Climbing: May 3, 2014 (Yosemite Valley)
Photo above: John the day after.
May 3, 2014: Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock 5.9
Our friend, Eric, invited us to stay in his campsite for the weekend and since we’re still suffering from Indian Creek withdrawal we were eager to get outside again. However, we had no idea which route to climb.
After I failed to come up with anything other than some single pitch routes, John suggested that we try the old-school classic Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock. It’s rated 5.9 but has quite the reputation for epics. I glanced over the Mountain Project beta and user comments. At 11 pitches, with a long approach and descent, it certainly would be an adventure.
I wished I had read the Mountain Project comments a little more carefully…
We set our alarm for 4:30 but John insisted that we could get up a little later, so we did. We ended up taking 1 hour and 15 minutes to hike to the base of the route. When we got there the first party had just started climbing, but they were moving quickly. The second party seemed to be moving at a good pace too and we started climbing as soon as we could, which was probably just after 8am. Party No. 4, was right behind us and also climbing efficiently. On the first pitch I got a little hung up trying to remove a Black Diamond 0.3 Camalot. With the pressure of knowing there were still two parties below, I felt really rushed and ended up leaving the cam behind. It was a $60 mistake and the first time I’ve ever left a perfectly functional cam behind.
Things seemed to be going okay for us and everyone else on the route until the Party No. 2’s leader fell and hurt his ankle. When I came up next to them on the route I thanked them for letting us pass, but as it turned out they were setting up to rappel due to injury. Well, that’s one party down.
In a sick way, I was a little relieved that they had to bail so we wouldn’t be held up by them.
Photo above: Monica on the traverse of Northeast Buttress.
The first few pitches went by with some fun climbing but by pitch 5 I was getting pretty tired. I was trying to hurry since the leader in Party No. 4 was cruising up to my at every belay. In my haste I never bothered to eat or drink which was a horrible idea. By pitch 7, I hit a wall. Well, not literally. John and I tried to eat and drink to revive ourselves. By now Party No. 6, K and C, had passed Party No. 4 and 5. They looked eager to pass me too but there was no way I was going to let them pass me on a hanging belay off an old piton and two fixed nuts. I told the guy, who was being pretty agro, that there was no way he could pass us now.
The party waited behind us but before I knew it the woman in the party basically stepped over me with her foot in my face and passed me. She ended up taking quite a long time to finish the 8th (?) pitch and the light was slowing diminishing.
Next came the business chimney pitch which John took nearly an hour to lead. I was really getting worried that something was going wrong because I couldn’t see him. I followed up and pulled on the cam in the chimney to speed things up but it wasn’t too difficult for me otherwise.
We got the top of the route just as the last bit of sunlight was fading away. After a bathroom break we headed down the descent exhausted but relieved.
Once we got back into cell phone range got a curious text message from our friend who said that Eric had been kicked out of our campsite and that they needed to move. Well, that felt like a little sprinkle of salt into our wounds! Luckily when we got back to camp we were able to find out where they were moved to. John and I literally picked up our tent and dragged it to the new site. We ate half of a Clif Bar together and zonked out for the night.