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Lower Cathedral Spire
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South by Southwest 

YDS: 5.10d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 21 British: E3 5b

Type:  Trad, 5 pitches, 600'
Original:  YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c [details]
FA: Walt Shipley & Keith Reynolds, 7/93
Page Views: 5,811
Submitted By: Darko Sarenac on Sep 14, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (69)
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View of El Cap taken from the summit of Lower Cath...

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


The climb shares the first two pitches (5.6, 5.4) with Regular Route. P3: Then instead going right on the Main Ledge, continue straight up a shallow corner, pass some pins (5.9), pass a bulge (10d) to a baley before right facing corner. P4. Climb straight up the corner to a roof, traverse under the roof, and over to a stance (11a), then a bit higher to a good stance (5.8). P5: a 5.9 pitch leads to the top. There is also a 10a variation if you break left at the very top. Enjoy the view of the valley and el cap! (nota bene: the 11 pitch is more like the 'old school' 10. So this may be a good climb to break into the grade.)


Start the same as Regular Route.


Extra hand size pieces helpful.

Photos of South by Southwest Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Unknown climber on the 10d finger crack of South b...
Unknown climber on the 10d finger crack of South b...
Rock Climbing Photo: The start of South by Southwest
BETA PHOTO: The start of South by Southwest
Rock Climbing Photo: Brian Prince leading the P4/5 linkup
Brian Prince leading the P4/5 linkup

Comments on South by Southwest Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 19, 2014
By Nate Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Oct 21, 2007

This is a wonderful climb! The .10d section is a bouldery little move that took me a while to figure out where to get my feet. We linked the .10d pitch and the .11a pitch. Super awesome views of people on the Northeast Face of Higher Cathedral.
By Ben Lepesant
Jan 16, 2009
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b

I guess this is more like 5.10.(edit:5.10c. 10 b would be a sandbag.)
Compared to Moratorium or the 5.11 pitches in the Nose the crux-pitch is pretty easy.
Fun climb though, and awesome view of El Cap on the summit , take your camera.
By Entropy
Apr 19, 2009

Suggested rack: Doubles from .3" - 3"
extra: maybe another #2 and #3 Camalot/friend if you want to place a ton of pro.
Blue TCUs/green aliens helpful for the 10d section.

1 - 70 m rope is suggested for the rap route, I think (don't hold me to this since I didn't do it) you can take 1 - 60m also, but you have to do three raps down the gulley below the ledge.

I live in the valley, and it seems to me that this route is 10d/ sofffft 11a. Don't go up there thinking its going to be 10a/b.

I linked the 10d/11a pitch, I highly recommend doing that with mucho runners under the roofs.
By Kat A
From: Bart and Lisa Ville, CO
Jun 5, 2009

We rapped with one 70 m rope. I agree this is quite soft for 11a in the Valley. Many who have done this found the bouldery thin crack a bit more challenging than the enduro hand crack pitch. Great views at the top!
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Jun 7, 2009

The third pitch bouldery 10d section:
By Dan Brockway
From: Boulder
Jul 2, 2009

We wrapped with one rope but I think it is better to have two allowing you to skip the hanging rappel station. This station appears to be bomber and safe (good newish looking bolts) but I just found it scary watching the ends of my rope flapping in the breeze (below the rap station) especially since there is pretty good exposure there.

Great views from the summit. Makes you realize you are in Yosemite.
By Sirius
From: Oakland, CA
Dec 16, 2011

I think if you're somewhere near pushing your limit and you only bring doubles in the #1 BD size you may wish you had more for the crux pitch.

For the gear belay above the .10d and below the .11a we used two #1 BD's in the anchor alone. There was a fixed hex there as of Oct '11, but besides that it's pretty much either red or gold BD cams as your only options, and there's a whole lot of parallel-sided steep hand crack above the belay (with pods, so that helps with gear). YMMV.

Great climb, good exposure on the two $ pitches.

We used the intermediate rap anchor and it was uncomfortable as hell.
By Colin Brochard
From: San Francisco
Apr 23, 2012

A pretty solid scramble of an approach, but the summit was totally worth it! 7-8hrs car to car, a little over half was spent approaching/rapping/decending. Approach the back of the spire via the climbers left (kinda go clockwise around it). Keep scrambling talus until you are almost to the notch between the two spires. Have fun!
By Jason Albino
From: San Francisco, CA
May 10, 2014

4-star rating for the position: big exposure on the money pitches and a fantastic El Cap and Valley view from the top.

2-star rating for the actual climbing: a couple dirty, wandering alpine pitches kick things off.

- Money pitch 1: A nice but too-short arete/shallow corner and then a short, really thuggy boulder problem to a jug.
- Money pitch 2: Awkward, burly fat hands (for those with big+ hands) with a flared section wear you out. Then a cool, right-travering steep liebacking section (in my opinion, the best part of the whole climb) - too bad you're too wiped after the awkward hand crack (unless you're already a Yosemite crackmaster) to really enjoy it.

Finish it up with another dirty, wandering alpine pitch.

Again: great position and summit, no question. But the overall climbing: meh.
By Short Fall Sean
From: Flagstaff, AZ
May 11, 2014

I'll second the recommendation to bring extra red camalots if you aren't linking the crux pitches. I also put two in the anchor between the pitches and was happy to have some for the next pitch. The thing to do is probably just to link them, but I did enjoy the rest before climbing the endurance section (which I found substantially more challenging than the boulder problem).

The summit is mega-rad-to-the-max awesomeness.

Oh, and the approach for this route goes up the gully to the EAST of the spires!! Don't do like we did and go up the west side gully without even thinking about it. The circumnavigation to the east side is not recommended!!!
By Jeff Edge
Oct 19, 2014
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

Felt the boulder problem was the crux (could call that 11a), but the so-called crux pitch seemed more like 10c/d, probably a little harder than Outer Limits p1. Like everyone else...

On a more interesting note, we found a (newer, but very dirty) pot (for cooking, of course) at the top of pitch 2. Nothing like kitchenware booty mid-route. We are now making a lot of soup, would love to know the story of how it got there.

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