TR: Northeast Buttress Higher Cathedral Rock 5/25


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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 29, 2007 - 02:16pm PT
You reap what you sew.

That was the trip's theme for me. It started out as my usual attempt to be superman off the couch (we were trying for NEB HCR + HCS + LCS), and very early in the day I rediscovered the importance of cardio-training. Say, about 15 minutes into the approach at 5:45am.

You'd think by now I would have learned this lesson the hard way already, after jumping on Snake Dike about 5 years back with no climbing or any excercise for prior 6-12 months, then feeling vomitous back at the car. Or the time I pulled the same thing on E Butt El Cap, but that time I still felt good in my flip-flop footwear coming down East Ledges. I guess that one I was still coasting on the previous summer's good conditioning.

But I'm still stupid. And after inflating my ego on another off-the-couch performance on Serenity/Sons last month, I thought maybe normal laws of physics, strength-conditioning, and cardio-training don't apply to me. "It's all in your head" I thought. And anywasy, I've done the climb before, no big deal. Well, memory of the ugly parts fade, and so as usual I aim big and generally let my partners trim down the objectives. Only this time, I hooked up with uber-stud, and he would have pulled it off if I could keep up my end of the bargain.

"Let me know when you want to stop to take off your jacket" I shout back after setting a good pace in the first 10 minutes of the hike up the gulley between Cathedral Spires and Middle+Higher Cathedral Rock. I was trying to be sensitive, because he was carrying a big back, and I just had my bullet pack and the rope. Well, a few minutes later with my heart beating so fast it seemed more like an air pump on a fish tank, I had to stop. And he went coolly trucking by me without pause. He spends a lot of time outdoors running, biking, etc... and it showed. I didn't stop long that time, but I stopped more and more and longer and longer as we approached. Fudge-sickle, this was going to be a long day if I can't even get my sh!t together for the approach.

Fast forward to somewhere around pitch 6 or 7 of 11, and my body is falling apart. My fingers are curling on their own into little claws as my hands cramp, my fore-arms are cramping, even my lats are cramping! Heck, my legs even get a little tremble when I'm on lead. Fortunately, my mind stays intact, and I take my last challenging lead - thin 5.9 fingers to flaring 5.8 groove, and after nearly peeling off a few feet above my last pro, my little claw hand hooks on and I get it together again and finish the pitch.

Now I get a nice long rest as Iztok my uber-partner leads through what I think is the hardest pitch- two steep awkward sections each capped with a nasty little roof. By the time I get up that pitch, I am totally foo-barred. Rather than swinging the lead, I give him the next one so I can rest at the belay. By the time it's my turn to follow the next challenging pitch, my body is starting to lock up, and I keep remembering the introduction of the Self-Rescue book by David Fasulo, where he talks about being excited to be on RNWF Half Dome and ends up in this little stupor of hypo-glycemic shock saying "Opple".

So I realize the gravity of my situation, still far enough from the top where my partner would have a messy time if I totally crapped out, and I stop mid-pitch to bust out a power bar, and after chowing, feel good enough to get up the thing without being a major threat to myself or my partner. The last few pitches went kind of like that, with me re-adjusting my goals to just get up the damn thing and not have to be hauled up!

I still absolutely love the views on this climb, and we got to watch some other studs going up Power Point closer to the main arete dividing the faces of Higher Cathedral Rock.

The final short pitch (a squeeze that's just a little too wide to heel-toe and not wide enough to get a rest) saw me doing several false-starts for 5 minutes, before I dropped the bullet-pack on a sling below me, manned up for the last bit of knee and elbow abuse, and dug deep for the last bit of climbing strength left in me to grab the jugs that guarded the lip. Home free, except for the several-hour talus scramble to the bottom.

Well, I had enough juice to scramble over the top and admire the view of El Cap from up high. And one thought struck me while up there.... as high as we were, El Cap top-out was still higher, and it starts all the way at the bottom. It's just a LOT of fricken rock, so hard to appreciate how big it really it is. And the dudes who climb that in 3 or 4 hours are beyond incredible, and beyond Olympic atheletes. It is a monstrous achievement to be in sufficient shape to do that. Hats off to those pushing the bounds of human possibility.

Now for me, getting back to the car uneventfully with some daylight to spare, and wringing the water bottle dry just 50 feet from the truck was just about the best possibility for me to cap off that day.

Guess it's time to start taking more care of my body! And Steck-Salathe can wait til I'm in shape to enjoy it rather than having an epic on it. Will report back on this front at the end of summer.

And should have some pics to post here at some point.

Trad climber
Mt. Shasta, CA
May 29, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
Funny story, but the saying goes: You reap what you sow, not sew. Looking forward to the pics.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
May 29, 2007 - 03:11pm PT
Yeah...only Russ reaps what he sews!

Thanks for the TR. Still haven't managed to get on that route...
Joe Metz

Trad climber
Bay Area
May 29, 2007 - 03:30pm PT
If you are breathing too hard you might rip what you sew.

Trad climber
Jun 1, 2007 - 02:02am PT
Nice TR. You are doing it the traditional way, climbing yourself into shape.
Climb on.
Jerry Dodrill

Bodega, CA
Jun 1, 2007 - 02:11am PT
Nice NutJob. I can relate!

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Jun 1, 2007 - 01:22pm PT
Nice comment, Jerry.

I also was scrolling down to write "I can relate" when I saw yours.

After one of my longest periods "on the couch" since I started climbing, I'm learning that getting back into big days is harder for me to earn back than cranking out a decent pitch by the car.

Way to hang in there, nutjob.


Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Jun 1, 2007 - 01:51pm PT
Nutjob, nice TR.

I had a similar experience doing Leaning Tower this week. I hadnt been outside for a month, have been feeling like crap, and I felt blasted by the exertion. The jugging sucked also, hahaha (private joke). I did lead my six pitches I signed up for, so it was all good.

The funny part was that I thought I would be the weak link. It turned out to be a guy in the threesome in front of me. His friends were strong and fast, but he took over 5 hours to lead 7+8, plus he ran out of gear. So I gave some of my gear to his partners and they tagged it up so he could complete. Of course then *I* was short on gear and had big runouts on the pitch. I really wasnt up for a big whipper (see above joke).

I ended up following 9 and 10 in total darkness, no moon. The views from the top are absoutely out of this world. Plus you get to meet the fixed tool.


Trad climber
Jun 1, 2007 - 08:04pm PT

thanks for adding something climbing related to the forum...

ne of higher is a super burly climb and approach, good work doing it off the couch. couldn't believe how worked i felt the next day...but somehow managed to send the el cap lieback.

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Jun 2, 2007 - 02:17am PT
Good job.

Reminds me of the first time I climbed up at Tahquitz. I was off the couch, and had no clue that it was a long approach. I decided I didn't need to eat any stinken breakfast. Really bad idea, I think we did either angels fright or fingertips traverse. Can't remember which one. By the third pitch belay my blood sugar had hit rock bottom and I was falling asleep at the below and very dizzy. At least I was smart enough to keep a power bar with me and it got me back and functional enough to finish the route.

Cool TR!

Social climber
No Ut
Jun 2, 2007 - 11:34am PT
Great TR, Nut!
Gunks Guy

Trad climber
Rhinebeck, NY
Jun 2, 2007 - 02:01pm PT
Nice TR Nutjob. I have similarly fond memories of NEB.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2007 - 04:47am PT
Thanks all for the kind words!
Well I promised some pictures at some point, guess this is the point....

First, for perspective, here's me enjoying the route with Ritwik in 2005:

And here's me on the descent from the most recent 2007 debacle, looking like the love-child of Father Time and Death on their Hawaiian honeymoon:

And here's a crux sequence on the route (for me) that characterize the climbing...

Getting a little too comfortable in the squeeze and staying too long:

Humping rock, bottom position:

Side position:

Hanging on for dear life doggie-style:

Top position:

Gotta slip a kiss in there every once in a while:

Love em, leave em, move on like the chicken that I am (see I almost have a wing):

And here's the route looking straight up from the bottom, to get a feel for how much humping there is:

But when yer done, this is not a bad face to have to look at:

But I can assure you my mind was on other parts on the way up:

Here's Iztok the uber-stud that would have made a full triumverate conquest if I wasn't an ass-dragger:

Cheers to all... next weekend I'm making it back to Yos for my first trip since then, but this time with my long-time main partner. And I guess in fitting wrap-up to this story and prelude to my next, I'll be hauling his sorry ass up East Butt of El Cap. Here's a peaceful parting shot of that route, as seen from the morning approach to NEB HCR:

Boulder climber
Fremont, CA
Jul 23, 2007 - 08:58pm PT
Very nicely done...remind of this story before I let you lead another climb. ;-) C u at the gym i guess.
nick d

Trad climber
Jul 23, 2007 - 09:51pm PT
Great pics! Thanks for posting up, it was a lot of fun to read.

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