Steck Salathe vs Northeast Buttress


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Jun 21, 2005 - 09:54pm PT
" ...Lie under a sheet of plywood. have 4 guys sit on the plywood, then try to wiggle your way out."

Ha ha ha ha, ... that's great Karl!

Weird, I've done the Steck Salathe 3 times and I can't remember how the narrows were. Maybe cause I'm so skinny?

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 10:38pm PT
I weigh 210 and I never actually went into the Narrows--same for the Harding Slot. Always climbed on the outside. Barely . . .

Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 21, 2005 - 10:42pm PT
Karl, your plywood line is one of the greatest yet. How to practice for the SS in Ohio. Yep, we have plywood, we have big guys who, if you gave them beer, would stand on your board and watch you squirm. Got any suggestions for thin cracks or run out faces?

I have few distinct memories of SS.

"Hey Dave, have you ever done the SS?" "Me either, want to do it tomorrow?"

But I remember a pitch low on the on the main buttress where I decided to climb inside a crack from the bottom. It was slightly wider inside that at the lip and--at least in memory--once I was in I could not get out until the top. Tight. Dave decided to climb on the outside.

Is this real? Does, or did, that pitch really exist?

I also don't know if I remember the narrows or not. I have a memory of being in a back/knee or back/foot chimney, with my upper body in a squeeze chimney--back on the east wall, facing west. I turned sideways right at the lip and locking upper and lower arm bars, moved both legs into knee/heels above the lip and shuffled upwards in a horizontal position until I could dropped down into a vertical position. Is this real? Or...?


Jun 21, 2005 - 10:47pm PT
Ha ha ha ha, Yea John

Once I took Herman, the big Mexican feller up Astroman. I told him to go on the outside of the Harding slot. He would not listen to me and got stuck so bad that I had to climb down to him and calm him down, (he was hyperventilating), due to panic. After calming him down and smoothing his breath with much pulling and other weird maneuvers he managed through.

He bruised his chest and ribs very badly ……

Edit: What most people who never have seen Largo climb have never witnessed the pure speed and precision power that a big man as Largo exhibited. It was truly awesome!

It also gave one the urgency that you never, ever, want to fu-ck with this man.

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 21, 2005 - 11:23pm PT
I can't take full credit for the plywood idea. I think some variation of it was suggested by Brutus or Dingus or somebody. Somebody email Brutus and get him in on this thread. He's Mr. SS.

I'm sure he has no problems with the Narrows though. He's like a leprechaun on steriods!



Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Jun 22, 2005 - 12:42am PT
OK. Here's my SS story. We were climbing reasonably fast,
1/2 hour per pitch and were at the Narrows by very early
afternoon. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm rolled in just
as we got there. The Narrows was a total, gushing waterfall
as I tried to climb the pitch. I would wedge myself halfway
into the slot and then just get spit out by the rushing water!
After about three or four tries I finally stuck and up I went.

We hauled a gallon of water up the climb; we poured 3/4 of it
out on top!

Ben Wah

Social climber
Jun 22, 2005 - 01:49am PT
The chimney you remember does indeed exist. I remember getting slightly stuck until I slid down and slung the rack beneath me on a sling. There are rumors of a variation to the right, but I always opt for the security of a chimney, so I never investigated.
As to the descent, I did it last year, and though there is much loose scree, there is no technical downclimbing or rappelling necessary (like on, say, the Cathedral chimney or the Gunsight), which in my book makes it mighty nice. One must just place his feet with care.
The worst part of the Sentinel for me is trudging for a whole mile up the lousy, switchback-y Four Mile Trail. Bleagh.
Ben Wah

Trad climber
San Diego
Jun 22, 2005 - 02:36am PT
SS: 12 hrs
NEB: 7 hrs
+ approach + descent

Phoenix, AZ
Jun 22, 2005 - 10:00am PT
JL wrote:
"I weigh 210 and I never actually went into the Narrows--
same for the Harding Slot. Always climbed on the outside.
Barely . . ."

Same here... I was pushing about 205 when I climbed the SS. No way I was going up into the Narrows. Brutus led it in about five minutes and then swung the rope back in outside the chockstone with gear on the end. I went to the outside. Interesting climbing, sideways "L" chimneying to a sort of pirouette move to turn around and see Salathe's bolts tinkling in the breeze.

Damn that thing is burly...but classic.

Dingus Milktoast

Jun 22, 2005 - 10:32am PT
Werner, I can totally relate to that big Mexican feller's feelings.

I did a lot of caving back in the day in Tennessee, including many wild caves where we were squeezed in as tight as a mole, way underground. Oddly enough, I never once suffered any kind of claustrophobic feeling doing that, not once.

But stuck in the Narrows, unable to move up and afraid that if I slipped down even an inch I would be stuck permanently, I felt true claustrophobia for the first time. I didn't panic but I did have a lot of trouble breathing... I couldn't expand my chest enough to get enough air to catch my breath.

Finally, FINALLY, wiggled my way up.

I think claustrophobia is two parts... the tight space accompanied with a sense of no control over the situation. In the caves I still felt in control, in the Narrows I was close to losing it.

Staying on an airplane too long makes me antsy... after 3-4 hours I start to really get agitated. Funny to think an airplane can remined me of SS.

A jedi mind trick for creowded flights... you're stuck in a middle seat, wedged inbetween Bertha Butts and Jack Bodysweat, and the as#@&%e in front of you reclines his seat till you're staring at the top of his balding head and counting the fleas as they scamper across the savannah of his scalp. You thought you dozed off while taxiing out to take off and figure you must be half way home. You look out the window to realize you're still on the f*#king ground and you're still facing 4 more hours of torture... and the goddamned pilots won't dare tell you why,why why you're stuck in traffic on the damned ground.

Its times like these... that I conjur up things like SS. I figure I should be able to take some extended seat-torture. I just imagine I cannot move at all, not one muscle. I just sit there, catatonic, stuck in the Narrows of my mind.

Damn I hate that shit!

Social climber
Oregon, but now in Europe
Jun 22, 2005 - 11:00am PT
Largo clocks in at 210? How tall are you?

I had no gives me hope (I am 6'1" and 195 lbs).

It is even more inspiring for my buddy and favorite climbing partner who is 205 and 5´9"...he was the rugby captain and so strong the boy could pull off your arms in a fight and then beat you with them. Luckily he is the nicest and smartest guy you can meet.

So....what would be the "road to the SS" routes...5 routes to get you prepared and to test your mettle.


Jun 22, 2005 - 11:42am PT
Road to SS...good thinking.

Moby Dick
Sacherer? Never done it.
Whodunnit/Swallow (Tahquitz)
Reed's Direct
Nose through the Stovelegs
Epinephrine (RRocks)
(Sorry, I've gone out of the area)

Maybe the SS should be on the road to the DNB...? I think the chimneys are not the hard climbing on SS, the flares are (and the continuous difficulty of the route).

The Narrows are avoided by climbing outside exactly as steelmonkey described; back facing east, foot/feet out west (left side in). I'm 5'10" with long legs and can just do the back/foot. Eventual bolts out left (possibly ancient). This variation is erroneously labeled an OW in ST Yos Free Climbs--the feature may be OW, but the climbing up it is chim/stem/face to eventual chim. Exposed and scary, but not hard.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 22, 2005 - 01:13pm PT
Hey, WBraun--

Hard to imagine dangling above the Harding Slot trying to coax some stuck-fast Mexican out of that Black Hole. That's some pretty good exposure there to be dinking around in that way. Sounds epic. Glad it was you, not me.


Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 23, 2005 - 02:56am PT
What are good cragging squeeze pitches to practice laps on for endurance in Yos? I know Reed's Direct, what else is nice squeeze rather than OW?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 23, 2005 - 03:27am PT
Climb pitch 1, Moby Dick center. Tope rope Ahab. Puke, then climb pitch 2, Moby Dick Center and top rope Moby Dick left.

Best practice session for SS that there is.

Don't worry, nothing quite as horrible as Ahab on SS



Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 23, 2005 - 03:42am PT
This has given me a purpose for this weekend. Now if I can only find a suitable victim... uh, partner....
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 23, 2005 - 02:00pm PT
I know of one preparation for the Narrows right in the Valley near the road, on Reeds. At least the mental preparation.

Last year, Karl reported that someone climbed up the back side of the second pitch to a point near the top. This was named Deer. (The thread still exists.)

On a hot summer day a long time ago, I was cooling my heels waiting for my party to lead the second pitch of Reeds Direct, the long, undulating hand crack that ends on the main ledge at the base of the pinnacle. I climbed under the slab and started chimney climbing behind Reeds. Rather than stay close to the crack, I angled up and to the left toward the last the pitch. You come out in the tunnel that connects the right and left sides of the pinnacle. It is long, dark, and at places tight. You also have to go sideways at different places and work around chock stones. A head light would be useful, but a helmet might be dangerous—if it got stuck—and would definitely limit your progress. If you got lost and lost your presence of mind, you had better hope that Werner is close by and willing to find you.

The only reason to trail a rope is so that someone can find your decaying body. (I think that rope drag might be a problem if one were on belay. On the other hand if you carried the rope up and paid it out as you climbed, someone could follow your line and find you to say last rites.)

I cannot say that I recommend this, but if you wiggle up inside Reeds, and meet your party on the main ledge, you will never be afraid of getting stuck in one of Harding's horror shows on in the Narrows.


Trad climber
Portland, OR
Jun 23, 2005 - 02:58pm PT
Stecke Salathe is my FAVORITE ROUTE EVER, ANYWHERE. I remember every pitch to be fun and fairly sustained. Even a "face" pitch about half way up had fun moves.

The crux is definetly the pitch before the narrows.

Contrary to what you'll hear in C4 there are no off-size cracks to my recollection. It is 5.9 but you better be ready.

A good rule of thumb is to try to allow for 1 hour of light on the descent after that it becomes a long talus descent.

I heard a larger valley local (The Beast from the East) had to take his harness off to climb the narrows pitch.

When you climb the Stecke-Salathe you can say you climb 5.9 in the valley.


NOT Fresno
Jun 23, 2005 - 08:00pm PT
Largo said something telling, that if you're solid up to 10b wide, you're mint. Solid up to 5.9 and you're earning it. Think about that for a long while. Once you've ruled out yourself and everyone you know as solid on 10 flares and chimneys, try to even think of a route like that to practice on. Good times.

KB's plywood gladiator training wins some kind of prize.

I'm not sure the SS is my favorite route, but it's my favorite to spray about.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Jun 23, 2005 - 08:08pm PT
...and you sprayed about it most masterfully, indeed! If I ever climb that route and if it is as rough as I've been led to believe, I hope that my story is at least half as good.

The training lists that I've seen seem to lead from the NEB to the SS...yet folks say the SS will take twice as long. So...if the NEB still feels like a huge but doable endeavor, what next? Try to work on my C2C time on the NEB? Any longer routes good as an intermediate point of suffering between the two?

In any case, as this years soltice time comes and goes, I know I'm waiting at least another year, if not a lifetime, to go thrash around up there.
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