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Central Pillar of Frenzy 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

Type:  Trad, 5 pitches, 500'
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Jim Bridwell, Roger Breedlove, Dale Bard, 1973
Page Views: 51,636
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Sep 21, 2006  with updates from Roger Breedlove

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Jon Graham nears the anchor on the Central Pillar ...

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


Central Pillar of Frenzy is a super-popular line up the obvious pillar on the lefthand side of Middle Cathedral's northeast face. There are almost always several parties on, or in line for, this climb because of it's excellent, though perhaps never outstanding, five pitches of sustained crack climbing. The climb is actually nine pitches, but does anyone bother with the last four?

P1: Begin in a right-facing corner on the right side of the pillar. Climb this slick corner to a final difficult move pulling onto the pillar itself. Belay at bolts. This pitch is the crux and is 5.9.

P2: Head left and up a great 5.9 finger crack system to another bolted belay.

P3: Continue up through a 5.8 roof and then up a 5.8 OW to another belay. This pitch and the next are probably the best on the route -- save a bigger cam for above the roof.

P4: Climb sweet twin cracks up to another bolted belay. 5.8.

P5: Continue up one more pitch (beginning with a chimney) of nice cracks to a final belay. 5.9.

Rap with double ropes down across the face (not over the route) to climber's left. Another double rope rappel brings you to an anchor on the left-hand arete of the pillar, over Bircheff-Williams (The Great Wazoo belay). Continue with double rope raps down the left-facing corner on the left side of the pillar.

Do not leave food in your packs -- the bears know.


Double set of cams through a 4 inch piece.

Photos of Central Pillar of Frenzy Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Matthew Fienup using all of his 34-inch inseam, on...
Matthew Fienup using all of his 34-inch inseam, on...
Rock Climbing Photo: Matthew Fienup, P2 of the Central Pillar.  Photo b...
Matthew Fienup, P2 of the Central Pillar. Photo b...
Rock Climbing Photo: Jeff Crow, Central Pillar of Frenzy
Jeff Crow, Central Pillar of Frenzy
Rock Climbing Photo: Hillary styling up the beautiful 4th pitch of cent...
Hillary styling up the beautiful 4th pitch of cent...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mark Patterson nears the anchor atop Pitch 3.  The...
Mark Patterson nears the anchor atop Pitch 3. The...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kelly Kurtz on Central Pillar of Frenzy (5.8+). Ph...
Kelly Kurtz on Central Pillar of Frenzy (5.8+). Ph...
Rock Climbing Photo: Matt Grieger climbs the spectacular 2nd pitch of C...
Matt Grieger climbs the spectacular 2nd pitch of C...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 3
Rock Climbing Photo: The approach in mid-april = snow pile
The approach in mid-april = snow pile
Rock Climbing Photo: Steve killing it
Steve killing it
Rock Climbing Photo: In the flare on P1
In the flare on P1
Rock Climbing Photo: Two Japanese ladies at the little roof.  Both look...
Two Japanese ladies at the little roof. Both look...
Rock Climbing Photo: YOSAR with a litter dangling below.
YOSAR with a litter dangling below.
Rock Climbing Photo: Japanese climber in red, YOSAR helicopter in actio...
Japanese climber in red, YOSAR helicopter in actio...
Rock Climbing Photo: You can barely see them, but there is a person lea...
You can barely see them, but there is a person lea...
Rock Climbing Photo: john schaefer on p1
john schaefer on p1
Rock Climbing Photo: Doug Robinson leading pitch 2.
Doug Robinson leading pitch 2.
Rock Climbing Photo: Veronica on the outstanding P2
Veronica on the outstanding P2
Rock Climbing Photo: Kia leading pitch 3 roof on Central Pillar of Fren...
Kia leading pitch 3 roof on Central Pillar of Fren...
Rock Climbing Photo: Jay Bettencourt following the wide section above t...
Jay Bettencourt following the wide section above t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mustafa following and Yaman leading the awesome 2n...
Mustafa following and Yaman leading the awesome 2n...
Rock Climbing Photo: Central Pillar of Frenzy - looking up at the Pitch...
BETA PHOTO: Central Pillar of Frenzy - looking up at the Pitch...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kelly Kurtz follows up the 3rd pitch of the Centra...
Kelly Kurtz follows up the 3rd pitch of the Centra...
Rock Climbing Photo: Second shot of the Japanese grandmas as the leader...
Second shot of the Japanese grandmas as the leader...

Show All 31 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Central Pillar of Frenzy Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 29, 2017
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 8, 2006

This route continues past pitch 5, but virtually nobody does this. We once did the next pitch or two, which are pretty nice (one was 10a). Then as I recall the Meyer's topo has a pitch of traversing left, and this looked to be pretty scary so we headed down.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Dec 18, 2006

First five pitches are stunning - 5 stars out of 4
By Adam Steel
From: Salt Lake City
Jan 14, 2007

Anybody who tells you that the first pitch is the crux is only trying to snake the 2nd crux (and most stunning) pitch from you.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Jan 29, 2007

Post Script on my route description: A week or two after doing this climb I went back to do Stoner's Highway again. My partner and I were several pitches up and I was on the lead when suddenly I heard her yelling, "Oh shit! Oh shit no!" I was already on edge due to the nature of the climbing on Stoner's, and her exclaimations had my heart in my throat... I was actually relieved to find out the commotion was not because of catastrophic anchor failure or something like that, but rather because a mother bear and her cub had just strolled out of the woods in the direction of our packs (which were leaning against the wall at the base of the route). Meanwhile a party of German climbers, eye level with us on Central Pillar, also began shouting as the bears paused to poke around at their packs. I clipped into an anchor and watched helplessly as the bears left the Germans' packs (who quickly stopped yelling), and began sniffing ours. A long minute passed. Suddenly the bears turned around, leaving our packs alone, walked straight back to the Germans' packs, and began violently tearing them apart and eating their contents! I'm not sure what they had in theirs but it must have been better than the sweaty socks and approach shoes in mine. My partner and I breathed a sigh of relief and I chuckled as the Germans' began hurling the only thing they could at the bears: obscentities, unmistakable in any language...
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Jul 29, 2007

One of the best climbs in the Valley for the grade. Every pitch is a winner.
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Jul 30, 2007

This is a stellar route for the grade/length. However, it can be a bit unpleasant for those with small hands. I did it with my girlfriend a few years ago and she hated it.
By trundlebum
From: Las Vegas NV
Sep 5, 2007

George is corrrect:
The 6th pitch is a .10a right facing layback, well worth doing. The 7th is 5.8/5.9. From here you can continue up. I have never been above here, but Meyers topo shows a .10c lb and thin crack pitch, then a .10d thin pitch. A short bit of .10 face and 4th class gets you onto the Powell/Reed ledges (but why?).
Also there is the possibility of doing a face traverse,
(scary, only one bolt and who knows of the condition?)
From just below the belay on the top of pitch 7, over to the 5th pitch of the Bircheff/Williams route. In turn, at the end of pitch 5 of the Bircheff/williams rt. it joins with the Kor/beck route at it's 6th pitch belay.

For those that wince at the thought of even a .8 valley offwidth (2nd 1/2 of p-3)...
No worries, although it is offwidth size and offwidth technique is needed, the angle is forgiving and the crack is quite featured making the footwork not so pure offwidth.

  • comment to "monomaniac":
If your girlfriend hated this climb, I hope she promptly gave up trad climbing forever and took up knitting.
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Sep 9, 2007

A minor correction to the Supertopo description: pitch 4 is ~80' (not 100), and pitch 5 is ~160' (not 140). Note the combined length for both pitches is unchanged.
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Oct 1, 2007

Trundlebum wrote: "comment to "monomaniac":
If your girlfriend hated this climb, I hope she promptly gave up trad climbing forever and took up knitting."

Dear god! I hope she doesn't; I'd be SOL! A short memory is a key asset of the Alpine Climber. In this case, a girflriend with a short memory....
By Sirius
From: Oakland, CA
Oct 15, 2007

The second pitch is a beauty no doubt, as is every pitch on this classic. But the 5th stands out in my memory as uncommon, airy, diverse, and super fun. There's nothing striking about it like the splitter on the second, the roof on the third, or the double cracks on the fourth. Don't know, that pitch just had a good flow to it.
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Oct 30, 2007

Another correction to the SuperTopo description:
when using the standard rappel line (Metolius rap-hangers down Bercheff-Williams), the 3rd rappel is ~140 feet (not 115'). Also, the anchor atop the final rappel is well below the tree (not next to the tree, as shown). Finding these in the dark could be a little dumbfounding given the SuperTopo description.
By armand rollice
From: rancho cucamonga
Feb 26, 2008

Very beautiful route. The climbing is fun the view beautiful. El Capitain right across. The first pitch wakes you up right away when you start climbing the route early in the morning. Got lucky and was the first party on the route. After us there were three partys waiting to climb. Get an early start!
By tooTALLtim
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 9, 2008

Absolutely phenomenal route, each pitch on its own is stellar, but five pitches is almost too much to wrap your mind around!
By Ian G.
From: PDX, OR
Apr 16, 2009
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

My buddy Mike had already done this route, so he let me have the awesome roof pitch (third pitch). However, he decided we should go "light" so we did the route with one #4. So, I pulled the roof and stared in awe at the 5.8 OW above me.!t. I walked the #4 as far as I could and eventually did a move where I could reach down to walk it any further. Probably ran it out for 25 feet. It's easy climbing, but if you're not comfortable with that much space between you and gear, you might consider two #4's.
By Sheets
From: Livermore, CA
Jul 27, 2009

Some thoughts: p1--burly but not terrible difficult p2 was harder for me. p3 & p4 were the best imo--alas I fixed a #3 camalot under the roof. The OW on p3 is a walk-up, real fun. A bear ransacked my pack at the base so beware.
By John Ely
From: DC
Oct 13, 2009

A fine route. I found a lot of rope drag on the 5th pitch as it gets inside the lower wide cracks. More slings might help; a long pitch which uses lots of gear.
By Cory Harelson
From: Boise, ID
May 3, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

This climb was so much fun! Every pitch was steller. We climbed this the 1st week in May and had to chop steps up the hard snow using a sharp stick to get to the base. The first pitch was wet and slick, but the rest were dry. My favorite pitch was the second, with the beautiful steep finger locks. Pitch 3 was really cool too, pulling the roof using good jams. I placed my #4 pretty soon after the roof and then ran it out the rest of the way to the anchors since the OW is pretty secure. I also thought pitch 5 was really good, with several difficult moves between good stances.

There was nobody behind us so we just rapped the route. We got down in 3 double rope rappels. First rappel from P5 to P3, second rappel from P3 to P1, third rappel from P1 to ground and over the snow field. I believe that you could rap the first four pitches with 1 60m rope, but pitch 5 wouldn't make it.
By C. Hill
Jul 5, 2010
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Climbed this route with my girlfriend starting at 6pm on July 3, 2010. The first pitch was probably the most awkward, and the second the most physical (and pure awesome!).

To be honest, I found the p3 "offwidth" to be a little disappointing...I have small hands and found this to be mostly a very low angle handcrack with a few fist jams (without any tape whatsoever). You definitely want some wide gear (3.5-4") to protect it, but the crack wavers enough that no chickenwinging was required.
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Oct 12, 2011

As good as 5.9 gets.

First pitch was very wet - which made it even more awkward and slippery! But the gear is good at least. The 5.8 OW is easy. I brought 2x(new)#4 and one #3.5 and it was more than enough, but I happily placed them all. A #3 goes in above the roof before it gets too wide as well.

The SuperTopo rap beta is confusing since there are two rap routes shown. When you look it at, you'd think you rap down the last two pitches of the route and then over the roof and straight down. This is not the case. You rap climber's left about 150' to a stance just up and left of the P3 top belay. Then you do a 110' rap over the giant corner system to somewhat hidden anchors perched on a stance just to the left of the arete - I almost passed these anchors, so be on the lookout. Then two more raps down.
By Michelle Lynn
From: Moab, UT
May 14, 2012

Great route! P2 was my favorite.

I was intimidated by the 5.8 OW section for no reason. If Little John Left is 5.8 OW, IMHO this section is 5.6 or 5.7 fists (even for someone with small hands). It is low angle, narrows toward the back, and has some good feet to rest. Using Andy's recommended gear, it's not scary, it's super fun!
By Jeff Scheuerell
Sep 29, 2012

If you like long pitches, link 1&2 and 3&4.

Although, linking 2&3 is one of my all time favorite pitches.
By aaron hope
From: Walnut Creek, CA
Dec 26, 2012

I agree with the comment about the 5.8 offwidth section being MUCH easier than Little John left.
By Lana dude
Apr 29, 2013

P4 Double cracks reminds me of the top of Bishop's Terrace, except it lasts much longer. This was my favorite pitch, partly because it's a bit easier lead and overall the route was near my limit. For a strong 5.10 leader the most satisfying pitches are probably 2 & 3.
By Bernard Van De Walle
May 27, 2013

Don't do this route with a single rope !!!

We almost had an epic after goin with just one 70 meter. (it is not clearly stated on the suprertopo).
Hopefully we managed to find some intermediate rap anchors under the roof on the far right.
From: San Francisco
Oct 28, 2013
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

Nice route, although various sections of awkward jamming (including the entire first pitch and 2nd half of P5) somewhat detract from all the hype this route gets.

Also, you can link P4 & P5 with a 70M (just barely though).
By Max Tepfer
From: Bend, OR
Nov 8, 2013

One #4 is plenty w/bumping. Plenty of #3 placements on the 1st half of the OW. P1 and P2 link nicely as do P3 and P4.
By Rude Boy
From: San Francisco, CA
Nov 25, 2013
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

"But the 5th stands out in my memory as uncommon, airy, diverse, and super fun."

I'd agree with this. I remember the 2nd half eating up microcams for good protection and it feeling more like face climbing than crack climbing. Was thrilling with all the exposure :)
Of course the rest of the route is super awesome too!!!
Pitch 6 looked great....gotta go back and climb higher barring an earlier start.
By Jan Tarculas
From: Riverside, Ca
Mar 17, 2014
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

I just did this route on Saturday 3/15/14\, 5 stars out of 4. Each pitch was classic. Favorite pitch was pulling the roof. I suck at offwidth and every comment about it being easy was very true. There's a fixed cam inside that pitch, but make sure to keep a #4 with you after pulling the roof. I walked mine the entire way up and a 3.5 along with it. Save a #2 for the roof itself. I had to down climb because I used both of them lower down.

If I knew I would've have brought a pair of quicklinks/chains with me. The last rap on supertopo beta (left of the route itself, under the roof) are just bolts with old slings/tat with wrap rings. They look pretty sketch. It would be nice if someone replaced those with some good metal.

Did this in 3 raps. top of pitch 5 to top of pitch 4, then to rap bolts described previously at bottom of roof, then to the ground
By benkraft Kraft
From: San Francisco, California
Apr 7, 2014

The fixed quadcam in the "offwidth" is pretty brutalized and not structurally sound (unless you sling it as a chock). It has a ~8mm bolted axle -- someone should be a hero and bring a small adjustable wrench and remove it.

Otherwise, great conditions on 4/6/14 (highs around 60). First pitch was wet with a small snowpack, rest of the climb was perfectly clean.
By trying hard
From: Sierra East Side
May 4, 2014

Maybe the best crack climb at 5.9 ever. The first pitch gives you no indication of how mind blowing and fun the next three pitches are. The OW is more like a fist crack. You just stand in the thing perfectly and walk up it, nice break on the toes. Maybe the easiest approach in the valley with and epic view of the captain.
By Jeff Edge
Jul 26, 2014

Just a bunch of perfect cracks I dunno what all the fuss is about... Just kidding, route goes easily in 3 pitches with a 60, having done it this way I couldn't imagine doing it any other. Idk what's up with the supertopo pitch lengths, but 1&2 link and 2&3 link with several feet of rope left over (yes with a 60). I had a little bit of drag at the top of the 2nd pitch, but certainly not enough to complain about. Also, there is a bear box at the base, so there ya go.
By BenZH
From: Flagstaff AZ
Oct 3, 2014

Hey folks, My partner and I climbed there central pillar yesterday. It was lots of fun. On rappel we got our ropes stuck and had to rap past the second rap station. I was able to make it to some anchors, but my partner had to build a anchor and leave three pieces. If any one grabs them it would be super cool to get them back. There is some beer in it for you.
Thanks Ryan
By Alex Chiang
Jul 28, 2015

It is possible to bump a #3 BD cam almost the entire length of P3, but the section is long enough that you'd want to have at least 2 of them and leave one at the halfway mark.

I have hands on the smaller side, but the fact that the #3 is sufficient means that this pitch is more like fists for me, than an actual OW.

A #4 isn't strictly necessary (but I guess wouldn't hurt). Just make sure you save 2 pieces of that size for *after* the roof and you'll be fine.
By bradley white
From: Bend
Aug 21, 2015

Wonderful climb. While rappelling partner dropped our ropes into the off width crack. My partner had put a knot in the rope ends and it got deeply wedged in there. Did a tug of war with the mountain and pulled the ropes out of the crack. It almost was an epic descent.
By Roger Breedlove
Aug 23, 2015

Account of First Ascent by Jim Bridwell,Roger Breedlove and Dale Bard First Ascent Account 1973
By Mark Rivera
Nov 10, 2015

Anyone find a C4 #5 (with blue tape and nail polish) at the bottom of this route? I think we left one there in a night-time walk off on 11/7. Reward (2+ packages of Extreme Sports Beans and hi-five) if found. marktrivera[at]gmail[dot]com

P.s. Awesome route!
By Jordan Cannon
From: Bishop, CA
Apr 3, 2016

Best 5 pitch 5.9 i've done in the Valley, WAY better than the Nutcracker- steeper, splitter, and sustained. The off-width on the third pitch after you pull the roof isn't bad at all, just make sure not to get your gear or rope stuck in the crack.
By Max Rausch
From: Monterey, California
Apr 17, 2016

Climbed this on the 15th! Theres a large snow pack at the base that you have to climb down into the start P1 which made it interesting. P1 was also super wet and really difficult. Ended up bailing off of the top of P3 because it was gusting and 35 degrees out :(
By Tim Halder
Aug 23, 2016

Climbed this back in May with my sweetie and had the whole route to ourselves. The first pitch is definitely the prepped for a bit of slimy and insecure climbing, but there is gear available to keep it chill. A #4 was helpful for me. Second pitch is awesome, and the best of the route in my opinion.

If anyone finds a silvery St. Christopher necklace pendant at the base of the route, I would be mucho happy to get it back. It is my late father' heart sank as I heard it ting-ting-tinging down the route (5-10-16) when it fell off my neck. It is a cross shaped pendant about 1" or so in size. Thanks! Tim
By TheGabernator
From: New York, NY
Sep 13, 2016

The best 5-pitch 5.9 on the planet.
By Vit
Oct 14, 2016

There are two fixed cams on the P3 OW. Leave the #4s home!
By Kristian Solem
From: Monrovia, CA
Dec 10, 2016

I did the line through to the top in the mid 80's with a guy I met in Camp four who called himself The Mad Hatter. At the time I thought it was very exciting and worthwhile. We had planned to rap the normal way down, but when we got there I looked up and said let's go. I recall there was some bold climbing up there but nothing harder than 5.10. Coming down the gully in the dark was rough going.
By jeffsham
May 18, 2017

We climbed this route on May 13th, 2017. We ended up leaving a yellow 60m rope on pitch 4 after it got stuck on the crack. Here's the story of how that happened...

Mistake 1: Didn't bring jackets. After the sun went down, the wind also picked up and climbing with just a think thermal layer didn't cut it. We were turning into icicles on the belays.

Mistake 2: Didn't take the rap route. Due to mistake 1 above, my follows wasn't up for finishing the last pitch so I had to rap down back to top of 4 after the lead. Mistake 2a was trying to clean from the static rap line, which veers off to the left so I couldn't clean it completely. Had to haul myself back up to do a two rope rappel. Mistake 2b was getting the rope stuck when we pulled it down.

P.S. The first pitch was really sandy and because of the snow base, you have to go from the face into the corner with some dicey maneuvers. The rest of the pitches were stellar though.

If anyone recovered the rope, I'm sure my climbing partner would love to have it back.
By Brad Jensen
Jun 5, 2017

Just did this route on Saturday, June 2. There is a fixed line on the anchor at the top of the fifth pitch (or first rappel). Everyone's ropes were getting twisted and tangled due to the pull on the anchor. Had to spend extra time undoing a rats nest after pulling the rope. I'd advise bringing something to extend the rap anchor.
By Derek Field
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jun 8, 2017
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

The rappel line is a double-roped nightmare. At time of writing there is a fixed rap line - definitely utilize this, avoid the shenanigans.
By Jeff Scheuerell
Jun 8, 2017

I am sure I have done that climb 50 or more times, does it get any better? The raps seemed way above average, far from a nightmare. I doubt the raps have changed much but the climbers sure have. WTF we now have fixed rap lines???
By Derek Field
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jul 15, 2017
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Jeff, you're absolutely right! Our ropes got stuck because we're obviously not as tough as climbers were back in the day. Makes total sense.
By noah dailey
Jul 29, 2017

nearly decent climb

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