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The belay after the traverse pitch
The Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock has a reputation for being a fantastic climb -- Don Reid refers to it as one of the best grade IV's in the Valley, and SuperTopo raves about its 5-star quality. Most people I've spoken with who have climbed it enjoyed the route but didn't necessarily go on and on about it. Personally, I thought the climb was average in quality and less than the spectacular classic it is made out to be. The NEB has some things going for it: such as a few stand-out pitches (but only a few), very sustained climbing pitch-for-pitch, and a relatively steep line. Going against it is much less-than-memorable climbing, and of course a pretty lengthy approach and walkoff. Climb it and decide for yourself.
Follow the standard Higher Cathedral Rock approach. The NEB is before one arrives at Braille Book -- these two climbs bookend the large, steep, mostly blank east wall of Higher Cathedral. It begins at a blocky, left-facing corner.
P1: Scramble to the top of the blocks, then trend left to a long right-facing corner of 5.6 cracks. Belay on a ledge at bolts. 5.6.
P2: Climb a steep 5.8 crack or an ugly slot to the right. Trend right and then wander up crack systems to a belay by a tree and a weird pillar of rock. 5.6.
P3: Climb 5.8 & 5.9 hands through some roofs and continue up crack systems to a belay on a ledge.
P4: Climb a long, steep left-facing corner through several bulges. Link this pitch easily into the next one with a long runner. 5.8.
P5: Traverse straight left across an exposed face. Various gear, some fixed pro, and some bits of downclimbing lead to a bolted belay on a long flake/ledge system. This pitch is where Mary's Tears crosses the route and continues into the Crucifix. This is also the halfway point and where the climbing turns physical. 5.8.
P6-8: Climb steep crack systems of all sizes, including ugly squeezes, belaying where necessary, until exiting a 5.8 chimney and belaying to the left at bolts. The supposed crux pitch is a nice, clean corner protected with a few pins. Not too bad compared to the steep squeezes and OW on other parts of the climb. 5.9.
P9: Traverse left past a beautiful looking fist crack in a right-facing corner, downclimb a bit, then continue left to easier flakes and tree climbing. Belay here, or if you runner things very well it is possible to link to the next pitch. 5.9.
P10: Climb up the crack system to a belay at a tree. 5.8.
P11: Perhaps the true crux of the climb. Continue up very steep, awkward cracks to a face traverse to an obvious tree out left. Runner your gear well, and launch up from the tree to a strenuous, possibly unprotected, 5.8 squeeze to a dirty mantle to the top. 5.8+.
Descend towards the top of Braille Book, continue past it and down the saddle to the east, eventually some manzanita tunnelling will return you to your packs.
Standard rack plus a 4 inch piece.
The pitch before the squeeze chimney. 5.9
Exiting the squeeze chimney.
Approaching the crappy belay after the squeeze chi...
Jeff starts the short fifth pitch traverse.
The 5.9 crux of the first wide pitch at the start ...
Belay at the top of pitch 6. There is a small ledg...
The supposed crux of the route right above the squ...
5.8 crux on pitch 9. "only" 2 pitches to go after ...
steve sanford on the ne buttress
One of many killer pitches on the NEB.
Sadowsky going for the link-up.
BETA PHOTO: The Northeast Buttress climbs the crack system tha...
The super fun 7th pitch.
Beautiful location before the traverse.
Hillary nearing the top of the marathon 7th pitch
Dominic following the P5 traverse.
Photo: Corey ...
|Comments on Northeast Buttress
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 15, 2006
A long and epic journey for those of us for whom 5.9 is our limit! There is a short but evil chimney near the middle of this climb that closes off at the top. The crux of the climb for us was trying to figure out how to exit this beast, which as I recall we did using a piece for aid.
At the base of the last pitch the sun was setting. I was belaying my partner up and he started puking, he was feeling terrible. So I found myself leading that final OW at dusk. I think I found a way to avoid it, there are several options if you look around.
All our worries are over as we top out. Or are they? Although we had a headlamp the batteries were fading and we couldn't figure out how to get down, so we started a fire to keep warm and bivied. Brunch at the Ahwanee never tasted better the next day.
Dec 1, 2006
Wow, this route is 5.9+++++. The 5.8 squeeze chimney, it's only 5.8 how hard could it be, right!! The route starts off as normal 5.8-5.9 but after the traverse into the corner it becomes a different ballgame. Very physical indeed. Bring headlamps.
From: Oakland, CA
Apr 14, 2007
Too bad the guy who posted the route put such a negative spin on it. It all depends on your tastes... This citizen says: the NEB is a MEGA-CLASSIC. Still one of the most memorable routes I've done.
Edited to add: Also disagree on the PG-13. And also to add: Josh Janes has written some of the best route pages on this site, which kicks ass - I just disagree with him on this one.
Jun 1, 2007
Although I have not seen the route in ions, I recall it as one of the all time classic valley routes, in it's grade. Good rock, easy descent and as said above, great views of the Captain.
The chance to get up on that "Mary's tears/Crucifix" wall and do a climb with that kind of positioning, at a very doable grade of 5.9yah
(yes it is a ultra strenous 5.9 climb but it is just that, it is not 5.10 -5.10+ )
When I did it ('80) friends had just come out and we had a meager colection augmenting the standard rack of nuts. I recall my partner and I sitting at the start and finnish to the traverse, taking time to soak up the position.
We talked as we eye ball'd the line of mary's tears. the discussion mostly centered around "wow imagine Kaulk, etal, out here working on that route, no friends yet, just nuts. Climbing at that grade on that clean of a wall, all alone in the 70's... HF"
Of the "middle" and "higher" moderate classics, I would say wrap 'central pillar of frenzy' 'middle east butt' and 'braille book' together, and the 'NEB of Higher' would still win my vote.
I give the route 5 stars.
From: Sacramento, CA
Sep 2, 2007
NEB is most certainly a long and physical climb (especially the upper half). There are nice views of the Cathedral Spires. The descent is straightforward (essentially the same as for Braille Book). The climbing itself is strenuous and demanding, with plenty of awkward offwidth and chimneying. In my opinion, a very good route.
|By J. Thompson|
From: denver, co
Dec 11, 2007
It's funny how some folks who climbed "hard" routes never seem think "easy" routes are that good.
Apr 14, 2008
Probably my favorite route in the Valley. Builds nicely in difficulty, very exposed. A few notes:
I heard you used to stem off a tree in the crux. It's not there any more. These moves were hard onsight!
Up near the last pitch, we went right on some thin crack as per the old green Meyers guide. I felt this bulge was 5.10 with somewhat dubious pro, but we avoided the wide stuff up the obvious corner. My second, a solid 9 climber, couldn't touch that pitch...
Dogwoods were in bloom, it was a perfect time. JMO but better than EB Middle. Steeper and more physical, plus you get to marvel at the Crucifix up close!
Apr 16, 2008
Really great route, I did it in 2002. My guide book called it 5.8. It's rated 5.10 now. Real great warm up for Steck, Salathe on Sentinel.
|By Michael Ybarra|
From: on the road
Oct 7, 2008
One of the few climbs I can honestly say I onsighted--since I thought I was climbing Braille Book. It was my partner's third or so multi-pitch climb and her second day in the Valley. We caught up to another party at the half-way point and they told us what we were on. I got to lead every pitch. No topo, just followed what looked like the obvious line. Topped out at dusk with no headlights. Finding our way down in the dark was a bit of an epic and since the car keys were in the pack at the base of the route (which we couldn't find at night) we had to walk back to C4 in our climbing shoes. Got there about 3 a.m. I thought it was a really good route.
|By Kat A|
From: Bart and Lisa Ville, CO
Jun 5, 2009
I really enjoyed this route - sustained, good climbing. PG-13? We found plenty of good gear.
|By John Ely|
Oct 13, 2009
At the 2009 Facelift, Peter Croft called this his favorite route in the valley. It is hard to disagree. Be sure not to try to carry your day pack in the squeeze chimney. Relentless for 5.9
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 17, 2009
Good old school 5.9. Full value for sure. Did this 4 years ago, so its starting to fade, just like the topo did in my pocket. Better be solid at OW and chimneying at the grade for this climb, otherwise it will send you home with your tail between your legs. At somepoint we got off route and I climbed a thin twin cracks variation that was not on Supertopo but was mentioned in Reid's guide as 5.10 (just felt like more old school 5.9). Highly recommended although short. Fantastic route alltogether.
Oct 25, 2010
not wise to be cavalier about this route. it is full on and is more like 10- by today's standards with long approach/decent, route finding, suspect rock, daunting exposure, a bit of loose rock and involves every awkward climbing trick in the book. You can easily get benighted on this route because the upper pitches after the last traverse are some of the most difficult to route find and subdue (physical+++) especially when exhausted and the light is quickly fading... the route you love but hate all at the same time!
|By Rob Dillon|
From: '81 Sunrader
Nov 5, 2010
"By today's standards"
I love it. By this do we mean 'don't put the time in to learn a technique, and then complain about the grade?'
Kids today, grumble, sniff.
The supertopo has way too much detail on the start of this route, and yet fails to include the myriad of variations on the topout. I think this is kinda cool, since it gives folks a reason to go and climb the route again and have a different experience.
The traditional onsight topout entails a lot of yelling back and forth as darkness swallows the widely separated partners, each entombed in their own chimney and unintelligible to one another. With repeat ascents this scenario can be avoided.
|By Mark Vogel|
From: Lander, WY
Dec 16, 2010
This was our first route in Yosemite many years ago, my and Andy Mara's "warm up" for Half Dome and the Nose..... "It's only 5.9........"
We brought a (entire) Gallo salami, a bag of bagels, and 1 liter of water.
Some guy had just died on the last pitch, where we found ourselves at the belay, sun setting rapidly, sucking on a bit of moss that had a drip in it, roughly one mouthful every 4 minutes. Somehow Andy made it up that final pitch, his only piece of pro sliding down to my hands, where we proceeded to bushwack directly down to the very-audible Bridalveil creek, glug glug.
24 hours after starting, we were driving around the valley floor in a haze, wondering what just happened?
Welcome to the Valley!
|By Fat Dad|
From: Los Angeles, CA
Apr 28, 2011
Best grade IV in the Valley.
Burly for its rating for sure, but just for some perspective, when we were hanging out at the belay at the top of pitch 5, Werner Braun comes soloing by, moving like it's 5.3.
From: Buckeye, AZ
May 6, 2011
Any recent ascents that could provide route and descent condition beta? Trying to hop on this one tomorrow but do not want to deal with snow/wet conditions. Oh and by the way I am scared... the comments here are fairly daunting ("this climb broke me down")
Jun 1, 2011
5.9+! Very physical after the P5 traverse. Sustained pitch after pitch, and it doesn't let up until you are standing on top. Disagree with PG-13 rating posted by some. Gear was good for the entire route.
IMO, 4 cruxes...
1. P7 - 5.9 move around roof
2. P7 - exiting the narrowing 5.8 squeeze. Very tough!
3. P8 - 5.9 stem which is listed as 5.10 in the Reid guide and I won't argue with that. Also the Reid guide shows a 5.8 variation to avoid this, but I don't remember seeing it.
4. P11 - 5.9 roof
From: Arvada, CO
Jun 7, 2011
This climb had "black canyon" feel to it for sure, every pitch had something to it: loose rock, wide, sustained. What an adventure!!
|By Jake Sahl|
Jun 16, 2011
Amazing route! Very steep and super physical / sustained after P5. Me and my partner were both solid 5.10 leaders but we were both hurting by the end. Still, in my opinion, the route deserves the 5.9 rating (it's Yosemite folks) and is definitely not PG-13. Every pitch protects just fine. Do this climb!
|By Darren Singer|
From: Portland, OR
Mar 20, 2012
Aspiring 10- leaders beware: this is not the route on which to test your limits. You have been warned! Turn back....
A great, physical, demanding, and long route that will leave most 5.10 climbing parties tired at end of day. Did this route many years ago, yet still sits fresh in mind.
From: Scottsdale, az
Apr 19, 2012
Excellent climb, the squeeze chimney and leading up to it was hectic. Ended up spending the night on top. One of th best climbs in the cathedrals area.
|By Colin Schour|
From: Big Bear Lake, CA
Apr 30, 2012
Hell of a climb. Might want to climb an offwidth or 20 before hitting this bad boy up. Don't really see the PG-13 rating either...
|By Nathan Scherneck|
From: Hillsboro, OR
Jun 23, 2012
Although there are some mandatory wide sections on the route (the squeeze on P7, 5.8 chimney on P11) I wouldn't categorize the NEB as a "wide" climb. More of a whole body workout. It's an unrelentingly physical climb with lots of 5.9 requiring a variety of techniques.
I don't recall anywhere on the route that required true offwidth techniques (armbars, stacks, etc.).
I think it's worth mentioning that many parties do the route in good time. Don't let the comments above scare you. We started climbing just after 7:00am and topped out at Noon:30. YMMV.
|By stephen arsenault|
Sep 28, 2012
My favorite route in the Valley. Probably done it 10 times over a 45 year period.
When I was young, I could do it in 5 hours.
A few years ago, it took most of the day.
I'm looking forward to doing it again, in a week, at the ripe old age of 66.
|By Josh Harding|
From: Joshua Tree, California
Feb 2, 2013
Long time user of MP, and rarely post. But I have to say, "Descriptions" are becoming more of an opinion section, rather then straight facts on a climb. If MP keeps heading this way the quality of the site will go down hill. Tell me facts not fiction or opinions. Save your poetic proses for your journal or the forums.