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El Cap - East Buttress Intel

Original Post
Joe S · · Houston, TX · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0

I'm considering doing this climb even though I'm probably "going to die" (let's get this out of the way early).  Those that have done it, what can you share about this route.  Is P2 a true 10b?  Are all the 5.9's about right? Are there bolts at the top of each pitch?  What's a good route to practice on to prepare for this at Yosemite?

Chuck D · · Dallas, TX · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 10

Based on your ticklist and my little experience climbing in Yosemite, I'd say you would probably be in over your head on the East Buttress.  You may want to do some other, more moderate longish routes in the Valley if your planning a trip from Texas and have limited time there (Sunnyside Bench, After 6, Swan Slab Gulley). While in Texas, get out to E-Rock more and lead some more trad routes on granite and practice building gear anchors to try and prepare yourself to some extent.  The Wichita Mountains in OK are also about as close to Valley granite as you can get in the area, so that might be worth checking out.

Yosemite grades are pretty stout, a 10b at Reimer's isn't going to be anywhere close to a Valley 10b.

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,954

The 10b is right off the first belay and you can pull through it, but what Chuck said.  In terms of technical ability, you should be able to cruise routes like Texas Crude and Heat Stroke before trying the East Buttress, but keep in mind it is a long day for most and you need to work up to that aspect as well. And no there aren't fixed belays for every pitch.

John Clark · · San Francisco · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 477

Give Central Pillar of Frenzy (bolted belays, easy to bail) and east buttress of middle cathedral (longer route with odd polished granite) a go. If you do well with those two, give East Butt of El Cap a go. Maybe try South Face of North Dome if you want to be sure you'll be cool on some of the runnouts.

Dr. Ake · · San Francisco · Joined May 2018 · Points: 85

I climbed the East Butt on El Cap after doing several Valley 9s and having done a couple 5.10 pitches in the Sierras.

The 10b section is cake. It's a couple moves of walking your feet up some tiny edges (bring good shoes) and then there's a sloper jug and then it's over.

What caught me a little off-guard was:
1) the wild/wide stemming at the end of pitch 1 ("5.9")—my partner fell on it, I thought it was tough
2) 5.9 lieback on the pitch before the OW—pumpier and slicker than you think
3) the 5.9 OW—bumping cams for days, slick rock, and face climbing holds really only start to appear once you turn the slight overhang
4) the rock: it's not all clean white granite like a lot of other Yosemite climbs. It's the dark, knobby rock, which makes for sick holds, but also very slick holds.

I would have felt more prepared doing some other Valley 10s first. The difficulty of the route is not in the 10b, again, that's just paying attention to where you're stepping. The thuggy 5.9 wideness is what you should be thinking about.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65

If you haven't seen  this already.....
http://fishproducts.com/topos/yostopos/eastbutt.html

Read it in detail!

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,954
Dr. Ake wrote: 
3) the 5.9 OW—bumping cams for days, slick rock, and face climbing holds really only start to appear once you turn the slight overhang

I was thinking "what OW?"  Looking at the Fish topo, you can avoid the OW starting mid pitch 6 by stepping left into a blind jam and face climbing the rest of the pitch. 

Pitch 9 seemed easily over 60m.  
Doug Kinsman · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 0

I am sorry for not responding to your DM but here it goes. I agree with a lot of what Dr. Ake said, the 10B is real quick but the 5.9 chimney, 5.9 OW (or face depending on variation), 5.9 groove on pitch 2, and 5.9 finger/handcrack on pitch 8ish will wear you down. The first two pitches are the crux of the climb but the 5.9 higher up still feels tough because you have logged some miles by that time. The 3rd or 4th pitch to the arete is runout but easy. I have climbed it three times now having lead the whole thing twice and I would suggest starting climbing (not approaching) at first light unless you are climbing during June/July/August. Reason being is you still have to find and do a good amount of rappelling preferably in daylight.

Consider giving Kor Beck over on middle Cathedral a go before hopping on it. Also, it looks like you can bail from the 3rd pitch without any fanfare. So if the first two pitches hand it to you the exit is right there. Be extremely careful getting to the route an do NOT loiter where the huge rockfall occurred in 2017. A car sized block came off from there half an hour after we traversed the base to get to the start of the EB of El Cap. Go get it.

Joe S · · Houston, TX · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0
Chuck D wrote: Based on your ticklist and my little experience climbing in Yosemite, I'd say you would probably be in over your head on the East Buttress.  You may want to do some other, more moderate longish routes in the Valley if your planning a trip from Texas and have limited time there (Sunnyside Bench, After 6, Swan Slab Gulley). While in Texas, get out to E-Rock more and lead some more trad routes on granite and practice building gear anchors to try and prepare yourself to some extent.  The Wichita Mountains in OK are also about as close to Valley granite as you can get in the area, so that might be worth checking out.

Yosemite grades are pretty stout, a 10b at Reimer's isn't going to be anywhere close to a Valley 10b.

What grade  at reimer’s would you say is comparable to 10b at yosemite?

Chuck D · · Dallas, TX · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 10
Joe S wrote:

What grade  at reimer’s would you say is comparable to 10b at yosemite?

It's a completely different style of climbing, limestone sport climbing and OW cracks are incomparable.  Maybe as far as pure physicality goes Reimer's 12's are close-ish? I can't imagine someone that can't do Lipo would be able to hold their own on any Yosemite 10's unless they had a ton of experience on granite. 

E-rock is a better comparison, but id still say Yos grades are a bit harder since the scale is so much different. Like ddriver said, if you can't lead all the big E-rock 10s (Fear of Flying, Orange Peel, Grass Crack, etc) then you probably won't stand a chance on anything in the 10s in Yosemite. 

Allen Sanderson · · On the road to perdition · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,188

The ants are the crux ...

That said what is approach like now after the rockfall?

Joe S · · Houston, TX · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0
Chuck D wrote:

It's a completely different style of climbing, limestone sport climbing and OW cracks are incomparable.  Maybe as far as pure physicality goes Reimer's 12's are close-ish? I can't imagine someone that can't do Lipo would be able to hold their own on any Yosemite 10's unless they had a ton of experience on granite. 

E-rock is a better comparison, but id still say Yos grades are a bit harder since the scale is so much different. Like ddriver said, if you can't lead all the big E-rock 10s (Fear of Flying, Orange Peel, Grass Crack, etc) then you probably won't stand a chance on anything in the 10s in Yosemite. 

This is the kind of info I really need.  Thanks a million.  Will be a huge help.  I now have routes i can try to gauge myself. I know im not there yet but this a personal project of mine that im planning to train for the next 12 months (minimum).   Another question i have is how significant do you think my height (and reach) will effect my chances?  Im 5’6” and for me the physical aspect is not as much of a challenge as my reach.

brian burke · · santa monica, ca · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 140

i hate to be that guy but its "beta" not "intel" eh? 

Joe S · · Houston, TX · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0

Any training programs yall recommend?  More endurance vs strength?  How bout hangboarding routines?  Diet or even yoga, if they helped.  How to strengthen crack climbing muscles?

Mounir F · · San Diego, CA · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 135
Joe S wrote: Any training programs yall recommend?  More endurance vs strength?  How bout hangboarding routines?  Diet or even yoga, if they helped.  How to strengthen crack climbing muscles?

You get better at crack climbing by crack climbing

Cole D · · Sydney, NSW, AU · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 15
Joe S wrote: Any training programs yall recommend?  More endurance vs strength?  How bout hangboarding routines?  Diet or even yoga, if they helped.  How to strengthen crack climbing muscles?
-If you can find a gym with cracks of different sizes that would be great. otherwise look into building something at home. Mounir F is spot on, crack climbing has no cross training equivalent option. also you may want to purchase pete whittaker's book coming out next month, its a crack climbing bible.
-Go to the spot that was mentioned that is close to you a lot and dial in those outdoor climbs that are more similar to the valley than sport limestone.
-Hopefully find a corner in a gym that you can layback, and then work your way up to doing weighted vest laps on it (make sure to be lowkey, not agro, and wear a shirt. the weight vest will already be making you seem like an unappealing climbing partner if you care about that kind of thing). Personally I have found that for conditioning and a mental boost, topping off laybacks indoors before an outdoor project has helped tremendously. If I can do 40ft laps with a weight vest, then even though the friction is completely different, the 10 or 20 feet I may have to do on lead outside before a great rest, feels pretty manageable.
-Log lots of lead mileage, preferably on outdoor trad climbs. nothing will help you more with the runouts. Maybe read Arno Ilgners book on rock climbing head game.
-While thinking about training programs or having some structure to your efforts will help, I wouldn't get too caught up on endurance versus strength type stuff. Technique/skills building and mileage will probably be key. You can hangboard and climb a lot inside but that shouldn't be your focus for the goal you have.

Good luck man! I hear that climb is a horror show.


Cole D · · Sydney, NSW, AU · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 15
Allen Sanderson wrote: The ants are the crux ...

That said what is approach like now after the rockfall?

I have some buddies that got on in a few weeks back. they didn't mention anything other than the normal about of scary in the death/rockfall zone. they went super early, before nautical twilight I think, and they traveled hundreds of feet apart in that section. sounds like being able to do moratorium as the approach would be nicer for sure.

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380

And about that descent... it’s the real deal. The route isn’t over until it’s over. 

Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 1,220

I think the bottom line here is that the climb isn't over by any means until you have completed the descent and are back at your car.  This route, while being the easiest way up El Cap(and by a large margin) still requires a lot of commitment.  You have to be able to climb 5.9 without much trouble and move fast on anything below that grade. The only bolted belay is at the top of about pitch 5 or 6 and it is a couple of 1/4"ers!  And, the descent down the East Ledges can be tricky, especially if you haven't done it before and you are doing it in the dark.

Like what others said.  You should be able to do East Buttress of Middle Cathedral(all the difficult variations) without much trouble and all in daylight before attempting East Buttress of El Cap.

ClimbingOn · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 0

I've climbed it a few times. What others have said is true and I have little to add. The 10b is very simple. The 5.9 pitches, especially the first one, are the real deal. They're certainly on the stiffer side of 5.9, and unless you've climbed quite a bit of Valley 5.9, you'll likely be caught unaware.

Central Pillar of Frenzy and East Buttress of Middle are both far, far easier (and more fun) in my opinion. But hey, there's nothing like climbing on El Cap (even if the East Buttress doesn't "count")! Give it a go - there's nothing wrong with bailing. It builds character. 

Joe S · · Houston, TX · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0
ClimbingOn wrote:The 10b is very simple. The 5.9 pitches, especially the first one, are the real deal. They're certainly on the stiffer side of 5.9, and unless you've climbed quite a bit of Valley 5.9, you'll likely be caught unaware.
Can u elaborate why 10b was simple for you?What about 5.9 made them seem stiffer or caught you unaware?  The OW or something else?  And how can this be prepared for?
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Trad Climbing
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