East Buttress of El Capitan TR


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 28, 2007 - 01:10am PT
Trip Report: El Capitan, East Buttress 5.10b
Gary Carpenter & Ed Hartouni
June 10, 2007

I suggested this climb as a test to see just how in shape we were... and I didn't quite measure up. The last time I did this climb was 9 years ago with John Gotti, in October and very quickly. I didn't remember anything really too difficult from that time. My memory is getting worse, and I'm just not as physically strong as I was... and this climb is burly.

We get an early start up to the base, just before sunrise. Wonderful views of the Cathedrals as the sun slants across.

We are using the topo on Russ' web site (http://www.fishproducts.com/topos/yostopos/eastbutt.html); which is done in 9 pitches with a 70 m rope... we start on the ground and do the "4th class" scramble and the first chimney pitch roped and all in one... here is Gary chimneying low.

The day promises to be excellent, with high cloud cover keeping things cool, along with the nice breeze. And the views keep on coming:

The first pitch is 5.9, and gets into the bidness up high, just as you pull onto the belay pedestal. Gary just jams the left crack, I stem and use both cracks, the thin crack on the right has a bunch of pin scars which serve well as hand holds.

Next the technical crux of the route, about three thin moves on a steep face with delicate edges to reach a feature... and then you're home free! Here I am standing on the feature getting pro in and thinking that the next couple of moves seem a lot harder than what I remember...

photo by Gary Carpenter

I go up the "gutter" then past the ant tree to the next higher belay place. I had to rig an "ant wiper" on the rope as the little suckers latched onto the rope for a free ride up. They were all over the place on these pitches.

Next pitch was Gary's, and it is the most photogenic of the climb. Here he is out on the buttress on easy but spectacular climbing.

We push this pitch as high as we can... my pitch is next, this is our 4th. The protection opportunities are sparse, and basically define the pitch which I took wandering all over the place up to the prominent crack below the block on the skyline.

photo by Gary Carpenter

I didn't quite like what I did on this pitch, but it worked... Gary got the pitch to the block. The 6th pitch is the real crux, and it was mine... ugh! A physical diagonaling crack leads to a corner. Both parts are really physical and try as I might, I didn't have the gas to pull off the first part of the pitch. I got in the pro, but came up short with cramping hands and fingers... four tries, with the last one resulting in a pretty good ride. At this point we know that Gary's Red Alien is OK, my having provided the mass for a pull test.

Gary takes over (great to have accomplished partners!) and takes a picture of me starting up the pitch again.

photo by Gary Carpenter

I have to say that I was in "French Free" mode at this point... two parties below making their way up, and I realizing that I've been traveling too much and not climbing enough. Even gym climbing would have been something.

We're not done yet! I get the next simple pitch... then Gary the wonderful 5.7 pitch on steep ground. This is a pitch with problematic protection, except that just when you were wishing you could get something in, a fixed piton shows up.

I have the final, pitch 9 which has a steep bulge to climb over. Not difficult, but I am beat at this point! Anyway, we top out.

Getting down is straight forward, and using the fixed lines makes it go very fast. We are back at the car in about 13 hours... not great, but considering that I backed off a pitch, not too bad either.

Gary jokes that we should just do this every week until it is easy, for training... I think it would be a great idea! Melissa sez we should totally do it, be the "Huber Bros" for the E. Butt.!

That would be fun.

A great, old school climb with the ghost of Frank Sacherer kicking your ass the whole way up...
Jude Bischoff

Ice climber
Palm Springs
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:19am PT
That is a fine TR Ed, I really enjoyed it after a long night working. Very candid and great photo's. Especially liked the shot gary took of you through the pine tree. Amazing how you have to stay on top of this sport, the party never ends and the fun never stops!
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:24am PT

Tell me the topo was good to go??? My memory is pretty bad sometimes..... Any changes? Send them on over and I'll update the topo. Wait till all the new topos show up where me and the Sooze start cracking off the classics with my 84 meter dream cord.

Just keep thinking that all these routes you are doing are just warmups for Basket Case....
john hansen

Jun 28, 2007 - 01:28am PT
That one photo you call your best, is a winner..

Thats the best one I've seen on ST in along time.

Ice climber
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:31am PT
Inspiring !
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:32am PT
Thanks, Ed! Did you need to use a bug on the approach?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2007 - 01:35am PT
Russ -
I think a 70m rope is best for your topo, no simul then... not that there's anything wrong with that.

And your 4th pitch is difficult to match, but being there I can't complain as the general idea is to wander around looking for the best pro you can while keeping the climbing 5.7. I belayed just left of the start of the 5.8 crack you show on pitch 5.

Other then that, I thought the topo was pretty good, and the long pitches definitely the way to go. Thanks for putting the topo out there.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:39am PT
cool.... yeah that 4th pitch is a mess... I went pretty far to the right and thought it was hard, slick and dangerous, as there was no pro.... and a ledge fall. Way off to the left was a big dirty gully as I recall.... so maybe a wandering middle would do it, as you say, and look for pro. Got another topo or two kicking around for Fairview Regular, Lucky Streaks, and East Butt of Middle if you guys are feeling froggy.
nick d

Trad climber
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:41am PT
Ed that is a killer TR! I really enjoyed seeing the route, it is not one I have ever done but looks great! I too am suffering the advancing age/deteriorating physical condition thing, so I can really relate. For a laugh, take a look at the TR I recently posted. I'm sure the after photo I took of myself will make you feel better about the shape you are in. Thanks so much for posting up, it was a very enjoyable read!


Gym climber
the ground up
Jun 28, 2007 - 10:13am PT
Beautiful pictures. Only time I tried it was a little earlier in the season a couple years ago, and "fortunately" there was enough water that we got turned back at the top of the third pitch. Following the (slippery for me) stemming chimney to the first belay, and getting the gear out after the thin moves at the start of the second pitch were enough to fluster me.

I was offered the second pitch, but didn't like the idea of falling on either the belay, a thin nut above it, or an Alien in a flaring pocket off to the right (if I remember). Ahh, the good old days when some Aliens were less vilified OT. (and I had more time/motivation to climb!) Still, following in the shade, my feet stuck with that modern sticky black stuff. Must have been something else without new technology. Looks like the view only gets better on the upper pitches...

Oh yeah, afterward we went over to the cookie and I had a go at Outer Limits. I think my partner was more interested in sitting at my truck and eating. Could have been because he was holding? Anyway, I hung on the rope more than a couple of times, and was quite a lot more tired than I had hoped I would be. I didn't care about impressing the aggro homophobic partner whom I had just met and didn't care to climb with again. However, he did mention that it was Mary and Werner climbing next to us. Werner had a go and did it in better style you may be pleased to know. Thanks for the report. Again, beautiful pics. It reminds me of how nice it is to be in Yosemite.
Lost Arrow

Trad climber
The North Ridge of the San Fernando
Jun 28, 2007 - 10:27am PT
Is the pro on the route at anytime more than 10ft apart? What is the longest runout at what rating?

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2007 - 11:16am PT
Jeff - I think that the pro is ok, but the route is oddly runout for all the features.

There is a lot of iron pounded in up there, don't know how good it is, but it provides the necessary psychological aid to get you through on the steep, slick sections of rock which are otherwise problematic.

The 5.10b crux requires that you move through and stand up, about 10' with no pro on a penji fall back onto the belayer. The bolt hole of yore is there, no bolt.

Our 3rd pitch (the spectacular one) can be run out.

Our 4th pitch requires careful looking for pro placements on slick rock, but it's there if you look.

The 6th pitch, the physical crux, has good pro placement but off of strenuous stances at the begining.

After that the traverse on the 8th pitch requires some thought as you down climb 15' to 20' to get on the line after the second pillar. So you probably wouldn't put pro in for a bit of distance.

Even on the 9th pitch there is a bit of tricky climbing next to a too-wide-crack protected by an ancient pin on a bulge...

The pro is not an issue on this climb, in my opinion, but you have to be good at spotting your opportunities and taking them.
Tahoe climber

Trad climber
a dark-green forester out west
Jun 28, 2007 - 11:26am PT
"but you have to be good at spotting your opportunities and taking them. "

Something everyone could use more practice at! Well said.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Jun 28, 2007 - 11:51am PT
Cool TR, Ed. Looks like a fantastic route. Nice job gettin' 'er done. You and Gary rock!

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Jun 28, 2007 - 11:58am PT
Nice TR Ed!

An Oil Field
Jun 28, 2007 - 12:32pm PT
I always thought that this was just a super good route. I don't remember anything hard but that .10b move and I was definitely a mere human. I took a jumper up it who barely knew how to belay. Everyone should go do it. Fun climbing, great view, what more do ya want?

That bucket pitch is worth the admission alone.

I still think that the S-S is far harder, but also a super fun route.

Cool pictures. I lost that part of my brain in a hard-drive crash some time ago. I just remember how fun it was.

right here, right now
Jun 28, 2007 - 12:38pm PT
Great route!
Always wanted to add the Moratorium as a start; alas, I too am creaking like an old ship and I think she's gonnah need max levels of Midol, DMSO, DHEA, TLC (IPA & THC in the old days) and other nutri-ceutical gags to get that one done. hahahahahaha.

Rock on...

Trad climber
State of Mind
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:13pm PT
yo ed-
the 1st time i did that climb, maybe 5 or 6 years ago, i also fell onto a red alien placed in that diagonal 5.9 crack. then, hanging on the rope, i took another look up at the rock- that crack is diverging from a more vertical crack just to its right. if you double crack your way up between them w/ your left foot in that diagonal crack, then stem, then come down into/across it, you easily reach the juggy part and it feels like only 5.9 climbing (otherwise you are underneath, stemming between very slippery slabby bulges, and the crack rounds out, i betchya we fell in the same spot, no?).

i have a great memory of the next pitch on that climb, leading up off of that comfortable ledge. i looked down to talk to my partner and he had a bright yellow shirt actually it was my shirt) tucked in the back of his harness, which was flapping in the wind. it came loose and instead of blowing away it just sat there and hovered effortlessly in the updraft, right behind him. i told him he might want to grab it and he casually turned around and slowly reached out for it, and we both had a good laugh. (no photos of that tho' =)

nice shot of the arete pitch!

btw- my theory of why you were feeling sub par:
you were obviously up way way too early...

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jun 28, 2007 - 01:32pm PT
Cool report. I remember a facey type pitch that has very little gear? Maybe I was off route or wasn't looking hard enough. I climbed it with a friend who packed a full-blown pic-nic lunch for us to eat on the route- PB&J sandwiches and all! Moritoriam is rad.
Gunks Guy

Trad climber
Rhinebeck, NY
Jun 28, 2007 - 02:06pm PT
Excellent TR. Probably the top long free route on my list of "yet to be done" climbs. I am now officially inspired. Now I just need to get my sorry ass in shape again.

Sport climber
Jun 28, 2007 - 02:27pm PT
Great TR Ed, and stunning photos!

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jun 28, 2007 - 02:36pm PT
I have no idea which pitch you guys are talking about. Is it the pitch right before the offwidth pitch?

Trad climber
State of Mind
Jun 28, 2007 - 03:55pm PT
i believe the don reid guide shows it as the 5.9 pitch before the OW pitch, russ shos them together as p6.

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Jun 28, 2007 - 03:58pm PT
Nice! Great pics! Thanks for posting, Ed!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 28, 2007 - 04:03pm PT
Nice, Ed. Here are a couple of photos of an earlier trip up that route - look familiar?

(optional) bolt belay above the 5.5 arete

5.9 diagonal crack
(I find that pitch interesting as well)
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Jun 28, 2007 - 04:11pm PT
Really nice Ed.

radical: I think it was Bachar, not Long, and it was on Moratorium, not EB, that he strayed into Zone 3 during an onsight solo. That was when Moratorium was rated ".10d," if I recall correctly.

Trad climber
State of Mind
Jun 28, 2007 - 04:18pm PT

is that a stanford guy and a cal woman?
do your families know?

i think ya'll are in for it now...

Social climber
The West
Jun 28, 2007 - 04:24pm PT
Great report Ed! -though you guys are devious, leaving your friends out of the good stuff ... harumph

Tar, I climbed it once with the moratorium start (more-butt) with the late great Lynn (Wheels) Wheeler, [I miss that guy more, all the time] It was november and we didn't get to the base any too early, 9:30 am (we had each (I think) done mort before. We got to the spiderweb descent landmark, just as the sun dipped below the western hills. Made it to the car just at total blackness.

It would be cool to have more, almost, epics with wheels.

East of Seattle
Jun 28, 2007 - 04:47pm PT
Nice job Ed! Looks like the perfect day.

Very inspiring.


Trad climber
SF, aka: Dirkastan
Jun 28, 2007 - 07:34pm PT
What a wonderful TR. I love how you crank em' out!

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Jun 28, 2007 - 08:21pm PT
Equal parts incompetent and determined, a friend and I spent two days climbing the East Buttress as our first grade IV. It was April, and the bottom half of the route streamed with water every time the wind shifted El Cap Falls onto our heads. Under a clear blue sky we stayed soaking wet and cold most of the day. We aided everything harder than 5.7, the upper limit of our abilities at the time. Couldn't fake the runouts, I recall one of those was exciting.

That was a long time ago, and I haven't returned since, but Ed's pics brought back memories.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2007 - 10:15pm PT
Sorry Jaybro, you seemed to have been really busy lately... and the plan hatched quickly while I was away on travel...

Matt, getting up early was key, we had the route to ourselves all the way up to the 8th pitch when the "team young guys" caught up to us... then we didn't see them again. Maybe it was too early, but climbing is about the only reason I'll get up early (well, climbing and taking a shift on an experiment run).

Clint, that's the place! my camera was malfunctioning at that point so I didn't get any pix of Gary's proud lead.

Russ, hows about that EButt of Middle topo, that would be fun!

thanks all for your comments. You should go out and do it sometime, a great route and not as bad as I've stated, but it is long.
J. Werlin

Jun 28, 2007 - 10:54pm PT

many thanks for posting up the excellent TR. Way to get it done.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 28, 2007 - 11:14pm PT
Man, I don't have to bother going climbing anymore, I can just read these TRs. This and the one on the Arrowhead Arete are my favorites. I don't know, exactly, what makes these so memorable, but kindly keep them coming.


Trad climber
Jun 29, 2007 - 12:21am PT
Hi Ed,
Thanks for the trip report. I would love to do this route again!

See ya,

Social climber
The other "Magic City on the Plains"
May 11, 2010 - 09:46pm PT

Trad climber
Berkeley, CA
May 13, 2010 - 02:34pm PT
Good stuff!

Social climber
May 13, 2010 - 03:53pm PT
thanks for the bump!!!!

kick butt TR, ED

Social climber
Berkeley, CA
May 14, 2010 - 01:15am PT
Nice, looks fun!

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