In my opinion this climb is all of 5.7. The chimney felt harder than it looked from the ground. I would imagine that large size climbers might expeirence difficulty in this area. I didn't see any face holds outside the chimney. The upper hand crack again was harder than it looked. Gear is great but hand jams are a must. Anchors are a tree with slings and rings.
It's been 22 years since I top-roped this route, but I rappelled down it on Monday the 5th (after leading Church Bowl Lieback 5.8) while a bewildered climber was trying to figure out the easiest way to the top. The topo in "Yosemite Climbs" (1982) by George Myers depicts the 5.7 route as moving right about halfway up the main chimney crack to a system of smaller cracks (connected by a short face section) directly below the tree at the top. This is not illustrated in either Don Reid's "Yosemite Climbs: Free Climbs" (1994) or in SuperTopo's "Yosemite Valley Free Climbs" (2003). The more direct flaring crack illustrated in both of these guides is depicted as a 5.9 variation in "Yosemite Climbs." The bewildered climber thought both variations were very hard for 5.7 and wound up traversing right and finishing on Church Bowl Lieback 5.8. So which variation is the real 5.7, or is this climb underrated? Steve Roper's "A Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley" (1971) rates it 5.6!
I think that both of the chimney sections are 5.7. That is, if you are of the appropriate size. 6'3" seems too large, but it's really the hip dimension that counts. Getting stuck is a significant problem.
The uppermost crack is probably 5.9 (with the 5.7 variation being a bit to the climber's right), but by then you are so glad to be out of that squeeze chimney that you will take 5.9 no matter what.
A great climb, but it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing.
After grunting through the first squeeze chimney and nearly getting stuck (I'm 5'10"; right shoulder in worked best), I stepped right onto the face and found the face/crack climbing to the right of the gully MUCH more enjoyable and well protected. If you plan to lead up through the gully without running it out, it looks like you'll need an ample arsenal of 1-2" gear, more than I had available.
Church Bowl has on of the easiest approaches in the valley.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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