East Buttress 5.10b

  • Currently 3.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
A fine Saturday on the East Buttress of El Capitan
Wednesday October 21, 2009 1:57am
I finally got around to climbing the East Buttress of El Cap this past Saturday after wanting to for like literally 20 years. My friend Mark and I drove up Friday planning to camp at Harden flat and rise before the sun. We skipped our favorite haunts including the Battered Beaver (oakdale), Winkin Lantern and lastly the Iron Door Saloon. My point here is that we MEANT business. With alarms set for 5AM we fell right asleep.

On the approach before 7AM we made great time managing to make it to the base in about 40mins. Once there we noted that there was a party on the first pitch belay with the second midway up the second pitch and out of sight. While waiting for them to depart and racking up another party of 2 showed up, behind them another party of 2 and lastly...a party of 3. Lord this was gonna be one busy day.

We decided that Mark would lead the odds which gave me the evens. That left me the 2nd crux pitch and also the 6th long crack/chimney/face pitch.

Mark somewhere up in the maw of the 5.9 1st pitch. A great pitch with a long and awkward move to reach the sling belay:

I nabbed the 2nd crux pitch without too much thought expecting it to be harder. Honestly I found it a boulder problem but was glad to have shade on it. A great pitch overall and very enjoyable.

Mark up on the 3rd pitch....you can't take a bad picture of this one!

A bit higher with some "meh" gear but good face holds:

Typical views off the 3rd pitch ledge. Speaking of which, my "even" pitch leads never gave me time or space to take off my shoes and smell the air!

Big wall season in effect, at least 5 parties between us and the nose alone!

After finding my way up the pitch 4th face buttress, I managed to get some ok gear in without a long fall. Looking down to the ledge belay:

Mark made his way up the 4th pitch and was jazzed to lead on:

On pitch 6, it took me some real work to figure out that the 5.9 face crux was NOT to walk your hands up the crack. Three hangs later, I committed to the crack, stepped over and down and found the move easy. Sheesh!

Here I'm considering hanging:

Looking down from the belay on pitch 6th, I recounted on how 1.) long the pitch was but 2.) tough! Honestly this was a great pitch. I'd like to go back and climb the OW full combat style as opposed to the cool face climbing with ancient pins. LOADS of history on this route and more pins that any other single route I've done.

Here is Mark finishing the 6th pitch....toasted and YES it was hot.

Mark led pitch 7, a short pitch that continued up the corner to yet another nice ledge. By this time my feet were not happy and I had completed my 70oz of water. Thirsty I took off up pitch 8. The traverse was cake but the 5.8 face after the traverse proved another stretcher and a scary one at that. Numerous bad pins later, I stood for about 5 mins before committing to the upwards rise.

Starting the traverse:

Here I am fiddling some more "meh" gear in:

And here, upwards progress and the real work starts:

Another pitch of really cool face put us on the summit.

The aftermath for me was overall time car to car in under 12 hours.....not bad considering the East Ledges. On the rock we were never held up or holding other up. Perfect temps and clear skies.....didn't plan on such sun so I should have brought more water. I also wore too many clothes having been schooled before and left freezing. Gear wise we were about spot on. the 8mm static was nice to drag and I was glad to not be hauling another 10mm. A perfect route on a perfect day. This route now ranks as one of my favorites and we felt the history of the route in a number of places. We clipped over 10 pins and passed by perhaps half as much. The rock was also oddly stellar...I've never climbed ANY rock let alone granite with the flint hard runnels this one had.

Here is Mark on the top:

And lord, i need a tan! Did I mention it was hot?

Lastly, remember what I said about more water? Well 'nuff said:

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About the Author
msiddens is a trad climber from Mountain View, CA.

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  Oct 21, 2009 - 10:42am PT
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Oct 21, 2009 - 11:10am PT

Good job Gents!

Gym climber
  Oct 21, 2009 - 11:52am PT
Awesome pictures; thanks!

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Oct 21, 2009 - 02:19pm PT
did you happen to take any pictures of parties over on the the Captain? I was on Zodiac, in probably around the Grey Circle on Saturday. Happen to have any shots?

Social climber
  Oct 21, 2009 - 02:27pm PT
Good job. One of those where the crux is not the crux. Such a fun route!
Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
  Oct 21, 2009 - 02:44pm PT
I did the E. Butt in the mid-80s with Valley locals Phil Bard and Dave Lomba (RIP). No one else on the route. Car to car in 10 hours. Thanks for the memories!

Big Wall climber
From Back to Big Wall Baby
  Oct 21, 2009 - 02:47pm PT
Good stuff

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Oct 21, 2009 - 06:41pm PT
hoipolloi, awwww I walked right under the route and saw a few parties on Zod. My pictures of the SE face have obstructions of the Zod though. Sorry.

Also, is this the same Hoipoloi which inquired about my Patagonia jacket?


Social climber
An Oil Field
  Oct 21, 2009 - 11:08pm PT
Ain't that thing fun? Everybody oughta do that route. It is a blast.

Brings back some good memories. Thanks for posting this.

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Oct 22, 2009 - 01:13am PT
Fantastic job, you guys!
I so want to do this now!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 22, 2009 - 03:35am PT
Fun fun fun.

  Oct 22, 2009 - 10:34am PT
Nice work !
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Oct 22, 2009 - 11:25am PT
Thanks, great trip report!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Oct 22, 2009 - 02:48pm PT
great photos. thanks!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 23, 2009 - 11:36pm PT
Thanks for posting your report, with nice photos.

I was worried that Horsetail Falls was too wet again, but your report showed this was not true, so I went up with Bruce H and did the climb yesterday (with 3 other parties - it's still crowded!). I heard there was only one party on Wednesday, though.

Trad climber
  Oct 25, 2009 - 02:41pm PT
NIce work guys. And way to keep the shutter tripping all the way up- not an easy thing to make yourself do!

Trad climber
Novato, CA
  Oct 31, 2012 - 02:02am PT
Nice TR, I can't believe there are only 2 TRs and Supertopo only gives it 3 stars! I know it's not super sustained, and mostly 5.8, not super hard these days, but it can be epic! We spent the night on top, not wanting to make the East Ledges in the dark. All the pitches I didn't lead I was like "Damn, I'm glad I didn't have to lead that pitch." Good memories of that climb though.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 31, 2012 - 02:19am PT
oh damn, I missed this one.

Good stuff.

Trad climber
  Oct 31, 2012 - 10:30am PT
Finally did this route the first week of September, got to guide Gilroy up it, and had the route to ourselves. Great fun, more physical than expected, but being hot, carrying water and a bigger than alpine rack all add up. We did it kinda Russ Walling style in 9 pitches with a single 70m, though I linked your pitches 4 and 5 and did not link the next two, as I started getting worked there and wanted to belay in the shade. The upper buttress pitch is so so cool, reminds of Hueco's Indecent Exposure but much more indecent. Did not see any coyotes.
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Photo: Mark Kroese
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