The East Buttress of El Cap is high on my list of favorite routes in the Valley, or anywhere for that matter. I’ve described it as having good wow value for the effort involved and a couple of the easy pitches seem particularly spectacular and photogenic.
My 1st trip up the East Buttress was a grand adventure shared with Zander in 2003 (also my 1st trip to the Valley since 1981!). I had recently met Zander at Indian Rock and I don’t think we had climbed together outside the gym before talking ourselves into the route. In addition, having spent the previous couple years living in Fort Collins where I sport climbed almost exclusively, I don’t think I had placed more than a couple dozen pieces of gear in recent memory. I’ll never forget driving past the meadow just before dawn, seeing El cap lurking in the dark for the first time in 20+ years, and swallowing hard as I realized we could be getting into rather more adventure than we had intended. Not to worry though, Zander was up to the task and managed to snap at least one great photo as a bonus.
The next time up the route was with my friend Bill Launder. We started by doing the Moratorium on a day that was much too warm, and realized too late that the route is like a big reflector oven on a hot day. As we topped out on Moratorium the talk was of calling it a day as we were sure we’d never have enough water to finish the East Buttress. Since the first pitch was breezy and still in the shade we went up thinking we’d rappel after a couple pitches and go do something sensible, like drink beer with our toes in the river. After a couple pitches though we found the temperatures to just right on East Buttress, and we had a great time finishing the route (sans camera this time).
Now don’t get me wrong, doing the route with Zander and Bill was great, but the next trip up the route was special in a different way. I started proposing to my now wife Ingrid at the first belay, and stammered out a final plea on my knees at the summit. It was another HOT day but we didn’t seem to mind.
A couple weeks previous to the proposal trip my friend Justin drug me up the Nose on a day with perfect temps. I remember thinking that if it had been as hot on the Nose as it was on the East Buttress Justin would have had to leave my shriveled carcass somewhere in the vicinity of camp 6.
After talking for a couple years about repeating the route to celebrate our engagement, Ingrid put the suggestion forward in earnest this summer and we were off on 10/20/12 to see if we still had the (climbing) magic.
It all started innocently enough with a little hiking in the dark.
Then we got held up a bit with traffic at the start.
Finally we got on the route after waiting an hour or so for a couple parties who got up even earlier than we did!
After that things moved along smoothly enough, though there were a couple suspicious characters ahead of us who seemed a little reluctant to have their pictures taken. They said they were gear reps from Marmot but I’m guessing secret agents, super heroes, or maybe arch villains!
Pitch 3 looks pretty steep (especially if your spouse tilts the camera a bit – good work Sweetie!).
The mid-point ledge makes for a nice lunch spot with a good view.
Ingrid busting a move on pitches 6/7, which we ran together (we also combined ¾ with a bit of easy simul-climbing.
The scenery on pitch 9 is hard to beat.
And the view from the top is not half bad.
I can't wait till we get on it again!!!