Regular Route, Higher Cathedral Spire 5.9

 
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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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 (4.0)
Your Rating:     (none)
Rating Distribution
19 Total Ratings
5 star: 42%  (8)
4 star: 37%  (7)
3 star: 5%  (1)
2 star: 11%  (2)
1 star: 5%  (1)
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
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   Nov 10, 2014 - 09:23pm
Climbed HCS Saturday - great day in the Valley! I really like this climb, and I look forward to doing it again. It's got a good 1.5 hr warm-up hike, 5 pitches, 5 spicy-well protected moves, and 5 star views all day. Pretty mellow climbing compared to other Yosemite 5.9's. We took a standard rack, moved at a leisurely pace, and made 8 hrs car to car. You want to get up early for this - I counted seven teams on the route! I hope everyone had a good day and got down safely. I think this is a good route for 5.8 leaders venturing into 5.9.

P1 - Fun slab with a few 5.5 jams

P2 - We did the ST 'move left' variation. You clip a piton and traverse left on small feet and hands. Crux of the route for me. My left hand might have touched a red C3 for balance... after turning the corner, you get another piton, then pull the 'powerful bulge' - great buckets and pro - then some balancy moves to a bolt and up to rope drag city! The original route and the right variation both look hard - try one!

P3 - The 'Rotten Chimney' pitch has some deformed orange rock. Just follow the topo and the pitons - up and left to a 'wild and airy 5.9' traverse - it's well protected and fun.

P4 - This pitch has another '5.9 airy traverse' - it's an undercling - yea! Fun, short, and good pro.

P5 - We did the up and left to tree var, then the spicy 5.8 finish - wow!

3 easy raps with a 60m. Great old school classic climb with a cool summit!



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Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
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   Nov 9, 2014 - 02:58pm
The rock isn't the best and some of the climbing is scrappy. Climbing the spire isn't about just the climbing, but rather the whole of the experience.

The hike up the talus between Cathedral Rocks and Cathedral Spires is incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring. Rarely are you able to do a climb with so much history and you can take it in while making surprisingly tenuous moves on surprisingly steep and exposed terrain while considering the gumption the original ascenders had in 1934!

And, all that is great, but the summit is rare and exceptional. From the fairly small summit (especially relative to the height of the main face) you take in the Cathedral Rocks, El Cap, Yosemite Falls, Lost Arrow Sipe, Washington Column, Half Dome, and Mt. Conness!

That view alone is worth five stars!
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mcreel

climber
Barcelona
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   Jun 17, 2013 - 05:45am
Purely rating as a climb, I agree that 2 stars is right. It's been a long time since I did it, but my main memory of the climbing is the loose rock and the wandering line. Braille Book is waaay better climbing.

On the other hand, the summit and the view are hard to beat.
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tornado

climber
lawrence kansas
Jun 17, 2013 - 03:19am
 
Quite frankly I'm amazed this route is scoring so highly (4 stars?), I thought it was poor, poor rock etc.
Quite frankly I am amazed you would not give it 4 stars for historical significance alone. 60 meter will get you down fine. You screwed up somewhere.
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Paul B

Big Wall climber
Sheffield, UK
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   Jun 16, 2013 - 08:59pm
No your 60 isn't short at all, our (unchopped) 70m didn't have all that much spare on the same ab!

Quite frankly I'm amazed this route is scoring so highly (4 stars?), I thought it was poor, poor rock etc.
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Marshall

climber
bay area
Oct 11, 2011 - 11:55pm
 

we were up there on saturday and didn't see the aforementioned scary block. maybe somebody took care of it?
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Sonic

Trad climber
Boulder, Co
Oct 11, 2011 - 07:07pm
 
Anybody been up this recently? Is that death block still there?
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Sascha

climber
Oakland, CA
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   Jun 29, 2010 - 07:19pm
It probably depends on stretch -- we just did the route yesterday, and our 9.2mm 60m went well past the tree. It's definitely a heads-up rappel. Also, note that there are two different trees with rappel slings there -- one is the top of the original p3, and one is to the right, but about the same vertical distance. I think either tree can be reached from the summit, and the top of p2 tree from either on the second rappel. We rapped to the tree on the climber's left, which is straight below the summit rap anchor; it then requires swinging to your right on the second rap.
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kovarpa

Mountain climber
Bay Area
Jun 29, 2010 - 01:51am
 
We did (I think) the original variation on P2 and I found climbing through the roof pretty hard for a 5.9.

On the rap from the top, maybe my 60m rope is less than 60 (I have to measure it) but we ended up about 5m above the tree at the top of P3 and had to set up a temporary anchor and climb down to the tree!

Great climb overall, hats off to the FAists.
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sowr

Trad climber
CA
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   Sep 29, 2009 - 11:09pm
Steady head needed on this route, and some route finding skills. Well done 1st ascent party, as this route has stood the test of time. Totally awesome, using the true meaning of the word.

Took direct on P2 - strenuous but well protected. P3 with the improbable step left to the ledge and chimney is probably 5.8, not 5.9, it's very steep and a lot of fun. Easiest of the "big" pitches if done this way.

P4 ending traverse is massively exposed and highly recommended, as is P5 to the left corner and up the flakey pillar.

Stupendous views from the summit - almost impossible to take in.

Way fun rappel off summit block down to end of P3.
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Davis

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
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   Sep 18, 2007 - 02:46am
Climbed it for the third time last weekend. Unfortunately due to old age memory loss, it was like a first ascent for me.

P1: Short and easy to the big ledge with tree.

P2: Despite having read all the posts about the variations, and having done the route before, I still managed to go the hard way. There are two obvious cracks with a roof, so I took the left one thinking it was the easier left variation, when in fact to do the easier variation you have to do a hand traverse around a corner in a horizontal crack almost immediately after the belay. You really can't see the easier variation of the 2nd pitch from the first pitch belay. So the way I went, with all of the pins and slings, has a tough roof crack that I would say is more like a bouldery 10b move. Although you can protect it pretty well. Now about the loose block at the top of P2: This is really bad! It's a triangular piece about 10 inches thick and 2.5 feet long. It is literally teetering there, supported on one side by rock and the other side, which is only apparent when you are underneath it, by the remains of a 10cm branch of the tree which has long since snapped off. So it is held there only by a little wooden protuberance! It's possible that if that fails it will stop about 6 inches down where there is some more solid rock, but hard to tell. Pretty exciting as you have to climb over this thing, and lower yourself under it to rap. It is an excellent candidate for removal, but obviously would have to be done with extreme care. I think you would need to have a team of people with radios to insure nobody was below, and inspect the fall line, with say a pine cone. I'm hoping the thing will come down in the winter when nobody is up there.

P3: GO LEFT! Towards the broken brownish rock! Otherwise you will do a pretty good 5.9+ pitch and you will avoid the "improbable" traverse only to be faced with a much more serious and significantly more "improbable" traverse.

P4: Very nice with steep juggy cracks at the top. Exited to the left, then traversed way left across big ledge to get set up for the airy ending variation.

P5 (Airy variation): Short. A couple easy slab moves toward the void, place #1 Camalot, then around the corner. Big reach to good hands, virtually no feet (or pro) for a move or two, then good pro in a flake and fun moves to the top. We did a long double rope rap from the top to the top of P2, although you risk your ropes getting stuck on the tree at the top of P3. We then did two shorter and easier raps to get off.
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jsb

Trad climber
Bay area
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   Jul 30, 2007 - 09:41pm
Ditto on the crack variation to P2... If that roof is 5.9, then Reed's Direct needs to take a BIG step down from being called the hardest 5.9 in the valley.

Also, at the top of P2 there is a VERY precariously balanced 200 pound block. It is painted with a faint, white 'X' and could roll off onto you, your partner or hikers below at any moment... especially if you step on it or grab it. Aside from the rocks at the P2 belay, we didn't see much other dangerous stuff.

Anyway, sweet climb. We did this on Saturday, July 30, 2007 in warm but pleasant weather, and then followed it up with East Buttress on Sunday. Where is everbody? My partner and I were practically the only people in the cathedral area all weekend. We did see one party of 2 rapping off Central Pillar of Frenzy on Saturday afternoon and one guy who (it looked like) free soloed half way up Braille Book and then back down again. yikes.
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adventurewagen

Trad climber
Seattle
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   Jun 18, 2007 - 01:16pm
My wife and I just did the route Saturday June 16, 2007. It was a great route and an amazing FA for those guys in 34! All I can say is impressive! Definitely be very careful of loose rock, there is an abundant amount of it and I don't think the Super Topo really does enough to promote how bad the rock fall hazard really is.

We did the original line the whole way up including the more direct "5.9" on p2. I would agree with others that the free rating of 5.9 that it got in 1944 is a bit sand bagged :) I've climbed a number of other routes in the valley up through 5.11 and would say the type of climbing, the features and the roof at the end of that pitch must put it closer to a mid 10 like 10c or so. The first bulge was probably 10b the crack was at least 10a/b due to the overhanging nature and the final pull into and through the roof is more like a 10c. Good gear the whole way just very in your face and impressive.

Lots of loose stuff on the edge of the belay on P2. We stacked more back from the edge while up there. P3 at the wild and airy traverse has some loose fractured chunks I found on lead and the big traverse on 4 has some loose stuff up under the under cling and a huge piece below the tree that IS just sitting in dirt waiting to come off.

There is also that plug of rock on the very last 15ft to get to the top. It's fractured at the base and really looks like it may go any year now. I know its been climbed for 70 years but it looks like it could topple off if you hand jammed just a little too hard. Not sure what others thought of that last chunk but it sketched me out and I'm pretty used to climbing choss from in the cascades :) I would recommend not clipping the pin around the corner of it so if it does go it's not taking you and your rope with it. You can get good gear above the flake and use the gear to hold the rope above the chunk for your second which I highly recommend. Maybe I'm just paranoid but that feature seems adhered to the rock only by sheer will at this point!

My only beta is to wear a helmet, expect "hard" 5.9's, watch for tons of loose rock and holds and bail on the route if a team is ahead of you and do it another day :)

Most amazing and scary route I've ever done! We must have said WOW 50 times on the way home!
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Sascha

climber
Oakland, CA
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   Apr 12, 2007 - 04:55pm
A large chunk of rock is about to come loose at the end of the 4th pitch (the regular variation, with the hand traverse left that ends up below a small tree). Be very careful -- it seems highly improbable that it would happen to hit a person on its way down, as it is not above the climbing route and the chances of someone being directly below on the approach trail are slim, but it would give the leader a real good scare as you're holding on to it (as I tried to, for a split second), and wow... It now looks like it's attached only with dirt. Just one of the many loose items to be cautious about on this route, one of my all time favorites.
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clustiere

Trad climber
berkeley ca
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   Mar 28, 2007 - 08:25pm
Climbed this route in March, not a drop of water to be found. It was the perfect little outing. P1 ez pitch 2 has a few variations, I followed the pins up to a roof and then I went over the roof rather then out left it was like 9+/.10- going left looked easier, 3rd pitch partner got lost returned to belay then out left to the proper route. p4 and fie definately link use long slings before you connect the flakes variation to the beautiful 12 ft hand crack and mantle crumbly rock to the top.
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the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
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   Oct 30, 2006 - 12:47pm
Here's a trip report:

http://supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=273606&f=0&b=0
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trees

Trad climber
truckee
Sep 20, 2006 - 11:34am
 
We also did the variation on the second pitch, only because we thought it was the 9. I was able to send it clean, but only because I thought it was a 9 and my ego would'nt let me hang. after we realized we were off route it felt more like 10c. killer view's just added to this classic.
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tcb

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
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   Jun 6, 2006 - 07:03pm
Rockgirl-that was us who convinced you the next pitch wasn't so bad, and based on the way you climbed the rest of the route, I'd have to assume that that 2nd pitch variation was pretty darn hard. We checked it out while rapping and based on a 30-second fly-by said it looked around 10b. I'll defer to your rating though.

Great route though, and the left way on the 2nd pitch is fun, not too bad at all. The traverse moving left felt harder than the 5.9 bulge itsefl. We all agreed the 3rd pitch was the most fun. Bit of a hike for 5 pitches, but the summit is pretty nifty for Yosemite, and 4/5 pitches are high-quality (if a bit short)

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rockgirl

Sport climber
Bend, OR
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   Jun 6, 2006 - 12:34pm
Not sure who rated that 5.9 aid pitch variation on the second pitch as 5.9, but it super sandbagged, even for the valley. Felt more like 5.11 to me and was even difficult to aid through. I almost bailed after that pitch, but fortunately there were some nice folks from the SF bay area behind us, who encouraged me to continue. The rest of the route felt right on at 5.9 in the valley. I understand stiff ratings in the valley are the norm, but 2 full number grades seems pretty ridiculous. It seems that there should be some sort of note in the Supertopo book about that pitch.
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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 13, 2005 - 02:05pm
 
Did this yesterday with Gary, Tom and Brad (two teams of two), no one around, perhaps one party on E.Butt. of Middle...

A great, wandering climb with spicy sections on pitches 2-5. The "powerful" move on p2 is a great bouldering move! I got off route on p3, apparently so did a bunch of other people... who put pitons in... traversing around under the "Rotten Chimney" to an airy alcove, then up an arete bear hugging some stuff... sustained, and really exposed. The chimney was a hoot. Gary did it right and went up the gnarrly looking orange corner which is the "Rotten Chimney"... perhaps there could be quotes in the topo with the parenthetical statement the better description.

On p5 I think the most fantastic finish is the "5.8 block" which takes you for a space walk out on the north-east corner of the spire, way above the Valley. That was fun that is not to be missed!

On the first rap the notation states 90', but that would probably get you to the block above the tree, 100' gets you standing right next to the tree atop p3. We hung a rope up on the knobs and flakes that are on the climber's right looking down from p3, be careful to steer your ropes (as best you can) to the climber's right as you look down.

Another bit of beta, on the approach try to stick to the trail to the left of the long talus field as you make your way up the canyon. It is faster and easier than boulder hoping up, and down.

The rack recommendation was probably a bit much, we only doubled on 1.5" piece (on our rack) and had plenty. The belays are easy to put in on nature's offerings, mostly stout oak trees.
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Lars Ensign

Trad climber
Zephyr Cove, NV
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   Oct 11, 2005 - 12:27pm
Climbed the route October 2nd, route mostly warm in the sun. 2nd pitch traverse *was* pretty insecure, but I managed to protect it a bit with a green alien resulting in massive rope drag. Going straight up the "old 5.9 aid line" felt pretty hard for 5.9! On the final pitch, the 5.9+ crack variation was spectacular but too short. The ST gear list was more than adequate. Raps straightforward and secure on a 60M. Thanks ASCA for the bomber bolts!
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TIM SHEA

Trad climber
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA
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   May 24, 2005 - 04:25pm
Great summit, and all that history, why not. The first pitch was the crux for me and I did fall once. I had been in the valley for 2 weeks so I was suprised.
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jack_furr

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
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   Jul 12, 2004 - 08:52pm
We climbed this July 5th and had the whole area to ourselves!. No a single soul on Braille Book. I had a heck of a time leading the second pitch. I had to 'go to France' for a little bit. ;-)

I would recomend this route to any 'good' 5.9 Yosemite climber.

To see more info go to http://pgvip.net/article.php?sid=72&mode=thread&order=1&thold=0
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doug

Intermediate climber
Sunnyvale, CA
Jul 10, 2002 - 01:12pm
 
My partner and I just did this route last weekend and would recommend that anyone doing it take the left hand crack on pitch 2 instead of the right. Although the climbing in the right hand crack was good, after the crack petered out there was about 30 feet of poorly protected face climbing. At the end of the face climbing, we had to make one last move standing upon a huge block that rocked back and forth with our weight to gain the belay.
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steve haigh

Trad climber
palo alto, ca
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   Jun 4, 2002 - 04:11pm
I climbed the regular route on sunday May 2 with Mike Scheafer from YMS. We were planning Braile Book but there was too much trafic. The sprire was wide open so we got up there pretty quick, about 2 hrs I guess.

The climb was awsome but some of the moves were pretty hard for a 5.9 climber like my self. The so called "improbably traverse" was a real underware browning experience but I hung in there (litterally) and made it up without incident.

The view from the summit is incredible and it's always cool to get to a place where hikers can't take the back door.

The rap down was pretty cool too if you like danglers.

Overall, I'd say go for it. The 2 hr. hike up there isn't that bad (compared to snake hike that is!), the climbing is great and it doesn't seem to be overcrowded.

steve
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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
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   Jun 1, 2001 - 09:50am
ANCHOR CONDITIONS

The following anchor conditions are provided by <A HREF='http://www.safeclimbing.org/'> The American Safe Climbing Assn.</a> Please support the ASCA. so that they can continue to replace dangerous anchor bolts on classic climbs throughout the United States. Find out how to help at <A HREF='http://www.safeclimbing.org/help.html'>www.safeclimbing.org</a>

 - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Higher Cathedral Spire Regular Route 3 bolts replaced on top rappel anchor and one bolt at bathtubs. Thank you Jack Hoeflich and ASCA.
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Higher Cathedral Spire - Regular Route 5.9 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route winds up the left skyline to the summit. The traditional start is lower on the left.
Photo: Randy Spurrier
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