East Buttress 5.10c or 5.9 A0

  • Currently 5.0/5

Middle Cathedral

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Yosemite Pride and Prejudice 09/06/11 - 09/16/11
Sunday September 18, 2011 12:59am
Video Up Now : http://vimeo.com/29361602

Well I suppose it is time for another Yosemite Trip report. I'll just start from the beginning. Dave Arnett and I headed back into the valley for another session of climbing. This time with larger walls and bigger ambitions then Royal Arches. The ideas were RNWF of Half Dome, Lost Arrow Direct, Washington Column, and Middle Cathedral. We figured we would just try to bag whatever we could from the list.

We arrived in the valley exhausted as usual form the plane and drive. So that day we just took it easy and checked out tunnel view once again. Dave brough a GoPro with him this time and took tons of footage. That video he is working on and will come later!

That night we climbed one route. Its hard not to climb at least something even though we were exhausted. We slept at an undisclosed location and the next morning headed to Camp 4 to get a spot. Which was surprisingly easy as the crowds were quite small. There were only 15 or so people in the line that morning.

Our first objective was the South Face of Washington Column which is a Grade V and is considered the easiest big wall in Yosemite. A great introduction to big wall for Dave who has been climbing for only 3 months. In the photo a few people can be seen on a route called The Prow, a stunning line.

We assumed that we would start late in the day and just work our way up to Dinner Ledge where would sleep for the night. What we didn't anticipate was just how long it would take us to climb. At around 2pm we begin the climb after a nice warmup hike that had us both loosing all our water before we even started. We brought two gallons with us and a backpack instead of hauling the bag. The idea was the do the climb in two days and be off before needing to spend to much time. I climbed off and we moved quickly toward Dinner Ledge at the top of Pitch 3. The views were incredible.

We stared at Half Dome with a later objective off in the distance.

We continued along past the first pitch and came to the first real aid pitch. I hooked up the steps and started my first aid I had done in at least a year. It felt good and even though we didn't have any offset gear everything seemed to place really well. I quickly made my way to the next belay. After attaching the rope Dave jugged behind and cleaned carrying everything of ours on his back.

Unfortunately thats where my pictures stop for the night, but that is not where the night stopped! As we arrived on Dinner Ledge I heard some shouting from above. The voice above alerted that they were stuck and would need a rescue. We yelled back and forth as I found out that their rope had become stuck. I told them we would head up and try a mini rescue but we also called Yosar (Yosemite Search and Rescue) to give them a status. They seemed pretty calm when they said they would be there in the morning. I was actually glad to hear that as I thought that sending rescue out for this specific situation was a bit much. I wanted to know that we could all get out of the mess without having to be rescued. Even though they were not part of our two man team I like to think that all of us on the wall become one big community. We all need to look out for each other. At this point it was 8pm and I started onto the crux pitch, the Kor Roof. I didn't really find it difficult even though I turned the roof as night fell. As I got to that point the guys above had figured out how to get their rope unstuck and were back to dinner ledge. Crises averted. I still wanted to fix the ropes to the 5th pitch however so I continued on. We climbed on into the night and I found it incredibly serene. As I would top out on a pitch I would sit back and turn the headlamp off. I know for many this is a common thing but to be connected vertically on the steep wall with nothing but air in almost every direction and a near full moon, I was in heaven. The valley spoke all night as the moonlight created shadows. Often I have heard that it is good to climb at night because it makes the exposure go away. I found this to be untrue when the moonlight is so bright. In fact it seemed to light the valley in a way that tricked the mind and made everything seem so very far away. I finally reached the anchor of the 5th pitch after the pendulum at Midnight. Climbing a lot slower then I had hoped to due to the night. Still we made it that high and fixed the ropes for the next morning. After arriving at Dinner Ledge we quickly at a snack and went to sleep. The $18 fleece blanket I had purchased in Yosemite Village worked well that night thanks to the storms that stayed at bay, even though the weather said they were coming. We woke up stiff and happy to be in the mountains. My first thought when my eyes opened were "Oh yeah, I am here."

Across the valley lay the mass that is Glacier Point.

Looking up at the Kor Roof and the progress we had made the previous night.

Dave was looking especially enthusiastic.

We prepared ourselves for jugging the rope with Half Dome looming beyond. It seemed so much further away today then it did yesterday.

We looked at the weather report and it said thunderstorms and heavy rain. This made us feel uneasy as we were not prepared properly for that type of weather. Really we didn't have any rain gear or even protection if it were to hit. We knew this going into the climb and decided just to make the right calls if nature gave them to us. We contemplated what to do as we jugged the ropes to our high point.

After some deliberation we decided to call it and head back down. I was moving slower then I had hoped on the aid portions and although I figured I could speed up and we could continue we weren't sure we could weather a real storm. It was a hard decision and felt especially painful due to the incredible blue sky and lack of clouds. Something still didn't feel right with the climb and I have learned to at least listen to my gut feelings.

We rappelled the route back to our equipment still not sure we were making the right choice.

The team on The Prow continued on as we began our hike back to the car. We had already drank all of our water and some of the water that others had left as well. Apparently we are not used to the heat.

Later that day a rain unlike any I had seen came down. It was causing instant waterfalls and flooding the road. We almost thanked it as it felt a proper justification for our bailing on such an easy route. We were glad not to be the ones who needed a rescue. We spent the next few days waiting out storms as they hit the valley, and would continue to hit until we left. Cragging to get stronger seemed like a great idea so we went to Knob Hill so that Dave could get some leading practice. We roped up for a 4 star 5.7, at least we thought we had.

We in fact had climbed a different route then what I thought. Due to this mistake Dave couldn't find the proper anchor and I came up to meet him on the climb. I continued off to where I figured the anchor would be not knowing that I was way off route. I would soon find out by some of the worst rope drag, loose rock, and bushwhacking I have ever done in Yosemite. Still, belaying dave over made for some really nice pictures.

We continued climbing that day and then moved off to Church Bowl to do a few 5.10's. We set up the toprope and the clouds once again begin to move in. Before we were done there was a full downpour coming down. We rappelled quickly but as I got to the ground I looked over to see that my backpack was wide open and a lake had formed. Suddenly all the gear was underwater.

After that experience we felt we needed a break. A nice day on the beach at Cathedral picknick area really did the trick for drying everything out. The views were just a bonus.

We cragged for a few more days feeling rather defeated but had chosen the East Buttress (5.10a) of Middle Cathedral as our next target. Waiting out the storms was difficult but we didn't want to be caught in the gully or on the route during another one of those famous Yosemite storms. Finally the weather report looked clear and we woke up at 7am to head off to the peak. The climbing was really enjoyable and not to hard. Every pitch was great. After pulling through the crux without falling as well I was feeling especially happy. The views cannot be beat.

Others were going after more ambitious goals. One day we will be upon you.

Dave once again climbed with the bag on his back. I had had my own initiation in such a way and was glad to be leading instead of carrying.

We were moving well and having a great time. Just off in the distance I could see the clouds brewing.

For the most part they didn't move much. They seemed to stay just off in the distance for most of the day and I looked at them often knowing that their dark color was a sign of mischief. The dayr wore on and the climb was wonderfully steep.

It seemed like an ocean of granite that cascaded down to places I had been before. Swimming in that ocean was Dave, keeping his head just above water.

The time for photos became shorter as we neared the summit of the climb. With only two pitches to go we began to hear thunder. The clouds had danced their way over El Capitan and a new cloud bank grew above us. I raced the final pitch placing almost no protection. Raindrops sat silently on my shoulders but told much to my mind. By the time Dave reached me at the summit the wind was blowing the trees in all directions and rain had soaked me. I yelled to find cover and Dave led off a nearby tree. Soon we found ourselves attached to some gear in a roof hanging just out of rains way. We had a few thicker shirts but not really much else for protection. The rain hit hard and created a waterfall the size of Bridalvail Falls on the El Capitan. The whole face erupted in water. Above us Middle Cathedral also wept rivers previously unseen were created down the face. I watched as lightning struck the valley above El Capitan. Beautiful bolts that went in multiple directions. The cloud bank above us had collided with that of the other side of the valley and instantly brought this storm about. After an hour I decided it was time to go. It was still raining but had slowed and I did not want to try and find my way down the Katwalk and East Ledges in the dark. I had already heard horror stories, I didn't want to become one. The descent was wet and dangerous. We found ourselves in the chasm between Middle and Higher Cathedral with surprising ease. No wrong turns had saved us time but it was still nearing darkness. The route had taken us 7 1/2 hours to climb and the descent had already taken at least two. The next few rappels were down waterfalls and on broken bolts. The first rappel has only one bolt and a piece of webbing attached to a block. It is kind enough to spit you directly under the waterfall, staying dry was not an option. The second rappel has two completely flat bolts in dire need of repair. With much down climbing and a seemingly endless hike down the gully we found ourselves back at the trail. Just then finding the ease to celebrate a success.

The next morning a fog rolled the valley in a gentle blanket.

The sun was once again giving false hopes to cloudless days.

And we once again found ourselves at the beach drying gear.

That night we drove back to Tunnel View, I love the place at night and I was able to take some photos of some more dedicated, or prepared, folks on El Cap. The moon shone bright giving a second sun.

We spent the next few days climbing a bit although the Middle Cathedral beat up Dave pretty good. His energy level had taken a bit of a dip so we mainly just lounged and took photos.

And then it was time to leave once again. Knowing full well we will be back and hopefully catch the weather at a more friendly time or become better prepared. I am personally hoping for both.

  Trip Report Views: 4,628
About the Author
Prezwoodz is a climber of all types from Alaska

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Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
  Sep 18, 2011 - 01:28am PT
Prezwoodz, thanks.. for the trip report and the Beautiful pictures... you never disappoint!
Next time- i hope the weather is better.
For some strange reason.. it often rains right before, or right after the Facelift...sh#t, you were just steps away from YellerPines.



Random Nobody
  Sep 18, 2011 - 01:57am PT
Really great photos and great sends guys....

Much appreciated

  Sep 18, 2011 - 06:52am PT
Nice report and photos.However.....I was one of the guys who got stuck for a while above you. We managed to get the rope unstuck, but we just as easily might not have done, and I was concerned about the bad weather coming in (justifiably so according to what you wrote). There were no other teams on the route, and as we were at the anchors at the top of pitch 6, you were unlikely to reach us that evening. There was also the relatively trifling matter that I had to be down to catch a flight home to Ireland the next day. As it turns out we did manage to sort ourselves out, but for a while that was looking unlikely. And I would like to thank you for making the call when we asked you to. But how under those circumstances would alerting search and rescue be considered "a bit much"? I thought it to be a prudent call and that to not ask for assistance would be pure hubris on our part.
tinker b

the commonwealth
  Sep 18, 2011 - 07:01am PT
great trip report and great pictures. i am currious why you would not bring rain gear when you knew it was going to rain? i am trying not to judge, but if you were concerned ab out weight, i would leave the camara equipment behind and bring two light rain jackets. especially when you are climbing long committed routes like east buttress with a partner who does not lead. okay my two cents. continue on.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Sep 18, 2011 - 11:10am PT
NIce story, awesome photos.

Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2011 - 01:18pm PT
Chillax - Sorry if I made it sound bad there. Where I am from a rescue would be a bit further out. Having your rope stuck as yours was just seemed like a bit much to mobilize a rescue, especially with good weather and another team coming up. Probably would have taken us a good 5 or 6 hours to get there but I think it all would have come out alright. Although I do understand your worry of bad weather as we obviously had the same worry! Having to catch a plane really is never a good reason to call for a rescue. I am not calling you incompetent because you guys were able to get yourself out and thats excellent. Also I talked with your climbing partner and we had a good laugh, great guy. In the end I had no problem calling Yosar and giving them the situation, whether or not I thought it was a bit much doesn't always mean a lot when I am pitches away and your the ones in danger. I didn't know the whole situation so I apologize for any hasty comments.

tinkerb - Absolutely no good reason whatsoever. In my defense I brought a windbreaker that doubled as a rain "deterrent". Didn't help much when we were climbing / rappelling the waterfalls. I think we were just overly optimistic. That day the weather report said partly cloudy on the East Buttress. While that is not a good reason to come unprepared we figured we would make it out anyway. Next wall I am on you can assure that I will have some rain protection, but leave the camera behind? Then we would have died up there!....Ok not really but you do have a point about not being able to complain about weight.

Mark, Jingy, and Nita - Thanks!


Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Sep 18, 2011 - 01:34pm PT
Well done, guys! Nicely written narritive.

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Sep 18, 2011 - 01:40pm PT
Very nice!! Awesome photos!

What camera and lens were you shooting with??

Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2011 - 02:35pm PT
Heya Paul,

I use a Canon 7d and shoot with a 17-135 Canon Lens. Its an amazing camera and the video is awesome!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 18, 2011 - 04:17pm PT
Kelsey, thanks so much, beauuuuutifullll pics!!!

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Sep 18, 2011 - 07:35pm PT
Great pics. Btw next time you do eb of middle, you really don't have to rap. Both raps can be tunneled through the chock stones. Pouring rain however breaking out the ropes is probably a good idea.

Oakland, CA
  Sep 19, 2011 - 12:45pm PT
Oh yeah, great TR - pretty amazing pics. I'm so used to seeing an ugly white line along Half Dome's form in the pics I take, it's pretty amazing to see it that clear and sharp. Thanks for these photos.

Driving back out the tunnels and away from the Valley, we all look back over our shoulders. Sometimes with a feeling of utter stoke and accomplishment, sometimes with the harrowed, shaken look of the beaten. Been on both sides, many times, will be many more!
James Doty

Trad climber
Phoenix, Az.
  Sep 19, 2011 - 01:26pm PT
Nice photos. Jonesin for Yos.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
  Sep 19, 2011 - 01:39pm PT
Probably the highest quality photo's I've seen posted in a TR. Thanks for lugging that big camera and sharing the views!
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Sep 19, 2011 - 04:07pm PT
Amazing pics, Prezwoodz. You really captured the Middle Stone & its amazing features.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 19, 2011 - 03:51pm PT
Even in the small web format, the clarity of the pictures really stands out as exceptional. I thought that was a limitation of the pixel count for sharing in a forum, but these pictures show me it's the camera or the photographer :)

Glad you all had fun!

  Sep 19, 2011 - 11:34pm PT
Great TR, Great pics. Thanks for posting.

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  Sep 20, 2011 - 09:34am PT
Great photos! I was going to ask about the camera, but somebody already did. Is it an SLR? Or something smaller...

Also, I like the shirtless photos :).

Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2011 - 01:16pm PT
Thank you everyone for the replies and comments!

Marty : It did look like you could be done, thanks for the heads up for next time! As it was there was a waterfall in there and so it was quite scary just one the walk sometimes. We did two raps so I think we did down climb one.

bruce : What is the white line you normally see? Oh and I definitely had the defeated feeling. Felt good though to have some humbling even on the the easy ones.

Captain : Thanks! The climbing was great and I loved the color of the rock.

nutjob : I linked to these photos rather then uploading. I think if you upload the photos to the forum then they probably lose quality or have to be compressed beforehand to fit the size constraints. Mine all come from my website. www.kelseygrayphotography.com

cleo: Yup its an SLR. A Canon 7d with 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS Canon Lens. Once we leave Alaska the shirts come off!


Author's Reply  Sep 21, 2011 - 06:08pm PT
Theres a video up now my friend Dave made of our trip. It can be seen here if anyones interested :


Trad climber
Hustle City
  Sep 21, 2011 - 10:37pm PT
Nice TR. and some serious pics!

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Sep 22, 2011 - 12:44am PT
Video is Nice!

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
  Sep 22, 2011 - 10:37am PT
Thanks for the post.

Oakland, CA
  Sep 22, 2011 - 12:52pm PT
Cool vid, Prez. During the storm bit on Middle I kept thinking "Put the 7D away, it's going to get killed by the rain." Then comes the shot where it's fully submerged in the Merced?!

White lines in my pics = noise from crappy camera. None of that in your stuff.

Trad climber
Girdwood, AK
  Sep 24, 2011 - 01:36am PT
the underwater footage was kelsey's gopro. The panoramic/monopod and head mounted go pro shots were my mine. the storm footage was also my go pro. the 7d footage was anything that didnt have the fisheye effect to it. basically, any of the shots that had exceptional clarity, colors and definition were the 7D. amazing piece of equipment.

Trad climber
part Texas, part Oman
  Nov 30, 2011 - 12:42pm PT
Bump for spectacular pics of Yosemite, and for what looked like an awesome trip!

Also, really digging the videos - Great work!

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Nov 30, 2011 - 01:08pm PT
Damn that orange rock on middle is so pretty, from the first time I did the route at 13 years old I have been enamored with that cliff.
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Nov 30, 2011 - 01:51pm PT
Good stuff great pics!

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Nov 30, 2011 - 01:54pm PT
Yeah way better than that lame alpine crap from johnkelly...lol. (jk, that alpine stuff would be awesome if it was posted by a non dickhead.

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Nov 30, 2011 - 02:36pm PT
sweet TR and video!!! Makes me hate that I'm sitting at school and not in the Valley
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Nov 30, 2011 - 02:58pm PT
How do the pictures get displayed so large?

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Nov 30, 2011 - 03:05pm PT
sweet video and thanks for sharing the incredibly crisp earth porn. great TR!

Author's Reply  Nov 30, 2011 - 03:14pm PT
Heh, thanks karod! I agree with you on that one.

mike - the photos are linked directly from my site using [img ] then the adress then [/ img ]. Makes them bigger and better. :)
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Middle Cathedral - East Buttress 5.10c or 5.9 A0 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
East Buttress is one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America
Photo: Chris McNamara
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