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NW Face of MCR

NW Face of MCR

NW Face of MCR

Page Type: Route

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.71450°N / 119.6354°W

Object Title: NW Face of MCR

Route Type: Technical Rock Climb

Time Required: Most of a day

Difficulty: 5.7

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes


Page By: Bob Burd

Created/Edited: May 20, 2003 / Nov 3, 2003

Object ID: 158086

Hits: 5029 

Page Score: 72.08%  - 2 Votes 

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This is an "old school" climbing route that has fallen out of favor due to an involved approach and descent. A number of faded slings found along the route have grown taut around the trunks of trees, dating them as a decade or more in age. The views of Bridalveil Canyon and Leaning Tower are spectacular, providing some relaxing enjoyment for the belayer. The 5 pitches of climbing are a combination of face and crack climbing mixed with some scrambling.


Climb the Gunsight, a short class 4 scramble from Southside Drive. From the notch at the top, scramble under and around brush aiming for the NW side of Middle Cathedral Rock about 100 yards away. From the highest point that can be reach with class 2 scrambling, you can climb another 60 feet up the route via some class 3-4 scrambling aided by some branch holds as you climb an awkward 5-foot crack. Above this tree, scramble to the highpoint on a flake up and slightly to the right. Set up a belay anchor here.

Route Description

Starting from atop the large flakes, climb up and left on face climbing with good finger holds (5.5), aiming for a tree that comes into view once above the bulge. Your 60m rope may or may not reach the tree (we were climbing in a party of three with the following two climbers simulclimbing, so our single 60m rope didn't reach), but a decent anchor can be established on the rocks short of the tree. If short of the tree, the second can easily climb through the short distance to the tree to set up the start of the second pitch.

Start the second pitch by climbing up a wide crack, easy at first then growing harder. Above this, 5.7 face climbing is encountered as you continue up and right towards a large left-facing dihedral. Set up an anchor in nearby cracks short of the dihedral as your rope runs out.

The third pitch (5.7) starts by going up 10-15 feet, then traversing right to the inside corner of the dihedral, and following this up to a large tree. Above the tree a nice protected pocket provides an excellent belay seat. The dihedral is a dirt and munge-filled crack that doesn't accept pro well. A tiny shrub 2/3 of the way up offers the only good protection. Once the party is at the tree, scramble up 60 feet of easy climbing until stopped by another wall.

From near the top of the shrubs, climb up and slightly left on face climbing, staying just left of a left-facing corner. Follow the corner up (5.7), and when the terrain to the left is passable, traverse in that direction over to a wide, 20-foot crack that climbs well with stemming moves. Above this one can move left out of the crack and onto a fine belay ledge.

The last pitch is short, and involves easy (5.3) face climbing with good friction to the start of the next scramble section. 30-40min of class 3 scrambling with some bushwhacking leads to the summit of Middle Cathedral Rock.

To exit, one can climb down to Bridalveil Creek to the west and then back up to, and down the Gunsight. Alternatively, one can climb down to the south, up to Higher Cathedral Rock, and down Cathedral Gully.

Essential Gear

60m rope with medium pro. Cams worked for most of the protection we placed on the route, with several conveniently placed trees for solid belay anchors.


The NW Face route on Middle... Dave and Michele... Michele and Dave...The belay tree at the top of... Dave heads up the second... Michele heads up the first...