September 25, 2011
September 25, 2011
Jared and I climbed the E Butt of Middle Cathedral Sunday. Using 70m double ropes, we linked P1 and2, P3&4, P7 and 8, P9 and 10. We would have linked P5 and 6 if I hadn't gotten the rope stuck in the roof on P5 (doh!), which cost us a lot of time on the route. Still we finished the rappels before dark. The descent was very wet from the light afternoon rain that fell on us, making it feel more like a canyoneering outing.
We had to search around a bit for the start of the climb. For a "50 Classic" climb, I was surprised how overgrown the start was. You really can't see the route at all from the base. After carefully matching the topo to what we could see through the trees, I started out on what seemed like the start of the route.
I was leading with a pack on, which made the 5.8 roof a lot harder than expected, so I left my pack on a piton and Jared rigged it to be hauled on one of the double lines as I belayed him through the pitch.
Despite the overgown start, the climb quickly improved in quality and exposure.
Using a single alpine aider and my PAS, aiding the bolt ladder was fast & easy. Jared used a similar system of alpine aider & sling to follow on belay.
The 5.8 lieback is very steep and exposed, which made for some pretty exciting free climbing once I finished the tension traverse. As advertised, the 5.9 roof crux is short, but awkward and burly, requiring some funny stemming as you torqued yourself over the lip while yanking on solid finger jams. Fortunately there is a solid piton right at the crux.
As I was pretty intimidated by the climbing here, I placed a cam right after the piton just before I pulled the roof. While this made the crux move essentially protected on TR, this was a bad idea, as it held the rope closer to the split corner in the roof. It just so happens that my 70m double ropes are the perfect diameter to stick in cracks of finger jam width, so as soon as I got a few moves higher, the rope stuck. Rather than downclimbing to deal with the problem, I climbed against the worsening drag.
That turned out to be a bad idea as not only was the last part of the pitch very hard with the rope drag, but it forced me to stop at the standard belay rather than linking pitches. It also took a lot of time to pull in the slack and belaying was much slower until Jared cleared the roof. Since the next belay ledge was small and awkward, it was also difficult to coil the ropes with care while fighting the drag and we had to recoil the rope at the belay once Jared finished following. And so the time cost from my error continued to snowball . . .
We lost enough time from the rope drag that another party that was linking pitches with a 70m rope had reached the top of the "50 Crowded" 5.10a face variation just as we were ready to start P6. Since their belay was slightly ahead of ours, they got onto P6 just as we were ready, so we had to wait for them to pass before continuing on.
I saw a nice flake directly above the belay with a piton in it and then what looked like a way to traverse right. SuperTopo emphasized not going straight up, though, so I traversed out directly right from the belay, looking for the first piton.
I never found the piton, but after a long traverse right from the anchor with no pro, I did eventually reach the belay atop the "50 Crowded" variation. (Note: Seeing how you can do this traverse, I think next time I climb this route I'll try the "50 Crowded" variation and then traverse left to finish on the original chimney variation). I placed a piece of pro just above that before climbing up, then traversed far left and then up to the only piton I found on the pitch. Then I traversed far right again. Using doubles really helped in keeping this from being a rope drag nightmare.
Despite our attempt to recoil the rope, it had been kinked badly enough that we lost time on this pitch as several times Jared had to ask me to stop while he worked out a cluster in the rope.
I coiled the rope better on this pitch, although Jared still had to stop me a few times to work out clusters. Finally, atop P7 we were able to continue on at a better pace again. If it hadn't been for the roof folly we would have made great time on the route. Fortunately the earlier climbing and from here on was fast enough that we had that time to spare! So up the steep corners I went.
I had been climbing this past year storing my camera in a soft case camera case. That was not a good idea, as the camera's LCD got smashed on the next pitch. The camera still worked, but I couldn't operate any menus or see what I was shooting, so I blindly clicked away for the rest of the climb.
P8 was awkward and sustained, but still not too bad. It had good pro and regular stances throughout, and then finished with a great traverse left.
The topo I had said to make a belay here. This spot sucked since it was a sustained, thin 5.8 finger crack. I didn't want to go to the trouble of having a hanging belay here. Since the terrain above Jared was easy for the first bit, we switched to simul-climbing so that I could reach the nice looking tree and ledge above.
The 5.7 undercling was short and very easy. The groove was a bit awkward, but not too bad. One of the easier pitches on the route.
In the end I would say that the suggestion of climbing Central Pillar of Frenzy is a great gauge for climbing the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral. While it technically has a lot more 5.9 climbing, the route is very clean, protects well, and is very non-committing. I actually found a lot of the 5.8 climbing on the East Buttress to be more serious and taxing on lead than the 5.9 climbing on Central Pillar of Frenzy.