I'd been wanting to try this climb, ever since Peter Haan described it as a cool old 5.8 to do in low/no water.
The climb is pretty committing, and is only in the old Roper guidebooks. Retreat after the traverses would involve climbing back across the traverses, leaving gear and rappelling back to Bridalveil East and down it.
Try in August/September/October.
The "prominent and terrifying chimney system" is obvious to the left, just right of the brown buttress.
Bridalveil East climbs this chimney system, except for the first pitch, which takes cracks 20' to the right.
The chimney system is 200' NE of the falls.
p2 starts up a short chimney on the left with a slung chockstone,
face climbs its left wall on jugs, then diagonals left to the main chimney system
It is rated "5.9 fist" on the topo, but is really only 5.7
Unfortunately the belay anchor cams and nuts are not very good, with some loose rock on the right side.
It would be better to continue another 30' to belay on top of the chockstones, or belay 40' lower.
There is an old fixed pin below the chockstones, then good cams.
p4 goes up 20', then traverses right 20' on the brown slab to a
lieback crack in the slab. 10' up the lieback, then right to the bushy "gully".
p5 goes up a steep 5.8 corner handcrack for 50' above the highest tree, then
diagonals up right 20' to a crack, down a little, then right and up a corner to the left end of a big ledge.
A descending 5.6 traverse on the right wall reaches a 1" crack,
then a further descending traverse reaches the lowest big tree, 40' left of the falls.
Rattlesnake Buttress and Leaning Tower behind.
Daylight is fading for us.
He is about to start the high hand traverse to the big corner.
Visible in the flash on the right side is the protection for the downward traverse.
We only had one headlamp, so I passed it back to Ken on the red rope.
There was a blank wall to reach the next tree, so I threw a rope over a half-dead branch and batmanned up.
I put some knots/loops in the rope so Ken could follow more easily.
There might be a higher hand traverse up left which accesses the tree,
but in the darkness, it looked like it might have a blank section.
Shortly we reached a really cool grassy ledge with a big healthy tree, 40' left of the falls.
p7 went up a big 5.7 corner above with big flakes and handjams.
We belayed halfway up, on a ledge where it turns into a chimney - this made it possible to share the headlamp.
Higher there is a crack for pro in the left wall, and then some easy moves past a loose flake to belay just below some bushes and trees.
p8: the final pitch squeezed through the bushes and up a 5.3 slab to trees on a brushy slope.
Due to our lack of speed, it was now nearly 11pm, and we still had to get up to and down the Gunsight.
After gaining several hundred feet and escaping some manzanita,
we ran into some steep slabs with no obvious way around in the dark, so we decided to bivy there.
We each had a few sips of water left, and some extra clothes, and the night temperature was fairly friendly.
finding an easy gully there with some traffic from Overhang Bypass.
Apparently the left side can be climbed on hidden holds in the dike at moderate class 5.
The chockstone in the center looks impassable
The fixed rope on the bolted anchor on the right is the easiest way up, but the rope is getting old/stiff and is a bit short
The next rappel was about 150' down the gully/chimney on skier's left.
There is a midway anchor, so it can also be done with one rope.
It could also be downclimbed a bit more slowly.
Related trip reports:
le bruce and nutjob's "Let's Charge the Midget Chimney!" report (April 2008 - too wet)
Baba's Bridalveil Choss semi-epic (August 2004)
Karl's adventure and possible first ascent, in a corner system right of Bridalveil East
Werner and Merry's last pitch variation to Bridalveil East
John Morton's story of the FFA of Bridalveil East, with Frank Sacherer, 1964
Jaybro's story of doing Bridalveil East with Walt Shipley, in the 80s
prelim version of this trip report, cast as a "name that route" challenge; includes a few comments
[edit to add:]
Peter Haan provides in his post below the written description from the 1971 Roper guidebook.
I found the description in the 1964 Roper guidebook to be even better,
and since this book is much harder to find, I'm adding it here.
The description is rather colorful; perhaps he edited it for the 1971 edition to look more objective?
But something was lost in the process, including some helpful details.
IV, 5.8, A1. First ascent on August 30, 1957 by Mark Powell and
Warren Harding. Walk up the bed of Bridalveil Creek until it is
possible to climb up third class rock to the base of a prominent, terrifying
chimney system, some 200 feet northeast of the Fall. A very
steep, round buttress lies just a few feet left of the main chimney.
The first 200 feet of the climb, very steep and continuous, go up
cracks about 20 feet right of the main chimney. Near the top of the
second pitch traverse left into this chimney. Two appalling chockstones
are passed, surprisingly fifth class (5.7). Fifty feet above these
chockstones is a blocky belay ledge. Stay left and ascend a very steep
wall (5.7) to a tree. Move up and right into a difficult (5.7) chimney
that leads upward to a point where further progress becomes somewhat
doubtful. Three to four direct-aid pitons lead up and left to a
short friction slab. Above, class-4 climbing leads up 200 feet to the
brush slopes just above Bridalveil Creek. Carry a few 1-inch angle
pitons to supplement ten additional ordinary ones.
In September 1961 Royal Robbins and Rich Calderwood made a
major variation which turned out to be all fifth class. From the blocky
ledge above the two chockstones, traverse right (5.8) for 15 feet to
a prominent lieback crack. Follow this for a few feet, then traverse
right into a gully. Follow this to a point about 40 feet above a tree.
Traverse right and climb onto an obvious ledge. At its south terminus
descend a few feet to a spectacular, exposed hand-traverse (5.6)
which leads to a large tree only 40 feet away from Bridalveil Fall. A
steep corner containing several large flakes leads to an easy chimney
which ends in brush slopes above Bridalveil Creek. A few bong-bongs
should be included in the hardware assortment.