Trip ReportTR 2011-10 North Buttress of Middle Cathedral (attempt #2)
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 :)
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