North Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock

The weekend of July 9, 2016 was unseasonably cool. Micah and I decided it would be perfect conditions for a trip up to the Valley. I had been up the DNB several times, but never up the North Buttress. Micah had not been on trad lead in months so the North Buttress seemed like a logical choice. At 5.10a route looked like the DNB's mellower cousin...

In reality the Direct North is really the DNB's grouchy, older-school sibling (if such a thing is possible).

We got started climbing about 8AM. The route starts a good 15 min walk from the DNB start.


The two routes are quite a bit different in character. North Buttress is rarely climbed, crosses a number of sketchy/loose sections, and has very little of the lower-angle slab (except for the very last pitch).

Here's the base:




I recall us using both the Reid and Sloan topos. Those are a bit vague/incorrect in spots. I later found the following topos (source). They are really accurate.



Pitch 1 is an intro of what's to come: fun climbing mixed with loose blocks and some dirty scrambling. I wish I had snapped some more clear photos of the base. It really looks like there could be a direct start that would vastly improve the overall route. 



Pitch 2: forgot to snap a pano here I guess? It's a crack. If it saw a lot of traffic it would be great. But it has leaves all over.

Pitch 3: the climbing up to the top of the Right Rabbit Ear was enjoyable enough. And it matched the topo fairly well.




Pitch 4: The Reid guide is incorrect/misleading. This is comparable to most valley 5.10b pitches. Imagine a 5.9 chimney to an 5.10b overhung finger crack to some jugs that swing into a 5.9 squeeze. 

The pano I captured gives you a sense of the more vertical nature. Quite different from the DNB.



Pitch 5: Another sandbag. V2 boulder problem to a thrash through some trees. The pitch crosses some really loose stuff. The top of this has a great ledge for eating lunch.



Here's the lunch spot:

Pitch 6: A bit run-out, but not too bad. 5.8. This is about where the climbing improved.


Pitch 7: This pitch must have changed or something. It looks nothing like the Reid Guide topo. A bit PG in rating, but really fun moves. 



P8: This was a lot of fun. It's a good 5.10 crack/face mix. There is the remains of a rusted out bolt anchor at the top. I ended up traversing over left to a corner and belaying there.



 This is the belay in that corner:

P9: The top of this pitch has a precarious, but stable block. I think the route could possibly be diverted around this pitch. If someone were to go up with a bolt kit, it sure looks possible to climb a new pitch (continuing above P8). It was at this belay when the route came into the sun and I got cooked in the July heat.

P10: Fun 5.8 face. However, after sitting at that last belay in the sun, I was feeling pretty tired. Great ledge under a tree at the top.



This is that ledge under the tree:

P11: This is a fantastic pitch. If the whole route was like this it would be a classic. The bolts are all original 1/4". It would be great if they could some day be replaced. Given the low traffic, it seems unlikely.



P12: Long simul up the right side of a gully. This wasn't that much fun. It was 5.8 climbing the way I went. From picu@'s topo, it looks like it may be possible to climb out the left side - that would certainly be more scenic. 




A quick traverse led to where the DNB joins the Kat Walk. It's well worth walking out the the top of the buttress and taking in the view. We were at the DNB meet up at about 9:30PM. 

Having done the Kat Walk descent multiple times, I was feeling relaxed, happy. Micah, however, had never been down the Kat Walk and was clearly nervous. He mentioned the prospect of bivying. If you've never been down this descent, it is a dangerous place to be at night. Tired and in the dark we stayed roped up. Eventually we made our way down the gully descent and back to the car at 12:30. We crashed on an empty site in Crane Flat. 

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