past bolts placed on stances that were difficult just to clip from. It follows a magical line up an otherwise unclimbable section of the wall and as such was used by Jay Smith and Paul Crawford to advance their own route nearly ten years later. It is surely George's best pitch on the rock, and it ends at a small ledge with lower angle rock only 30 steeper and smoother feet higher. I think George had even placed the first bolt on the next lead but was unable to continue.

Somehow the lead fell to me. I cinched my EBs, checked my swami, exited my butt bag, and went. Barely made the moves to the bolt, clipped and started toward the next stance. Thin smeary moves up a small fold in the stone brought me to a meager stance and I made the best of it. 15 minutes later, as I clipped the new splitshank, my toes were experiencing the kind of pressure that turns coal to shining gems. I lowered and handed the sharp end to Largo.

John moved on past my bolt and with his characteristic power and finess surmounted the headwall. Having attained the level of the beginning of the long corner system leading to our plush bivy, John placed a bolt and began the fifty foot traverse. As the three of us craned our necks fom the belay, we watched him steadily move toward easy ground and the skyline. But Middle is full of suprises, and John arrived at a sloper ledge surrounded by featureless rock, with the coveted crack system two feet out of reach. Much hollering ensued and John informed us that it didn't look good, but that he would place a bolt and do what he could. I had seen Largo blast bolt holes in half the normal time before and I always attributed it to his overall mass and thigh size forearms, but this hole was placed with the speed of light.

John's frame was a silhouette on the skyline, the afternoon sun piercing our eyes. When he announced he was going for it, we all hopefully squinted into the sun. A cumulus cloud of chalk dust rose on the updrafts, and John pulled slack, but did not reach higher. His bulk disappeared from the skyline instead, and our moment of confusion was his moment of decision. He suddenly reappeared, arms outstretched, not unlike Superman, flying upward. Another chalk cloud appeared as he slapped the target and swung sideways tugging the rope abruptly. After much cheering, the pitch was ours, and the ledge followed.

Meyers botched it and brought a family size can of some kind of artificial meat for our dinner. The serving suggestion on the label looked good, but it was false advertising. As John said, it might as well have been dog food. It was inexpensive though.

That night we built a big fire with oak branches cleared from our sleeping areas, and cast giant shadows of ourselves up the massive untouched Northwest Buttress of Middle Rock.


Trad climber
Monrovia, Ca
Jul 3, 2008 - 01:51am PT
" ...I think the whole approach of running the rope out has been junked as of about 1980 so of course... "


Tell that to Huber Bros., Yuji and Hans, I could go on.

The guys on the cutting edge could care less about bolts every three meters.

Add bolts to an established testpiece so anyone can do it? You surprise me.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 71 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta