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Routes in Lower Brother

Absolutely Free Left Side T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Absolutely Free, Center T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Hawkman's Escape T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Maple Jam T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Positively 4th Street T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Type: Trad, 700 ft, 3 pitches, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 8,165 total · 78/month
Shared By: outdooreric on Jun 3, 2009
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Characterized by a difficult approach and longish descent with three great pitches of roped climbing this climb is an off the beaten track, classic Yosemite adventure climb. Approach by walking up and right from the toe of Lower Brother, taking a left at the first major ramp system. From here 250 feet of scrambling (some 4th or maybe easy 5th) will take you to the base of the route.

P1: Two options, a 5.7 exciting chimney or a 5.9 flake, we took the chimney and weren't disappointed. Belay at the highest ledge at the base of a perfect thin hands splitter.

P2: Climb the excellent splitter. Pass an old bolt casing (optional belay) and continue up the left facing corner. Lots of hands to off hands with an awkward bulge/horn to pass on this part of the pitch. Belay at a nice ledge with trees after 175 feet.

P3: Again a couple options; we continued up the most logical line, the groove to OW corner. The intimidating OW above isn't too bad with lieback techniques and a 5" piece. Continue with the chimney above and belay on another comfortable ledge.


To descend, first climb up another 200-300 feet (some 4th or easy 5th class) to the base of the upper headwall, then descend climber's left down Michael's Ledge. There isn't much of a trail and almost no cairns, so use your best judgement as for when to get off the ledges. Its best not to leave anything at the base as the descent doesn't take you anywhere near the start of the climb.


nuts, double cams .6-3", single 4", slings. Optional extra 1.5-3" and/or a 5" piece.
Hanson Boyd  
Just did this today - a hidden gem with a fantastic thin hands section! Rapping can be done with a single 70 but careful of the many trees and rope stuckage. Anchor before the top off width has only 1 rap ring. Next there is a dedicated station down to climbers left of the actual route. My partner and I couldn't find any other rap station besides the anchor on the route with 2 hangers and no rings (if someone could add quick links to these it would be great). From there it's possible to walk to climbers right and rap from a tree to the path. Nov 12, 2016
Mike Horan
San Francisco, CA
Mike Horan   San Francisco, CA
Can someone who has climbed the 5.9 flake variation of pitch 1 confirm where it is? I'm trying to figure out what I just climbed.

I was trying to follow the beta from this photo of someone's trip report: supertopo.com/photos/33/56/…

I've added a red line to show where I climbed: mountainproject.com/photo/1…
Here is another angle of it: mountainproject.com/photo/1…

So what did I climb? I'm questioning whether it was the 5.9 variation because:
1. It felt harder than 5.9. It would definitely be the crux of the whole route.
2. Past the manzanita tree, it's a slightly overhanging ow crack until the roof. I placed an almost fully open #5 ~10 feet above the tree and then it gets too wide for anything but the super wide stuff for the next ~20 feet to the roof. It's probably R without a #5, and PG-13 with it given the ledge below you. Seems weird no one would mention this?
3. Max Rausch below talks about it as a "LEFT flake variation, which was very dirty". This was clean and very far RIGHT.

Thanks! Dec 18, 2017
Brianna Chrisman
Brianna Chrisman   Stanford
What is the 5.9 variation at the start? There is a giant flake to the right that looks super well climbed. but it's offwidth size and would need huge gear and is also fairly overhung. Hard to imagine it's a 5.9... my partner whipped and landed upside down in the manzanita which made us decide to concede and do the normal chimney start. Anyone climb this gnarly thing? Dec 18, 2017
Robert Shortt
San Francisco, California
Robert Shortt   San Francisco, California
-Approach beta: Walk right along the base until the trail pretty much ends, then head up. Don't go up the 5.6 slab just before. Aim for trees with rap rings. You can see the chimney section of P1 from the base/approach if you want to aim for that. You'll end up in an obvious gully with a grassy left crack and varied wide / chimney section on the right. I don't recommend roping up for the approach. If you feel uncomfortable on easy 5th moves unroped, you might not belong on this route! -P1: Chimney moves are awesome! -P2 (the long splitter pitch): If you do it in one long pitch, you might want triples of #1 and maybe a couple other common pieces. If split into two, belay around the horn that sticks out left and it's a little uncomfy. I see that some people went right to the wide corner to LB after the horn, but I'm not sure why. Straight up past the tree was fine and a little wide. -P3: Crux for me on entire route was the 5.9 fingery LB on the last pitch, but it was superb. Maybe I'll opt for the OW finish next time. -Descent beta: Walkoff looks a little better than the rapp IMO because of snag potential. 1) Head right around the first set of boulders behind the summit 2) Up and leftish 3) Traverse left, possibly through some manzanita 4) Try to spot a tree-dotted faint trail that's really close to the wall/buttress 5) Head to it somehow (some boulder scrambling for us, might not have been the best way). A couple cairns and evidence of being travelled will let you know you're on the correct descent. Dec 18, 2017
BE CAREFUL when rappelling this route with a 70m rope. At the top of the chimney there are 2 chockstones; if you rappel from the higher one (which has slings and rap rings as of early October 2017) you will not reach the ledge prior to P3 and instead end up 2-3 meters above it.

Also, for some reason there is a bolted, hanging belay one meter below the cushy P3 belay ledge. Who would use this instead of a 5x10 foot flat ledge with trees on it?

Otherwise, it's a great climb. Splitting P2 into two makes the most sense; you get two great pitches the first to the tree, second to the ledge. Otherwise its a long pitch where you might be light on pro. Oct 15, 2017
Thanks for the feedback on the new topo in our book. I agree that not roping up for the approach pitch is the best way to go, but no doubt folks who take beginners will want to at least belay them up that section.

Rapping vs. Walking Off? In this case the descent is long, and creates major erosion walking down Michael's Ledge, so from a ecological standpoint a rappel route is preferred. I've descended both ways, and think rappelling is way better because it is much faster, and doesn't involve the scrambling to get up / on to Michael's Ledge.

As many have said, rapping with one 70m is no problem. There are bolts on the top of the first 5.9 pitch. From the base of this pitch walk downhill on a grassy hillside until you have to make a couple downclimbing moves (5.3) and you can look skier's left and see a rappel station on a ledge. This straightens the final descent bit, allowing you to rap straight down to a tree that is right above the base ledge.

Such a great route. Go For It!
Erik Sloan
RockclimbYosemite.com - Yosemitebigwall.com Aug 23, 2017
Max Rausch
Monterey, California
Max Rausch   Monterey, California
Having climbed this route twice now. I have a few recommendations. P1- I found the chimney/ o.w to be much more fun than the left flake variation, which was very dirty. P3- I preferred the right side crack variation to the squeeze chimney.

As far as the decent goes, we were able to rap from the chockstone in the last chimney, down to the intermediate bolts next to the p2 splitter, then 2 more raps down with a 70m. This was much more efficient than the walk off in my opinion. After reversing a bit of the 4th/5th class stuff, there is a tree with some slings that can be rapped off to the base. Aug 9, 2017
Bob Johnson
Philadelphia, PA
Bob Johnson   Philadelphia, PA
I think this is a great route if you can ignore the approach and topout pitches, or at least get through them more efficiently than we did. We found the topo in the Sloan et al guidebook for those pitches confusing. I'm not really sure there is a good way to describe where to go other than just follow the path of least resistance.

Regarding the approach: It was relatively easy to find the 5.6 slab that marks the base of the route. The gigantic right facing corner that is to the right of the route is also very clear from the base. Go up the gully to the right of the slab. Don't bother climbing the slab itself - it is unprotected and kinda sketchy in approach shoes. At this point, you might want to put climbing shoes on, but my advice is to stay unroped. Leading this pitch creates heinous rope drag. Climb up and left. Eventually you get to a grassy ramp that has been trampled. Continue up the ramp and up some blocky terrain until you see a steep gully with some trees on the left. The first "real" pitch starts at the top of the gully. We climbed the left-facing corner that is somewhat dirty and vegetated. It gets cleaner the higher you go.

Regarding the topout: After the last 5.9 pitch, continue up and climber's right. You will find a vegetated right-facing corner. Go up the corner and climber's left to gain Michael's Ledge. We placed some half-assed cairns since we weren't 100% certain we were going the right way. But I think it's pretty logical way to go...

As the route gains more traffic, most of this will become more obvious, but right now there's a lot of dirt and we found the topos hard to decipher. Jun 5, 2017
mat j  
Climbed the 5.8 corner on the first pitch instead of the chimney and it was really awesome movement all the way through that pitch, but it was a little dirty since it seems to be the most neglected of all 3 options. The rest of the climb was also amazing and will have to be repeated a few times to get all the variations in. Jun 4, 2017
Katie River
Oakland, CA
Katie River   Oakland, CA
Walk off beta: After you top out, walk back towards a large boulder climber's left. Go right around this boulder and scramble back upwards climber's left behind it. It will feel a bit bush whacky in a switch back manner in the bouldery formations you encounter. Finally, you will reach kind of a dead end looking at two sets of gullies 12ft apart on your left. We assumed the gully closest to the wall was the 5.2 and decided to rope up for one move as roping up seemed faster than putting on climbing shoes again. From here, the path is more obvious on even terrain which sometimes gets close to the cliff edge for a short sections. Next, when you enter a talus field, don't do down it, cross it, there was a nice rock with an arrow indicating such. There will be more handy cairns along the rest of the decent which is more intuitive from here! May 15, 2017
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
Rude Boy   San Francisco, CA
We setup a rappel with rap rings off the chock stone at the top of the chimney on pitch 3. It is mandatory to use a 70 m rope to reach the belay ledge below. We also put rap rings on the two hanger anchor at the top of pitch 1. You can rap the route quite easily with a 70 m rope doing 4 rappels. Mar 14, 2017
steveoxley oxley
Winter Park, Colorado
steveoxley oxley   Winter Park, Colorado
just did this a few days ago. there are bolts at the top of the first pitch Oct 20, 2016
Max Rausch
Monterey, California
Max Rausch   Monterey, California
Highly recommend not trying the walk off for the first time in the dark... Had a bit of an epic the other night.... The 200' of 5th up to Michaels ledge was terrifying with a very dim headlamp. Eventually found the trail and thrashed back down to the car with iPhone light taped to helmet. All in all a fun route. I really enjoyed the 5.9 OW variation and the chimney above looks much worse than it is. Sparse pro can be found inside. Oct 9, 2016
Arch Richardson
Arch Richardson  
Why rap an old school adventure route? The top out and Michaels Ledge are part of the adventure, no? Anyhow the prospect of rapping did not appeal to us, with plenty of loose rock and snag potential. To each his own. Agree that the p4 lieback variation is stellar. Sep 24, 2016
Did it yesterday. There are 3 sets of rap bolts and you can get down just fine with a single 70m rope. Just make sure to bring a sling for the boulder above the offwidth if you plan on rapping.

Brought doubles to #3 c4 and an extra .75 and #1 would be nice to not run it out much. Did the right variation on the 4th pitch and it was super enjoyable 5.9 lie backing. A good way to end a pretty cool route. Aug 2, 2016
Ed Henicle
Santa Rosa, CA
Ed Henicle   Santa Rosa, CA
We took doubles to #3, single #4, single #5

TR here: supertopo.com/tr/Absolutely… May 16, 2016
Chad Michael Namolik
Central California
Chad Michael Namolik   Central California
We did this in 4 pitches, breaking up P2 into two. New looking rap rings are atop P1 and out on the face left of route, left of the perfect splitter on P2. New-ish rope around tree atop P2. Could probably rap this route easily with 2 ropes. We had a single 70, but decided to do the walk off. A single 70 might be close. Also spotted some tat around a tree to rap the approach gully. May 11, 2016
benkraft Kraft
San Francisco, California
benkraft Kraft   San Francisco, California
No intact rap stations on route, and walk-off isn't that bad (but probably knocks rocks onto the base routes). Feb 17, 2015
What an stellar route! Definitely some low 5th on the approach and descent. Was gripped a couple times in my crappy approach shoes.
The Reid guide says pro to 3" on this one and I would be inclined to agree. We took one #4 but never used it. Makes me wonder if the first ascent team avoided the offwidth on the last pitch also? The finger crack left of the offwidth is way fun and aesthetic.
All the stuff you read about the splitter pitch being awesome is totally true!
Didn't have much trouble with Michaels Ledge either. When in doubt stay close to the wall. Apr 16, 2013
Michael Ybarra
on the road
Michael Ybarra   on the road
The approach isn't bad, the climbing is very fun, but the descent totally blows (took us longer than the climb), costing the overall experience at least a star. The ideal rack: doubles, green through blue, a #4 and a #5. Dec 30, 2011
Tom Fralich
Fort Collins, CO
Tom Fralich   Fort Collins, CO
Both the approach and descent were more straightforward than expected. We roped up for the approach and reached the start in 1.5 pitches. I found the splitter crack pretty hard...wish I had smaller hands. Definitely take a #5 for P3. Oct 14, 2011
Osprey Overhang   ...
This climb is up there with the best of them. Its not too difficult to find and you may not know you are at the bottom of a classic when you do get to the start.

Leave your bags in your car so you don't have to walk back to the start of the climb after descending Michael's Ledge.

I've always taken the variation (.8) out left then up for the last pitch. Apr 2, 2010
squiddo Marc
Mountain View, CA
squiddo Marc   Mountain View, CA
Great route that deserves more traffic. I found the last part of the 4th class to be.....5th. Sep 18, 2009
Oakland, CA
Sirius   Oakland, CA
Painfully obvious linkup is to continue up Hawkman's Escape, another 8 pitches of old school 5.9 climbing that lead to one of the great, obscure, Yosemite summits. The top of Lower Brother is wild.

Buyer beware with Hawkman's - it's serious up there. DNF zones, and can't pull through some cruxes on gear.

Some good pics: supertopo.com/climbing/thre…

And here:

supertopo.com/climbing/thre… Jul 18, 2009
A topout variation to the right avoids the wide via finger-sized laybacking through a series of corners, 5.9.

Rapping with 2 60's is pretty straightforward. Bring a big piece of webbing/cordelette in case the slung boulder on top has been unslung. Jun 17, 2009
Livermore, CA
Sheets   Livermore, CA
I've done this twice within the last couple of months since I really enjoyed the climbing. Take plenty of # .75-1 pieces for the splitter crack. Jun 16, 2009
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
P1 and P3 (P4 in Reid) are good, P2 (P2 & P3 in Reid) is great! The 4th class approach and top-out are nice: they keep the riff-raff away.

I would compare this to the Northeast Face of Lower Cathedral Spire, another "former classic" that I really enjoyed.

Take two pieces in the 4-5 inch range. Jun 9, 2009

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