|Middle Cathedral Rock
Stoners' Highway is a unique climb for Yosemite in that it is devoid of continuous crack systems. Instead, it involves high angle slab and face connecting various features for ten sustained and consistant pitches. The climbing is excellent (somewhat reminiscent of Birds of Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park), gear is adequate (expect run outs, but except for the first pitch and one of the upper pitches, nothing is too dangerous at the 5.10 level) and the occasional brand new bolt -- courtesy of the ASCA -- is welcome.
Almost every pitch on this gem checks in at 5.10. The climb begins a few hundred feet right of the Central Pillar of Frenzy and can be rapped with double ropes (every anchor except the first is bolted). The first pitch is the crux both mentally and physically -- checking in at 5.10c with big swing/fall potential. This pitch can be avoided by climbing a 5.7 corner, but we enjoyed climbing it and knowing afterwards that the biggest challenges were behind us... However, without very good judgement and route finding, pitch 6 can be the one to give you, or your belayer, gray hairs.
P1: Climb up the face to a small TCU placement (0.2 Camalot/blue Alien), then up past a bolt and a difficult move. At a second bolt traverse almost straight right to another bolt (crux), then past one more bolt and a ramp. Step around the corner and belay in a significant right-facing dihedral (it is also possible to climb up this dihedral at 5.7, thus avoiding the crux pitch) with less-than-optimal gear.
P2: Climb up to some gear placements, step back down and traverse a long ways left to some more gear in an undercling. Continue left to a long, right-facing corner system. Up this with good gear to a bolted belay.
P3: Traverse left then up to another right-facing corner. Follow this up with good gear to a thin, diagonal flake. Follow this out right to another bolted belay.
P4: Climb up, slightly left, then up again past a bolt or two to another bolted belay.
P5: Climb up to a small crack system, past a pair of good pins, then face climb up past two bolts to a bolted belay.
P6: The scary pitch! Climb up past a bolt, then to a stance at a second bolt, then you must decide: Left or right. Going left initially appears easier, but without a lot of luck/very careful route-finding, you may find yourself doing desparate moves WAY (as in 30+ feet) out from that second bolt. Going right lets you do the difficult moves right by the bolt. Either way you'll gain a long ramp system that rises gently to the left. It is tempting to follow this ramp all the way to the left end where it gets steeper and appears to go up to the belay, but this is a deadend (there is 10 feet of blank rock between the belay and the end of the ramp). Instead, head up a crack/ramp system just before the end of the main one, with an off-balance, poorly protected move to gain a positive finger crack. This crack leads straight up to the bolted belay. This pitch is 5.10 and possibly R at that grade.
P7: Climb up an easy left-facing corner (5.8) -- easily linked with the previous/next pitch.
P8: Climb up and left past a bolt to a gear placement (ignore old bolts that continue up and left!), undercling right and enter a mossy, dirty right-facing flake/crack system. Use long runners early on this pitch.
P9: Climb up past a bolt to two tightly-spaced bolts and some difficult moves. Continue up to a bolted belay.
P10: Continue up easier crack systems & corners to the Powell-Reed Ledges.
SR through a #0.75 Camalot, include RP's and extra little techie cams. Draws, slings. Two ropes to rap the route (from any point).
looking down from the belay on p3
eric collins on stoner's hwy
From: Las Vegas NV
Sep 5, 2007
Although this is a long and somewhat committing route many people do just the first 3 or 4 pitches, and that is well worth it.
On the first pitch, if your second is anything less than confident that they can cruise the moves, a back belay (party of three?) might be wise. For the second, you have to unclip the second bolt and do the crux moves of the pitch staring at a serious whipper (correct use of the term) into the shallow left facing dihedral. If you do fall, just pretend it is practice for the jump over the dihedral, on the pendulum into the "stove Leggs" on the Nose.
In other words a very serious fall can be thwarted with some fast thinking foot work.
What a route, worth it just to say you put your hands onto the same holds as the "Kevin, John and Vern".
|By Brad G|
From: Yosemite and else where
May 28, 2009
This thing felt WAY sandbagged. Maybe I was off route or perhaps just having a bad day, but we came down after P.1
|By andrew kulmatiski|
From: logan, ut
Jun 8, 2009
I'm with you. My party and the party after mine both bailed from the second pitch. I've led 11c face in the valley and backed off this. Has a hold fallen off before the bolt on the second pitch?
|By Brad G|
From: Yosemite and else where
Jun 10, 2009
I just found out we were off route but I'm sure the right way is also a bit stiff.
|By Fat Dad|
From: Los Angeles, CA
Mar 1, 2010
It's old school .10c, which is pretty stiff by most standards. The first pitch is runout, and other pitches you just climb hoping you'll find where the bolt's supposed to be. Also, if you're comparing letter ratings to other places in the Valley like, say, face climbing at Chapel Wall or even the Cascades, it's going to feel very different. Middle Cathedral is kind of its own animal. An awesome route, however.
|By Randy in Ridgecrest|
From: Inyokern, CA
May 27, 2012
I did this route in 1982 with my wife Linda, swapping leads. All we had (of course) were Stoppers and a few friends. She had done it before and had the confidence that comes from that. My memory is sustained difficulty, great rock, and all of the pitches were runout. I remember 3 to 5 pieces in a pitch. Yes, the first pitch had the one section, and the upper headwall pitch had a few bolts close enough together that by that time it seemed like a bolt ladder. The anchors were fairly amusing - usually a 1/4" bolt with homemade hanger and a pin.
I'm assuming all the great modern small pro like C3's, Aliens, and offset nuts take some of the sting out of these pitches.
This turned out to be my high mark for committing Valley faceclimbs. Linda went on to do several others like Shaky Flakes and Greasy but Groovy. A long fall at the step across of Free Wheeling toned her boldness down.
BTW, I think some folks get mixed up at the base and get on Pulsing Pustules by mistake, much much harder.
|By R Rock|
Oct 15, 2012
I just did the first 6 pitches of this route for the first time last weekend. I lead every pitch and found it to be some of the best climbing for the grade that I have done in a long time. A stellar route worthy of the stars.
Getting off the ground was intimidating with the first bolt at about 25 feet off the deck. The crux moves on the traverse were thought provoking but not bad once committed. Once we got going and relaxed the climbing was pure enjoyment. The first 2 belay anchors were decent but not completely retro fitted. Everything else is totally gigged up.
Pitch 6, I would have to agree is the mental business. I ended up going left after the 2nd bolt and I remember having to bust a move to gain the finger crack, but I think I was able to get some gear after the bolt.
Route finding could be tricky. Bring a topo. We were lucky enough that Honnald and partner had just started the route before us so I was able to watch where it went. Not to mention how cool it was to watch the best climber in the world linking pitches with 50-60 foot runouts.
I must do route.