American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Manure Pile Buttress: Nutcracker

United States, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Royal Robbins
  • Climb Year: 1967
  • Publication Year: 1968

Two years ago Yvon Chouinard discovered the remarkable potential of a 600-foot rock sitting modestly between El Capitan and the Three Brothers, a rock used as a training ground by the Park Service but largely ignored by others. Chouinard returned one evening to Camp 4 voluble about an easy route he had just found on Manure Pile Buttress (named for its proximity to a horse-dung dump). He christened his route "After Six,” for it was climbable in the coolness of a Yosemite summer evening. This pleasant route starts in a dihedral with a little tree 30 feet up, and follows (more or less) the crest of a rounded ridge all the way. The first pitch is F7, the rest easier; and one can take weaker parties around to the left to avoid the first pitch.

Last spring my wife Liz and I did "Nutcracker,” a new route of exciting and varied but never severe free climbing. Two weeks later Chouinard and I found a direct and more logical finish which rounds out the climb nicely. What is unusual about Nutcracker is that it is a 600-foot Yosemite climb and pitons are unnecessary. It can reasonably be done with nuts (artificial chockstones) and natural runners alone. The first ascent went like this: In May, we turned off onto a dirt road halfway between the Lower Brother and the east buttress of E1 Capitan and drove to the base of the rock. Starting 200 feet east of the dihedral of After Six, we scrambled up 20 feet to a tree and climbed a 50-foot jam-crack-squeeze- chimney to a good stance. Then easy face-climbing and a nut in a corner, a traverse out right and a runner on a flake and I was nose to nose with the hard part. So I fitted a so-so nut and draped a so-so runner on a so-so crystal (be brave, I thought, that’s a good runner on the flake below) and moved up. Then it was fingertips and toes across to the dihedral on the right, and easily up this corner to a good ledge, but with a belay in the corner because I did not have a 180-foot rope. The next pitch is terrific: jams, laybacks, and face-climbing for 150 feet with 7 nuts and 2 runners along the way. You can fix the stance at the end with belays through holes in the rock. Before the leader takes off on the next pitch, move the belay up 10 feet. He can use the extra rope. A good slotted nut in a little overhang starts the next pitch; 15 feet higher I slipped in a couple of little wedges which would probably hold the sort of sliding, bouncing fall one would take here slipping off the friction on the traverse, I told myself moving carefully left. I next went straight up past an overhang that required first thinking and then resolution; next it was marvelously sustained low-angle face-climbing where I could have placed twice as many nuts as I did. Reaching a small ledge bristling with quartz crystals, I climbed a bit higher to fix some nuts for the belay. Liz had some trouble on the overhang, but the rest went fine and she soon joined me. It was late and cold, and so we traversed off and went up easy rock to the top. When Yvon and I did the direct finish, he cracked the headwall in an open corner on the left—there are a couple of funny moves here— and then went slightly right and straight up. The finish is a bit thin, but if you don’t like it you can end in a bushy gully on the left. A selection of about a dozen nuts plus several runners will do. And a couple of the smallest Clog wedges are useful. Take them. NCCS II, F7.

– Royal Robbins

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