East Buttress 5.10c or 5.9 A0

  • Currently 5.0/5

Middle Cathedral

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Central Pillar of Frenzy warmup to East Buttress of Middle Cathedral - Photo TR
Saturday May 26, 2012 4:35pm
Two classic Valley climbs that I did in combination last year that I figured were good for a photo TR.

Jared enjoying the wide crack on P3 of Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Jared enjoying the wide crack on P3 of Central Pillar of Frenzy.
Credit: PellucidWombat

In late 2010 I was still new to leading trad. I had set a number of goals for myself to help give me motivation and direction for developing my abilities as a climber, and one of those goals was to climb the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. How does one know when they are appropriately ready for such a long climb?

I usually go about goals in a meticulous and organized way, and in climbing I try to balance being conservative while pushing myself to improve. Since the East Buttress is a popular climb, and a long climb, I didn't just want to hop on it as soon as I could start leading 5.9s, as I wanted to be solid at the grade and be able to lead 5.7-5.8 quickly and without too much effort. So I asked people who had done the route what sort of less committing routes I should do as a progression to and benchmark for knowing when I was ready to tackle the route. Several climbers suggested that when I felt I was ready to go for the route, I should first climb Central Pillar of Frenzy. They said if I could handle that without much problem, and do it in less than half a day, that I should be ready.

Although I had hoped to do these routes with a partner who I could swing leads with, by the Fall of 2011 I had no such luck for these routes. However, by this time I felt strong & confident enough to lead all of the pitches on both routes, and I did have a partner who, while new to trad, had been doing very well following me up some Yosemite cracks and flaring chimneys earlier in the year.

Central Pillar of Frenzy (III, 5.9, 5P)
September 24, 2011

Central Pillar of Frenzy seen from El Cap Meadow. If you look closely ...
Central Pillar of Frenzy seen from El Cap Meadow. If you look closely there are climbers at several of the belay and rappel stations.
Credit: PellucidWombat
Central Pillar of Frenzy seen from the top of the Footstool
Central Pillar of Frenzy seen from the top of the Footstool
Credit: PellucidWombat

Jared Wood and I climbed this route early Saturday morning in hopes of beating the crowds and the forecast rainstorms. We were first on the route, were down about 1 hr before the big rainstorm hit. This route was great warmup to the E Butt of Middle Cathedral the next day. With a superb view of El Cap, sustained & clean stems, liebacks, finger cracks, hand cracks, fist cracks (and wider!), chimneys, a great roof and a 5.9 squeeze crux, this ranks with Traveler Buttress as my favorite 5.9 trad climb of 2011.

Pitch 1, a slick stemming corner that narrows to a slick squeeze before stepping left.

Jared in the 5.9 squeeze crux on P1.

The broken 5.8 terrain before the sustained 5.9 fingers on P2.

Looking down P2.

El Cap from the P2 Belay.

Jared following P2.

The 5.7 hand crack & 5.8-5.9 roof on P3 from the belay.

Leading the big roof on P3 (by Jared Wood)

The wide crack above the roof on P3.

Jared climbing the wide crack on P3.

Looking up the fun 5.8 double cracks on P4 from the P3 belay.

Leading P4 (by Jared Wood)

Jared on the fun 5.8 double cracks.

P4 belay (by Jared Wood)

Looking up the 5.9 lieback on P5.

Looking at the upper pitches from the P5 belay.

Climbers on Salathe Wall?

Boot Flake on the Nose.

The Great Roof & Dihedrals on the Nose. See the climbers? Strangely, I think we could actually hear climbers on El Cap as we got higher on the route.

CPoF Rappel of Bircheff Williams.

Climbers on P3, P4 & P5 of CPoF. Gridlock!

CPoF seen from a distance.

Climbers on CPoF.

East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock (IV, 5.9, C0, 11P)
September 25, 2011

The Cathedrals in all their glory! DNB looks pretty spooky from here.
The Cathedrals in all their glory! DNB looks pretty spooky from here.
Credit: PellucidWombat

Jared and I climbed the E Butt of Middle Cathedral Sunday. Using 70m double ropes, we linked P1&2, P3&4, P7&8, P9&10. We would have linked P5&6 if I hadn't gotten the rope stuck in the roof on P5 (doh!), which cost us a lot of time on the route. Still we finished the rappels before dark. The descent was very wet from the light afternoon rain that fell on us, making it feel more like a canyoneering outing.

Mungy start to P1

We had to search around a bit for the start of the climb. For a "50 Classic" climb, I was surprised how overgrown the start was. You really can't see the route at all from the base. After carefully matching the topo to what we could see through the trees, I started out on what seemed like the start of the route.

Mungy start to P2 which I linked with P1.

I was leading with a pack on, which made the 5.8 roof a lot harder than expected, so I left my pack on a piton and Jared rigged it to be hauled on one of the double lines as I belayed him through the pitch.

End of P2 just beyond the tree. P3 goes up the corner to the roof and around the left on the thin flake.

Steep & slick liebacks on P3.

Steep & slick liebacks on P4. Cathedral Spires are behind.

Looking down P4 from the belay.

Despite the overgown start, the climb quickly improved in quality and exposure.

The easy aid bolt ladder over the 5.10c slab on P5. We brought alpine aiders to make it chill. A tension traverse is needed to get off and over to the 5.8 lieback.

Leading The P5 crux as a C0 aid climb. (by Jared Wood)

Using a single alpine aider and my PAS, aiding the bolt ladder was fast & easy. Jared used a similar system of alpine aider & sling to follow on belay.

Leading The P5 crux as a C0 aid climb. (by Jared Wood)

Looking down the bolt ladder on P5. Easy C0 and we brought alpine aiders to make it chill.

El Cap seen from the bolt ladder on P5.

Tensioning over to the 5.8 lieback with the Cathedral Spires behind.

The 5.8 lieback & awkward 5.9 roof.

The 5.8 lieback is very steep and exposed, which made for some pretty exciting free climbing once I finished the tension traverse. As advertised, the 5.9 roof crux is short, but awkward and burly, requiring some funny stemming as you torqued yourself over the lip while yanking on solid finger jams. Fortunately there is a solid piton right at the crux.

As I was pretty intimidated by the climbing here, I placed a cam right after the piton just before I pulled the roof. While this made the crux move essentially protected on TR, this was a bad idea, as it held the rope closer to the split corner in the roof. It just so happens that my 70m double ropes are the perfect diameter to stick in cracks of finger jam width, so as soon as I got a few moves higher, the rope stuck. Rather than downclimbing to deal with the problem, I climbed against the worsening drag.

Looking down P5. Easy 5.6 cracks here made harder by the terrible rope drag as my lines caught in the roof. Doh!

That turned out to be a bad idea as not only was the last part of the pitch very hard with the rope drag, but it forced me to stop at the standard belay rather than linking pitches. It also took a lot of time to pull in the slack and belaying was much slower until Jared cleared the roof. Since the next belay ledge was small & awkward, it was also difficult to coil the ropes with care while fighting the drag and we had to recoil the rope at the belay once Jared finished following. And so the time cost from my error continued to snowball . . .

Looking up from P5 belay. Standard route goes over slabs to the right. Original goes up the chimneys to the left.

We lost enough time from the rope drag that another party that was linking pitches with a 70m rope had reached the top of the "50 Crowded" 5.10a face variation just as we were ready to start P6. Since their belay was slightly ahead of ours, they got onto P6 just as we were ready, so we had to wait for them to pass before continuing on.

The runout slab on P6. Now where is that piton?

I saw a nice flake directly above the belay with a piton in it and then what looked like a way to traverse right. SuperTopo emphasized not going straight up, though, so I traversed out directly right from the belay, looking for the first piton.


I never found the piton, but after a long traverse right from the anchor with no pro, I did eventually reach the belay atop the "50 Crowded" variation. (Note: Seeing how you can do this traverse, I think next time I climb this route I'll try the "50 Crowded" variation and then traverse left to finish on the original chimney variation). I placed a piece of pro just above that before climbing up, then traversed far left and then up to the only piton I found on the pitch. Then I traversed far right again. Using doubles really helped in keeping this from being a rope drag nightmare.

Despite our attempt to recoil the rope, it had been kinked badly enough that we lost time on this pitch as several times Jared had to ask me to stop while he worked out a cluster in the rope.

Climbers on P6-P7.

I coiled the rope better on this pitch, although Jared still had to stop me a few times to work out clusters. Finally, atop P7 we were able to continue on at a better pace again. If it hadn't been for the roof folly we would have made great time on the route. Fortunately the earlier climbing and from here on was fast enough that we had that time to spare! So up the steep corners I went.

Looking up P7. A climber is just starting P8.

Looking down P7.

Interesting piton at the P7-8 belay.

Looking up the awkward P8. This is where I killed my camera.

I had been climbing this past year storing my camera in a soft case camera case. That was not a good idea, as the camera's LCD got smashed on the next pitch. The camera still worked, but I couldn't operate any menus or see what I was shooting, so I blindly clicked away for the rest of the climb.

The awkward P8.

P8 was awkward and sustained, but still not too bad. It had good pro and regular stances throughout, and then finished with a great traverse left.

Jared finishing P8.

Climber ahead on P9.

Starting up P9.

Looking down P9 & P10.

The topo I had said to make a belay here. This spot sucked since it was a sustained, thin 5.8 finger crack. I didn't want to go to the trouble of having a hanging belay here. Since the terrain above Jared was easy for the first bit, we switched to simul-climbing so that I could reach the nice looking tree and ledge above.

Final wide to finish P10.

P11, last pitch! 5.7 undercling to reach the 5.7 groove on the right.

The 5.7 undercling was short and very easy. The groove was a bit awkward, but not too bad. One of the easier pitches on the route.

P11 5.7 groove. There were some frogs in here.

Mungy finish to the climb.

Rainy descent and wet rappels down the gully (by Jared Wood)

In the end I would say that the suggestion of climbing Central Pillar of Frenzy is a great gauge for climbing the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral. While it technically has a lot more 5.9 climbing, the route is very clean, protects well, and is very non-committing. I actually found a lot of the 5.8 climbing on the East Buttress to be more serious and taxing on lead than the 5.9 climbing on Central Pillar of Frenzy.

Personal Website - Central Pillar of Frenzy
Personal Website - E Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock

CPoF Photos on Picasa

EBoMCR Photos on Picasa

  Trip Report Views: 6,961
About the Author
PellucidWombat is a mountain climber from Berkeley, CA.

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Big Wall climber
  May 26, 2012 - 04:56pm PT
Nice photos. Good color & composition. Looks like you guys had fun up there!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  May 26, 2012 - 05:44pm PT
Blast from the past. Memorial Day,1972. I came ridin' down to YV, only to find Cowboy Larry, got drunk on Friday night, climbed the East Butt with Dick Ellsworth in just a super-fast time (w/o linking pitches). We wanted to get in another climb, "but you know my uncle, he likes a friendly game," and so we all three decided to get more beer. Cribbage makes a nice way to relax apres climb.
Are you a pro photographer and how'd you get aerial shots of the source of all contentment and fulfillment, El Capitan? I agree, you have a good sense of composition.
The Chouinard/Pratt, next to the CPF, was my first whack at walls, and we hadn't even heard of Breedlove. He was in the next year's crop. But the roofy stuff next door really intrigued me. And it was NOT 5.10, though it looks it. Roger took the challenge. Thanks, Rog, as always, for a classic enjoyed by thousands! And your second(s), of course, sorry.
The Wombat is ticking them off in fine style. NBHCR, too. Nice.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 26, 2012 - 05:53pm PT
Nice wombad, I always love your TR's!
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
  May 26, 2012 - 07:18pm PT
Yahoooo ! ! !

Social climber
An Oil Field
  May 26, 2012 - 07:58pm PT
Cool! Brings back some very old memories. CPOF is so fun. It is a romp.
Gunks Guy

Trad climber
New Paltz
  May 27, 2012 - 10:40pm PT
Great pictures. Brought back some fine memories - especially CPoF. Funny how I remember every pitch on that climb and not so on EBoM. I have done them both about the same number of times. Anyway, thanks.


  May 27, 2012 - 10:49pm PT
Dood. . . that was absolutely fabulous. You really should think about compiling all your TRs into book form. They are comprehensive, well thought out and well written, not to mention beautifully documented by your photos.

Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 27, 2012 - 10:49pm PT
Classic. TFPU!

The fat part of the bell-curve
  May 27, 2012 - 11:27pm PT
My recollection from the '80s is that there were no hangers on the 1/4" bolts on the 5.10 crux pitch. Has this been fixed or is my memory going to sh*t too?

Trad climber
  May 28, 2012 - 01:08am PT
Fun pics and TR. Prompted some good memories.

Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 28, 2012 - 01:22am PT
Fixed, chill.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  May 28, 2012 - 09:30am PT
Nice TR and photos, especially on the East Buttress.

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  May 29, 2012 - 12:37pm PT
Great stuff. Perfect way to start the week.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  May 29, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
Thanks for pics! I never did the bolt ladder on EB Middle, went for the 10a face variant to the right instead. Another one to add to the list!

Mountain climber
Draperderr, by Bangerter, Utah
Author's Reply  May 29, 2012 - 05:56pm PT
Thanks everyone! I wasn't sure about posting TRs of such popular climbs, but I figured the photos made too good of a complete series to not put up as a brief reliving of the experience :-)

Mouse from Merced:

Are you a pro photographer

Naw. But I have had design experience in art/architecture, so although I work as an engineer now, I like to try to make photography a semi-serious hobby.

and how'd you get aerial shots of the source of all contentment and fulfillment, El Capitan?

I use a point & shoot for most of my photos, but since I expected to have good views of El Cap from the route, I lugged my Nikon D40 DSLR with a 200mm zoom lens up the climb, and at the top of P5 I took the close up photos. I also got some nice ones along the base of El Cap, where you could see people doing the El Cap swing:

And a nice view of Gollum, among other features of interest:

You really should think about compiling all your TRs into book form.
I've had intentions of developing a personal website more, as a nice way to have everything nicely organized & presented (including trip reports from SummitPost), but work + climbing + keeping up with climbing photos & the occasional report has kept me too busy to keep up!

I like the book idea, though. I could do that easily enough and have enough photo material and annotated photos & maps that I could easily do a themed book (Valley wide, 50 Classics, 100 Sierra Classics, Favorite Climbs of 20xx, winter alpine climbs, alpine trad, etc.). A good idea for me to consider! Perhaps if this next winter has more snowy weekends . . .

Another one to add to the list!
You can free that section at 5.10c, but I suck at/don't care for face climbing, so happily aided the bolts. I could see enough features to work with, though, that you'd probably have plenty of fun freeing that section without too much trouble.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  May 31, 2012 - 01:49pm PT
I love your trip reports, PW. They bring back great memories, often of routes to do again and again. Excellent job, as always.

Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  May 29, 2012 - 09:21pm PT
Good stuff Wombat and good job on those routes. One question: what'cha got in the pack on the CPOF? Beer I hope! Cheers!

Mountain climber
Draperderr, by Bangerter, Utah
Author's Reply  May 29, 2012 - 09:53pm PT
Due to the forecast, a rain jacket. DLSR camera & lens for the El Cap photo ops at top (left behind for EBoMCR, but carried shoes on that one). Camelback bladder since I'm a water hog. Also gave me a good excuse to practice switching to trailing a pack on a line mid-lead, which I did leading the squeeze section of P1. Although I sometimes carry a flask on climbs, I probably should carry beer more often for the 'training weight'. :-)

Mountain climber
Manhattan Beach, CA
  May 31, 2012 - 05:41am PT
Your Cathedral Rocks overview map is awesome and way better than anything else I've seen. Cool report, and it was interesting to hear about what was going through your head in the lead-up to these climbs... I think you and I have fundamentally different approaches to climbing routes--I tend to jump in over my head, and you tend to prepare meticulously =)

  May 31, 2012 - 09:46am PT
Thanks for the thoughtful reply, PW. You certainly have an eye for composition and the mind for clarity.

A book would be KILLER!


Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
  May 31, 2012 - 11:38am PT
Thanks for the green neutrino booty on the SFWC :) looks real purdy on my green camalot :P

Social climber
  May 31, 2012 - 11:58am PT
Haha russ with the pack rant :)

Good route, took my mom up it earlier this month for her birthday. CPoF looked a bit harder, even with the fifty crowded variation. But I am liiiiiiight on the wide.
Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
  May 31, 2012 - 12:09pm PT
Enjoyed the story and photos. Brings back lots of good memories of my Valley Girl days!

Trad climber
  May 31, 2012 - 12:19pm PT
Nice stuff.....that gridlock on CPF looks hideous!

Mountain climber
Draperderr, by Bangerter, Utah
Author's Reply  May 31, 2012 - 01:25pm PT
Nice stuff.....that gridlock on CPF looks hideous!

The rainstorm came in hard and fast within an hour of taking that picture. I wonder how the scene looked then? Yikes!

Your Cathedral Rocks overview map is awesome and way better than anything else I've seen.

Thanks Hamik! Sadly this one isn't too high of resolution, so next time I'm climbing in the Superslide/Serenity area I'll have to bring up a camera with a better zoom :-) Maybe then I can do a version with close-up croppings where you can better see the features on the routes.

Haha russ with the pack rant :)
For the record, I led pitches 2, 4-9, & 11-12 on the S Face of Charlotte Dome last weekend toting along my Andanista Wild Things pack. I don't really notice it if I'm not pulling roofs or chimneying. A nice security blanket :-)

Thanks for the green neutrino booty on the SFWC :)
? Hmm, I know some nuts got stuck on P7, but I didn't lose a 'biner. Maybe my partner did?

  Jul 17, 2013 - 01:02pm PT

(BumpforaBetterSuperTopo = donini quote)

Trad climber
Linz, Austria
  Jul 18, 2013 - 08:48am PT
The funky piton as seen on p7 is a so called torque piton, made especially for rock like granite. They ar produced for example by Stubai
Credit: Dr.Knox

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  Aug 7, 2013 - 12:45am PT
bump for an awesome TR

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 7, 2013 - 02:34am PT
Tfpu. Great!
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Middle Cathedral - East Buttress 5.10c or 5.9 A0 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
East Buttress is one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America
Photo: Chris McNamara
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