The route's appeal comes from a unique looking spire with an amazing summit that is rare in Yosemite Valley, the views are also incredible. However the route follows an unaesthetic line that meanders, is very rotten in place and is marginally fun only because of the adventure factor. This climb should ONLY be for the very solid 5.9 trad climber. Pitches 1 & 2 meander. Heads up on pitch 3 (5.9) lots of exposure moving off the main ledge with only a very old 1/4" rusted bolt for protection and a bad fall potential. The rest of the pitch is totally rotten and will probably scare you regardless of your ability since most holds will either flex, break off or feel like they will come off at any moment, choose your holds carefully and be mindful of the rockfall you generate will fall on anyone approaching below. The rest of the pitches are uninteresting as well. We never found the anchors for South by Southwest and ended up doing two 100' rappels down the east side to the main ledge (scramble down easy fifth to ledges visible after moving down and south east from the summit carins). Bring extra webbing to reinforce the existing weathered webbing mess that the tree rappels are. This route is only worth doing if you are dying to set foot on the summit of lower cathedral spire and can not climb South by Southwest (which is a much more elegant line).
Though I'd mention that the protection bolt at the start and crux of pitch 3 is a rusty old 1/4" although it seems to have a modern SMC hanger. Would be a really crappy fall if that one went on you.
Donated to ASCA, maybe someone with them will eventually get around to it?
A lot of people start this route too low. We did back in 198? and had a similar experience as Mike Dahlquist. There is a route in Steve Roper's 1971 guide called "NE Chimney" but the route we did had no climneys on it. However it reaches the Main Ledge.
1 hr 20 minutes from car to start
3.5 hrs to top
45 min rap
45 min back to car
My beta would be make sure you start in the crack with the dead log and use double length slings as this route meanders on every pitch. After the wide section on pitch 4 simul climb or unrope and scramble up. I didn't find the bolts at the top of South by Southwest so we rapped off trees. Two 100' raps to the big ledge then rap p 1-2.
You will find poor rock quality on every pitch. Pitch three is especially rotten and steep. I found myself involuntarily reciting the 23 Psalm "the Lord is my shepherd..."
Overall I'm pleased I climbed it but can't see going back up there. If you are looking for good climbing this isn't the route. If you want to point to the spire from El Cap Meadow and say "I climbed that" then this is for you.
Climbed a route 100 feet right of the start for the Regular Route, it took three pitches to get up to the main ledge where we joined the Regular Route again. Anyone have any idea what this route is, who had the FA, when, etc? It was probably around 5.9+ and had a tree with thousands of ants on it where my partner got eaten alive. There were quite a few slings on the tree but it wasn't too well travelled, some loose rock, not a bad route though.
Climber on the first pitch with the route above.
Photo: Greg Barnes
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