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Classic climbs with unclassic descents Posted on 06.24.2010 by greg.kuchyt

Matt running it out on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral

After a couple rest days, we hit our main objective yesterday. The East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock (5.10c, 5.10a, or 5.9 A0), one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America. We chose the 5.10a variation and we both freed the moves on the crux pitch! We did the route (11 pitches) in 7.5 hours, 30 minutes quicker than the guidebook suggested time. The descent however…that’s another story. Let’s just say the descent off of Middle Cathedral makes all Adirondack descents look like pre-school. Armed with the guidebook’s directions we still managed to get completely lost at the top. After about an hour of aimlessly following faint signs of impact we stumbled upon a tree loaded with slings. We made the rappel and ended up on a ledge, we did some 4th/3rd class scrambling down to get to a somewhat sketchy chockstone loaded with a rat’s nest of tat and some biners. After backing up the tat with some fresh cord we made another rappel and ended up on a huge vegetated ledge where we finally picked up the proper descent path that landed us in a talus-filled gully between Higher and Middle Cathedral. Another hour or so of scree surfing and 3 rappels through polished/wet 4th class brought us back to the approach trail and after three hours we were back at the car (for reference the guidebook said a maximum of 2 hours to descend).
Today we took a rest day in Mariposa to re-hydrate and refeul for our next big objective, another member of the 50 classics, the Regular Route on Fairview Dome (5.9) in Tuolumne Meadows. We’re a little unsure at how this one will go. There is still snow up in Tuolumne (it’s at about 9,000 ft), and the guidebook says that in early season the crux of the first pitch (also the crux of the whole route) is running with water. We took a drive up there Monday with the aim of climbing the route but I bagged it before we left the car because I was exhausted and just didn’t feel up to it. We’re feeling better about it now, and hopefully it’ll go with minimal problem. It seems as long as we can get the first 4 pitches in the bag, we’ll get the route done no problem. The only issue will be the descent, a 2nd/3rd class walk-off on the backside of Fairview Dome which we aren’t sure whether or not is holding snow still. There’s only one way to find out.