|Lower Cathedral Spire
This is a famous historical route, put up in 1934. The route, however, consists mostly of wandering ledge traverses and the rock quality is not great. The climbing is not memorable, but the summit sure is. It is rather surprising such a precipitous looking spire has this easy route. Although rated 5.9, there is only one hard move, and if aided the route is rated 5.6, A0.
Follow the gully east of the Cathedral Spires and GO ALL THE WAY TO THE NOTCH BETWEEN THEM! The start of this route is hard to find and numerous parties have started too low. The actual route begins only about 150 feet from the notch, so go all the way to the notch to be sure you are not starting too low (see the "Direct Start").
Follow an intricate route up to "Main Ledge", a huge ledge halfway up. The first pitch is rated 5.6, and ends at a gigantic (ant infested) tree. A 4th class pitch leads to the left end of Main Ledge. If you go straight up now you are on "South by Southwest (11a)". But for this route, wander right on Main Ledge (3rd class), staying high. Now comes the short crux by a bolt. Make an awkward 5.9 face move (or aid on bolt) and then move up and right to easy ground.
The FA went up the menacing, thin flake detached ten inches from the wall (this flake is located somewhere above the bolt, I believe, if it hasn't fallen off by now). The mindset necessary to climb the flake bordered on insanity. First, a sharp projection on the flake was lassoed. Then the rope, hanging vertical, was climbed hand-over-hand until it was possible to mantel the projection. If liebacked, the fragile flake would have broken so out came the hammer. The leader then delicately chipped footholds into the flake while balancing his weight in an effort to keep from pulling the feature—and himself—from the wall. This was Yosemite’s first instance of chipping, a practice that was not repeated until the sport-climbing boom in the 1980s [thanks to Chris McNamara for this historical paragraph, excerpted from SuperTopo].
Continue up a pitch 5.5 and then one last 4th class pitch to the summit.
Light rack. Long slings are useful due to the wandering nature of the route.
To descend, rappel the SW Face and route "South by Southwest" with two ropes. Then rappel the first pitch.
Jan 21, 2012
Original Aid Route FA: Richard Leonard, Jules Eichorn, Bestor Robinson, 8/1934
Lower Cathedral Spire - Regular Route FA: Roy Gorin, Paul Estes, Jerry Ganapole, Raffi Bedayn, 5/1948