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Direct North Buttress (DNB)

5.10b, Trad, 1700 ft, 17 pitches, Grade V,  Avg: 3.5 from 28 votes
FA: FA: Yvon Chouinard & Steve Roper, 6/62 FFA: Frank Sacherer & Eric Beck, 1965
California > Yosemite NP > Yosemite Valley > Cathedral Spire… > Middle Cathedral Rock
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Hard to squeeze more climbing in a day. The first pitch sets the stage - the 5.7 chimney is umm, not fast climbing. The 3rd pitch crux is, umm, difficult, but bolt protected. The 4th pitch includes some 5.9 R climbing, but from there on out route finding and moving quickly are the major difficulties. Spectacular views of the captain, plenty of company with all the swallows. I don't know why anyone would complain about this route.

Don't just take my word for it- Bill Wright had this to say:

"The crux 5.10b pitch, which is quite difficult, is one of the easiest pitches on the route. It has a runout section, but it doesn't take long to lead and it is easy to get past the mantle on aid. As for the rest, You can count the fixed pro on one hand. The belays are marginal. Every pitch is runout, some grossly. Route finding is difficult on a number of pitches and especially the start of the descent. There are offwidths or squeeze chimneys on the 1st, 10th, 11th, and 14th thru 17th pitches. The 17th pitch is the crux, then either the devious 12th pitch or super sandbag 10th pitch."

But, hey, if it were easy it wouldn't be an accomplishment.

P1 - difficult 5.7 chimney. There is apparently a 5.8 option on the pillar to the right of the chimney.
P2 - up nice ramp to right
P3 - move right up ramp, then lt to bolts at mantle in blank face continue up poorly protected face climbing to the left.
P4- poorly protected face climbing.
P5- move right up under a roof - I've heard several people say the undercling traverse out of this roof is just as difficult as the P3 crux.
P6 - wander up poorly protected face left of arete.
P7 - downclimb then up runout 5.7 face
P8- 50' traverse right
P9- continue moving right avoiding a large (30') loose block (if it is still there)
P10-11 - move up large flare
P12-14- flare turns to cracks and chimneys
P15- 5.6 slot huh? Consensus seems to 5.8 chimney
P16-17 - progressively hard and steep chimney climbing.

The route is often rapped from the top of the 5th or 6th pitch - you'll have to leave gear to rap from above the 6th pitch. I think many parties have the intention of finishing but the grades belie the difficulties on the route.

Give yourself some extra time to get across the Kat walk in the daylight. It is not recommended to cross this in the dark. To traverse the Kat walk climb UP 50-100' from the top of the route then beginning traversing down and left on a slabby ledge system. Traversing immediately left from the top of the route will leave you stuck above a bowl. I remained roped up for this section. Once across the face move up for a pitch and through the shrubbery until you find rap stations that head down the gully.


The route starts on the right edge of Middle Cathedral rock at a 1p chimney.


Pro to #3, bolt at the crux. Sketchy descent across the Kat walk.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

What we went by in 1976, later emended by my partner (blue ink) ...
[Hide Photo] What we went by in 1976, later emended by my partner (blue ink) ...
Dave Black, crux DNB, 1974,check out the Kronhofer shoes & no chalk, Buff Mountaineers were always conservative
[Hide Photo] Dave Black, crux DNB, 1974,check out the Kronhofer shoes & no chalk, Buff Mountaineers were always conservative
Pitch 5 I believe
[Hide Photo] Pitch 5 I believe
eric collins leading the crux pitch
[Hide Photo] eric collins leading the crux pitch
looking down from p2
[Hide Photo] looking down from p2

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Exercise great care setting your belays on this route. In 2001, Tom Dunwiddie and Monika Eldridge of Colorado were about 10 pitches up this route, and one of them (probably) took a fall which ripped out all their gear and the belay anchor. Nobody knows exactly what happened, they were found still roped together at the base of the rock.

I climbed Scenic Cruise behind Monika and another partner. Not only was she a very experienced trad climber, she was also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I had conversed with Tom via email although we never met in person. Jun 5, 2007
andrew kulmatiski
logan, ut
[Hide Comment] I've heard that there has been quite a bit of rock fall since I went up this route. Any new beta would be appreciated, I'd like to get up there again. I remember a number of large loose blocks and flakes around the 11th and 12th pitches. Jun 30, 2007
[Hide Comment] Consider climbing the North Buttress (using George's excellent description!) to familiarize yourself with the Kat Walk descent if you're at all uncertain of your ability to complete this route in daylight- that one goes a lot faster. With climbers above, I wouldn't hang out at the base of Middle Rock in the evening if you paid me...that sh#t is loose! Oct 12, 2008
Dave Alden
Sacramento, CA
  5.10a PG13
[Hide Comment] Had to bail off P5 due to time constraints. Feb 28, 2011
Jeffrey Dopp
Goodlettsville, TN
[Hide Comment] Great route! Pro and go to get the catwalk before dark. Apr 3, 2013
Redwood City
[Hide Comment] FA: Yvon Chouinard & Steve Roper, 6/62
FFA: Frank Sacherer & Eric Beck, 1965 Sep 25, 2013
Bryan G
[Hide Comment] The pitch 3 crux is a sandbag, it's more like 5.10d, but you've got a bolt right in front of you. The 5.9 runout off the belay on pitch 7 is the mental crux. There's a piton down below which you can clip to keep from falling on the belay, but it's still run and then you have rope drag for the rest of the pitch. If you skip the pin and manage your gear well, you can link 7, 8, and 9 all together. Oct 20, 2014
Tony Lobay
  5.10 PG13
[Hide Comment] This is a fantastic line. If this route were anywhere else it would be the destination route for the area. The climb has more of a "scary" rep than it deserves.

I first did the DNB when I as 17. I thought it was all supposed to be 5.9, not knowing any better - there was no internet to tell you what you're in for. To make things more interesting we brought a haul bag and single port-a-ledge, got started at 3PM, and bivied! Actually we bivied twice! And we ran out of water. This is what teenagers did in the 90's. No sane individual should ever do this.

The Catwalk descent s really involved and not somewhere to be at night if you've never done it before (tired and dehydrated). Bring a headlamp and a warm layer. If you're not moving fast enough, you can snooze at P13 (small, narrow ledges). You can also snooze on top (but I've never done that).

On another trip up this, we got hit by a storm around P9. We had one rope. The OW crack my partner was seconding up turned into a fire hose. As it turns out, you can escape off Powell Reid Ledges and work your way up to more-or-less the top of East Buttress.

You could also take Paradise Lost up, and then link into this climb, avoiding all the 5.10 pitches of this route, and doing the fun! 5.10a pitch on Paradise Lost.

In many respects I felt this was easier than the North Buttress (a sandbag), and far more enjoyable overall (no thrashing through trees).

Would recommend a #4 for the wide stuff on the 2nd half of the climb. You're more tired then. Apr 14, 2017
Harumpfster Boondoggle
Between yesterday and today.
  5.11a R
[Hide Comment] dunno about the guy who says this one is easier than North Buttress of Middle...senility must be setting in because that one is feather-lite compared to this route. 5.10 for solid 5.11 trad leaders, imo. The technical crux down low is a stout boulder problem mantle called 5.11- by many but is nothing compared to the sparsely protected runout face with marginal anchors the rest of the way and the stacks of physical chimneys to finish. Yose Test Piece. Aug 15, 2018