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Direct North Buttress (DNB) 

YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b

Type:  Trad, 17 pitches, 1700', Grade V
Original:  YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: FA: Yvon Chouinard & Steve Roper, 6/62 FFA: Frank Sacherer & Eric Beck, 1965
Season: spring-fall
Page Views: 11,398
Submitted By: andrew kulmatiski on Oct 16, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (25)
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Dave Black, crux DNB, 1974,check out the Kronhofer...

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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 of Direct North Buttress (DNB) Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: What we went by in 1976, later emended by my partn...
BETA PHOTO: What we went by in 1976, later emended by my partn...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 5 I believe
Pitch 5 I believe
Rock Climbing Photo: eric collins leading the crux pitch
eric collins leading the crux pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: looking down from p2
looking down from p2

Comments on Direct North Buttress (DNB) Add Comment
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By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 5, 2007

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.
By andrew kulmatiski
From: logan, ut
Jun 30, 2007

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.
By Rob Dillon
Oct 12, 2008

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!
By Dave Alden
From: San Diego, CA
Feb 28, 2011
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13

Had to bail off P5 due to time constraints.
By Jeffrey Dopp
From: Goodlettsville, TN
Apr 3, 2013

Great route! Pro and go to get the catwalk before dark.
By stuart.h
From: Redwood City
Sep 25, 2013

FA: Yvon Chouinard & Steve Roper, 6/62
FFA: Frank Sacherer & Eric Beck, 1965
By Bryan G
From: Yosemite
Oct 20, 2014

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.
By Tony L
Apr 14, 2017
rating: 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13

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.
By Mark Dalen
From: Albuquerque, NM
Jun 2, 2017

When I did this with my partner Paul Horak in 1976, it had the reputation of being the longest, hardest free climb in the Valley (Astro Man soon took over that title) ... knowing what I was getting into, I wonder if I would have gone on it ... wisely, we planned on 2 days with a bivouac on the Powell-Reed ledges halfway ... hand-hauled a small knapsack packed with a 2-man bivvy shell, water & flannel shirts ... nice bivvy looking at El Cap over our feet, but ran out of water on the 2nd day ... endless dirty chimneys, runouts, ant trees - this route had it all ... I wound up slurping water off a slab at the top teeming with silverfish ... Cat Walk was hard to find but the waterfall was welcome ... glad to have done but would not do it again ... see scan of our original topo for an impressionist (early) take on the route ...

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