Kor-Beck 5.9

  • Currently 3.0/5

Middle Cathedral

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Space Babble rebolting photo TR - 5/26/08
Thursday June 19, 2008 3:39am
Space Babble rebolting & inspection - 5/26,27, 5/30,6/1/2008

Way more than you really want to know about rebolting Space Babble!

I first became interested in Space Babble after seeing the
action photo of Ron Fawcett in Yosemite Climber:

Detailed caption from back of the book:

Ron Fawcett beginning the hard section on Space Babble (5.11) on the
North-East Face of Middle Cathedral Rock.
This hard climb takes a line between the Kor/Beck and Bircheff/Williams routes.
It involves five sustained pitches of steep face climbing which gradually get easier,
but less well protected. This first (crux) pitch takes a line up under the overlap to the
right until it is possible to break through on to the upper face by a move to the left.
A protection bolt here is followed by 15ft. of hard climbing to another bolt.
Thereafter the climb continues up the wall above for four more pitches (5.10, 5,10, 5.9, 5.9).
Kevin Worrall and Ron Kauk made the first ascent of this fine route in 1977.
Photo by Pete Livesey

Looking at the topo, clearly it was too hard and runout for me to lead.
Here is a revised/current topo, showing all the fixed pitons and based on
Randy Vogel's original topo:

Since it intersects the Kor-Beck, there is a fairly risk free
alternative to leading it - simply rappel down it and toprope the pitches.

Middle Cathedral, from El Cap Meadow.
In 1995, John Imbrie and tried this toproping scheme, after climbing 7 pitches
on the Central Pillar and traversing left to the Kor-Beck. The toproping
on Space Babble was fun, except the p3 anchor was rather
sketchy, with one fixed pin sticking out a bit and the other with its eye
pointing downwards.
We also ran a bit short on time and did not have the daylight to
try the lowest pitches, which are the hardest.
In late 2006, a thread titled "Road to Space Babble?" appeared here
where several people shared their stories
of leading this route, back in the day.
The condition of the bolts was considered rather poor,
although at least one fairly recent ascent was noted.
A discussion about how to deal with the missing fixed pins
also commenced - the concept of a "pinbolt" (piton with bolt drilled
through the blade) was suggested to keep the fixed pins from falling out.
I stated my intent to replace the bolts the next spring (2007),
but for various reasons it did not get done.
As spring 2008 approached, motivation to do the job was high,
and fortunately Kevin Willoh wanted to do some rebolting,
so we chose a date right after Memorial Day Weekend.
The final preparations were complete when Greg Barnes sent me a box
of ideal belay bolt hangers (Fixe double ring hangers with the ASCA stamp)
on short notice,
and I hit up my rebolting buddy Bruce Hildenbrand
for his supply of ASCA 3/8" x 2.25" stainless Powers bolts.
Plans for climbing Saturday and Sunday that weekend were washed out
by rain, but I drove into the Valley on Sunday night through more rain and
low clouds, and was glad to find Kevin parked at the designated campsite.

Day 1 - Monday - up the Kor-Beck, with Kevin Willoh
Kevin at the base of the Kor-Beck on Monday; a fairly cloudy day.
View up the first 3 pitches of the Kor-Beck, several days later in nice weather.
revised topo of the first 5 pitches of the Kor-Beck
Following p1. We were concerned the route might be wet, due to rain
the previous two days, but it is on the edge of a buttress and dried
pretty fast.
A few steep/moves at the top of p1; typical for the first 2 pitches
of the Kor-Beck - slightly scruffy rock and a few plants.
p2 - more of the same - climbing in an awkward flaring corner.
It started to sprinkle when I was leading this pitch, so we paused
but kept going after it didn't get too serious.
We hauled up a third rope, so that we could fix back down to the
ground from wherever we ended up.
You do get a nice unobstructed view of El Cap from up on Middle.
Bolts on a new route just to the right are visible from the end of p2;
we didn't have time to check it out much.

p3 was nicer climbing - clean fingerlocks and a small roof near the end.
At the end of p3, I climbed out right of the Kor-Beck corner and used
this bolted anchor on the new route.
We had a minor epic when I tried hauling my pack, because it clipped itself
into a cam - Kevin had to climb up with a self-belay to clear the jam.
View out right to the p6 anchor on Space Babble
Upper corners of the Kor-Beck.
I climbed just high enough in the
middle crack system to place a rappel anchor (a nut and sling around a flake),
so we could rap into Space Babble.
However, it started raining and it looked like we were going to get wet,
so we fixed our ropes down the Kor-Beck from this high point and
rapped off without replacing any bolts on the first day.
When we rapped off, I did manage to clean an old fixed .5 Tech Friend
from an apparent dead end on p1.
Kevin investigated a knotted fixed rope, but the rock was too wet/slick
to swing left enough to access its anchor.

Day 2 - Tuesday - Space Babble rebolting, with Kevin Willoh
We started out by jugging up our fixed ropes.
I swung over to check out the fixed pro on Space Babble p7 and fix the p6 anchor,
while Kevin organized our other ropes.
Kevin at (3) on the Kor-Beck, with the flake/stance on the Space Babble p7
traverse between us.
Space Babble p6 anchor
Removing the left bolt. Kevin had my regular bolt kit
with the tuning fork, so I used the old knifeblades method.
Typical 1/4" x 1" bolt on Space Babble, in reasonable shape after 32 years.
Not as rusty and fragile as the bolts on Greasy But Groovy which
Roger, Ryan and I replaced last summer - I guess those saw a lot more water.
Maybe a little scary to take a factor-2 fall onto, though.
Drilling to widen/deepen the original hole, with my old 5.10 holder and Fish
3/8" drill bit (carbide tip), still usable after many years/holes.
New 3/8" x 2.25" stainless steel Powers bolt and Fixe/ASCA double ring hanger,
going in.
Removing the right anchor bolt.
It was a bit longer - 1/4" x 1.25"
Kevin drilling to widen/deepen the hole for the right anchor bolt.
I'm down below, replacing the protection bolt on p6.
p6 protection bolt
Kevin finished with the p6 anchor, so he rapped down to work on the p5 anchor.
Kevin heading down the beautiful Middle Cathedral rock, seemingly "made"
for face climbing.
I was on a fixed rope, while Kevin rapped on the other 2 ropes.
When I finished, I jugged up the fixed line and rapped to join Kevin.
p6 protection bolt, extracted
View of the new route to the left - it has 3 bolts in 20',
while Space Babble p6 has one bolt in the entire ~100' pitch.
p6 protection bolt replaced - we used Petzl Couer hangers for the
pro bolts and thicker Fixe double ring hangers at belays.
It was starting to rain steadily at this point.
Kevin working on the p5 anchor in the rain
Kevin at the p5 anchor; rain letting up a little.
The left bolt at (5) was 3/8", and we didn't have the tools to
extract and replace it, so we just replaced its hanger.
p4 anchor. Nobody had rapped from here in awhile....
Kevin waiting atop p5, for me to replace one of the p4 anchor bolts.
Extracting the left p4 anchor bolt
Left bolt replaced, so Kevin could rap down and be on at least
one new bolt.
Kevin rapping to the p3 anchor
Kevin's task was to place a new bolt there, to begin
replacement of the former fixed piton belay, with permission from the FA folks.
Extracting the right p4 anchor bolt
p4 anchor replaced. We have gotten soaked in the meantime.
Kevin commented that the stream of water helped lubricate the drilling!

Cold and soaked, we fixed our ropes and headed for the ground.
We were lucky, as the 70m rope just reached the ground from the p3
anchor (with rope stretch), so we didn't have to pass the knot on rappel.

The rain continued into early evening, and the forecast was even worse
for Wednesday.
Kevin headed off with Victor and Allison to Tollhouse,
which looked to be drier.
I counted 10 bolts left to replace on Space Babble and realized
I would need 2 more days to finish, so I headed home.
This gave my tendons some rest while I hoped the rock
would dry out and my ropes would still be there when I returned the
next weekend.

Days 3 and 4 - Saturday/Sunday - Space Babble rebolting, solo
I returned the next weekend, carpooling with Jim and Wei, so I didn't
have to spend another $50 for gas to drive myself up to the Valley and back!
The weather had cleared out nicely, and with fixed ropes hopefully
in place I figured it should be straightforward to finish the rebolting.
I hiked up and was relieved to see my ropes were still there
(I've had several taken in the past when I've dropped them to the base of El Cap);
we hadn't brought materials for leaving a note with the ropes when we
left them in the rain on Tuesday afternoon.

The rebolting was fairly tedious - jumar or rappel to the next target,
pull the old bolt, enlarge/deepen the hole, install a new bolt.

It was a little more fun to find and test the fixed pitons. Most of them
were still in place and still good, with a few exceptions.

Since photos of solo rebolting are extremely boring (no climber in the frame!),
I'll stop the chronological trip report at this point and switch to a summary of what the lower pitches look like now, with the photos of the
old bolts, upgraded bolts and fixed pitons.

Space Babble - current condition of the route

Space Babble p1

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line of climbing on p1.
None of the original fixed pins were in place
on p1, and it had been led without them;
Aliens or TCUs protect the lower section.

I noticed the "pointed flake" on Randy's topo at the move over the roof had
broken off, and I wasn't sure if that had happened recently.
I cleaned some dirt from the crack at the small roof
but left the ferns in place, noting 1-2 blue Aliens protect after the mantle.
View of the likely location of the original 4th fixed pin, in center of photo.
It was probably a baby angle straight up under the roof;
orange stain visible there.
This spot will take a good small cam now (like a green alien or #1 TCU).
The former "pointed flake" has broken off, and the move over the roof is
fairly hard.
I chose to place a new fixed pin, above the former level of the pointed
flake, and hopefully above any holds useful for moving over the roof.
It may be difficult to reach for a short climber.
I think if the "pointed flake" had been missing on the FA,
they may have chosen to place a pin there.
In a recent post (after my rebolting) on the supertopo.com forum,
Scott Cosgrove explained the flake broke while he was leading it;
he plunged and nearly decked!
p1 original first protection bolt.
This was placed at a sloping stance and there is a small orange edge
which could have potentially been grabbed on the FA if something went wrong
during drilling.
extracting with my tuning fork.
This tuning fork is made from a longer and thinner Lost Arrow than
the standard one, which makes it easier to get started under the hanger.
condition - not too bad
replaced (elapsed time between last two photos: 32 minutes, from the EXIF data)
I don't actually time myself when I'm drilling - too depressing! :-)
p1 second protection bolt.
This is the one which Kevin Worrall placed from the desperate stem between
two shallow dishes on the first ascent!
Obviously, the photo does not convey any of this....
My job was much easier - I had a 60m rope fixed to the p2 belay anchor,
so I was only risking a bit of a swing to the left if my feet skidded.
p1 second bolt, replaced.
p1 belay anchor
The hanger on the left bolt was not flush with the rock, so maybe it
looked sketchy.
As it turned out, it was not easy to pull.
A longer than usual 1/4" bolt.
I chose to patch the old hole and drill a new one,
farther from the 3/8" bolt which had been added in the past.
(if bolts are placed too close together, perhaps less than twice
their depth, the rock between them is more likely to fracture under a
high load, hence the new hole)
p1 belay anchor replaced (left hanger was replaced with an ASCA stamped
hanger shortly after)

Space Babble p2

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p2 original first fixed pin, at top of corner - still good.
closeup of p2 first fixed pin
p2 original second fixed pin - still good.

View up face from below second pin

p2 first protection bolt.

p2 second protection bolt

I noticed this bolt far left from the second bolt,
down and left from the p2 anchor;
same type as other Space Babble bolts, but not on any topo.
I wasn't sure if it might be an original or later left finish for
p2, or an unknown route which joins Space Babble (maybe "Yabo Babble"?).
I felt the latter theory was less likely, since if it was on an
unknown route coming in from the left, it would have been placed from
a higher and easier stance just to the left.
I replaced it (with some difficulty, as part of the carbide tip of
my drill bit broke off and was embedded at the bottom of the hole for awhile).

p2 belay anchor
midway through replacement
comparing old and new bolts
done with p2 belay; middle hole patched
(maybe not very well; I'm new at that).

Space Babble p3

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p3 protection bolt - extracting
Drilling with my regular drill (Petzl RockPec)

p3 - first and second fixed pins - good.
The big hold between the pins is a bit loose.
p3 - third fixed pin - good (Bugaboo type)

p3 anchor - new bolts on the left and the old fixed pins and nut belay
on the right.
The new bolts were added with permission from the FA party.
They are my own bolts and hangers, since ASCA only replaces existing bolts
(we don't want to create controversy by adding bolts).
The stainless chain, quicklinks and rings are from ARI.
Old slings mostly removed. The nut was fairly good, with its cable being mostly
protected from water/rust in its deep niche.
Old anchor detail. We rapped from this in 1995, feeling sketched, as we
didn't have a hammer to test/reseat the pins.
The upper pin was a 5/8" angle, driven diagonally upwards.
(fairly strong, as it turned out)
The lower pin was a Dolt version of a Lost Arrow, driven partway in.
(not too deep after 32 years and fairly weak, as it turned out)
Dolt piton after extraction - initials KW visible.
The letters DOLT are partly visible on the eye.
These are somewhat rare, so I offered to return it to Kevin Worrall,
but he let me keep it as a token for the rebolting - cool!
So it goes in my collection with the homemade aluminum hanger with initials
YC from East Quarter Dome.
Oops, my true reason for rebolting is revealed -
it's all about the booty! :-)
pitons extracted. I couldn't quite clean the nut.

Space Babble p4

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p4 - first fixed pin - tested and somewhat weak
(not very resistant to hammer blows, because it's under an expanding flake)

p4 original second fixed pin was gone, but protects well with a 2" cam and nut
p4 - original third fixed pin - good

View looking down p4 from the belay, wet conditions.

Space Babble p5

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The p5 rock looks featured and mostly moderate, with one 3.5"
hole that would take a cam.

Space Babble p6

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Face below the p6 protection bolt

Face above the p6 protection bolt, with tiny closed corner

Space Babble p7

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Kevin at (3) on the Kor-Beck, with the flake/stance on the Space Babble p7
traverse between us.
Halfway on the p7 traverse is this closed flake with a rust stain, possibly
from a former fixed piton noted on Randy Vogel's detailed topo.
I tried fitting a knifeblade into the stained area, but couldn't get
the tip to penetrate even 1/8".
I think a small piece of the flake chipped off in
the past. It could be replaced by a bolt if the FA party decide that is
a good idea.
(There is a good stance right here where a bolt could be placed on lead).

  Trip Report Views: 4,898
Clint Cummins
About the Author
Clint Cummins is a trad climber from SF Bay area, CA.


Trad climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 04:07am PT
Can't see the pics man. Can anyone else see em? Maybe photobucket is down right now.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jun 19, 2008 - 04:20am PT
Clint needs to fix pix....I wanna see

Cardiff by the sea
  Jun 19, 2008 - 08:44am PT
Nice work! I am sure the Warbler will be proud. Some of those bolts were looking pretty bad. I bet this will bring this route to life and it will see some ascents now. Great photos!!

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Jun 19, 2008 - 10:13am PT
Awesome work Clint! You da man!

Mountain climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 10:43am PT
Nice job. That is alot of work.

It was good to see you contacted the FA party before you began the replacement.

Trad climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 10:51am PT
Thanks for all the work. I remember that photo, but never did the route. The rock on those upper pitches looks amazing.

A pile of dirt.
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:04am PT

So what's the next project? That was fun!

Glad it's done and you had better weather when you finished
than our days...

Double D

  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:23am PT
Nice job Clint. You're totally making me homesick though. )-;

Big Wall climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:37am PT
awesome clint, thanks!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:40am PT
thanks for the work on restoring these great old routes Clint...
...I know exactly where you're at with the "...don't time myself..." comment, depressing if you think of the time, but when you're not thinking of the time, the day goes by in a sensual manner which is hard to describe... the warmth of the sun, the shade on the rock, bright glare to warm slanting tones, the weight of the air.

All the while there is the tink-tink-tink of rebolting, The check and double check of rigging and the focussed internal dialog regarding the task at hand. It is a unique way to connect with the first ascent.

And when you're done, there is a restored route ready for climbers again....

And thanks to Kevin for enduring also... good work there too!

Thanks to Greg too, for being a tremendous inspiration and lending earnest support to these efforts.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:44am PT
Kudos to you, Clint, for all your hard work, proper process, and sketchy-removal.
handsome B

Gym climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:47am PT
thanks for all of your hard work!

Gym climber
  Jun 19, 2008 - 11:51am PT
That route looks Beauty!

Nice, nice job Clint & Kev.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Jun 19, 2008 - 12:17pm PT
Good work, Clint and Kevin, thanks.

If you're ever in Hood River, stop in to the Coffee Co., introduce yourselves and I'll spot you some free coffee.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
  Jun 19, 2008 - 12:30pm PT
Clint (and Kevin): Thank you for the excellent job of replacing the fixed gear on this very classic route. A project like that is a lot of work and underappreciated.


Oakland, CA
  Jun 19, 2008 - 12:37pm PT

Thank you, Clint!

You should post a straight shot of your mug, so that those of us who haven't met you can recognize you. You'll never have to pay for a popsicle, a drink, or a campsite in the Valley again!


Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Jun 19, 2008 - 01:10pm PT
Amazing work Clint. Kevin too. Thanks again (and again, and...). Route after route.

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 19, 2008 - 01:37pm PT
Thanks for the hard work and the shockingly detailed report clint!

That is some beautiful rock!
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
  Jun 19, 2008 - 03:32pm PT
Great job. You guys deserve a standing ovation.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Jun 19, 2008 - 03:33pm PT
Now that two of the big run out climbs of the 70s (Greasy but Groovy and Space Babble) have been rebolted (great job, fellows), it might be interesting to see how much traffic they enjoy.

Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Jun 19, 2008 - 04:11pm PT
Good work, Clint and friends!

I believe it entitles each of you to a "Get out of FaceLift" free card, too. But hopefully you can attend anyway.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jun 21, 2008 - 12:48am PT
You get the good Karma Points of the YEAR! Solid Work. The community and I thank you.


Trad climber
  Jun 21, 2008 - 03:11am PT
Awesome work! Thank you.

Trad climber
East Wenatchee, WA
  Jun 24, 2008 - 11:59pm PT
I've been meaning to post the question if anybody had actually gone up there and put in the obviously huge effort to fix up Space Babble, after the previous numerous posts about it...and then nothing. Man, you guys flat out RULE! Not only for taking the initiative and time to do this, but for posting those amazing photos! The internet is just too darned cool, especially when you see stuff like that. I swear, someday I'm gonna do the Kor Beck again and toprope all those pitches (no way I'm leading them, even with the new bolts). Oh, I should mention that ASCA also rules...which is why I am a corporate sponsor. It is so great to see you guys do this, after so many talking trash about it. And hey, that has always been something I love about climbing; everybody had an opinion about how to do it, but it gets decided by those who actually do it! I thought your choices were right on; I guess I would not have trusted the "good" decade old pitons, but hey, that's just me...I'm a woose! Killer job!

Oh, I almost forgot to complement the first ascent party! Those pin and bolt placements look incredible with the gear back then...and look how good everything held up! RAD climb, just brilliant...
Dogtown Climber

Trad climber
The Idyllwild City dump
  Jun 25, 2008 - 01:09am PT
Nice Work Lads,

On revamping a very cool piece of stone.

Thanks for letting me re-visit it thru your project.


Trad climber
  Jun 26, 2008 - 12:14pm PT
Super report and detailed photos and great effort on the rebolting. I still don't think I would try to lead Space Babble! However, with the anchors replaced the thought of top roping it pitch by pitch on rap sounds cool as I have always known to climb this would be out of my league. The Stonemasters were far ahead of their time and I forget how much until I go to the Valley and get totally sketched.

Trad climber
  Jun 2, 2011 - 10:43pm PT
great job clint!!!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jun 2, 2011 - 11:02pm PT
Hey, kev, we should should hit this rig up. You get the first pitch.

Maybe later in the season...

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
  Jun 9, 2011 - 04:25pm PT
Hey Clint, what a fantastic effort. It's so good to see folks that are so meticulous. Bet you're pleased with it. I remember seeing it on my first visits to Yosemite about thirty years ago. Now I just need someone to take me up it...
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Nov 13, 2014 - 01:06pm PT
Clint appreciation bump

Trad climber
  Nov 13, 2014 - 05:01pm PT
Bolt man, climbing encyclopedia, and pillar of the community
Burnin' Oil

Trad climber
  Nov 9, 2016 - 02:38pm PT
Hard work bump. Anyone done this recently?

Big Wall climber
  Nov 9, 2016 - 03:06pm PT
Super Service Bump!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 9, 2016 - 08:45pm PT
Anyone done this recently?
Yes, Andrea Tarallo did it on October 8 - check out how the climbing went for him, and a few photos:
Middle Cathedral - Kor-Beck 5.9 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on Middle Cathedral
Middle Cathedral - East Buttress 5.10c or 5.9 A0 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
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DNB follows a direct and intimidating line up the North Buttress.