After a weekend in town, helping Scott move house, and helping Metal Scott have his 30th birthday party, I returned to the valley. I had a date with Cathy to climb the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. 11 pitches, mostly 5.7 or 5.8, with a 5.9A0, or 5.10c pitch about halfway up.
We left about 6:30am, and managed to be first on the route, which worked out well for us, as we cleaned 3 nuts that had been left behind by previous parties. It also meant we had someone behind us to clean a cam that we got stuck, and they were kind enough to give it back to us. Thanks Gabe and Mark.
We soloed up the first pitch, then as Cathy was habitually putting her shoes on, I made her take the first lead. Just as well. I fell off on the first move. I blame the pack, which was full of water and some jackets and shoes. Not a great start to the day for me. Quite a strenuous little roof move. I joined Cathy at the third belay, and had to face my current nemesis. Polished finger laybacks. Right about here, the rock quality went from ok, and loose in places to absolutely stellar. Excellent climbing took me up to the base of the bolt ladder, in the middle of some beautiful orange and grey rippled rock.
Both of us had vague intentions of at least trying to free the bolt ladder, but both of us very quickly decided not to bother. Pull on the draw, stand on the bolt. Quick and easy. Not quite so quick and easy for Cathy to lead of course, as she wasn't quite tall enough to stand on one bolt and clip the next one. The height worked for me this time :)
But the 5.9 climbing was still above me, and I fell yet again, (and I'll blame the pack again) this time scratching my chin, and tearing a chunk out of my little finger. But I bootied two nuts on this pitch, so I guess that sort of makes up for it.
I got the 5.7myarse pitch, which had interesting protection, and some quite wide climbing. I thought I was still just being weak, but Cathy, Mark and Gabe all felt it was quite severe. woohoo. By this stage, Zoe and Ann (friends of Mark and Gabe) were collapsing into fits of laughter every 5-10 minutes, but were always out of sight of Cathy and I, which kept us quite curious as to exactly what was going on down there. We never did find out either. "We were just having fun"
More solid climbing, this time starting to really run from the weather that had been threatening from upvalley for most of the day, took us to a beautiful belay ledge, that's not marked in the Reid topo. Perfectly flat, roomy, space for two belays. I headed up some ominous looking finger cracks that turned out to be delightful climbing, some of the best that I had led on the climb, and then had to wriggle my way up the groove of the final pitch. Excavating pine needles and oak leaves for placements, and shimmying with the best of them. Cathy was not impressed at following this with the pack on.
An even leafier roped scramble for Cathy and we were at the top. Wind howling, dust blowing everywhere, and the odd roll of thunder. Time to get down! Followed a very well cairned and worn track around and about and along into Spires Gulley. Gabe, Mark, Zoe and Ann caught us there, and we pooled ropes for the two abseils. (1 very full 30m, and one short one) We'd hoped that we'd be a bit sheltered in the gulley, buut it wasn't to be. Grit snowing down on us, and blowing in our eyes. Not the most fun, but at least it didn't rain. Then it was just down down down the talus in the gulley, picking up our second pack on the way down, and then back to camp.
We were camp to camp in only 10 hours. Two hours to get down. I was extremely happy with the day, my biggest Valley route to date. My climbing had gotten better during the day as I got back into it. Then it was beers and wine and dinner and a sleep in the next day.
Cathy following P4
Cathy on P3/4 of EBoMC
Cathy on the bolt ladder
Gabe and Mark at the base of the bolt ladder
Cathy following P6 on the variation
El Cap, about 11:30am
Cathy belaying me on P7
El Cap about 1:30pm