Steck Salathe vs Northeast Buttress


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Trad climber
Otto, NC
Jun 24, 2005 - 09:14am PT
Melissa, the wide fetish hasn't rubbed off on you yet? I'm kinda surprised to hear that you haven't been up the SS.

Roger's "set-the-alarm-hike-to-the-base-climb-until-it's-dark-bivvy-climb-to-the-top-hike-down-and-find-something-to-eat" is how it went down for us.

This route took top honors as Hardest Thing I've Ever Climbed...
until last fall:

The Road Warrior, we agreed, was The Burliest Thing Either Of Us Had Ever Done. Which includes non-climbing ventures.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 24, 2005 - 12:35pm PT
For SS practice, consider the L side of Absolutely Free, Chingando, Rixon's East Chimney, and as Karl B said, Ahab and Reeds Direct last pitch. These are all harder than anything on the SS but get you dialed into thrash fests.


Ice climber
Jun 24, 2005 - 01:56pm PT
Okay, I think I might have actually met Karl at the base of Ahab when he was suprised to see so many of us working on it. Yes, there was a crowd on Ahab (this was back in April some time, I think). As for the TRing of Ahab (which I did after a friend led it), just remember, while you do not have the falling/pro issues associated with leading it, you get the joys of climbing it about the equivalent of 20 times in one go since we had to use 2 ropes to TR. The scenario for me went something like this - work myself up a good 6 inches of squirming, pushing, armbarring, knee barring while flipping faceup to facedown to see what works best. Sag in a worked heap and have 12 inches of rope stretch negate every bit of upward progress I made plus my previous efforts. Sigh, go at it again. And again. And again. With the occasional fun of inhaling as deeply as possible so I could squeeze as far back into the crack as possible to clean out the #6 Friend that had walked really far into the back so that it could adorn my harness and slam into my leg every move. Continue until you can take it no more. If it was Karl, at least he was complimentary in that he said I did not swear, whine, groan, projectile vomit or blame my belayer(s) (yup, I was rather slow and had a belayer swap midway). So anyway, you can double or even triple your fun if you TR Ahab.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 24, 2005 - 04:20pm PT
I read the recent Andy Selters piece (at least I think it is recent) in the Mountain Gazette, 114, about Selters and Allen Steck climbing the SS.

Selters recounts their climb with a nice touch. The main story can be summed up in an early paragraph.

“Now we’re stuck for the night, 600 feet from the top, and I’m thinking that climbing the chimneys on this route are like bench pressing a Land Cruiser. Five-nine my ass. People warned me. Doug Robinson said: “I wouldn’t go up there again unless I was in really good shape.” Then Peter Croft: “It’s not as technical as Astroman but is probably just as strenuous. At least.”

Makes Karl’s plywood training sound sensible. Once you have that mastered, park your Land Cruiser on top and then wiggle out. Do laps.

So now I am really curious. For those of you who have the technical skill to climb Astroman and have done SS, is Croft's assessment right?

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 24, 2005 - 04:50pm PT
That was me at the base of Ahab. You guys are sick! That's the most gluttons for punishment I've ever seen gangbanging that route. Nice to meet you.

Yup, the more likely you are to flail on Ahab, the better it would be to belay from the top, which, in my non-sportclimbng world, is still top-roping.



Gym climber
estes park
Jun 24, 2005 - 05:32pm PT
The SS was my best day of climbing ever...ever...ever!!!

It always strikes as odd that I can zero in on ONE day that is my best...I'm thirteen years deep (nothing compared to some of you posters, you guys rule!)

But str8 up, this was it. I was soooooooooo hungover from the night before and pukin on that approach. We reached the first pitch. I was with my best friend and partner...this is 2001. He hands me our rack and says when the rope comes tight I'll start climbing. Ten minutes later I'm wanting to puke again and only about 20 feet up thinking "I;m such a stupid drunk poser!!!!" I think I place like 8 pieces of gear on that first pitch. Somehow the rock gods smiled on me and my good drunken style...the next time I saw Ryan was at that ledge before the rapppel (cool DH memorial laminate on rap anchor). That block nuked me...I remember on 60 foot fist section in the middle where I had no gear and thought "this is how Timmy and Dean do it CHARGE!!!!!!" Gripped senseless I sent.

At the ledge we cleared up our vision with some glaucoma medication and he sent to the summit in one "pitch" as well.

We topped out and descended without incident. I remembe some good beta after the initial descent is to look for the lowest point on the cliff band to hike down. We sprinted down the trail...I come across an Earth muffin and full on yard sale in her presence...dirty I grimy I don't miss a beat smile and continue down the trail...fifty feet back Ryan is falling over laughing at my "smoothness"

Str8 to the deli...some cobras(cheaper than the Ole E) and then the South Face of Washinton Column made for my GREATEST day ever. Great in the sense that I was so in the zone...I have had many other more productive days, but somehow this one ALWAYS warms me up when I think about the great day with my man RYan.

Ryan has a picture of me fetal and destroyed in the dirt on top of the fav.

I only share this because it is such a great memory for me, and so many of you have shared your experiences with us.

The route is stellar with lots of physical climbing. IF you are a 5.9 leader I can see a bivi REALLY possible. A terrific route.


Trad climber
Jun 24, 2005 - 06:25pm PT
Chockstone Chimney is good SS training. It's pretty strenuous. Leave early though because of the decent.

How about Entrance Exam? Is that good SS training?

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2005 - 07:08pm PT
We noticed Chockstone Chimney in the Reid book, but haven't gotten around to going up and having a look. This is the first time I've ever heard anyone mention it. Can you describe it a bit? Is it worthwhile?

Mountain climber
Central Texas
Jun 24, 2005 - 07:37pm PT
If you get on Moby Dick Ahab be wear long pants or at least cover your knees. I lead this as a warm up for the Salathe offwiths in shorts and had gobies above the knees, became scabs that lasted for my whole stay in the valley. No didn't get Salathe, but thats another story.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Jun 25, 2005 - 12:40pm PT
Northeast Buttress: A fun day hike
Steck Salathe: A beat and a half

Trad climber
New to Las Vegas
Jun 25, 2005 - 01:37pm PT
" . . .cleared up our vision with some glaucoma medication and he sent to the summit . . ."


Trad climber
Jun 25, 2005 - 10:38pm PT
Steck Salathe wasn't that bad. My buddy and I were pretty new to the wide climbing stuff last summer. We did Moby dick, then NEB, and went for it on SS. With that little wide climbing ability we pulled it in 11 hours.......The point being....The gear is bomber all around, except for the pitch below the narrows I would feel fine whipping off just about all over that route when it comes down to it. The route isn't half as bad or scary as people make it out to be. If you felt alright on NEB, you could do it probably. And the places like the chimneys that you wouldn't want fall in feel more secure than you'd like. I remember the first pitch was a offwidth 5.8 crack for a bit BTW.

The descent is no where near as bad as the bogus endless raps off of the WFLT or the Death Slabs or even the Snake Dike approach. I hate the spires gully more personally too, just because i always biff it on that talus!
Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Jun 26, 2005 - 12:27pm PT
I've done the SS 5 times, but not recently. It's one of my favorite climbs in the Valley. I'd say definitely as strenuous as Astroman, but nowhere near as hard.

What's this about a Derek Hersey memorial on the rap chains?


Jun 26, 2005 - 12:38pm PT
there's a laminated photo of derek (the one where he's laughing) tied to one of the rap bolts. it says "we miss you derek" on the back i believe.

that route gave me a good rogering. do the descent in the dark without a headlamp for full value.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 26, 2005 - 04:27pm PT
Taking recommendations in this thread to heart, I found a victim/patner for Moby DIck + Ahab this weekend. Only it turns out I was the victim (thanks Mei!)

We started on Royal Arches for exercise/endurance (maybe simulate SS approach?), and in an unplanned way turned into both of our first solos (rappeling took as long as the climing it seemed). Then we went to C4 Wall and did Doggie Deviations, Doggie Diversions, & Doggie Do. I think Doggie Do should be added as intro to the squeeze practice circuit (5.10a, but short and crux is only 10 feet but sweaty and awful). Doggie Diversions starts 20-25 feet no gear except at top chimney (awkward but fairly easy), and second pitch is awkward as hell sustained off-hands, off-fist with body contorted way sideways and head smashed into rock to get position for both hands in crack.

Then on to Moby Dick + Ahab. Moby Dick pitch 1 starts in THIN 10a fingertips, to nice finger crack, gradually widening through wide hand jams, fist jams, to easy and comfortable hand stacking. I enjoyed following this pitch, and by this point didn't have the energy or the passion to go for 1st pitch of Ahab. But my partner is a dynamo and I became her belay victim while she kicked Ahab's ass on toprope by sunset. That is one badass pitch. Not just cruxy thrashing and transitions, but LONG!

KEY BETA: Bring 2 ropes for Moby Dick + Ahab. We had 1 60m rope, TR'd Ahab from top of belay station, and descent was dicey (partner lowered me, then was a few inches from end of rap ropes onto delicate thin ledge between Moby Dick & Ahab, pulled one rope end for tension traverse as slack played out and then short rap from tree area on Ahab.

Trad climber
Jun 27, 2005 - 11:11pm PT
Sorry it took so long to reply. Chockstone Chimney is a great climb. I wrote a TR recently here which you could read. It really cool that in Yosemite there can be such a classic climb that not to many people have done. A climb that very ordinary climbers like me can do. 5.8 hand jambing, stemming, chimneys its got it all. Mainly it just takes place in this great feature- pitch after pitch. The 5.9 squeeze is short and, with creativity, protectable. I think it's harder than EB of M, EB of El Cap or Arrowhead Arete. Start earlier than you think needed for 8 pitches. We may or may not have found the easiest decent but plenty of people reppelled the same route before us. The only decent info we could find was in the 1972 Roper guide. It wasn't much help so ask around to see if you can find better info.
It's way easier than the SS.

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2005 - 11:34am PT
Nice report, Zander.

Did you have some info about the decent that makes you think you were not on the regular one? Maybe those are just very old bolts that should (but haven't yet) been replaced.

Anyway, your description of the climb sounds better than I was expecting. I'm putting it on the list.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 28, 2005 - 03:41pm PT
Hey Fingerlocks,

Enough of this all-over-the-map-speculation. When are you going to go for it? I am sure that you will live to tell about it. If Steck can bivvy at 74 below the narrows and keep his chin up....Anyway easy for me to say.

We want bold action and a trip report, come what may.

Best, Roger

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2005 - 04:54pm PT
Roger, Chockstone Chimney isn't on my list of "training climbs". It's just going to be on my list of worthwhile multipitches. There are so many cool obscure climbs hidden in among the deservedly obscure climbs that I'm always asking around for ideas instead of just trudging up loose slopes hoping there is something I want to climb at the top. Can't climb on the internet, but you can always ask a bunch of questions and maybe even get a climbing thread going.

We figure that we will climb North Buttress of Middle next. I've heard good things about it. This, instead of East Buttress of Lower which sounds like it has a lot of loose junk from a rock fall (true?). Saddly, that one might be off my list.

So SS next week? Sounds good to me. And I'll let you know how it went. BTW, this has been a good thread, thanks all for the stories.
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