Central Pillar Of Frenzy – Middle Cathedral (5.9)


After coming to the end of 4 years of engineering school, the last 1.5 of which were spent in an impromptu home office/lab learning through Zoom and many, many books provided through the generosity of LibGen, it was time to let life slow down a bit. As soon as exams and projects were done, we hit the road for Yosemite, loading up the Honda Insight completely with clothes, gear, and snacks, and setting our sights south.

Camping in a North Californian BLM viewpoint in ranch country on day 1, we got up early and continued the drive, arriving at the gates of Yosemite in the heat at noon with around 100 other cars. Never ones to waste an opportunity, we immediately set our sights on something we could do with minimal approach in half a day.

The start of the Central Pillar, with intense heat and snow juxtaposed together.

The Central Pillar of Frenzy is one of the highest rated free 5.9’s in the valley, and seemed like the perfect warmup. The fact the climb is featured in The Trad Climber’s Bible was icing on the cake. At the base we met Chris, one of the volunteer climbing stewards working for the summer in the valley, and tried to steal as much beta as possible watching his partner lead the first pitch.

Heading up the first pitch was reminiscent of Leavenworth or City of Rocks, with most of the friction removed. It even made our normal hangout in the Lower Gorge seem sticky in comparison. I quickly learned to only bother with the right wall for balance, since my feet ended up skating off unexpectedly when it was used.

The pitch 1 corner, and also how never to place pro. That unextended .75 allowed me to turn a straight up and down pitch into a dragfest.

I probably placed too much pro on this pitch, but I was not eager to ping-pong down the corner system trying to learn a new rock type. After 60+ feet of beautiful crack, a short slabby traverse takes you to the anchors and the start of the next pitch.

Sandy about to leave the crack for the face traverse to the pitch 1 anchor.

The second pitch started with easy broken terrain, which turned into finger jams before petering out and a traverse over to a beautiful strenuous finger crack leading up the rest of the pitch to the anchors.

The start of pitch 2.

Just before the top the crack widens and a second crack appears off to the left, allowing for some bear-hugging and placing larger gear in the run up to the anchors.

Another comfy belay ledge at the pitch 2 anchors.

Pitch 3 begins the 5.8 section of the climb, with amazing stress-free hand jams leading up to a small roof.

One of the people on a team ahead of us had been grunting and screaming for an extended period of time going over this roof, so I was expecting something intense for the grade. When I got there, however, the rock was so featured it mainly consisted of a series of stem rests leading to a solid hand jam, which let you pull over the roof.

Moving into the roof.
The Instagram Shot, brought to you by artificial intelligence savant Sandy Dash.

The transition into the next section of fists was slightly awkward however, and required a balancy move establishing yourself. From there it was bomber fist jams with hand jams deeper in the crack for the 40+ feet to the anchor. Unfortunately I left the #4 about half way through this section, and had to run it out to the end of the crack and the slab move to the anchor.

A section of the consistant #4 crack above the roof.

Pitch 4 was an fun and short cruise up a series of hand cracks and bear hugs on parallel cracks. This pitch ended up being quite a bit shorter than the topo suggested, and also quite a bit easier.

Leading off into the bearhug of pitch 4.
Sandy enjoying the few moves of thin hands at the top of the bearhug.

The last pitch of 5.6 was a fun, nearly full rope length pitch. The 5.6 layback and moves near the top were surprisingly tenuous, being slopey with not great jams.

Starting up the fifth and final pitch.

Once we tagged the summit we drank the rest of our water and busted out our new static line for the 5 rappels back to the ground, which were completed in short order.

Back on the ground, we were introduced to the Yosemite ravens, who had opened up every zipper in our bags and taken out everything, spewing wag bags and ibuprofen around on the ground (but the food was in the bear box!).

My feelings on climbing, driving, and not eating a meal all day.
First proper shot of Yosemite from the top of p5 of the Central Pillar. Looks interesting…
The place which would become our new favorite swimming hole.

After an evening car camping, we took a leisurely wade through the Merced and explored Yosemite, before hopping on some harder single pitch cracks in preparation for our next adventure.

Recovering the next morning with lentil chips, before going to find Jamcrack.
We took a longer walk over to single pitch at Sunnyside Bench / Yosemite Falls Amphitheater the next day by passing through Camp 4. This is the first boulder I’ve seen that looks incredibly fun, definitely something I’d like to come back to in a few years.

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