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Middle Cathedral Rock
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Unsorted Routes:

East Buttress 

YDS: 5.10c French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII ZA: 20 British: E2 5b

   
Type:  Trad, 11 pitches, 1100', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10c French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII ZA: 20 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: FA: 1954-W. Harding, J. Davis, B. Swift FFA: 1965-F. Sacherer, E. Leeper
Page Views: 21,078
Submitted By: Nick Storm on Feb 1, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (253)
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Arin past the P5 bolt ladder on the cruiser 5.7 li...

Description 

Fantastic moderate put up in 1954 by Batso and friends. The East Butt of Middle is a mandatory route for those looking to bag one of the fifty classics or for people just looking to get some great views of El Cap from across the valley. Mostly 5.6-5.8, this route ascends the springtime shadow line on the buttress. With an A0 section on the 5th pitch that can be climbed at 10c (slabby but well protected), this route offers a few variations above for those wanting to climb it numerous times or for when it is high season and you may need to pass folks.

The approach is easy, but steep. The descent can be the crux in the early season due to snow in the gully. Other than that it is classic, aesthetic, accessible and fun. Enjoy.

Location 

Drive, walk or bike on the Yos Loop Road past Bridalveil Falls, around the base of Middle Cathedral and park in one of the pullouts on the side of the road. Find the climbers trail that leads back toward the formation and slog up about 800 feet to the base of the route. It starts on top of a large offset pillar with oak trees adorning the top (great shade).
Walk off to the SE by following a faint climbers trail and cairns. Drop into the gully between Middle and Higher Cathedral and head back to the Valley floor for a beer and some laughs. Relish the knowledge that you just completed a classic!

Protection 

1 set stoppers
1-2 sets cams to 2 inches, optional 3
long slings, extra carabiners
6-7 draws for A0 section


Photos of East Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
View from the top, from the first few steps on the catwalk before going up the 4th class gully.
View from the top, from the first few steps on the...
The first rappel on a very long descent
The first rappel on a very long descent
Gokul, crux pitch
Gokul, crux pitch
A 17 year old TrundleBum following one of the upper "flared groove" pitches, Middle Cathedral, East Buttress. <br />(what is this? action, personal or I guess it could even be 'Historic')
A 17 year old TrundleBum following one of the uppe...
Looking up from the big ledge at the start of the route.
BETA PHOTO: Looking up from the big ledge at the start of the ...
Looking down pitch 2 if I remember correctly.
BETA PHOTO: Looking down pitch 2 if I remember correctly.
One of the last pitches
One of the last pitches
Descent gully. A few rappels are involved.
BETA PHOTO: Descent gully. A few rappels are involved.
 Gary Reno near the summit!
Gary Reno near the summit!
Having Fun on East Buttress
Having Fun on East Buttress
In the Original Route's chimney. People on the now standard variation could hear us moaning and yelling obscenities for the hour or so it took us to get up this thing
In the Original Route's chimney. People on the now...
Looking down pitch 1.
BETA PHOTO: Looking down pitch 1.
Drew on the route.
Drew on the route.
Jesse
Jesse
Descent conditions as of April 08
BETA PHOTO: Descent conditions as of April 08
Chuck on one of the rappels on the descent.
BETA PHOTO: Chuck on one of the rappels on the descent.
that's me on the east buttress circa 1985
that's me on the east buttress circa 1985
Just before the crux section
Just before the crux section
The start of the descent gully.
BETA PHOTO: The start of the descent gully.
Gokul, p4
Gokul, p4
Randy with awesome exposure on one of the final pitches
Randy with awesome exposure on one of the final pi...
Gokul, tired but in the home stretch
Gokul, tired but in the home stretch

Comments on East Buttress Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 11, 2014
By Nick Storm
From: Lander, WY
Feb 2, 2007

Sorry Rob, I had my facts wrong...I went and changed it. As far as I know, modern concensus is IV 5.9 A0 or 5.10c, although I have also seen it listed as III 5.8 A1 or 5.10-. Regardless, great route no matter how it gets rated. Anyone care to comment.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 2, 2007

My impression is that the majority of today's parties free this, but I'm not hip on the current Yosemite scene. It is well protected and it would seem that most parties that can lead the 5.9 crack can free the bolt ladder, or at worst hang on every bolt.

I must admit I aided it the first time I climbed it, but that was because of tradition and we thought we couldn't lead 5.10 face. Then the second time I freed it and it seemed quite easy. For sure do not take aiders, the bolt ladder is quite short.
By Nathan Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Feb 3, 2007

Generally I think it's appropriate to go with the traditional rating for a climb, so IV 5.9 AO seems right.
By Rob Dillon
Feb 3, 2007

Yeah, but does a Fifty Crowded Climb really need the additional mobbing this rating invites[not that it's a big secret or anything]? You can't even get on the thing until midafternoon anyhow...
By Russ Walling
From: www.FishProducts.com
Feb 4, 2007

Here is a link to a free updated topo to do the route with a 70 meter cord.
fishproducts.com/topos/yostopo...
By Nathan Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Feb 5, 2007

That's a sweet topo! Thanks, Russ!
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Jun 26, 2007

Consistent, moderate, incredibly fun climbing plus incredible views of El Cap make this my favorite Valley climb to date. Easy to combine P1 & P2, P3 & P4, P10 & P11 with a 60m cord to make for an 8-pitch route.
By trundlebum
From: Las Vegas NV
Sep 5, 2007

In discussing rating:
In the old "Meyers yellow book" it is rated 5.10c
If you look at the topo the only thing over 5.9 is the bolt ladder.
(which is short, low angle and easily 'batmanned' without aiders)
The only 5.9 (in the Meyers book) is the move over the small roof above the bolt ladder to gain the 5.6 crack for the second half of the pitch. However there are many 5.8 pitches above, a few that might actually be contested as having enough gusto to be considered 5.9.
I think 5.9 A0 is an appropriate rating.

I completely miss the point of Rob Dillon's comment?
"Come on Stormy, the FFA was in 1961 at .10c! Do we really need to call this 5.9 AO?"
Is this implying that basically everybody that climbs, flashes .10c frictiony, face?


When I did this route I was really looking forward to freeing the bolt ladder. But my partner and I simul' climbed to the bolt ladder and made such good time I didn't want to kill the rhythm with dicking around trying to get a clean, onsight of the bolt ladder. I suppose the crux would be up around the 4 or fifth bolt as that is where I started "yanking, and standing on stuff", alpine aid style.

We had left camp 4 around 6am and were back by 4 pm that included hoofing it over there and back. It was midweek late September (78'). We never saw a sole, with the exception of a party doing the first few on "central pillar". At that time the bolt ladder was spooky old 'star Dryvn' bolts, with (as I recall) these funk arse aluminum strap, hangers.
(I guess Ed Leeper had not used his newly created hangers to retrofit the ladder)

But all in all, I would have to say, "those were the days" one of the best routes anywhere, anytime. ;)
By Nathan Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Oct 5, 2007

I did the .10a face variation out to the right of the bolt ladder in June and it was awesome! Airy and technical.
By Ben Strohmeier
From: Las Vegas, NV
Dec 14, 2007

I also did a variation that goes left up top to a 5.10 friction traverse to as nice angling offset crack rather than the scary flared grooves
By TBlom
Apr 3, 2008

Not that you should, but the top of the pedestal is a pretty sweet bivy if you want to beat all the other climbers to it in the morning. Finding it in the dark was a royal beeatch (10 years ago). It's nice not having to trudge up there in the morning, and you get a bit more rest. Watch out for flamboyant, ego fed, speed-climber/guides trying to beat you on the 50 crowded variation with their clients(in approach shoes, the bastard!). The guide beat us to the belay, but his clients sucked and we ended up still 1st party all the way up.

We tried to free the 10c part, but gave up when guide dude was trying to pass us, French free to the rescue!
By 426
Apr 14, 2008
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b C0

A superb slab challenge to the 5.10 slab leader, even for a budding one. Safe and smeary! Look around closely if yer stumped. Don't let yer guard down until you clip the anchors, after the crux is tricky and sequential! Channel your inner Sacherer...

Go right for the last pitches!
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Apr 17, 2008

We climbed this route on Saturday, April12 probably one day before you Dennis - and set up four additional rap stations plus to 3 existing one. Descend took about same time as a climb.
I would wait until may

Alexey
By mschlocker
From: San Diego, CA
May 13, 2008

Descent still snowy early May. We brought an extra rappel line and it was nice to have.

Carabiner posts referred to by my SuperTopo guide appear to be missing. I found one on the first small leg of a trail leading up much west of the parking lot that likely won't help anybody. The second leg of the trail is confusing since a tree appears to have exploded across it.
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Aug 23, 2008

Climbed this again yesterday as six rope-stretching 60m pitches, involving a wee bit of simul-climbing and a couple of hanging belays. A 70m would allow you to climb the route comfortably in 6 pitches with more options for good belays.
By Matt Desenberg
From: North Berwick, ME
May 3, 2009

Was looking forward to doing this route for several years, and it's every bit as good as I'd hoped. Quality climbing the whole way. Definately combine P1 & 2.
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Jun 1, 2009
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

I'll tell you one thing- if you do the route, do the more modern version, not the origional version with all the chimny climbing. 250' of chimney, very little of it aesthetic...
A few parties followed my partner up into that line and got to fixed gear or a stump and BAILED!
I think they were the smart ones- they retreated to the "50 classics" version and climbed something more fun.
Also, the reccomended rack in the Supertopo book is pretty much wrong for the chimneys unless you like big runouts.

As for the rumors in camp 4 that the chimneys are full of bees... they might have some, but none that bothered us.
By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Jun 9, 2009

No bees on the Original Route. A worthwhile variation after you have done the Classic variation a time or two.
By Sarah Kate
From: Seattle, WA
Jul 28, 2009

ANTS! ANTS! OMIGOD, ANTS!!!!!!

We pitched this out in 8 to keep ahead of the hoards behind us. On guidebook P3/our P2, the pitch with the incredible flake system to incredible corners, there was a huge nest of biting red ants. My belayer and I both got swarmed, and when I say swarmed, I mean thousands. And no, neither of us were on anything. If you squish them, it emits a noxious smell, and our theory is that this makes the colony swarm, so avoid squishing them if possible.

For SHORT PEOPLE: if you are short, like me (5'3") the bolt ladder is not a ladder and involves rather a lot of regular climbing, albeit well-protected. Make your taller partner lead the damn bolt ladder.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Sep 12, 2009
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

I thought that the Original Route was super classic and really made the route- nothing like having to work for your reward!

I really didnt think that the chimneys were run-out on it, even with a smaller rack than the Taco recommends (we had one #4, two #3s), but bring a crapload of slings if you want to link either of them together.

All in all, a great route- no bees or ants to speak of.
By Brian Alexander
Oct 9, 2009

We left the car at 6:30am and got stuck behind a hopelessly slow and sketchy party. We spent most of the day waiting at belays and barely finished the raps before dark, and to make matters worse the sketchy party dropped a cam and several rocks. Also, we were crowded from below by agro parties even though we were doing our best to tailgate and try to pass the slow party, who refused requests to pass.

I recommend a #0 C3 or equivalent for the 50 Crowded variation. I didn't bring one and took a big fall.

Most of the climbing is quite mediocre, with lots of sandy holds and loose flakes. I would not do this route again unless the crowds magically cleared out for a day. There is plenty of better quality climbing in the Valley.
By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 17, 2009
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

With a 70m rope via the 50 crowded variation, we did the route in 7 or so pitches. The route is very moderate with only a few crux 10a moves, so if you are compitent, you could cruise it. Beware of slower parties as this route is very popular
By WadeM
Jun 6, 2010

The descent rap is pretty tough to find. I have never gone from the top of the gulley. I usually rap off a tree then to more raps. 4 total I believe, where two ropes are required. I found the descent topo on the beta section of supertopo.com...heres the link supertopo.com/rock-climbing/ro...
By Cory
From: Boise, ID
Jun 7, 2010

Fantastic climb with pitch after pitch of mostly mellow but fun climbing. We used a 70 meter rope and did the climb in 6 pitches per Russ' topo above. The topo was spot on! Thanks Russ!

Regarding the descent, it was straightforward but slow and wet. We didn't have any trouble locating the rap anchors, even in the dark. We walked the cat walk all the way to the gully between mid and upper cathedral, then went down the gully. Every time we arrived at a cliff, there was a rap anchor right there. Although they were easy to find, they were also a bit sketchy. One of the rap anchors consisted of two rusted bolts that wiggled like loose teeth, and the hangers on both bolts were smashed completely flat from rockfall, so it was impossible to replace the somewhat worn looking webbing connecting them together. Fortunately there was a third bolt that looked good, but was missing a hanger. We were able to cinch a wired stopper over this bolt and equalize this to the other sketchy anchor, which made me feel a little better on rappel.

Overall it was an awesome day on a great climb with good friends, so the descent was totally worth it!
By Steve R.
From: Oakland, CA
Jun 18, 2010

Great climb! A little crowded on a Wed in the middle of June but we were all going at pretty much the same pace so things worked out.

Part of what kept things going well was linking P1/P2 and P3/P4

Stoked to do the bolt ladder (at A0) and a stellar lieback to roof move. Next time I'll probably check out the supposedly equally stellar 50 crowded variation.

Beware the descent. We didn't end up as far up the gully between Middle and Higher as we should have to start the raps. We found a rap route which took us down 5 or 6 raps through ant infested trees and crusty webbing. Added the couple pieces of webbing we had where totally necessary. When we were halfway through the raps, the party behind us was already scrambling down the gully. We didn't end up with an epic descent, just spent more time getting close with biting ants than necessary...
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Oct 15, 2011

No ants, bees, snow, or other parties on a beautiful Friday in October = no complaints.

We did the 50 Crowded variation. Linked P1/P2 and P3/P4. It seemed like linking the rest would just make for bonus rope drag and some uncomfortable belays - YMMV. We brought a #4 and could easily have done without it. I had an extra #1 and #2 which wasn't neccessary, but was nice a few times.

Pleasant climbing. Spectacular views.

Descent: The kat walk all the way to the gully is well marked by cairns and very straightforward. Just stay on the cairned trail until you bump into Higher Cathedral :) We did one rap at the start of the gully (a 70m allows you to skip the chockstone station) and then another rap down lower. The bolted rap anchors sucked, as advertised.

Personally, I'd avoid doing this route until later in the season the gully was snow and (mostly) water free. Even in October our ropes got somewhat wet on the first rappel. I imagine in early to mid-season it is a waterfall, and snow in the gully would be somewhat epic I imagine.
By hot mama erin
From: mar vista, ca
Oct 16, 2011

Dang Andy! Lucky you! We did this the previous Sunday and it was SO crowded (about 7 parties)!! We ended up toping out in the dark, not finding the descent till the next morning... yes... that's right a chilly yet stunning full moon bivy a top middle cathedral. Beautiful!

Climb was awesome though! Descent was wet... But the views are exceptional. Even in the chasm next to higher cathedral I was still oohing and ahhing. Amazing!

FYI: Some rockfall occurred on the route at the top of pitch 2 (belay #1 if you linked pitches 1 & 2). A chunk of rock fell from the corner next to where the 3rd pitch begins. It was dislodged by the belayer who stepped there and tumbled down the face. Be careful as I was sitting in that exact spot only moments earlier when I heard the crash from top of pitches 3/4. No one was injured. :)
By Em Cos
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 4, 2012

Climbed this route a few weeks ago, somehow we were the only party on the route all day and had a blast.

If you are short, and your partner is less short, get them to lead the bolt ladder pitch. (unless you are freeing it) I am 5'3" and even following that section involved some serious shenanigans. Lucky for me, my partner is 6'4". At least it made it very easy to decide who was getting which pitches.
By Johan
From: Seattle, WA
Aug 21, 2012

Bailing beta: My partner are I started up this early on August 4th, but rain and thunder were moving in when we were on pitch 7 of the Supertopo 50 crowded variation, and while waiting at the piton belay at the start of pitch 8. From our position we were blind to the approaching weather from behind MC, and with the rock soaked (the rain having moved beyond a smattering), the thunder giving us the willies, and the prospect of a hairy descent down the back of MC (which would be our first time doing it), we bailed.

The Supertopo says that it's hard to bail after the P4 station because of the traverses. I would like to report otherwise. We had 2x60m ropes, and were able to bail down fine doing P7+6 in one rap from the piton (new and shiny, looked really solid, backed up for the first climber, but leaving gear might be a good idea), then a slight diagonal across pitch 5 from bolts, and from there P4+3 and P2+1 rap easily from bolts down to the ground. Total gear left: 1 locking caribiner on the piton at the top of P7.

A french party behind us also bailed off the 10c variation about 20 minutes before us, leaving a gear anchor somewhere before the traverse over to the 50 crowded variation before joining into the bolted rap stations.

Climb safe!
By Jeff Witt
Oct 15, 2012

Been up a couple times int he last month. As per SuperTopo, linking P1&2 and P3&4 w/60m rope is pretty reasonable. From there you have three choices; the Original line (Chimneys out left after the 5.9/P5), the Normal Route (traverse up & right from the belay at top of P5), and the 50 Crowded Var. (right from top of P4). The Original Route is a bit burly/run-out, but great training for future wide pitches (NE of Higher, Steck-Salathe). The Regular Route is perhaps the most enjoyable (5.9 move + A0 or 5.10c), and the 50 Crowded Var. is a little tricky & thin (small cams & extend), plus a bit run-out through the 5.6/5.7 face above. Good climbing though.

A couple notes to augment the SuperTopo. It is worth trying to skip the belay at the top of P7 - it takes pretty small gear to back up the pin there, and is a small stance. You can reach top of P8 with a 70m, or there is a good belay just about 30 feet above the top of P6 belay, then you can reach w/ 60m.

Lastly, the left hand 5.10a to 5.9 variation at the top of the route, exiting the 5.7 groove on the left, I found to be really enjoyable and maybe some of the better climbing on the route. I'm lost with the grades though - I would describe this section as a 5.8 move into the finger crack out of the groove and climb up past a flake to the tree, then above to a 5.8 move steeping left (5.10a in SuperTopo), then up the right leaning crack - a 5.7 layback (5.9 hand traverse in SuperTopo? - seems easy). Belay off the trees above, and look for an easy traverse around the bulge right from the upper big fir tree.

Have Fun!
By Sam Ritchie
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 24, 2013

tl;dr; Great route! lost my iPhone on the kat walk. Please shoot me a note if you find it :)

Did this route over the weekend. Perfect conditions, though maybe a bit hot for the amount of water we brought. We used the updated Fish topo with a single 70m rope - make sure to continue up past the tempting huge ledge on p5 to the pin farther up, or you won't quite make the final tree on the final pitch.

On the way out, skidding around in the dirt of the kat walk, I tore the back pocket of my pants and dropped out the black iPhone I'd been using for a topo. I'm sure it's lost forever, BUT, if anyone here tracks it down, you'd be my hero forever. My email is sritchie09 at gmail dot com.
By Eric Fjellanger
Jul 14, 2013

The new rap route is good, to do it, you should skip the last pitch given in the Supertopo (no big loss, it is mostly a pine needle grovel) and just walk up and left from the top of pitch 10 to the first anchor. We didn't catch this and did some tree rapping shenanigans.
By Dan Brockway
From: Boulder
Jul 14, 2013

Did the 12 pitch rap route with a single 60 M rope. Some of the stations were essentially hanging belays but the rope easily reached each station. There is a big loose block about 20 feet above about the fourth rap station. It is easy to avoid but you can put your feet on it. I have done the walk off and that is a hassle to but I think it is a toss up of what is easier. I do agree skip the last pitch and walk over to the rap station left of the belay. Then rap to bolts on the arete. Then down the face to the left of the climb. You do not want to rap the route. The new rap line goes down the face to the left of the climb. Be careful but it is not bad, just a lot of raps.
By O'neil Van Horn
Jul 23, 2014

To reiterate, the rap route is solid. 12 raps with one 60m rope. Not a hassle at all, especially if you simul rap it. I highly recommend this descent.
By DrW
From: AUSTIN, TX
Aug 11, 2014
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

Awesome route. My favorite 5.10 (so far) in the valley. We used the face moves instead of the bolt ladder which really made the route great. Great views of El Cap and the valley.
By DrW
From: AUSTIN, TX
Aug 11, 2014
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

Be careful about the thousands of ants. I took the time to flick or blow each individual ant off of the rope and luckily never got stung. It seems that all pitches belayed from a tree are affected. So watch out and plan for a delay in order to keep from being stung (especially if you are allergic to them).