Lower Cathedral Rock 4x P300 YVF / CS

Fri, Sep 30, 2022

With: Jackie Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX
previously climbed Sat, Jun 9, 2012


Our second day in Yosemite Valley did not go as planned. We were up early enough to have After Six on Manure Pile Buttress to ourselves. As before, Jackie preferred I take the lead. I had led this first pitch back in 2012 with Adam Jantz after he had backed down from the crux. Today would be my turn to do the same after getting 40ft off the ground - it seems I'm no longer a 5.7 lead climber. I left a carabiner on a fixed nut found at the highpoint, then rapped back off. Jackie had no interest in trying herself, so we packed up and headed off for plan B.

Plan B wasn't really a plan until we were walking back to the car. I suggested we could do an obscure rope climb on the NW Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock, a route I had last done in 2012 with Matthew. Getting there would require some cross-country scrambling up through Gunsight, the impressive notch between Middle and Lower Cathedral Rocks. This would turn out to consume most of our time and effort today. Some of this was due to Jackie not being in shape for such an adventure, but a big part of it was my memory not recalling just how demanding it can be.

It took us about 10min from the start to find the first of a collection of ducks leading up to Gunsight. It would take us about 40min to reach the start of the class 3 scrambling in the steep, narrow gully. We would then spend the next hour climbing to the top of Gunsight, via a series of 4 fixed lines. After ten years, I found myself struggling more than previously, and rather than poo-pooh the ropes as I might have done previously, I welcomed each of them with enthusiastically. Once we were at the notch, I suggested we should pay Lower Cathdral Rock a visit since it's so close, easy class 2-3. Jackie wanted to rest and save her energy for the Middle Cathedral Rock climb, so she hung out in the shade of the oak trees at the notch while I went off to scramble the lower summit. It took less than 15min to work my way up the SW Face to the summit where I was treated to superb views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan and Ribbon Falls (dry this time of year).

I returned back down to Jackie half an hour after leaving her, and together we started scrambling south towards MCR. This soon turned into disappointment. The main problem was that I failed to recall where to find the start of the route. We tried several possibilities, but neither seemed to fit the bill of a 5.6 or 5.7 climb. I think I had us traversing too far to the right and missed the more direct start that I'd used in the past. And secondly, Jackie was being a good sport, but it was clear she didn't enjoy this wandering around on steep terrain, ducking through brush, and loose ground. Even if we had started the climb, it was well after 11a and it would be quite late in the day before we would finish, and I couldn't see Jackie's spirits doing anything other than deteriorate over that time. This was supposed to be fun, not epic-y. So when I suggested maybe we should cut our losses and return back down Gunsight, she readily agreed.

In hindsight, it really was the best decision. We were both able to relax now with no time constraints to worry about, and we both enjoyed the descent of Gunsight far better than the ascent. The rappels off the fixed lines were fun but not too challenging. It was nice not having to use our own rope to set these up, retrieving it afterwards and repeating. We were down the technical section in about 40min, and then a similar amount of time to scramble and hike back down to the pavement. We finished up at 1p, ready to call it a day.

We spent the afternoon at Curry Village and then Yosemite Village, whiling away the afternoon. Rather than spend a third day in the Valley as we had planned, Jackie was happy when I suggested we could do a few easy hikes in the morning and then drive home. Shortly before sunset, we headed out to Foresta and then to the National Forest lands to the west, finding a quiet campsite above 5,000ft between the two peaks we would hike in the morning. There was a nice view of the nighttime lights in the Central Valley to the west, and cell service, too, as a bonus...


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