Absolutely Free (5.9)


While we were a bit sore from continuous workouts over the previous five days, we were quite excited about this multipitch because it has 4 splendid 5.9 pitches and I wanted to see how many of them I can Onsight. We were a bit late leaving the Degnan’s Deli and didn’t get to the pull out until 10:30am. Since we had already done Positively 4th Street on Lower Brother, we sort of knew the way. However, this time we found a good trail. Cross the big white trunk and find the well-trodden path with the help of a couple Carins.

Large dead tree at the start of the trail.

This way :). This picture is right before the large dead tree trunk.

As we got to the base of the climb, we went left and simul climbed all the class 4 sections. There are some low angle unprotected slabs for good practice. Keep going left and find multiple tree wrap anchors to a very low angle dihedral. From here take the dihedral up to a large broken rock section. On the way down we realized that much of the class 4 section to the first big tree anchor can be a walk, find the trail to climber’s right as you get to the base of the class 4 section which matches the topo.

From the broken rock section, climb up the section as shown in the picture but from the ledge above my .3 piece there might be a way to the right which goes to a bolted anchor and it might be easier. However I did not investigate very much, at the ledge I thought I needed to go left as per Rick’s guidance from the topo but it was such an awkward lieback move that I could not do it so I decided to take the steep crack to the right as shown in the picture. That was a life saver because as I got up, I saw that the left side has no crack up above only a big swath of unprotected slab, Yikes!!!. For the first time I thought my inability to pull off an awkward move saved me from a fall/decking. This was the first impressionable moment on this climb for me. The second was at P4 while exiting the 5″ OW.

Above the steep crack, there is another unprotected slab section above a ledge, a fall here could have consequences. You will find a black leash with a ring above this slab. As I got up this slab, I was cursing, why do people hate bolts?

I belayed Rick at the black leash anchor with two finger size cams on the thin crack to the right as a backup. From here one easy down climb and traverse to the right takes you to the splendid pitches you have been waiting for.

Sandy linking P2 and P3. One of the best 5.9s so far in the season that I onsighted.

P2 probably ends at the tree shown in the picture but with a 60m rope I was able to easily link P2 and P3. The belayer might need to walk right for a bit as the leader is finishing P3.

P2 starts with a finger crack and then becomes a splitter hand crack that eats #1s, I was placing and cleaning my #1s for higher up. The leader of the party behind us started following me as I was higher up on P2 but they did a great job of keeping our ropes and gears apart, no rope or follower issues.

Another look at the splendid splitter of P2.

Start of P3 probably, yellow rope is ours.

After I belayed Rick to the top of P3, we decided to take the OW P4 but the party behind us had simul-climbed NEB of Higher Cathedral the day before, so they decided to take the Lieback P4 variation. How does one simul-climb five OW pitches was beyond my comprehension but it was amazing to know that such climbers with balls of steel do exist. Anyway, P4 OW finish was a strenuous lieback move which took me a while to figure out. Also, I learned that for 5″ OW pitches I do not need to hang my backpack. After that there was a squeeze chimney in which Rick got in and poked his head to see where to go but there was nothing obvious. So he downclimbed the squeeze chimney and went all the around to the left for a vertical finish to a small ledge with a tree. Belaying from here was painful with the massive drag and Rick sacrificed skin to protect me, my Knight in shining armor. From this belay traverse right to find the rap anchor. You will need a tagline if you bring a 60m rope.

P5: 5 ” OW with a lieback finish.

Summit shot with the Sentinel in the background.

This is the actual start of P2 from the bolted anchors which we found while rappelling.

Some class 4 romp before the last two rappels.

Overall this route has the classic alpine feeling with route finding challenges and adventure while being a relatively shorter multipitch and seven rappels compared to ten plus pitches of East Butt of Middle Cathedral, NEB of Higher Cathedral and East Butt of El Cap. We celebrated with delicious, cooked dinner at the camp and peanut butter Stouts.

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