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Border Country

5.12c R, Trad, 1800 ft, 12 pitches,  Avg: 3.6 from 12 votes
FA: Jeremy Collins, Dana Drummond, Mikey Schaefer, 2009
California > Yosemite NP > Yosemite Valley > Cathedral Spire… > Middle Cathedral Rock
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


A wide open slab on the northwestern face of MC. Low angle to vertical corners and clean face on the lower half; steep and exposed on the upper half, following the path of least resistance on golden knobs and plates on impeccable rock.

70 bolts on 1800 feet of mostly face climbing. This route was established in memory of our friends Jonny Copp and Micah Dash, titled after Jonny's poem "Border Country", written a day before they perished on Mt Edgars hideous flanks.


Park beneath the notch, head straight up drainage. Start is left of a large gray corner with a single bush. Left of the start is a single pitch route with anchors. locate the first bolt of BC 30' up beneath a flaring seam/corner.


12 draws, cams- 1 each .33" to 2.5" Rap route on bolted anchors.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Route lines on right side of Middle Cathedral
[Hide Photo] Route lines on right side of Middle Cathedral
Quinn enjoying the 2nd 11+ pitch
[Hide Photo] Quinn enjoying the 2nd 11+ pitch
Topo for Border Country.
[Hide Photo] Topo for Border Country.
Border Country base area
[Hide Photo] Border Country base area
Pitch 9
[Hide Photo] Pitch 9

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] any update on this thing since the rockfall? Aug 28, 2011
JamesLucas Lucas
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] I went up there a few times. Pretty rad. Ben Ditto onsighted through the upper crux pitches but not to the summit. The 5.12 pitches are the best rock. Apr 25, 2012
[Hide Comment] Incredible climbing, great views and thoughtful climbing! A new classic 5.12 for the Valley. There is a hard hand-foot-match on the crux pitch for us tall folks. I am owe for two on this route because of this high-step! Thanks to Mikey, Mad Dog and Jeremy for such a great route! Dec 27, 2014
[Hide Comment] We did* this route this weekend (3/7/15) and it was amazing! (*did not do the last 5.9 pitch) Phenomenal climbing on some mostly good rock and sustained climbing with cool sequences on all 4 of the hard pitches.

Couple of notes on the climb that might make it easier if you go up there.

Pitch 6/7: This is the pitch off the big ledge and up to the "North Face Traverse" drawn on the topo. I say 6/7 because there is an intermediate anchor drawn on the topo and you could break this up into two pitches. Anyway, the topo shows two raps there (45M + 15M = 60M) but when we were climbing up and linking these, we had to simul a bit even with a 70M rope. And when rappelling it definitely was a 65M rappel (we linked them)

Pitches 9 and 10: (the 11+ pitches) Both of these show the anchors up and slightly right of the last bolts, but in both cases the anchors are more right than up (we didn't see them right away and almost climbed up too high)

Rappelling: All of the rap stations (except one that has chain) are webbing/rope with biners. So if you're super awesome you might bring some quicklinks and chain up there, or at least a knife and some new webbing/rope Mar 9, 2015
Vlad S
[Hide Comment] The route was a little tricky to identify from the base based on the description. There's a really good trail leading straight up to gunsight from the 4th pullout on the left after the huge Bridalveil/Elcap view pullout. Approach takes 20 min or so. When the trail ends at the base of the wall, go back right into the gulley and continue for another 200 ft. There's a large heavily featured area of rock that hosts a number of single-pitch bolted routes (maybe five-ish) just left of B.C. There's also another bolted route just right of it with an obvious anchor. The correct line takes you to the top of the large left-facing corner with THREE bushes in it and a big comfy ledge on top.

If it's not obvious, pitch 7 goes up to the bush on a ledge past 3 bolts (not 4). Pitch 8 has 6 bolts (not 5) and some very fragile features. Scary! A red C3 will help you dog up the crux, which is nails!

One of the best routes in the valley! Thanks Mickey, Jer and Dana for all the work! Oct 14, 2015
Mikey Schaefer
Redmond, OR
5.12 R
[Hide Comment] Sounds like people have been having a hard time finding the start now that there are a bunch of new bolted routes in the area.

BC starts down hill from the first 2 "big" boulders you come to in the gulley. The rock is dark and smooth where you want to start and leads into a decent sized left facing flake with a few bushes in it. see the photo below.

Also heard people have been getting confused on the rappels due to new bolts/anchors. There is new set up and right of pitch 4 anchors that people are rapping to from the pitch 5 (u-shaped bowl anchor) instead of staying climbers left of the big corner/flake and going to the original anchor. Going to this new higher anchor works but makes the rappel to the top of pitch 3 nearly 60m and more of a swing.

And as B.Steel states, pitch 6/7 is a long pitch and simul-climbing is necessary if linking. I wouldn't link those rappels and that is why it says "no" on the topo. if you link them you end up pulling the rope and possibly loose rock directly on top of yourself. There is a reason why the first rappel anchor is located far to the climbers left... DON'T LINK THESE RAPS! Oct 21, 2015
Vlad S
[Hide Comment] Mikey, do you know what those 4-5 new routes are to the left of B.C. in the foreground of your picture? Are they all just single pitch routes? Oct 21, 2015
[Hide Comment] Thanks for the update Mikey! Hope your well. Oct 21, 2015
San Francisco
[Hide Comment] Pitches 1-7 are very heads up. Beware of pitch four, the topo is misleading, there are at least three different options that are not obvious on the topo.

P4 Option 1 is to go straight up the crack and continue up the lichen face above (and left of) the bolt, into flakes and eventually the corner above. Reportedly heads up but not as sketchy as option 2.

P4 Option 2, clip the bolt and traverse right, this looks sketchy as fuck, I started this way then backed off.

P4 Option 3, after the little finger pod, climb up another 5-10 feet, place gear and traverse out right on easier terrain (dark brown rock, way below the bolt) and to a hidden bolted anchor (not on topo), this is definitely the safest option.

Beware of loose rock in the bowl, our rope got stuck while pulling the rope from the fifth pitch anchor (on the descent). On the final tug, the rope became free, but only after pulling off a microwave sized block from above.

First 12- pitch is doable and tightly bolted near the crux. The 12+ pitch is nails, so we bailed. May 17, 2016
Mammoth Lakes, CA
  5.12+ R
[Hide Comment] Got on this with tallmark515 (above). Just to add, pitch 4 allows you to traverse right after bolt 3 and a gear placement or two. This splits the original topo's pitch into two, but takes the sting out of the headiest section of the climb. The pitch after Mark's "option 3" belay has better gear and a couple of bolts for protection. You'll still have to go on the spirit quest to find some of the gear placements, but it's not nearly as heady as the p1 or original topo's p4 runouts.

Mark is also 6'4" and can iron cross the crux of the 12- pitch. I had to use a different sequence, which involved a micro crimp that was fortunately pre-ticked. The crimp would be really hard to spot otherwise.

The 12+ pitch gets very real after bolt 1, as the sequence going to bolt 2 felt harder than any of the moves on the previous pitch. May 18, 2016
Max Tepfer
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] Outstanding climb! I like that the topo gives enough information to get you up the route, but is inaccurate enough to keep you on your toes and make you actually think.

I think tallmark's options for P4 just confuse the situation. The topo is pretty clear and relatively easy to follow. You're supposed to do 'Option 1.' If I'm understanding and remembering it all correctly, you just do what the topo says/route-find and you end up following the line/finding the anchor. It didn't feel any more or less serious than any of the other pitches on the route. (actually it felt far safer/easier than much of the climbing on the harder pitches)

There's a pretty scary feature up high on the first 11+ pitch. It's a hanging flake with good knobs on its face that you kind of have to use. It's poised to chop both your rope and belayer when it goes. It's probably possible to do the moves without it, but it would add a number grade. Heads up.

Don't do the last 5.9 pitch. We knew that it doesn't get done, but went up it (because it's there) and for sure wouldn't do it again. The climbing isn't that great, is pretty flaky/dirty/overgrown, and the anchor at the top isn't super rad. And there's no summit. You're just rapping from a funky stance that is slightly higher on the shoulder of MC.

Thought the opening sequence of the second 5.12 pitch was the crux of the route. Oct 24, 2016
Samuel lambert
Canmore, Alberta
[Hide Comment] Climbed Bc today and had a blast, really unusual rock for the valley! Beta wise, if you're not climbing the last 5.9 pitch, you can leave all your cams at the top of pitch 7, it's all bolts after that except for one ,3 or ,4 c4 on p10 and a couple slung horns.
Also, bring a bunch of cord and a knife to clean up the old tat.
Get up there and enjoy! Sep 24, 2017
Max Tepfer
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] As of 10/28 the anchors are pretty well set up for rappelling. The anchors at the top of the last two 11+ pitches will probably need updating the soonest. The carabiners will last, but the tat will degrade soonish. Also per Sam's beta we left most our cams before the headwall. We kept the recommended sizes, but didn't end up using them. Oct 28, 2017
[Hide Comment] Such a memorable and high quality route! Thanks Mikey, Dana, and Jeremy.

I'm 5'8", and the hardest move of the route seemed to me like the rightward sequence about 3 or 4 bolts up the .12- pitch.

I can see how really tall or lanky folks find the (standard crux) low boulder on the .12c pitch to be harder, but I think that's a crux where it's better not to be too tall.

Tread lightly on the hanging hollow flake near the top of P9 (the first .11+). Oct 29, 2017