Mother Earth - stories and photos from the first ascent


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Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 8, 2013 - 11:31am PT
Spectacular looking route, Mikey. We pushed it about as far as we could given we were going ground-up, on-sight. I remember being stoked that when we finally did Mother Earth on the 2nd go, I climbed the whole thing, bottom to top, no falls.

Now I wish we had gone up there at least one time with a modern approach and tried to boulder out a dandy. Great you guys did. Middle is a fantastic playground but the routes take a lot of time to establish for many reasons. I can only imagine how much work Mikey and the others put in to get this line on the wall.


Gross Vegas
Dec 25, 2013 - 11:12am PT

Oct 21, 2015 - 03:28pm PT
I actually went and checked out Mother Earth last week. Went up there with Josh Wharton. We managed to climb up to the big ledge and do the first A3 pitch before bailing.

A few notes. We found the climbing to be great and challenging. It definitely felt really sandbagged. Not sure if this was because I haven't been climbing or what but the 5.10 is the real deal up there. Went and climbed a "modern" route on Fifi buttress a day later and found the the difference in grades to be about a whole number. In fact I'm pretty sure I had to try harder on the 11c move on pitch 7 then I did on a 12+ on Fifi... That pitch 7 is a real voyage. Not exactly sure where the leap move is though. It felt pretty exciting to follow. Maybe a fix pin is now gone? I left a stopper before the downclimb to protect a possible big swing.

Pitch 9 is extremely dirty these days and totally over grown. Actually it was so shitty that I'll probably never go up there again.

The big half way ledge is amazing and has to be one of the best bivis in Yosemite. Easy to untie and scramble around.

The first A3 pitch off the ledge was a lot more challenging than I expected. I think it has something to do with the fact that the bolts are 40 years old now. I replaced a couple of them with 1/4"s and one 3/8th down low. Still felt like legit A3. Not old school trade route El Cap A3... In fact I didn't see a single pin scar. I added a bolt to the belay on the top of this pitch or where I think the belay should be. No sign of any fixed gear and anything that would make a great belay. No idea if I was suppose to keep going or what. We tr'd this pitch at mid 5.13. probably a V5 at two-thirds height.

The next A4 pitch also looked pretty legit. I also think this pitch would go free but would probably need a handful of bolts to do so. Was thinking this would be a good hybrid free ascent where the leader would aid climb it and the follower could free it. Best of both worlds maybe...

Having climbed a fair bit around yosemite in the last 20 years I gotta say this is maybe one of the proudest routes ever done. Truly a test of all the skills required to be a true yosemite climber. Bravo to everyone on the FA that managed to get the rope up. I'm thoroughly impressed and need to go back and finish this one.

Credit: mikeyschaefer

Oct 21, 2015 - 06:14pm PT
bump-- cool stories all around!

i remember leafing through the reid book and wondering if anyone had tried to free mother earth... now we know.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Oct 21, 2015 - 08:35pm PT

A rare voyage up Mother Earth? Some beautiful, varied and unique climbing as I remember.

I led that long pitch to the ledge, and it was so vegetated and dirty that I didn't hardly bother to try to place protection. We were in a hurry to get to the bivi ledge, and I remember just going and going, and dirty and fuked up as it is, I look back at it as a challenging lead and fun in a twisted way.

You could undoubtedly climb out right after the traverse and climb the outside face of that last pillar rather than the corner to make the route more enjoyable.

It's cool the way the lower pitches steepen pitch by pitch to climax at the crux, and then the whole wall lays back. Pitch 6 I think, below the crux is an amazing weakness as I remember and awesome stone! Tricky and sustained too. One of the best pitches I've done on MCR.

Stoked to hear you found it to be good!

It would be awesome to free it, what a line!


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Oct 22, 2015 - 12:11pm PT
I've always wondered about the history of that part of Middle Cathedral Rock, partly because MCR is my favorite climbing formation in the Valley, but partly because in July of 1974, while on the regular North Buttress Route, we saw a party that appeared to be attempting a line in the vicinity of Mother Earth, but retreated. Does anyone know anything about any attempts prior to the successful ascent?

I also second Mouse's advice upthread. Do The Flakes first to get a taste of what you're getting into.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 22, 2015 - 04:51pm PT
Yes, the first page of this thread describes how there were multiple attempts on the lower part of Middle Earth, starting in 1971 (or perhaps after 1973):
Jun 15, 2006, 10:20am PT
Author: Roger Breedlove
Trad climber From: Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Here were my two cents in about 1974:

"There is another route, as yet unfinished, to the right of the North Face Slab. George Meyers began it in 1971, by climbing a pillar at the base of the wall. He has returned at least eight times, gone through as many partners, and is seven pitches up. Though slow, this sort of climbing project, which, as Steve Roper comments, 'sound like a job!", lacks none of the sprit and adventure of most first ascents. Climbing a 10ft. 'blank' section free can be as absorbing, time-consuming and serious as an entire pitch.

George often feels oppressed by his 'Big One', as it has come to be known, and would like to get it finished. He is not trying to do impossible feats on the route: he is doing what climbers know to be possible, but he trying it on a big, almost blank wall. His route in some ways epitomizes the newer routes on Middle, and perhaps points the direction for other new routes. Those who are repulsed by the elements of drudgery in his ascent should rest assured that some day the route will be a pleasant romp for some young climber."

I do not remember if the ‘began it in 1971’ is accurate. Might be. However, when we started climbing on the North Face Apron in 1973, nothing else was over there.
adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
Oct 22, 2015 - 05:47pm PT

You know we're all stoked to see more photos from such a rare Tr. A few more would be much appreciated from the peanut gallery.....

Oct 23, 2015 - 01:42pm PT
Unfortunately there aren't any more photos from our trip. I was a bit too busy just trying to get up the route.

from out where the anecdotes roam
Jul 16, 2016 - 06:51am PT

culver city, ca
Jul 16, 2016 - 10:03am PT
Thanks for the bump, bump! What a gem this thread is, this is why I love supertopo and keep coming back for more...ME looks like such an amazing oddysey. thanks for the posts, past and present.
Ryan K

Gym climber
the pit
Jun 2, 2017 - 03:16pm PT
bumpity bump bump bump

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Jun 2, 2017 - 11:14pm PT

Thanks for the bump.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Jun 3, 2017 - 07:46am PT
John, Mikey-

For whatever reason you or your buds might be up there on ME, I think it would improve the route substantially to reroute the dirty 9th pitch out onto the arete of the corner for a long harder, clean pitch more in character with the rest of the route.

When we were up there on the FA we were just gunning for the bivi ledge and took the obvious, easiest line. It is a filthy pitch, but it was my lead, and I remember getting a wierd pleasure out of negotiating thru the choss, dirt and vegetation.

My guess is the arete, or the face just to its right would be easy 5.11, maybe only 5.10, good stone, airy, and right in line with the upper route - just needs some bolts.

Mountain climber
Anywhere I like
Jun 4, 2017 - 01:14pm PT
Oh man, great thread. Gets me all nostalgic for the days i lived in the ditch, limited though they were.
The rainbows description from Warbler? are fantastic. Reminds me of seeing water droplets falling off the Zodiac past us then come floating back up on the updrafts and pausing momentarily before continuing on there descent. Or noticing a frog 700 feet off the deck.

Mikey, not sure if you remember me but you and Jimmy filmed me and my friend Steven skating off the alcove swing. Seeing that footage on Valley Uprising was one of my prouder moments. Name is Pierce, btw
The Warbler

the edge of America
Jun 4, 2017 - 02:26pm PT

I enjoyed it


I said it

I want more please

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