Friday, March 28, 2014

Lower Cathedral Rock: Gym Climber's Guide to the East Buttress (IV 5.10c)

“I can't believe I'm living the best version of my life inside a dream adventure - n4ver fail to try to succeed even if you think your goal is reality inside your own mind, in a dream. Pyramid lasers.”

-Vitaliy M, Jan 2014

A week earlier a few friends simul-climbed EB of Lower Cathedral in two pitches and in two hours. Than they proceeded to simul the East Buttress of Middle and NEB of Higher Cathedral. Likely made it to the pizza deck WAY before dark. So if you are one of those hardcore people, and are not a gym climber like me, you do not need a BD#4 and can skip reading this report altogether! But if you are bored of repeating the same two Valley classics, place EB of Lower Cathedral HIGH on your tick list! 

Lower Cathedral as seen from the North Buttress of Middle. Fissure beck is a left leaning prominent dihedral to the left of the east buttress proper. GNAR!
First two pitches of the climb. SICK!
Christiano climbing pitch 1 (5.8 chimney). PSYCHED!
Full value 5.8 chimney. SENDIN!
My bro and I were psyched to send the gnar on the first Sunday of Spring. Usually I like to go big on a Saturday, but da East Buttress seemed simple on paper Reid dropped in 1857. For some reason I forgot that technical ratings in Reid’s guide don’t usually show how sustained, difficult or scary a climb is. Also, the topo suggested there are no bolted cracks or bolted belay stations for convenience, I was hoping it was an error due to it being outdated, and decided to leave the power drill behind. When I climbed the North Buttress of Middle Cathedral pitches that got a 5.9 rating in Reid's felt like a solid 5.10 and the DNB (5.11a R in ST guide) seems like a reasonably simul-climbable hike with a little 5.10b crux per topo. I am not trying to say EB of Lower is a sand-bag central or that it is harder than The Rostrum, but if you are used to Supertopos and are using a Reid guide for the first time, don’t expect the "5.8 chimney”  to feel nice and fuzzy like the one on NEB. : ) Since you crushed the Serenity-Sons link up with your girlfriend, don’t think of EB as a step down, this route is worth doing, has incredible views and is one of the best 5.10 multi-pitch routes in the Valley! Even though it is not YET retro-bolted.
Me leading 5.10a fists. Pretty steep! Perma draws would be appreciated. Cam got in a way of my jam at the crux and I had to do a lay-back move. GNAR!
I can live with this view...would be sweet to cut a few more handcracks there! #GOBIG!
Christiano looking for bolts at the base of the Fissure Beck...CRUSHING!!
The climb has a 20-120 minute approach, which depends on your fitness and how lost you get bushwhacking through the forest. On the way back we followed the trail all the way down and had much more fun than in the morning. The route takes a natural line up the East Buttress (duh!) by connecting two prominent left facing dihedrals and some wandering terrain up higher. Cristiano destroyed me in Rock Paper Scissors for the second time in two days and took the first pitch, a 5.8 chimney. I was lucky to lose this game since instead of a bit runout  pitch one and Fissure Beck I had the two glory 5.10s - 5.10a ‘fists’ pitch and the 5.10c ‘stemming’ crux. Single BD#4 camalot was the largest piece we brought, but for those who want to sew it up BD#6 (BETA ALERT) will make life easier on pitch one and in the Fissure Beck. 
Me stemming before the 10c crux. This pitch is no Lunatic Fringe or Catchy! SENDIN!
"Hey where are we? You sure this Reid dude climbed the same route?" CRUXIN BRO
I can make a banana into a pudding!
Massive face of Middle Cathedral - only thing that's missing is permadraws

The climbing continued to be sustained, interesting and adventurous through both the lower and higher dihedrals. I had a little f-up in the crux section of second pitch, when I placed a cam in a spot for a perfect jam, but a strenuous lie-back move got me over the crux. Cristiano ran the rope for 60 meters and got us to the base of the crux. Even though Fissure Beck is just a 5.9 on the topo, remember, 5.9 used to be the hardest grade that people free climbed! The climbing continued to be challenging and fun! If I was leading, I think it would take a lot longer than it did. Cristiano did not have a piece (or a power drill) to protect the wide undercling but did a great job moving past it with confidence. A few loose rocks were in the way, but easily avoided. While following, I crushed the crap out of the runout climbing, on top rope, and took the 5.10c crux. Possibly because it was intimidating, and I wasn’t great at controlling my fear, I made it look like a 5.12d, at least. The battle started with me trying to chimney a stemming corner, which created some original movement and required me to come up with a way to flip a 180 without flipping upside down on Cristiano’s head. I crawled past a few spots that I thought could be the crux, but hit the real crux like deer in the headlights. "A one move wonder," it was called by some guy on

Pitch after the big ledges was supposed to be super easy, but I found double roofs :)

 First of the double roofs with the next one above. Good climbing through them. SICK!
Christiano climbing over a giant hollow flake. GNAR!
Expecting some decent edges on the face I was frustrated to find nothing where my left foot would stick. After a few half hearted attempts and wasting time on trying to come up with creative moves that were not there, I decided to commit to the one that I thought could be possible. Grabbing a crimp with my left and trying to use a very poor fistjam with my right I moved up. My left foot blew and I was close to taking a HUGE whipper onto a blue alien (BETA ALERT - thank me later, pizza would be appreciated) which was all the way down by my chin! I was gripped. Sharma-like “SSSSAAAAAAH!!!” escaped from my lungs and likely scared the shit out of some dudes bolting new lines on Middle Cathedral. This is what TRAD climbing is all about. When I sport climb I am usually intimidated when I have to do the crux without the security of a cam above my bucket. Committed to the sequence I passed the crux to a solid jam. By this point my last piece of rock pro was likely below my feet, and a fall here could be deadly.  Terrain above was much easier and compared to the crux, I was moving with a speed of light. Over a big hollow flake and a giant roof, I ended the pitch at a huge ledge above. 
Christiano on the summit. SICK SEND BRO!
Thinking about cutting cracks, chiseling and placing perma-draws. Life is good....
NW Face of Middle Cathedral
 From there Cristiano took us to a series of big ledges and we moved right and down-climbed a little closer to the prow of the Buttress. Next pitch did not have a rating in the topo, but I found double roofs with a really old piton fixed in the second. The climbing through these roofs seemed difficult from the bottom, but turned out to be fun and secure. Next, Cristiano climbed over a giant hollow white flake (BETA ALERT), some cool chicken heads and death block pulling. We simul climbed a little before switching leads and unroping on easier terrain. We did not try to break speed records and went easy all day but got to the summit in 7 hours after starting the route. Both of us climbed every pitch clean and free. Someone on MP suggests climbing the route in 5 pitches, we did it in 7 or 8 and thought it is much more reasonable for a few gym climbers. The views from the top were breath taking – massive faces of Middle Cathedral and El Capitan showed off thousands of feet of great rock. All ready to be rap bolted for convenience of modern generation. Stovelegs crack looked beautiful and ready for a chiseled continuation to the summit, with perma draws of course, climbing to the top aint slabby! West Face of the Sentinel, NW Face of HD and the Three Brothers looked warm and inviting from the distance. Even though we had multiple hours of daylight left, we did not stay on the summit for much longer than 15 minutes. We wanted to be stunned by this view once again when we come back to chisel a better variation to Beggar’s Buttress! ; )

  • If you are HARDCORE like my friends who did the route in two hours, some nuts, doubles from green alien to handsize, and the monkeys are sendin! Don't forget to tag the other Cathedrals on the hike to the pizza deck. 
  • Valley Hardmen do it in 5 pitches with some simul climbing. They will "pass the .10a fists and the Fisher Beck without even knowing it." And think of the crux as a one move wonder.
  • Light like me? Bring doubles from green alien to BD #3. Blue alien protects the crux well and #4 is nice to have. Most likely last of the three Major Cathedral Rocks to tick, so go do it, it is not worse than the other two!
  • Even lighter? Bring a BD#6 and you should feel secure.
  • Don't think this is an outing for you? Harden the f.....up 
This report was inspired by people who like to whine on the internet about ethics, quote themselves on Facebook and over-exaggerate every little hike they take in the wilderness. Hope you skipped reading it and checked the photos only. If you didn't you wasted a lot of your time!
To understand some of the sarcasm that is hidden (by hidden I mean like in your face) in this report please see the links above and friend request a few outdoor male models on Facebook.
and of course
Disaster meets Glamour - the storm is brewing above Yosemite Canyon. #SPLITTERWEATHERBRO

Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter Fun in the SUN!

This winter has been a lot different from the usual routine I had going. For majority of my climbing trips I opened up to less onsighting and more falling. In addition, I trained in the gym with a lot more purpose, than for the sake of climbing. Prior to this season I didn't think working a hard section of a single climb or bouldering in the gym would be as fun as moving over a thousand foot rock face. But it did teach me much more about climbing at my limit. In addition, it actually turned out to be fun and shoved a slice of humble pie in my mouth, on pretty much every trip. Highlights of the last several trips include sending the super classic Rostrum (IV 5.11c), onsight of a notorious Yosemite offwidth Twilight Zone (5.10d) and an incredible fingercrack Mr. Natural. Doing a few climbs on Parkline Slab, first 7 pitches of the Astroman, (French) Freeblast, few cool outings to the Ribbon Falls area, a lot of one to two pitch climbs. Also, I finally climbed the Nutcracker and got to repeat the first 5 pitches of the super classic Central Pillar of Frenzy!
Gleb on rappell from top of the Harding Slot
The Rostrum
Attempt to catch the fire-fall effect. Horsetail Falls
Gleb on the way into the Harding Slot
On the first outing to Ribbon Falls Luke and I climbed the first nine pitches of Gates Of Delirium (V 5.12 or 5.11 C1) and on the other Tom and I had hell of a day trying to find the start of Ribbon Candy (IV 5.11c). Neither of those two trips resulted into “sends” or even us completing the routes to the top, but they did provide motivation and foundation for a more glorious return. One of the things that is beneficial about climbing tough routes is coming face to face with your ego. In the beginning I did not take failure well.  Ego does not like to fail, but I came to a conclusion that failing is great. It is an opportunity to learn, nothing more nothing less. Even though ego will always be there to some extend, I feel like I have a lot more grasp over mine at this point. People often claim they fell in love with rock climbing because "there are no rules," but when you examine our little camp fire, you can spot a huge list of rules each climber has, which usually only applies to the guy next door.
View of El Cap from Ribbon Falls area
Luke on Gates Of Delirium (Ribbon Falls wall)
Gleb starting first pitch of the Rostrum 
Small waterfall below Fish Crack
Anyway, on one of the trips I finally sacked up to lead the Twilight Zone. TZ is an offwidth - crack with size that is too narrow to use chimney technique, but too wide for a fist jam. This particular offwidth takes you through several hard sizes, is steep and has sharp flakes at the bottom. Even though it is very often talked about, I have not seen any climbers on it during all of my trips to the Cookie Cliff. Even though lately I tried to jump on climbs that are a bit above my head, I really wanted to onsight the Twilight Zone because supposedly it rarely happens. First pitch was a little burly. I started from a tree on the west side of the buttress. The crack widened to big fists through an overhang and I was lucky to get in a piece of protection before the pump got too severe. When I got to the base I saw the monster, which looked much more intimidating than from further away. This offwidth was so steep that it looked overhanging. When Max made it to the belay ledge I took a few last breaths and dove inside the giant. First section is a short chimney between the wall and a flake that would go right through you if you manage to screw up. I pushed my #6 cam above me as I inched my way up the strenuous beast. The crux of this section was to deal with the steepness and pushing the cam in the same time. Some sections got a little narrow and I would have to loosen the cam up and slide it above using a different aspect of the crack. Maybe hard-men back in the day had it better than us since they did not have to worry about things like pushing cams above their head : ) Chuck Pratt for example only needed a few big bongs for his First Ascent which he practically free soloed. A lead which was way ahead of his time in 1965. Well, I guess these big cams allow average climbers like me to test our technique on test-pieces like TZ. I finally left my #6 as the crack widened to #5 size. I felt pretty comfortable here till it narrowed to #4. At one point I couldn’t jam my knee to move up my hand stack. After a long session of cursing, dealing with a stuck cam, and feeling like I was close to asking for a take, I found a way to jam my calf and move up to a size that was more secure. From there the crack eases up. At the top it got incredibly easy – handjams! One problem was that I did not bring any cams to protect this section. What the hell, it is handjams! I took the pitch to the top running out the last 25 ft. But here was another crux – a bunch of unstable dirt and grass sitting on top of the formation. I couldn't risk a 50+ footer by pulling on this crap. Thank god I was trailing a line and was able to pull up a cam to protect this weird exit. At times I surprise myself with climbs completion of which brings me pleasure.
Me leading Enduro Corner on Astroman (ALMOST got it!)
Luke charging up another cool crack on Gates of Delirium
Got to climb HD this year again!

Unknown climber on 4th pitch of the Rostrum
My partner Catherine on a cool ledge - halfway up Homeworld (9 pitch 5.10+ on Parkline Slab)
There were many more outings to the Cookie Cliff, where steep crack climbing of all sizes could be had. So far I like Butterballs, Hardd and Catchy Corner more than the rest. The Enema was a memorable lead, but did not work out to be a send. Jim Donini's story of running it out from the rest stance on the First Ascent still gives me butterflies in my stomach. Waverly Wafer is still physical even though I managed to redpoint it. But Butterballs spit me off at the top of the sustained finger crack. I was a meter away from a good rest, but the superpump got me in the end. To be honest, I was surprised I got that far, probably was having a good day. Outer Limits is still super fun and so is Catchy. Cragging at Arch rock was also mega fun, but they closed it for Peregrine nesting now. :( 

It is fun to climb with this guy, even when he is not my partner lol
Always excited to climb with Luke! He brings out the best in me lol
Climber on pitch one of Freeblast (Salathe Wall El Cap)
View from Bircheff-Williams or CPoF. Middle Cathedral is AWESOME!
Gleb Rapelling from top of the Enema - STEEP!
On another outing Gleb and I took advantage of Spring-like temperatures in Yosemite and jumped on the super classic Rostrum. I climbed the route in the end of 2013 and was blown away by its steepness and quality. Before I climbed it for the first time I was intimidated by it and expected to fall often, maybe even pull on gear. I did much better than I expected and climbed the route with only two falls, one of which while leading the crux pitch, on the last moves of it to be exact.  After topping out I was super excited about my performance, till I received several texts with the same question – “Did you send?!” Usually when I go climbing my main mission is to challenge my skills, sending feels good, but the long journey is what I enjoy more. No one cared about how much fun I had, if I did better than I expected, or if it was a route I would recommend. Only thing my peers cared about was if I climbed every pitch clean. If I was in sink with my spirituality, like I would like to be, this question wouldn't bother me. But I am not there yet and was left with a bad taste in my mouth. On the drive to the park Gleb and I spent quite some time discussing human ego and emotions. Perfect description for this dilemma is - first world problems! Neither of us expected to “send,”  but I would be a liar if I said I didn't care about improving on my style. The Rostrum is a multi-pitch climbs that I put really high on my 2014 tick list. Getting it clean in January would take an elephant off my back. Since I fell on pitch 4 and 6 on my prior attempt, I took the evens and Gleb took odd pitches. We decided to use a 40M cord and haul our backpack so we could concentrate on the joy of climbing while leading and following. It worked like a charm. Pitches were as good as I could remember. When we got to the crux, both Gleb and I took a turn leading it. Both attempts resulted in yells of joy as we reached the intermediate anchors. Even though all four of the remaining pitches gave us a good fight we topped out just as it got dark with big smiles on our faces. It was awesome to lead our first "5.11c" pitch clean and tick off the legendary Rostrum. We came a long way since our first climb together – a flailathon on North Buttress of Middle Cathedral last spring!
Onsighting crux pitch of Twilight Zone 

Me leading second pitch of Hardd. Got the first, but second spit me off.
Gleb and I after AstroMAN showed us we have to go back to the gym and train harder
Looking up El Cap. Never gets old.
 On the day after we climbed the Rostrum Gleb and I decided to tick Mr. Natural - a long fingercrack on the Glacier Point Apron. It is rated 5.10c or 5.10d depending on the source and approached by 4th class or climbing a 5.9 pitch named Apron Jam. After tasting the glory on the Rostrum I did not even think about the difficulties that Apron Jam would present, but it had plenty. It worked me fairly hard and I barely led the pitch without taking a fall. With an approach pitch like that, I wasn't sure Mr. Natural would be a good idea, but both Gleb and I ended up getting the onsight on lead. The pitch was the longest fingercrack I have done in Yosemite, crux of which was first knuckle jams with some friction climbing and traverse out to the anchor. We ended the day by climbing HARD, RUNOUT SLAB..on TOP ROPE! It was a great way to finish the weekend and I am looking forward to MANY MORE!