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Higher Cathedral Rock
Routes Sorted
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Blind Man's Bluff T 
Book of Job T 
Braille Book T 
Crucifix, The T 
Mary's Tears T 
Northeast Buttress T 
Perfect Vision T 
Remain in Light S 
Sequel, The T 
Unsorted Routes:

Northeast Buttress 

YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a PG13

   
Type:  Trad, 11 pitches
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: FA: Long, D'Arcy, & Tarver
FFA: Sacherer & Dozier - 1964
Page Views: 11,429
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Sep 21, 2006

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One of many killer pitches on the NEB.

Description 

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.

Protection 

Standard rack plus a 4 inch piece.


Photos of Northeast Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Sadowsky going for the link-up.
Sadowsky going for the link-up.
Jeff starts the short fifth pitch traverse.
Jeff starts the short fifth pitch traverse.
Beautiful location before the traverse.
Beautiful location before the traverse.
Approaching the crappy belay after the squeeze chimney. This pitch was the most sustained 5.9 pitch I've ever led
Approaching the crappy belay after the squeeze chi...
Dominic following the P5 traverse.  <br /> <br />Photo: Corey Gargano
Dominic following the P5 traverse.

Photo: Corey ...
Exiting the squeeze chimney.
Exiting the squeeze chimney.
Looking up a little before the pitch 9 traverse.
BETA PHOTO: Looking up a little before the pitch 9 traverse.
The 5.9 crux of the first wide pitch at the start of the main corner. The moves are slightly harder than they look.
The 5.9 crux of the first wide pitch at the start ...
Upper half of NEB.
BETA PHOTO: Upper half of NEB.
Belay at the top of pitch 6. There is a small ledge on the left signaling that it is time to let your partner start  groveling.
Belay at the top of pitch 6. There is a small ledg...
I think this was pitch 3.
BETA PHOTO: I think this was pitch 3.
The supposed crux of the route right above the squeeze. Going straight up is not 5.10 as most guide books suggest.
The supposed crux of the route right above the squ...
The super fun 7th pitch.
The super fun 7th pitch.
5.8 crux on pitch 9. "only" 2 pitches to go after this one.
5.8 crux on pitch 9. "only" 2 pitches to go after ...
Hillary nearing the top of the marathon 7th pitch
Hillary nearing the top of the marathon 7th pitch
steve sanford on the ne buttress
steve sanford on the ne buttress
Lower half of NEB.
BETA PHOTO: Lower half of NEB.
The pitch before the squeeze chimney. 5.9
The pitch before the squeeze chimney. 5.9
Looking down the big 5.9 corner.
BETA PHOTO: Looking down the big 5.9 corner.
The belay after the traverse pitch
The belay after the traverse pitch
I stopped short on the pitch 5 traverse. Don't do this. Keep going climbers left to the ledge that is the start of the big 5.9 corner.
BETA PHOTO: I stopped short on the pitch 5 traverse. Don't do ...
The Northeast Buttress climbs the crack system that angles left on this photo.
BETA PHOTO: The Northeast Buttress climbs the crack system tha...
"Old people can do this too" <br />Photo credit-Cory Fleagle
"Old people can do this too"
Photo credit-Cory Fle...

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 20, 2013
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.
By bbrock
From: Al
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.
By Darshan Ahluwalia
From: Petaluma, CA
Feb 3, 2007

Took us 20 hours. We were wiped.
By Sirius
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.
By old'scool
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.
By M.Morley
Administrator
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.
By 426
Apr 14, 2008
rating: 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b

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!
By mattso
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
From: DC
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
By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 17, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

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.
By Bennett
From: Lafayette CO
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
Nov 5, 2010
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

"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.
By DKheat
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")

Thanks
By Bonesaw
From: CA
Jun 1, 2011
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

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
By Armin
From: Glenwood Springs, 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 JSlack
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.
By Sayfe
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 Nathan Scherneck
From: Portland, OR
Jun 23, 2012
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

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, but at 67, it takes a little longer.

I recommend getting an early start, and stash extra water at the base, since you may need it when you get down. Protection is good on every pitch.
By Josh Harding
From: Joshua Tree, California
Feb 2, 2013
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

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.
By Will Barnes
From: Edmonton, AB
May 21, 2013
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Climbed this guy for a second time this past Sunday.

With some gear conservation and a 70m rope we were able to climb the first 3 pitches as 2 long pitches. To do this I belayed in a corner that had a couple pitons and a slung block (backed up with a #4). The 70 just barely made it to here with my partner belaying on top of the pedestal in the beginning of the climb. My partner was able to then climb all the way to the top of pitch 3 thus saving a bit of time.

Also after the second blocky traverse we decided to link through part of the final pitch past the 5.9 roof and belay at the tree at the base of the last 5.8 chimney. I've done this both times now (first time by accident, second on purpose) thinking that maybe it will reduce any rope drag in the final chimney section which would suck (maybe this isn't a problem though). Either way I think this turns the second to last pitch into a long awesome pitch rather than a short mediocre pitch.

This climb is an awesome marathon of varied sustained climbing that will test your level of fitness...go do it.
By Grover
Oct 15, 2013

Good call Mark.
By Alexey
From: San Jose
Oct 20, 2013

I think Josh Harding has a valid point . No matter do you agree with him or not, his post did not provoke such reaction. So Mark Vogel, why you become so offensive if you face un opinion you disagree?