North Face 5.11c

  • Currently 5.0/5

The Rostrum

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Rostrum - Reg North Face
Monday September 19, 2011 5:38pm
So, the Rostrum...
[Click to View Linked Image]
Credit: Blitzo

As I sit here today, hands swollen and massively gobied, quads and calves so sore I can barely wobble down the hall for some decaf, I keep getting flashbacks of moments on the climb. They come in waves, images and snips of action, from specific fingerlocks to pitch-long sections of crack, a psyched partner shouting encouragement, and sweeping views of Reed's.

On my first trip to the Valley, long before I'd ever heard of the Rostrum or knew the reputation of the route, I remember staring at it and thinking "WOW, that thing looks killer!" And I still think the same thing every time I drive through the lower Merced. It begs to be climbed. I believe the technical term is a "striking formation". In the intervening years I've heard many friends call it "the perfect route" and "best free climb in the country" among other superlatives.

So I get the idea that I NEED to do the Rostrum this year. No more putting it off, no "saving it for the onsight", no "I need a week in the valley beforehand to get ready". You wait and wait and come up with excuses and the next thing you know you're staring down the barrel of age and can see the window of opportunity inching shut. And true to my usual Valley form, I have climbed exactly no cracks since Memorial Day weekend, in fact haven't been on a rope since then. Call it the curse of the SoCal climber...too hot for the good crack areas in summer...sure I've done summers in Josh mini traxing favorite lines in the shade early morning or late afternoon, but it's not pleasant and I'm working in Riverside so it's not even feasible. Training on plastic has me bouldering about as well as I ever have, but the Rostrum ain't plastic, nor is it a boulder problem for most. So while I'm plenty strong enough, I am not tuned into efficient crack work and I don't have time to hang around for a week to get dialed. Off-the-couch it will be.

My intended partner has work obligations he can't shake, so blind-date trolling on the internet ensues. How hard should this be? It's "the best route in the valley", right? I post on some websites and start working the phone. "I'd love to, but I'm waaay outta shape." "Injured." "Dude, I been freakin' HIKING all summer, I can barely get up a single pitch of 5.10." And then some interest.

Luke is shaking off an injury but may be game. Having done the route before, and parts of it twice, he's exactly what I'm looking for. All he asks is if I'm willing/able to lead the 5.11 pitches. "Might not onsight them all, but I'll take them" I tell him. He goes to the gym to assess the injury and declares that he can handle a little rock climbing.

Saturday morning, 7:00am we meet in the pullout to get this blind date rolling. We want to be the first party on the route, figuring on big crowds on this gorgeous late summmer weekend. After wandering down a well worn climber's trail, we stash the pack with big cams and food/water on the midway ledge and reach the first of 3 or 4 raps to the base (if you have a 70m, the first two go as one).

Luke starts up the first pitch, liebacking and cruising right along until he disappears out of sight into the chimney. The plan is, if he's feeling good he'll link the next pitch via the 10- R wide-flake bit, if not he'll stop and belay. He reappears, grabs the flake and starts frankenstein style liebacking up the R section. Soon enough he is placing gear and cruising to the belay with more liebacking. On one of his prior trips, Luke's partner had taken a big whipper after the R section narrowly avoiding hitting the ledge, so it must have been an exciting way to start the day for Luke with that image in mind. Following I was grateful for the mild intro/warmup on the first pitch, and concur with the Mtn Proj description that the exit from the chimney is pretty wild. It tapers shut at the top, forcing you to the outside where you blindly grope around for something to pull yourself out. And while the R section of the liebacking was fairly secure, the section above after you get gear is slightly weird and harder. I ended up liebacking most of it rather than deal with a funky size in a flare that would be awkward to climb straight-on.

Looking up the next pitch, I couldn't help but smile. After a little mini-roof right off the belay that was probably the crux of the pitch, a long tight-hands corner is followed by another little mini roof and a long section of hands and wide hands, to a final section of steep jugs ending on the midway ledge. This is one of the best pitches of 5.10 I've ever climbed. It felt like something that belongs in the Needles, just a loooooong amazing crack pitch that would be Five-Star mega classic if it were at a crag somewhere. Despite being long, the size is varied enough that a double set is plenty of gear.

Starting up the crux fingercrack, I placed a piece, downclimbed and got ready.

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Tips opened to actual fingerlocks, and as I placed the second piece the feet got essentially non-existent. Yarding on the good lock, I stabbed into another and things began to rapidly go downhill. Missing the best lock, I placed another piece off a thin tips lock as my stemmed-out left leg began to vibrate off the ripple I was smearing...the piece, a yellow master cam, was slightly smaller on the largest end of its range compared to a yellow alien I thought I'd grabbed and I was NOT HAPPY! While in reality the cam would have almost surely held a fall, it was more tipped than I liked and just then my feet started skating. Things get a little hazy here but "take" was called. I then found a better lock, reached the funky hand jam at the end, feet still skating around, and then was able to recompose a bit on a good foothold before the lieback. Looking up, I placed the last of my finger sized gear, climbed up a move or two into the lieback and back down to the good foot, "take" again, reached down and backcleaned a finger-sized piece below me I thought I'd need, then punched through the liebacking to the ledge and optional anchor. I was not dialed and not climbing well, very stiff and hesitant, but with my laundry list of ready-made excuses...onsighting, off-the-couch, old, sleep-deprived, low-T, no sack, locusts! Plague!!....I didn't really care too much, just gives me an excuse to come back.

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The rest of the pitch would be cruiser from here, except for one thing...I was wickedly pumped. It took me a very long time to lead the last 40' or so of 5.9 to the anchor as I waited for recovery that didn't seem to be coming. Luke methodically cruised it, climbing with a pack on in an impressive display, and began racking up for the next.

This next pitch is the gorgeous dihedral to roof that you've all probably seen pictures of. Luke quickly climbed to just below the roof commenting that it was a little pumpy with some steepish wide hands. Now I'd heard stories from multiple friends that this is the sleeper hard pitch on the climb, with the roof at the very end being pretty stiff for 10d. After placing a couple pieces, Luke pulled into a lieback at the roof, got about halfway around it and started shopping for a good hold/lock. I think a "watch me" came out right about here and like flipping a switch you could see the decisiveness take hold. He pasted a foot high and wide and then bang-bang-bang made a couple rapid fire lieback moves to the finishing jug. I was able to conserve energy pretty well on the lower portion, and with the benefit of a TR and knowing there was at least one good lock lurking above the roof, moved on through.

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Ahh, now the OW. But first...what's this? The 10c traverse to get to the wide is FUNKY. There are plenty of holds...but they all face the wrong way, you need to stem pretty wide and there appear to be about 4 or 5 options of sequences, all chalked. I try the high version, downclimb, try the middle version, downclimb, try the low version, downclimb, go back to the low version and finally just suck it up and make it happen.

Having done plenty of wide crack climbing (though none recently), I still had a total sh#t-show leading this pitch. The first half went easily enough since you're sort of stemming with one leg and there are lots of helper holds.

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But once you lose the stem it becomes pushing a purple camalot and knee locks with either stacking or arm-barring. The geometry of this pitch is a little awkward since it's sort of a wide flare and I was not having success getting into good stacks because I couldn't rotate my shoulders/torso enough. So I resorted to armbarring and knee locking and about halfway up just got too gassed from the arm bar. "Take" again. Even after saying beforehand that I'd probably clip the piece to a sling directly to my harness to avoid dealing with pushing the rope and having two stands of rope in the way of my knee, I didn't. I clipped the rope to the cam and pushed...big mistake, and the I knew it was mistake when I did it. After the hang I groveled the rest of the way up, switching sides-in a couple of times and generally making the section feel way harder than 10a. Reaching the belay my mouth felt like sandpaper.

At this point, I need to give props to the YOSAR fella behind us. This cat was rope-soloing the route with a silent partner, and when he first showed up I thought "well that sucks for the rest of the people behind him", but he was cruising. We let him pass while I was just finishing this pitch and it was pretty impressive to watch him link the wide with the next 11b pitch then do a hanging jug WAAAYY out there.

In another impressive display, Luke stacked his way up this pitch, WEARING A PACK, in short order. He was cruising, so I asked him if he wanted the next pitch. He declined, so I started racking. "Tight hands right?" I asked. "Not really, mostly blue camalots". While I rarely tape, and didn't for this route, I paid the price for sure. If I'd known how much wide-hands were on it I'd have taped and definitely will in the future.

As an aside: The fourth co-worker today who asked "what happened to your hands", when I told him I'd been climbing in Yosemite, his reply was "so that happened because you're not very good or what?". It was all I could do to restrain the "f*#k you, fatboy" that was on the tip of my tongue.

So back to our story. The bottom of this 11b pitch goes pretty easily via chimneying and stemming and then some steep wide hands to the bottom of the fin. More steep wide hands lead to a thank-god stem rest and a slight bulge where it tapers to tight hands and then the crack essentially closes off. A single fingerlock and face hold allow a long reach to the finishing jug.

Everything goes ok, I climb fast in the steep sections and find a no-hands
thigh-bar/lock thing partway up. I make the thank-god stem in pretty good shape...pumped, but not badly. Getting into the final fingerlock it's actually better than I expect, but the reach to the jug is also longer. I'm looking up and see what look like three different holds, the actual finishing jug (didn't know this at the time) and two other things that look like edges from below. So I load up, foot high, crank and slap for the closer one on the right...and IT'S NOT A HOLD! At all! Not even a ripple, just sloping texture. "WARNING! WARNING! EJECTION IN 3,2,1..."As I'm sliding off it my fingerlock, now at about my stomach, is also sliding straight outward. "Take!" I yell, which should have been "falling", because I was. Luke reacted quickly and my "fall" was all of about two feet. A quick shake and I slap to the correct hold and reach the anchor.

Luke makes me feel a little better by at least making the exit-sequence I'd just fallen off look non-trivial while following it. People say this pitch is soft for 11b, and it is, but it felt hard enough at the time!

The final pitch is Luke's lead and I'm laughing at him as he does the super scrunched-up traverse out right. After looking around a bit, deciphering the entrance move, his feet disappear over the lip and he's in the wide. Now at this point, there is a party who were on Blind Faith that were just below us. Christina and David IIRC. She is leading the 11b pitch we just finished and although I can't see her yet, I've heard her take one fall somewhere lower on the pitch. Soon I hear her right below me at the final sequence where I'd just fallen. I see the hand come over and latch the finishing jug..."Nice job!" I say, and as her head peaks above the edge her eyes are about as big as saucers..."Can you help me?"..."Whuh?" "I'm scared". So I lean out, lock off Luke with one hand and offer her my other hand. Yard her into the alcove and she points to her tape glove that had disintegrated and was hanging halfway off. She was about to take the big ripper because this flapping tape glove meant she couldn't jam but was still on enough that she couldn't shake the tape off.

I got my payback for laughing at Luke as I crabbed across the traverse, repeadly hitting the pack and my helmet on the roof and almost knocking myself off. The entrance into the wide is slightly baffling. You look around a bit, and finally just settle on a lieback and high-step. Once in it, it is quite moderate/secure and has plentiful face holds on the upper half.

We topped out around 3:00 to sunny and 70s bluebird weather. Stoked!

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A nice end to a fantastic crack climb. Many thanks to Luke, a great partner who climbed the route in perfect style, no hangs no falls. And while I knew I'd be sore, I had no idea it would be like upper body is in good shape, but my quads and calves are completely ruined.

Best route ever? Only one way to find out...go get some!

  Trip Report Views: 8,195
About the Author
Elcapinyoazz is a social climber from Joshua Tree.


Trad climber
Mountain View
  Sep 19, 2011 - 06:14pm PT
Awesome day dude! I too had a great time.

I actually have a bunch of photos of you. Hopefully a few of them are in focus. I'll post them up later tonight.


Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Sep 19, 2011 - 06:34pm PT
someone once told me that gobies
are a sign of poor footwork.

i believe him cause he climbs hard 5.11 crak
with nary a scratch.

me? littered with gobies.

nice route, that.

nice send el cap!

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Sep 19, 2011 - 06:28pm PT
Awesome!!! Nice report Will! Congrats!!

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Sep 19, 2011 - 07:04pm PT
Awesome Will, thanks for the TR.


San Jose, CA
  Sep 19, 2011 - 07:23pm PT
great TR interesting to read

Trad climber
  Sep 19, 2011 - 07:25pm PT
Very Very nice write up.


Hardly Visible

Social climber
Llatikcuf WA
  Sep 19, 2011 - 07:25pm PT
Nice report Will, here's some visuals for ya.


Mudcat Spire
  Sep 19, 2011 - 08:35pm PT
Where's the pitchers????

Nuthin but words and character development.

The Jane Austen of TRs

Am I doomed to suffer a life without love, Mr. Darcy???


PS: Bump!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Sep 19, 2011 - 09:42pm PT
That was a great write up.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Sep 19, 2011 - 09:53pm PT
Great TR and inspirational stuff! The words more than made up for the lack of pictures.

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  Sep 19, 2011 - 09:56pm PT
Nice climb and thanks for passing along a great tale of the send.


Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Sep 19, 2011 - 10:00pm PT
Thanks ecinyoa!

What a great route.

Nice shots HardVis.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 19, 2011 - 11:09pm PT
Sweet TR, even with out pics

"next thing you know you're staring down the barrel of age and can see the window of opportunity inching shut"

Loved this line, rang very true for me, best line I've read in a while!!!!

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Sep 19, 2011 - 11:19pm PT
Fun stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  Sep 19, 2011 - 11:27pm PT
So nice! thanks,

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Sep 20, 2011 - 12:31am PT
good stuff! And thanks for the pics, dudes.

Random Nobody
  Sep 20, 2011 - 01:25am PT
Great story Will.

Too bad there's no video...

I have to doubt any of the story's validity seeing there's no video....

But I've met you before and seem to be an honest guy, so....


Oakland, CA
  Sep 20, 2011 - 12:33pm PT
Bump to the top, great TR. Cool to build a mental picture from OP's good and honest writing, then see the day's goods from CS. Sure doesn't sound soft for .11b.

  Sep 20, 2011 - 12:56pm PT
Nice Will!

Why don't you come down here this fall and climb the Rainbow Wall with me?

Social climber
Wilds of New Mexico
  Sep 20, 2011 - 01:02pm PT
Nice job on the climb- good descriptive TR as well. Thanks.

Social climber
  Sep 20, 2011 - 01:20pm PT
Great report, Will!

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2011 - 01:47pm PT
Thanks for the pics Luke.

How about that Uprising pitch? Wicked steep, that thing looks all-time.
Josh Nash

Social climber
riverbank ca
  Sep 20, 2011 - 02:21pm PT
"so that happened because you're not very good or what?". It was all I could do to restrain the "f*#k you, fatboy" that was on the tip of my tongue.

that's awesome! your summit pic makes me feel fat and sad.

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Nov 3, 2011 - 06:17pm PT
Bump for Will, the Rostrum and my perspective on our climb (+ blind faith)!


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 3, 2011 - 06:20pm PT
Great TR with some stellar pics- thanks!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 3, 2011 - 07:17pm PT
Pile. Find something good to write about!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 3, 2011 - 07:23pm PT

Way to burl through old timer!

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Nov 3, 2011 - 07:40pm PT
With a six pack like that you should be able to climb a lot more than the rostrum! A hahahaha

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Nov 3, 2011 - 07:42pm PT
Don't know how I missed this, but glad it was bumped. Both TRs are great. Now go send Astroman.

Trad climber
Canoga Park, CA
  Nov 3, 2011 - 07:52pm PT
Rostrum is my favorite route, but IMO AMan is a LOT harder than Rostrum (unless you do Rostrum Roof!). The 11c pitch on Rostrum is much easier than Butterballs, I think it is more like 11b. AMan has many pitches with solid 11b and 11c climbing.

Another good one is Hotline - it has straight in cracks that are spectacular, including a handcrack far better than Outer Limits. The crux pitch is 11b but probably at least as hard as the Rostrum finger crack. The 12a is very thin, but it is just a boulder problem traverse move.

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Nov 4, 2011 - 01:08am PT
love the blow by blow descriptions, good to hear you also thought the 10d corner is under graded.


Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Nov 4, 2011 - 01:13am PT
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Nov 4, 2011 - 01:33am PT
People shouldn't be allowed to post TRs like this during the FaceLift. In fact, any time I'll be away from a computer for more than two days.

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
  Nov 4, 2011 - 01:42am PT
has anybody dropped into the fissures lately?

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Sep 21, 2012 - 03:15pm PT
Valley season bump!

The fat part of the bell-curve
  Sep 21, 2012 - 03:24pm PT
While in reality the cam would have almost surely held a fall, it was more tipped than I liked and just then my feet started skating. Things get a little hazy here but "take" was called.
Boy, you've captured the essence of most of my "hard climb" attempts!

Gym climber
  Sep 21, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
Great TR, Will and Luke! Missed it first go-round.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 21, 2012 - 04:23pm PT
Thank you to whoever bumped this. Great TR, El Cap. I liked it all, but I was roaring after I read this: "As an aside: The fourth co-worker today who asked 'what happened to your hands', when I told him I'd been climbing in Yosemite, his reply was 'so that happened because you're not very good or what?'. It was all I could do to restrain the 'f*#k you, fatboy' that was on the tip of my tongue."


Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Sep 21, 2012 - 04:46pm PT
Nice TR. No better route than the Rostrum, just a matter of Opinion.

Never was able to "cruise" it but loved everytime I did it (except for one weak sauce time where we bailed)



Social climber
Lida Junction
  Sep 21, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
thanks for the tr. missed it the first time.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Author's Reply  Sep 21, 2012 - 05:56pm PT
Just to add a postscript to this:

The YOSAR gent mentioned in the TR was Niels Tietze (sp?) who a few months later went on to free El Cap in a day via Freerider, partnered with Mayan.

Trad climber
Somewhere South Of Heaven
  Sep 21, 2012 - 06:20pm PT
Super report and pics! Awesome piece of stone and location opposite Reeds. Brings back long forgotten memories, definitly one of the best routes I ever did. Thanks for sharing.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 21, 2012 - 06:16pm PT
How'd I miss this one?
Coolness, Will!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 21, 2012 - 06:23pm PT
If one has to address this bunch, the Rostrum's a great spot.
You been choosing off some great climbing, ECIYA!
Keep on truckin!!!
It's so cool to see Vitaliy's not the only one...
I mean, let's face it.
And one last thing, most important: I keep a photo of Lizzie posing beneath the Rostrum in my wallet to remind me of the honeymoon. TY.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 21, 2012 - 07:34pm PT
Nice pics to give good perspective, and reading it is a good gauge for deciding when I'll be ready (if ever).

Trad climber
  Sep 21, 2012 - 10:43pm PT
amazing report, especially like the good beta and pics, thanks guys, five star

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Sep 21, 2012 - 10:51pm PT
Awesome! I wish I was capable of climbing that...

  Sep 22, 2012 - 10:23pm PT
I'm psyched! One of the best trs I've seen!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Sep 22, 2012 - 10:40pm PT

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Sep 22, 2012 - 11:11pm PT
one of the best climbs ever no doubt!

Took me 4 times to finally send it from bottom to top

I'm always impressed when dudes built like you climb hard- strength to weight ratio being operative- you must be pretty strong!


Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Sep 22, 2012 - 11:50pm PT


Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Apr 27, 2013 - 01:40pm PT
Bumping for one of the best climbs in Cali !

Trad climber
Clovis, CA
  Jul 18, 2013 - 01:32pm PT
Bump for the Rostrum - all valley peregrine closures are lifted!!!!

Awesome write-up, particularly yer description of the crux sections. Can't wait to go get on this!!!!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Jul 18, 2013 - 08:52pm PT
I missed this earlier. Great TR, Will! I imagine the Rostrum like a great Italian opera. It brings tears to my eyes (you know, like a particularly moving opera to a big, fat Italian guy). I mean really, as a climber, you have to be grateful to have had the privilege of climbing the Rostrum.
Edit: (North Face of)

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 18, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
Nice tr!

Trad climber
  Aug 21, 2013 - 07:10am PT
We com'in over! Sounds too good to miss.

Oakland, CA
  Apr 16, 2015 - 11:06am PT

...onsighting, off-the-couch, old, sleep-deprived, low-T, no sack, locusts! Plague!!

Yet another ST-quote t-shirt I'd like to own.

Two trips up and I still haven't found the "rest/stem" on the second-to-last pitch. And damn have I needed it. Maybe the clean send this year once the peregrine closure is lifted.

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Apr 16, 2015 - 11:35am PT
When you start to get pumped, look around ;)
The Rostrum - North Face 5.11c - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
One of the finest multi-pitch 5.11 climbs anywhere.
Photo: Mark Kroese