South by Southwest, Lower Cathedral Spire 5.11a

 
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Yosemite Valley, California USA

  • Currently 4.0/5
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Summary of All Ratings

SuperTopo Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.1)
Your Rating:     (none)
Rating Distribution
7 Total Ratings
5 star: 14%  (1)
4 star: 86%  (6)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
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   Apr 15, 2013 - 11:51am
Did it yesterday for the second time - heads up, the ants are insane right now (April 2013). About 4 sections where you literally must climb through thousands of ants while they try to crawl down your arms and up your legs... at first it's perhaps entertaining/funny, but by the end it gets old. (The strategy we used was to climb fast through those sections and then stop / shake them out. The ants are always on 5.6 and easier terrain.)

Also, some recent beta on the anchors/rappelling:
1) The anchors on the first pitch used to be around a fat but dead tree (labelled with "ants!" on the topo). There are no longer slings there - instead there is a brand new cord with 2 rap rings around a big boulder just right of the tree. This is a much better anchor but it would be good to backup the cord for the next person going up... bring a long (10ft?) section of cord. This is a horrible place to stand around because the ants are everywhere in this area... hurry up on the rappel and try not to belay there.

We avoided belaying there by linking pitches 1 & 2 with a 70 meter rope and a bit of simul climbing (it's probably 80 meters total).

Oh yeah and the "dead log in crack" in the beginning is getting really rotten and a bit dangerous, take a lot of extra care there (if it breaks, it'll make that section a lot harder).

2) Other than this "boulder with cordelette and ants" there are no other anchors between the ground and belay #2. For rappelling this means a 70 meter rope reaches perfectly to that boulder (careful of the ends), and from there to the ground (but 20-30 feet climber's left of where you start). The topo is incorrect saying that it's 140' to the ground from there, a 70 reaches, probably 110-115'.

3) Linking the two crux pitches makes sense and takes no extra gear.

4) It'd be nice to replace the hanging rappel anchor (to the right of belay #4) with chains/rappel links if someone heading up there feels like it. Maybe ditto for the upper stations. It's pretty scary hanging off of a slew of slings on overhanging terrain.. there are a few loose hangers too so the bolts could use a bit of love.

Overall, considering the approach & descent too, it's a lot of work for 1 amazing pitch, but the summit is pretty incredible! Plus, usually you'd have the place/climb to yourself...
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Chris

Advanced climber
Truckee, CA
Jun 27, 2002 - 10:04am
 
Lower Catherderal was really good. The slightly overhanging (at least that's how I remember it!) crack out of the 4th belay was the hardest part or me, even to follow. Keep in mind that up here our climbing skills
evolve a little differently! Just above that, where the topo shows 11a no
crux, was pure joy, and not hard. Odd, though, as I just looked at the
topo, I don't see any mention of the wild features and jugs on face that I
recall. I remember thinking, ahhhhh, so nice and such a surprise, was the
11a no crux code for "all the fun you can stand?" Of course, the rope went
up from my harness. That must be one of the finest pitches around. I took
the Lecia w/35mm up there, so, I may have a few photos, but, haven't sifted
through them yet. If I find a good one I'll fire it up to you. I'd like to
be able to lead it politely the next time I visit. And the freaking ants!!!
I howled and laughed as they attacked me, upping the grade considerably.
Yeah, one of the finer routes for real with the location, summit views,
excellent climbing and sound of folks taking whip+ falls across the way on
what must be the NE Butt of H. cat. Next time. No significant comments on
the topo except that it was right on the mark and as I'm sure you know, it
would be pretty hard to get too far off route on that climb. The gear was
right for the leader as he neither got runout on 4 or 5 nor had to back
clean, call for more gear, or work hard for good gear. Nice choice for the
Road to Astro and thanks for that. We only free climbed for 4 days but
really packed in the climbing as a guy is want to do down there.
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Novice climber
Truckee, CA
Jul 2, 2002 - 07:04am
 
Is there a translation available for the previous posting?
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chas

climber
santa clara ca
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   May 4, 2004 - 06:53am
As for stars I'd put it between 3+ and 4 stars.

Its a good route and the two crux pitches just good fun. The 5.10d is so short with a thank god hold at the end, I'd have a hard time calling it .10d. The overhanging hands is just good fun but I wouldn't put it at .11a but maybe mid-.10ish.

As for the approach pitches, don't ask, I approached via a route maybe 100ft to the right and went at 3 pitches at p1: 5.7/.8 p2: 5.9+ish and pitch 3 5.9ish and had an ant problem worse then described above.

And he wasn't kidding about the ants....

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Marshall

climber
bay area
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   Sep 27, 2004 - 11:02am

First two/three pitches were wandering and mungy, but were worth it given the quality of the steep pitches (and no ants anywhere). If rapping with one rope, a 60m' will just get you to the ground if you rap to the south (toward the notch) off of the last rap tree.
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Alexey

climber
San Jose, CA
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   Jul 12, 2005 - 10:57am
This is great route for braking into the grade. I felt 11a pitch as no harder than 10c and it was some rests on it. Hardest move was on previous pitch- 10d but it basically just one move.
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Fingerlocks

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
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   Nov 2, 2006 - 02:04pm
The previous comments sound about right. The 10d section required some pulling because of the bulge, but the holds were good. It was both short and well protected. The overhanging hands were a lot easier than I expected and less sustained—it isn’t too far until you start getting some real good rests. The pitch maybe starts out around 10b and finishes with 5.9 moves between good rests. The next time I climb it I’ll link those two pitches. Using three or four extended runners will eliminate any drag.

We simul-climbed the approach pitches which were easy and clean (as such things go).

For gear I used one smallish nut and double cams from tips up to a purple (#3) Friend and a single blue (#3.5) Friend. This was plenty. You could, perhaps, triple up in the #2 Friend/#1 Camalot size if you want more in the belay at the start of the hands pitch.

On the last rap instead of heading towards the belay at the top of the fourth class, we went uphill towards the notch. This got us clear to the ground with a 60 and was an easy place to pull the rope. The raps were full length. If you use a rope that has had a bit lopped off, you might have, shall we say, issues.

Good climbing on steep rock—a great one for fans of spitting into the void—with worthy views from the top.
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Brendan

Trad climber
Yosemite, CA
Aug 25, 2008 - 08:00am
 
Approach beta:
This route is not accessible through the notch from the West face. When approahcing, be sure to continue past (East of) the east butt/higer spire trail, and take the trail up through the cathedral boulders. Just past the "king" (big overhung boulder problem), follow the trail right 30 feet, then turn left up a faint climber trail which leads to the talus field/gulley you ascend. Continue up around the east of the spire, to the southern face of lower spire.

We simuled the first two pitches, ran up to the third belay, and linked the next two (10.d and 11.a). I would highly suggest linking, just use long runners under the roofs. Soft for 11.a, but definitely not 5.10- as some might suggest. I'd give it a 10d.

I only used a double rack, but if you want to sew it up, bring an extra 2 and 3 camalot.
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clustiere

Trad climber
berkeley ca
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   Jun 10, 2009 - 05:02pm
really great and you can rap with one 70m rope. Did the cruxes in the rain, but it was dry because it was steep. Still, I was buzzed on top by positive ions.
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MattF

Trad climber
Bend, Or
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   Jun 5, 2011 - 11:58am
Just did this route, and thought it was great. Not quite in the same conversation as Serenity and Sons, but definitely up there in terms of medium length 10+/11- valley routes, at least that I've done. Just wish the business section was a bit longer for all the approaching (hiking and 3rd class) that you had to do.

I'd say it felt easy for 11a for me, but I have relatively thin hands. My buddy who is a very strong climber with big fat mitts found it quite hard and got himself all screwed up. So, I think if you're hands are the right size it will feel pretty cruiser, and if your hands aren't the right size, then it lives up to its rating and maybe even then some.

Also, I think the other thing is whether you can rest and de-pump with a good hand jam/foot jam combo. If you can, there's plenty of rests between the more strenuous steep sections. If you just try to fire the thing without shaking out when its not overhanging, I could see it being very pumpy.

Finally, I would definitely triple up on #1 c4s, and you could easily use three #2s if you wanted to, although certainly not necessary. For the belay right before the 11a pitch my partner slung a fixed hex, had a nice #1 camalot, and a kinda tipped .75 camalot, since he wanted to save the other #1 and the #2s. You really want two #1s to make a bomber anchor, and then another #1 to protect the thin hands section above the anchor. Also, falling in the thin hands section would be nasty, because you'd land right on your partner on the ledge, so I placed gear pretty closely through there and then ran it out a bit more through the overhanging sections. My partner said he tried using the biggest nut instead of the tipped .75 in the anchor, but it wouldn't fit anywhere, and we don't bring hexes.

Also, as of May 2011, no ants anywhere on the route, although maybe it just wasn't summery enough for them.
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Lower Cathedral Spire - South by Southwest 5.11a - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
View from near the base.
Photo: Randy Spurrier
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