The prior weekend I spent two hours leading one 100ft sustained 10b off-width. Having to clear cams on lead 3-4 times after they fixed themselves bumping them on Mental Block. Which kinda told me that Lauren and I were not ready for the notorious Steck-Salethe. So why not take on one of the most sandbagged climbs in the valley instead? NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral: an 11 pitch climb cruxing out at 5.9++.
I am constantly amazing that despite all the climbing in Yosemite Valley, the approaches can still be heinous and hard to follow. After tumbling around trying to find cairns after taking the wrong, SuperTopo recommended, route up. We enjoyed our mandatory tunnel through manzanita the final few hundred feet to the base after about two hours and 1600 ft elevation gain.
The start of the climb is mostly 5.8-7 depending on who you ask. I blasted up the leads of the first 5 pitches in two hours. The climb was amazing. Featuring parallel splitters almost the entire way, often with one of them awkward, but still. Parallel Splitters. I pulled two roofs in one pitch, including the most strenuous “5.7 roof” I’ve ever pulled.
We easily caught up to the first party on the route with two following shortly behind us right before the traverse and where the route gets real++. At this point we decided to rap the route. We were not feeling it. My friend had epic’d on this climb with a 5.11 Yosemite climber, which I was not. I found when I was dealing with stress injury, having a panic attack at bolted anchors in Yosemite a year ago that whether or not something is actually safe doesn’t matter if you are not emotionally ready for it. So we rapped the route.
Instead we went up another few hundred feet of brush thrashing in 90 degree heat to climb another sandbagged route with only one plus. Mega classic Braille Book 5.8+. After falling off a decomposing log and almost turning around we were again at the base and ready to get our lead on.
I had another awesome, so fun time stemming 5.8 along a wide crack. The rock here was unlike I’ve seen in Yosemite with big dark hexagonal extrusions, a textured face just short of being chicken heads and even some high Sierra orange granite coloration.
I had so much fun climbing this route, right up until I ceased sweating, started feeling very tired and my brain started trying to turn off. Yeah, the 2L of water wasn’t quite enough for this 90 degree Yosemite day, but at least Braille Book was in the shade. Lauren finished the route and I regained some focus after eating a bar before we hiked to the summit of Higher Cathedral Rock to look LEVEL at the top of EL Cap.
I’ve been climbing to Yosemite dozens of times and I’m still getting new views as my skills get better and my projects take me across all the walls. What an amazing time!
My biggest take-away is that I personally will always feel more comfortable taking on objectives if I feel my climbing partner will support me if I say it is too much. I feel lucky to have such trust with Lauren that we can say that to each other and still have a super awesome day!