Steck Salathe vs Northeast Buttress

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Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 20, 2005 - 12:48pm PT
I see on the Steck Salathe beta postings that many people consider the Supertopo "time to climb" estimate quite low and that they spent a lot longer.

So I got to wondering how people's times on Northeast Buttress compared to their times on SS? How about respective times on the approach and decent?

We've done NEB a few times and know it well. We just did it at a relaxed pace in 7 hours. We are doing SS soon, and I'm trying to figure when to start so that I can still get a pizza when I get down instead of morning coffee.
jacs

climber
Colorado
Jun 20, 2005 - 01:27pm PT
my base-to-summit times:
NEB- 8hrs in my 3rd year of climbing; cruiser descent.
SS- 12hrs in my 6th year of climbing; complicated, difficult descent

Forget pizza. Have dinner premade in the cooler so that you can scarf it before passing out in your tent.
Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2005 - 01:48pm PT
No, not that. I never finish climbs quite as quick as I plan (hope). Planning to finish after dark might just mean getting back in time for that coffee. I'll stick to the pizza goal, but I'm wondering if we will have to kick ourselves hard to do it.

But, yeah, one of the nice things about the NEB is that the descent is so tame. It is one that would be easy to do onsight in the dark. If you do SS from car to top in 12 hours this time of year, that should leave plenty of daylight to get down.
Alexey

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 20, 2005 - 02:13pm PT
NEB - done may 2005
we climbed route in 10 pitches- 10 hours, I led all upper part with no problems. Decent took- 2 hours

SS - we done year ago- may 2004 - I was about same shape as now.
we bivy at the base - climb 14 pitches in 15 hours. Last pith climbed at dark with headlamps. Spent night on top ( pretty comfortable). Descend - took about 2-3 hour
We switched leads with my partner until pitch 11- because after climbing Narrows - I totally lost energy and ability to climb. ( Not because of particularly difficulty of Narrows, but because of sustain nature of the all SS climb). Fortunately my partner was able to lead 4 remaining pitches where I hanged as dog on 5.7

For comparison NEB and SS I think the best is realize that SS contain at least 8 pitches physically same hard or harder than NEB pitch 7 ( with 5.9 squeeze chimney which I considered a crux of NEB route)
I think between those two routes is a big gap like 5.9 and 5.10
Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2005 - 02:48pm PT
Thanks. I was wondering if we'd be able to do SS in half again as long as NEB like you did.

I'll be leading most if not all of the SS. Losing steam on the upper bits just because it has been a long hard day is an issue. My partner might be able to finish out the leads, but probably no faster than if I just did them. I figure being tired coming down will add to the desent time a bit as well.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 20, 2005 - 03:13pm PT
The descent off Sentinel is not that bad if you just drop off the back side, head down and left and angle away from the formation till you reach easy terrain. Most people go wrong by staying too close to the formation. Same thing with descending the Was. Col
Hike a ways away from the rock and get onto easy ground.

JL
Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2005 - 03:24pm PT
Good, we'll do that. Been burned by that "let's take the quick way" impulse more than once.
climberweenie

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 20, 2005 - 05:36pm PT
How about a comparison between route-finding and descent times on north dome gulley and sentinel. I found NEB descent to be very straightforward (more so than E Butt Middle Cathedral), and North Dome Gulley to be atrocious (mainly because we had no real beta to follow).

Thanks for info re: 8 pitches on SS comparable to crux of NEB. That's an eye opener.
WBraun

climber
Jun 20, 2005 - 07:20pm PT
I think you need to stop thinking so much Fingerlocks. You get up in the morning and go climb the thing and then descend. Then when your back at your starting point you can start thinking about your pizza and stuff.

Whatís with all this thinking and stuff?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 20, 2005 - 10:22pm PT
I'm going to stick my neck out and say that you should plan on Steck Salathe taking twice as long as NEB. Not only that, you should make sure you bring a lighter and a foil bag incase you have to spend the night on top.

I've done the NEB dozens of times and SS maybe 4 times.

The descent from Sentinal can be convoluted and I think Largo oversimplies it. Yes, you hike away from the formation (First come the manzanita tunnels, then a gully, then a ramp, then talus) so you're finally on easy ground away from the formation, but if you go straight down there, you hit the worst imaginable loose exposed talus/scree hell. You have to look for a little switch back down into a gully to the North. Which is a quick way of saying it's darn hard to onsite descend from Sentinel without risk to life and limb.

So then you hike down this only semi-awful gully (forever) to a stream which fortunately might be safe to drink from cause it's pretty hard to resist. Then you're heading down North toward the valley on the East side of this stream and hit a steep slabby area. Steep enough that you'd be tempted to rappel if you don't find the right downscramble which is still hairy. Then it's through brushy trails back down into the gully of the stream again where you can finally cross over just above where the base of the approach ramp starts and reverse the approach from there.

The short version: The descent from Sentinel has top sucking honors in Yosemite Valley.

In my crazier days, I've soloed all but two of the pitches of NEB. (brought a rope for them) Werner solos the whole thing like it was sidewalk. I can't even think of one pitch on SS that I'd want to solo, until you count the final "4th class ramp" (5.6)

Forget pizza, it will be a miracle bonus unless you start at night, which is a bit hard too since the first pitch is the mother of sandbags.

Other than that, don't sweat it, you'll fire the thing!

Peace

karl
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 21, 2005 - 04:24am PT
Jeez, Karl, you sort of reversed the whole ascent/descent thing. I can soon imagine that whole threads will be devoted to alternative ways to get to the descent off Sentinel, with a whole slew of detailed variations and attendant horror stories.

Not that I disagree with you. I just donít have such a good memory.

I am inclined to agree with Werner's set-the-alarm-hike-to-the-base-climb-to-the-top-hike-down-and-find-something-to-eat approach. But I can also remember staring down at Bircheff while leading in the upper chimneys and remarking how utterly exhausted I was. Dave felt the same way. I don't remember many free climbs where being tired but not pumped was part of the memory.

I have vague recollections of moving away from the rock to the SOuth and East to avoid the steep slopes, as John suggests. We didn't rappel.

We left the Valley at about 5:30am and were back in Camp at about 8:00pm. We cleaned up quick and tooled over to the Lodge.

SS is a great climb. And even if we didn't think the pitch ratings were so high, it was still a lot of work. Preparing for a night out sounds like good advise. A variant on Wernerís take: set-the-alarm-hike-to-the-base-climb-until-it's-dark-bivvy-climb-to-the-top-hike-down-and-find-something-to-eat.

Best, Roger
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Jun 21, 2005 - 08:10am PT
"I think you need to stop thinking so much Fingerlocks. You get up in the morning and go climb the thing and then descend. Then when your back at your starting point you can start thinking about your pizza and stuff.

Whatís with all this thinking and stuff? "

Golly gee Werner, you wouldn't be trying to make more work for YOSAR with advice like that, now would you?
Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 21, 2005 - 08:31am PT
Besides which thinking is an old habit I can't break even if it doesn't fit in the 21st Century. I even think while climbing. Imagine.

Planning ahead has improved my enjoyment to misery ratio. I just like to have fun.

Anyway thanks all
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 11:09am PT
I don't exactly remember how many times I climbed Sentinel but it must be somewhere close to a dozen, and I never remember thinking the descent was that grim--not after bashing up those chimneys on SS or blazing up the West Face or the Chouinard Herbert. I think anyone who can do 5.10 climbing can easily negotiate getting down once the real climbing is over. You just keep your eyes open and use common sense. Compared to Basket Dome, or the Half Dome slabs, the Sentinel descent is simply not that hard. I understand that the mentality has changed over the years but 20 years ago I never once remember anyone balking at the Sentinel descent, while everyone regretted the big hump to get to the base of the wall.

JL
Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 21, 2005 - 11:34am PT
I'm not worried about coming down--I just figure it makes an already long day longer.

John, by chance do you remember about how long it took you to climb the SS?
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 01:32pm PT
The first time I did the SS I'd only been climbing for about 18 months and it took Jim Orey and I about 6 hours. I'd been climbing alot of cracks and flares out at Josh over the prior year so the SS seemed strenuous but not cruxy. I think it's mainly the chimneys and flares that give folks a problem on the SS. I had the advantage of having a local area (Josh) to hone those skills. I suspect that many SS parties come from areas that have hand/thin cracks and face climbs but little to none of the wider articles. That would make the SS a real struggle, as it's not at all a place to learn how to dick wide cracks. The next time I went on the SS I was a 5.11 crack climber so it seemed more manageable than the first time around.

I can't overstate the fact the routes like the SS are all about your comfort level with wide cracks. If you're solid up to say 5.10b, you're mint. If you top out at 5.9, the SS will be hard indeed.

JL



JL

Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 21, 2005 - 02:07pm PT
I thought you would have been pretty quick on that.

No doubt I'm faster than I used to be, but I find that the wide cracks are more of a problem of keeping the pace up as opposed to feeling like I'm coming out. Even just putting in some pro eats up more time than it should. They make for interesting climbing though; I'm not in the yuck, wide cracks, camp.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 04:33pm PT
I might just be out of my mind but I think there was a major rockfall event that messed up the upper part of the descent. My first trip up Sentinel was actually the West Face with Corbett. The descent was no problem, at least it didn't stand out.

Years later, after doing SS one time, it was all of a sudden super sketch, and I remember rumours of rockfall. Way worse than the death slabs of Half Dome in my experience.

I don't think the SS approach is much of a big deal either.

Sometimes I suppose you just get an antipathy in your head about an approach or descent and it's not kind to you. I had to do the worst parts of that descent twice in one day once after topping out on Chouinard Herbert with my girlfriend at the time. We did it as a wall with a pig. I'd hike down, drop my pack, return for her and carry her pack too.

Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn't. I did SS once with a friend of mine and it took a long time. It was my first unplanned bivy as we kept going up and down loose talus slopes looking for the way down with our headlamps but not confident enough in our path to head down the sketchy parts. Finally the light died along with my partner (figuratively) and I threw in the towel. Later we went back and fired it in full daylight.

You need to practice chimneys of all sizes for SS, not wide cracks. There's not more than a half pitch of offwidth on the whole climb and precious little fist either. It's all open to swallow your body.

My recollection anyway. That climb has a way of fogging your brain so you'll go back.

Peace

karl
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 05:19pm PT
Hey, Karl, my bad. When I said "wide cracks" I meant chimneys and flares, not off size. I don't remember doing any off size stuff on the SS, and I've done it a stack of times--but not in the last 20 years.

JL
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 06:45pm PT
No Prob. I just didn't want to see the poor guy whittle himself into ground meat on Generator Crack, Chingando, and Steppin Out only to find himself trying to arm bar up the belly of the beast!

Practice for the narrows, Lie under a sheet of plywood. have 4 guys sit on the plywood, then try to wiggle your way out.

BTW. The climb really isn't that bad. I weigh about 190 so the Narrows is twice as bad as any other pitch up there for me.

Peace

karl
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