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John Muir Route (The Mountaineer's Route) T 
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Southeast Buttress T 

Southeast Buttress 

YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 700', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b [details]
FA: Wilts and Spencer Austin, 1943
Season: summer
Page Views: 133,009
Submitted By: Nick Wilder on Jun 22, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (966)
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BETA PHOTO: After approx. 10 minutes up the JMT from the Cathe...

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You can really climb all over the southest buttress. You get the most climbing if you start at it's lowest point, in the middle. Many people start up and to the right a little, which loses some vertical, and the first pitch over there isn't so good.

However you start, after 3 pitches, steadily increasing from 5.3 to 5.6, you'll probably be funneled into a chimney. It can get crowded here, and a backpack can be a real pain. Climb around to the left and it's smooth sailing however.

There are so many options, passing people is generally easy if you're competent at the grade, and there are usually people all over the face.

A spectacular climb not to be missed.


Normal full rack. No huge cams needed.

Photos of Southeast Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: SE buttress solo
SE buttress solo
Rock Climbing Photo: Monica soloing Cathedral Peak.
Monica soloing Cathedral Peak.
Rock Climbing Photo: “This, I may say, is the first time I have been a...
“This, I may say, is the first time I have been a...
Rock Climbing Photo: Such a great view from the summit
Such a great view from the summit
Rock Climbing Photo: Alternate 5.7 route to the left of the chimney, th...
Alternate 5.7 route to the left of the chimney, th...
Rock Climbing Photo: cathedral peak from JMT
cathedral peak from JMT
Rock Climbing Photo: Ali starting his free solo of the first three pitc...
Ali starting his free solo of the first three pitc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Route tracing: NA 50 CLASSIC!
BETA PHOTO: Route tracing: NA 50 CLASSIC!
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the summit taken from Eichorn.
Climbers on the summit taken from Eichorn.
Rock Climbing Photo: A party of three on the summit of Cathedral Peak, ...
A party of three on the summit of Cathedral Peak, ...
Rock Climbing Photo: April, Filip, and Alberto solo train their way up ...
April, Filip, and Alberto solo train their way up ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting up the south east buttress.
BETA PHOTO: Starting up the south east buttress.
Rock Climbing Photo: Climber on the SE buttress
Climber on the SE buttress
Rock Climbing Photo: Cathedral Peak after summiting at sunset - with tw...
Cathedral Peak after summiting at sunset - with tw...
Rock Climbing Photo: April does a bit of light reading on the summit of...
April does a bit of light reading on the summit of...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tamara on p2 of the "original" route up ...
Tamara on p2 of the "original" route up ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Anne enjoying the spectacular summit and the rewar...
Anne enjoying the spectacular summit and the rewar...
Rock Climbing Photo: Matisse on summit, May 2012
Matisse on summit, May 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Ali at the top of Cathedral peak
Ali at the top of Cathedral peak
Rock Climbing Photo: The summit of Cathedral peak.  A definite must do ...
The summit of Cathedral peak. A definite must do ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Just below the summit on Cathedral peak
Just below the summit on Cathedral peak
Rock Climbing Photo: Daniel ready to step across the gap to the small s...
Daniel ready to step across the gap to the small s...
Rock Climbing Photo: The possibilities are limitless.
The possibilities are limitless.
Rock Climbing Photo: Unknown climber high on the SE Buttress of Cathedr...
Unknown climber high on the SE Buttress of Cathedr...

Show All 63 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Southeast Buttress Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 3, 2017
By Sarah Kolbe
From: Madison, WI
Sep 9, 2017

I lost my phone while climbing this route on 9/8/17. It's a white iPhone 5 in a white and gray case. If found please dm me or email me at kolbe.sarah at gmail dot com. $50 reward plus shipping and handling to return it to me - it's got all of my vacation photos. Thanks!
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Aug 15, 2006

A great classic to a wonderful summit.
By Floridaputz
From: Oakland Park, Florida
Aug 21, 2006

We decided to take a line on the left most side. There was only one other party on the climb when we started. I lead a knobby arete left of the 5.6 offwith for a variation. My wife and I were all smiles on the awesome summit.
By 46and2
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug 28, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

PERFECT climb that is NOT to be missed; great protection most of the time (by Tuolumne standards) with a truly classic and amazing summit! I prefer the standard start as the first 5.4 splitter crack is a blast; also don't skip the chimney, it's a lot of fun (getting actually inside the thing is the crux) as chimneys go! We noticed many parties getting somewhat confused at the top wondering "which way to go", when you hit that final steep wall, follow the wide looking crack on the left side up to a stance and then over the huge flakes to the amazing summit!!!! Have Fun
PS: The downclimb from the summit looks much harder than it actually is, if you're freaked out I would recommend downleading this section as it's really easy to set up and do!!
By Josh Hibbard
From: Los Angeles Area, CA
Mar 23, 2007
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Great climb! It seems that many parties bottle neck at the chimney, so plan accordingly. Also, there are many features inside the chimney, so you don't need to actually "chimney" the whole thing (which was a concern for me due to the pack I was carrying).
By Greg DeMatteo
From: W. Lebanon, NH
Apr 7, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

One of the greatest summits of all time.
By TBlom
Jul 10, 2008

Very cool climb and spectacular summit. We climbed the right side-ish, over many crystal studded faces, and avoided the chimney traffic jam by climbing a 5.7(?) hand/fist crack about 15' to the right. We were able to pass several parties and do the route in 4 near-rope-length pitches (w/a 70 M rope). I had a double rack, and of course had gear left over, but found placements for everything from nuts to 4" cam.
The walk-off was pretty easy after finding the way down the back slabs (kind of a zig-zag pattern), we saw a few parties rapping over this section, but there is an exposed 3rd. class descent that is a bit faster.
Make sure to bury any food under the talus to keep the marmots from stealing it.
Don't forget your headlamps!!! (if you start late)
By Josh Hibbard
From: Los Angeles Area, CA
Sep 16, 2010
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Looks like there are two "rap stations" off the 3rd/4th class decent as of 9/6/2010. The first is a few slings around a small tree. The second is around a block. We happened to rap off the first station (toward climbers left) to a long, thin "ledge" that we took to the ridge and down the now well marked trail.
By Page Weil
Sep 20, 2010

Beautiful and easy climbing. Lots of pitches to practice your trad placements on. My partner and I started slightly left of center at the toe of the buttress and ended up on an "interesting" third pitch. There is a lieback crack between two completely blank walls. My partner did it as a difficult offwidth. The topo for the route on Supertopo labels this area as "not recommended"; i'd call it 5.10 at least.

At the chimney there was a minor bottleneck but at the belay station for the last pitch there was a serious bottleneck. We stood there with 4 other parties for literally 90 minutes waiting for summiting parties to clear the last pitch. We couldn't bail out because we were well above the last set of rap rings. Several people on the ledge were nearly hypothermic and we didn't get off until well after dark. Expect at least 8 to 10 parties on a weekend day. Bring headlamps and anything you need to wait for a couple of hours and hike off in the dark because it very well could happen.

If you are climbing with parties behind you, be considerate and climb quickly and clean the route so others can follow. If you are moving slowly, let others pass you. One slow group at the beginning of the day put 4 other groups in serious danger.

Putting in an additional rap station at the ledge before the final pitch could help a lot.
By Dave Alden
From: Seattle, WA
Feb 28, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b PG13

Fun alpine route with spectacular views.
By alleyehave
From: San Diego, CA
Aug 3, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

As good as people say. Although, I will say this. This is NOT the place to learn multi pitch climbing folks. Despite its easy, laid-back climbing. This is a fairly involved climb that does require efficient technique, decent route-finding, good time-management and the ability to deal with multiple other parties, above and below you. Do not come here to hone your multi pitch skills, you're either in for an epic or a royal pain in the ass for others. :) Also, there is no way in hell this is to be considered a PG13 route(above rating). There is more pro than you could ever want.
By Chris D
From: the couch
Sep 19, 2011

With all the hype I'd read about this route I was pleasantly surprised to find that it surpassed all of my expectations. From the surprise splitter crack on the first pitch to the fun and easy chimney to the unbelievable summit panorama, this route is truly full-value. There's a lot of steep gully hiking, but it's broken up by a variety of climbing challenges, albeit solidly within the reach of any 5.6 leader with some route-finding skills. There might be one short section of face climbing that can't be protected. The rest is either cruiser or really easy to protect.

The supertopo for this route is spot-on. Use it and you almost can't get lost. A very "civilized" peak, with an easy to follow trail, clear approach, and absolutely spectacular views from the car to the summit.

DON'T miss Eichorn's Pinnacle on the way out! Don't believe what the nay-sayers say about the quality of the's great fun, and the summit gives an awesome view of Cathedral Peak, Matthes Crest, Budd Lake, and an ocean of unparalleled beautiful granite.

A day I won't soon forget!
By Kurtz
Jul 8, 2012
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

What a great climb! What a great day! Trad-with-Dad with my 12 y.o. daughter. Wish we had enough time for the Pinnacle.

The only surprise we had was the descent. We were the second-to-last party and it was starting to get dark. Getting the last climber off the small summit block requires either some 5.6ish downclimbing or a "toprope belay" (drape the rope over the block and have the first descender belay from below and behind. Of course, the rope will snag when you pull it.

Luckily, another climber led us down, but it was a bigger slog than I expected. If anyone has better descent beta, please add it!

Once down off the block, the basic idea was to scramble down the back side, staying skiers left until you find a way to traverse all the way to the right ridgeline. Hop over the ridge and pick up a climbers trail that leads back to the base. I guesstimate that we crossed the ridgeline 100-150 yards from the summit.
By Ryan Myers
From: Tempe, Arizona
Nov 11, 2012

The Cathedral Peak and Eichorn's Pinnacle link-up was an incredible day in the mountains. Highly recommended.
By kenr
Aug 17, 2013

As of August 2013, the route around the East side of the rock peak is a improved trail -- even with some stone steps (and official-looking carabiner-icon signs near its top and bottom). Anything near the E side not on that trail is forbidden as part of a plant restoration zone.

The descent from the summit goes roughly like this:
Just below SW side of summit block, go down steep about 12 ft on double cracks - (positive holds or jams, but not all obvious or straightforward to see how to use) - traditionally graded class 4, but likely will feel like class 5 to those inexperienced with down-climbing ... so just plan on continuing the belay from the final pitch of the ascent.

Next traverse NW about 10 ft to a notch in the summit range. Cross the ridge to the NW face. Descend about 20-30 ft NE diagonally to near the NE edge of the NW face, to a ledge. Then down SW like another 20 ft.

Next work down like 60-90 ft whatever way works. The goal is to end at the NE edge of the NW face, at a flat spot with some bushes -- which is at the boundary between the solid rock above and the talus slope below. There is a narrow ledge system (not difficult) which spans across pretty much the whole face, so the idea is to spot that flat spot, then down-climb to that level but no farther.
. . (There is also a wider ledge above that, which is tempting, but then it requires a low class 5 down-climb move to reach the flat spot.)
Many people find it easiest to first traverse all the way over to the SW side of the face and go down there, then traverse all the way back across to the NE side.

From that flat spot, traverse horizontally around the N corner through bushes onto the East side of Cathedral Peak. Scramble down about 30 feet to the new improved trail. Down on that trail along the base of the cliff of the E side of Cathedral Peak summit area, at first SE, then curving S -- back down to meet the approach trail near the bottom of the SW buttress climb.
By Jonathan hudson
From: baltimore, MD
Aug 25, 2013

GPS cords for the bud lake trailhead. Lat 37º 52' 10"N, Long 119º 23' 12"W
By Ash Gambhir
From: San Diego, CA
Aug 6, 2014

By Howard
From: Costa Mesa, CA
Aug 17, 2014

Got much fuller value whilst passing parties: did the harder crack variation to the right of the chimney pitch. Later, did the steep hand crack leading to the summit ledge before the true summit block. Anybody try it and have an opinion?
By Ian Kesterson
From: Oakland, CA
Sep 3, 2014

Fantastic climb. Celebrated my partner's recovery from knee surgery with this route. Next time, less gear and climbing in approach shoes. We started on route B, but ended up casually passing folks somewhere in the middle area. Met many new friends at crowded belays.
By Countzen Shin
From: Santa Monica, CA
Oct 13, 2014

The climbers route Beta in the Tulumnoe free climbs guide book ( ) is pretty off. We were hiking in pre-sunrise and using that book as beta for the approach and got pretty lost. The actual climbers trail has been uploaded by me to

Also some descent beta since I couldn't find visuals anywhere.
By Floridaputz
From: Oakland Park, Florida
Aug 2, 2015

I just climbed this again, taking the center route this time. Perfect day, tee shirt weather. Be ware on the summit to not rap directly down the crack which faces SW. Rope eater ! The anchor on top is now a couple stoppers. I advise you inspect it prior to rapping, one of the stoppers was not engaged when I checked it.
By Mike Holley
From: Boone, NC
Dec 18, 2015

This is a climb that reminds you why you even started climbing in the first place! If you need a Re-up on your stoke get on this thing asap!! Super fun movement over stunning quality rock in a sublime environment. A metamorphic route that can be whatever you want it to be, a hundred different ways to make the send. And what about that summit—whow—an historical and aesthetic pinnacle in the Yosemite Rock climbing world!! We Backpacked out, slept at the lake for two nights and climbed the route half a dozen times; varying from simul-climbing to free solo’ing to full Moon solo missions!! Yes, it truly is that freaking fun!!

  • *Obviously Watch out for crowds on this Mega Popular Classic. To avoid the masses I recommend the “Autumn Full Moon Roaring Wild Fire Ascent”**
By Dizzy
Jun 27, 2016
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

We climbed it last Saturday, almost no snow on approach. Took a chimney variation, it was great. Easy route finding except last 25 ft or so just before the summit when you have option to go over the top or go around on the left side. I went left, which was mistake, because moving rope around over the top was very hard. My 2nd and 3rd partners climbed over the top without any problem.

No rap bolts or any kind of permanent anchor on top (06/25/2016).

On the summit block there is enough space to build 2 anchors, so if route is crowded easiest way to descend is to wait next party and ask to use their anchor. If there is no one around you can downlead, that's what we did.

Descent was not obvious, I think you need to go toward Eichorn first and then make a traverse to the right. We went straight down via ledges with trees and across to the right, which involved few sections of easy 5 class.

Great route overall, highly recommended.
By A Johnson
From: Paso Robles
Aug 18, 2016
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Well that was pretty awesome! We camped at Tuolumne and got up at 430. Drove to the trailhead and a short hike later realized we had made it to the base first! With our speed, my partner and I didn't make it to the top first but we definitely had a blast. This was our first real trad route on a bigger wall and boy was it worth it. Until a couple days later this was the best route I had done. As we were setting our anchor above the chimney a couple of guys passed us free-soloing. Always a rush.
By Boriss
From: Sacramento
Jan 9, 2017

So good! If you follow the right lie back at the start of pitch 3, make sure you cross back into the crack system left. I continued up and had to do some exposed slab moves.
By Riley Daly
Aug 18, 2017

A friend left a #4 camelot at her belay at about the same elevation or a little above the chimney... she and her partner skirted to the right around the crowds at the chimney and she left it plugged in at the top of that pitch. probably gone by now, but worth a shot!
By Hannah Spendlove
From: Reno, NV
Aug 21, 2017
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b PG13

Simple climb! 5.8 crack to top described in topo seemed more like 5.7. By farm one of the most incredible summits!
By Brianna Chrisman 1
From: Mountain View
Aug 28, 2017

I topped out on Eichorn's on 8/27 around 3pm. If anyone was on Cathedral and took any pictures, can you PM or email me ( and we can shamelessly exchange photos? :)

(I'll delete this post in ~ a week)
By Rich zz
From: california
Oct 3, 2017

Had to bail due to bad weather. I left a blue sling and quicklink on the first tree because our 60m didn't reach the bottom from the first belay tree.

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