Trip Report
TR 2011-10 North Buttress of Middle Cathedral (attempt #2)
Wednesday October 12, 2011 4:40pm

The North Buttress of Middle Cathedral is a less traveled (and I presume technically milder) path to the climber's right of DNB. It follows the right edge of the buttress, immediately to the left of the big north face apron. To approach it, go on to the right past DNB and down around the true toe of the buttress and back up the other side.

Zander and I tried this route in the nice long days of June 2008:

But, we started on a Sunday when we both had Monday work stuff we weren't prepared to miss. We bailed about 1pm or so on pitch 8, when a bivy seemed a likely part of the next 9-10 pitches. I hardly remembered anything about that effort, except the cool "rabbit ears" formation, a wild lieback and swing around into a chimney, then higher up a committing lieback right off the belay.

After a couple of years, our schedules and general climbing readiness aligned again and we took another shot at it this past weekend. This time we got up to pitch 10 before rapping to avoid a damp near-freezing bivy with space blankets. We're getting soft! At least I got some nice pics of the route and I'm psyched to go back and finish the thing off. Some pics would be good here....

Zander led off in in blackness, farenheit 37 degrees, with water running through the crack:

But had daylight by the time I was up to the belay

I led up a couple of 4th class pitches where a few pieces of gear were very nice but not mandatory. Here's Zander going up pitch 4:

The sun peaks over the sierra's and casts her gaze on the captain:

By this time I'm across the long 3rd class pitch (with a couple of 5.6 moves) that required just a bit of simuling with 60m rope so I could reach a belay stance atop the "rabbit ears" formation:

Now is where the real beauty starts kicking in! Zander gets the cool traverse to wide crack to lieback:

The lieback is wet and slimy, so we speak french and then stand in slings for a few moves. Here's looking down at the north face apron, below the feet of the climber in the last sequence:

When it's my turn, I find a good luck charm en route:

And here's looking down the chimney you swing into after the earlier wide part and lieback in the previous climber sequence:

Here lies the domain of past and future adventures:

For the next pitch, on our last trip I resorted to standing in slings to get over the hump and committing lieback right above the belayer. This time, I managed to get it cleanly after some fidgeting and false starts (and Zander belayed off to the side in case I fell). Sorry no pics of this stretch, but after pulling that start, you can choose the right ~5.7 funky chimney (which we did last time) or a more airy face and clean steep 5.8ish corner with some interesting roofs (which I did this time). Get through that and finish on a bushy ledge which Zander is pulling into here:

At this point we're pretty high:

But the top still sure looks far away!

A pocket-based point and shoot doesn't impress quite like Tom Evan's pictures from the bridge:

Where the heck are we by now? Somewhere up there.

I think it's on the 5.6 pitch before the 5.9 and 5.10a pitches:

OK, looking up the 5.9 pitch. I was pretty proud of leading this one. It starts out with a poorly protected (marginal offset brassy) traverse up those edges, reminiscent of the early part of Paradise Lost. Then up a thin corner to roof undercling traverse right (out of picture frame up top), to reach-over and mantle, and then some zig-zag route-finding on decent thin ledges.

The end of the pitch has a few choices, go left for protectable very-thin flakes, or go right for moderate (but unprotected) face climbing. I opted for the right, getting about 25 feet out diagonal right before I figured out a pretty committing face sequence blocked my access to the good ledge above. I stood there for a few minutes on a good little block thinking it through. It's one of those "see the whole thing and make sure you can do it" before you try it kind of spots. I committed to the little step-up, slapped the sloping arete and leaned away to make it stick, and froze half-way through the mantel to relish the precariousness of my situation and to make sure I didn't blow it. A little delicate toe smearing for balance, a couple of hand bumps to neutral edges and then I've got my fingers curled around something bomber on the belay ledge. Phew. The ledge was good, but the anchor options sucked:

Where does the time fly?

Looking up at the 5.10a (Reid) pitch. I was confused for a while making the Reid topo match the Roper description, until I figured out Roper was calling this 5.9. "Take the left of three small open books" or something like that. It looks like the pitch has similar crummy pro as the few pitches before that.

Here comes Zander:

It's a little tough to see in this pic, but the last gear before the belay if you go this way is below a little roof and around the corner to the right (from belayer's perspective). The climbing route wanders left and right a pretty good amount rather than following the path of the rope seen here.

This is the "we've-got-a-long-way-to-go-and-the-shadows-are-pointing-the-wrong-way" look after a tough pitch:

It's already cold. No drops of sunlight hit us this day, though we could see the beautiful warmth a short distance away. Time to call it a day after finishing 10 out of 17 or 18 pitches.

Details for what's to come on my next visit:

So let's wrap this story with some pics of raps:

Slung prominence (almost a horn) backed up to a piton I could pull with my fingers (I tried to hammer it with a biner):

We passed on this rap station:

This shows the steepness of one of the 5.7 pitches- a finger crack in a dihedral with some friction stemming

Guess what is this rock in my hand?

It is one the remnants of a boulder bigger than a toaster but a little smaller than a bread box that we pulled off during a rap. Zander and I were standing with chests about 18 inches apart, and the damn thing soars down soundlessly from far out of sight, and crashes DIRECTLY BETWEEN US! I distinctly heard the sound of Petzl helmet crashing (which is different than a Gatorade bottle), but no obvious helmet damage and no obvious impact. I had a gatorade bottle hanging on my harness that was directly hit, and it was instantly churned to a froth. I saw sparks on impact, chunks flew in multiple directions and much powder was created. We had a little mini dust cloud and that ozone smell. Damn damn lucky. We were more careful with pulling ropes and watching out after that.

Dying rays of the sun up above:

Almost there, with a finish by headlamp:

Just another day in paradise! Thanks Zander :)

  Trip Report Views: 3,775
About the Author
nutjob is a climber from Berkeley, CA.

Some people call me the space cowboy yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
'Cause I speak of the pompetous of love

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  Oct 12, 2011 - 04:45pm PT
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Oct 12, 2011 - 04:50pm PT
WooHoo, Zander & Nutjob!!6!!
I can dig it. Very cool pics. Love the Cap upper dihedrals bathed in Golden light. Oh, BTW, The Sun is always refered to as the Male. The Earth is Fem. You'll get 'er next time, boys!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 12, 2011 - 05:03pm PT
Next time for sure, you guys. I was last on this route in 1974, and your excellent pictures and story whet my appetite for a return trip. In fairness, we took -- and used -- bivy gear, but we weren't alone. Chris Fredericks told me at Indian Rock that both times he did the route he bivvied, so we didn't feel that bad.

It was particularly encouraging to see how relatively uncrowded things were.

Thanks for the report and pictures.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
  Oct 12, 2011 - 05:13pm PT
A full value day, for sure!

Nicely done, both climb and report.



Gym climber
  Oct 12, 2011 - 05:16pm PT
That's a lot of interesting-looking climbing. Great report, and way to dodge the chop!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 12, 2011 - 05:41pm PT
Great report! One of the best I have seen on this site. That 5.7 finger pitch looked pretty damn hard for a 5.7!
Thank god that rock hit between you two. I had a similar experience with a microwave sized rock falling between my partner and I, with sparks and all. That's when you know it is really time to go!
Good luck next time, great work giving a route a shot even though you were not sure you could do it in a day. That's what it is about!

Trad climber
LA LA Land
  Oct 12, 2011 - 05:47pm PT
Suuuuuperb write-up and photos! You'll get 'er next time.

Oakland, CA
  Oct 12, 2011 - 07:36pm PT

What beautiful rock up there, thanks for posting.

Zander pulling lead duty with 37 degree temps? That granite couldn't have felt good on the fingertips...
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Oct 12, 2011 - 07:44pm PT


Trad climber
Northern California
  Oct 12, 2011 - 08:05pm PT
Yay nutjob and Zander!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Oct 12, 2011 - 08:21pm PT

Remember, third time's the charm
The Warbler

the edge of America
  Oct 12, 2011 - 08:26pm PT
Looks like a real good route - never found time to do it...

Better get on it I guess, the clock's tickin'!

Somebody's gotta shoot climbers on The North Face Apron with a 300 from way up there - that's a great photo angle. Kind of an effort though...

Nice TR Nutjob, thanks!

Kauk soloed that on sight - how would that be?

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 12, 2011 - 09:36pm PT

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Oct 12, 2011 - 10:05pm PT
Next time beardbro.

Yosemite Valley
  Oct 12, 2011 - 10:28pm PT
Josh Helling and I climbed this route this summer, and I really enjoyed it. Lots of thin cracks and edges, with surprisingly few wide sections for a long route of that type.

There are several memorable pitches above your high point - which you will no doubt enjoy on your next send!


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 13, 2011 - 12:34am PT

Best trip report ever! OK some others were pretty good, too.

What's not to like about: "a wild lieback and swing around into a chimney" and there is even another swinging into a chimney!


Trad climber
it's all turtles, all the way dooowwwwwnn!!!!!
  Oct 13, 2011 - 01:03am PT
hey guys-
that's a great route, and the exit across the katwalk is also a great adventure and super fun!

2 suggestions for you next go:
do it in june or july when the days are longer, you aren't in the sun that much up there and of course the breeze picks up a bit as you leave the ground so it's fine.

seriously consider free soloing what you can of the 1st 5 pitches while it's all ledgy and bushy and blocky, until that pitch where you step out. that's what the FA did, that's what we did, and it saves HUGE time. you'll see that those pitches are still relatively safe, and the wandering around through bushes etc kills you on both ends of the rope. you might even go climb those pitches roped up one afternoon and then return to fire the next am, soloing what would then be familiar ground. this approach shortens the route (and your day) considerably.

nice TR

@Warbler- OSFS would be about the same as the NEBofHCR
there are a few pitches slightly more technically difficult, but it's a wash for a climber at that level, and lots of the climbing is secure and quite moderate. the very last pitch is all rotten and kinda jingus in an interesting way, but a rope is of limited value there and it's only 5.7

Trad climber
  Oct 13, 2011 - 01:06am PT
Sweet pics and nice write up! A friend and I did that route about ten years ago. As you know it's long and I thought a bit of a sandbag up higher. When we did it the crux moves had some real scary looking relics for pro (body weight bolts?). great climb and well worth going back for. Talked with the Bird about it when we got down, he remembered it as a "casual outing". Good luck next go!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Oct 13, 2011 - 01:13am PT
great guys!
see you out there!! way out there!!!

Gym climber
It's not rocket surgery
  Oct 13, 2011 - 01:15am PT
Sweet TR and, you know, you gave something to study when the time comes for the rest of us to give it a go. Thanks!
PSP also PP

Trad climber
  Oct 13, 2011 - 11:27am PT
It's fun to do it like a small wall and bivy. I loved it because there are no people and no sun, a perfect climb for red heads.

  Oct 13, 2011 - 11:42am PT
Fun day Scott,thanks.
Scott was nice about it but I was the one who pulled the plug on our ascent. I was just too cold. Take a lot of clothes if you go at this time of year. Still it was a great day. Here's a few more pics;

The pitch before tree ledge.
The pitch before tree ledge.
Credit: Zander

A couple pitches above the tree ledge.
A couple pitches above the tree ledge.
Credit: Zander

Lower Cathedral Rock
Lower Cathedral Rock
Credit: Zander

Credit: Zander

Credit: Zander

Climb On!


East Bay, CA
  Oct 13, 2011 - 12:34pm PT
Nice TR guys! Good to see a less traveled Valley route gettin' some stoke.

Trad climber
  Oct 13, 2011 - 01:22pm PT
Great TR, love the adventure.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 13, 2011 - 03:20pm PT
Cool, Scott and Zander.
If it helps, I didn't make it my first time, either. We bivvied at the base of p11, then it rained the next morning.
I agree with others that June/July is a good time to do it - the route gets shade all morning so heat is not a problem.

Trad climber
El Portal
  Feb 18, 2012 - 08:48pm PT
Nice adventure!

How is the rap stations from the 5th pitch down?

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Feb 18, 2012 - 11:11pm PT
Nutjob-Missed that the first time, but certainly enjoyed your posting and the fine photos.
I have posted this before but reading your wonderful TR brought back memories of a long time ago. Some of your rappels looked pretty sketchy but then again different eras. I would do almost anything to avoid a long descent via rappelling.

"Funny, I didn't recognize this. But 46 years is a long time and there are some gray areas, whereas other memories are still vivid. The summer of 1962 was a busy one. Lots of climbing with Sacherer and Kamps. Sacherer and I had an agreement to climb all the classic Grade 5 routes. In between we would work on shorter first ascents that we both had our eyes on. Ribbon Falls area always had an attraction, especially the Hourglass. After several attempts on the right side we reached the tree.

Time for a break so we headed off to climb the first one-day ascent of the North Buttress of Middle Cathedral. I had done lots of climbing with Sacherer, but on this occasion all hell broke loose in our relationship. At one point, he was out 60 ft on a blank wall, off route, zero protection, flagellating and screaming at me some of his famous epithets. I threatened to keep belaying but detach myself from the rope; I would have my own anchor. Near the top, on some fairly dicey third class he asked me to throw him a rope. I let loose with some fairly abusive language myself and quickly headed down to the Valley. Needless to say we climbed together little from then on. We remained good friends, but our climbing relationship suffered."

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Feb 19, 2012 - 12:38pm PT

socks? You said you were cold...

  Feb 20, 2012 - 04:10pm PT
Just noticed where you are writing from. Chockstone Chimney! Oh Yeah.

You got it, I'll take socks next time. . . . and a puffy jacket!

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  May 6, 2013 - 11:35am PT
The 5.9s on this route are something! Route finding and adventure factor are really high!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  May 6, 2013 - 11:33am PT
Sounds like a full value day!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Author's Reply  May 6, 2013 - 03:25pm PT
Sounds like Vitaliy has some pics to share? Let's see what the top pitches look like!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 6, 2013 - 03:52pm PT
do it up Vitaly! If you need time to write it up, we can be patient, if we must. :)

Trad climber
Hustle City
  May 6, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
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