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Overhang Bypass, Lower Cathedral Peak, Yos NP

By James Jay Klavetter. 1995/05/25.

Tuan's note: As of May 1999, the KDF is gone, instead there is a tan rock scar. This raises significantly the rating of the pitch (and of the climb). I completed the traverse with a very reachy 5.8 move, but I am 6' tall. My second, who is 5'4 couldn't do it. There are not too many options for gear at this point, all I was able to get in was a #1 nut. The move is rather intimidating, and at first I considered aiding using it, but then thought that it was a dubious piece. When my second tried to use it, it pulled out. Also, we did the 5.6 variation before the last pitch. It looks pretty good at the begining, but just before the crack I found it scary ! We stayed on the left in the Gunsight, and had to do 3 rappels, all of them could been done with a single rope.

*KDF == Killer Death Flake

First and foremost, Overhang Bypass is a GREAT climb, well deserving of the stars given to it in Reid's book and more. EVERY pitch, with the exception of the approach pitch(es) is wonderful and something new and varied from the last pitch! Although this post is a mini-trip report, the real impetus for writing is to ask about the KDF.

Overall, I can't believe that this is a more popular climb. Sure, there is a bit of an approach and decent, but this is varied and great climbing in a great place with great exposure and you get to see Bridalveil falls before it becomes a falls. It is moderate enough for any competant/safe climber to do without major problems and it has some great views. Normally, I wouldn't post about such a climb, but (besides the KDF question), this is a good example of how to get away from the crowds even in a place like Yosemite valley. And although it could be argued I might destroy the isolation with such a post, I know that most people who go to the valley don't want to deal with something that is so "remote" from their car, so I'm not worried about it being crowded.

From the parking area, you just go up and up and up in a straightforward direction (you can see the route from the car) until you figure it is time to rope up. If you follow the topo in Reid's book, you have two short 5.4 pitches until you get to the first great pitch, which I'll call the Hog's Trough pitch. The first thing you do is traverse under a big roof. Amazing exposure, yet pretty easy climbing, even if it looks a bit intimdating! Then you go around the roof and end up in the Hog's Trough (that's what the book calls it): a classic layback with good pro.

Next pitch is the KDF (Killer Death Flake) pitch. Last year, someone posted about this flake on Overhang Bypass that he didn't like at all (sorry, I didn't keep the original post so I don't know the name). Well, both Mike (my partner) and I remembered this. Unfortunately, he led this pitch and didn't like the flake at all. Consider a diamond cross section about 7-9 feet tall with a width of between 9-12 inches with it resting on one point of the diamond and having one more point of contact with the rock on its face. That is somewhat like the KDF. Unfortunately, you can't really test the flake since if you do, it would come down crashing on not only you, but your rope and probably your partner. Realistically, if I would have been leading, I probably just would have jumped on it, and gone. But Mike got me thinking and of course that is a BAD THING. So we looked around and to make a long story short(er) (in fact, we spent a LONG time looking for alternate routes and it was one of the reasons we came out in the dark), we finally decided to go straight up (and a little to the R) from the belay tree at the top of the Hog's Trough pitch. When I returned, I couldn't find the original post that got us spooked about the KDF, but I did find a post from Tim Schneider saying that he didn't even remember it being loose, probably b/c Greg (Opland) led that pitch. So I guess my question is probably answered, but I'll still ask: has anyone led that pitch within the last year or three and was it seemingly safe to you? Does it sound like anything has changed?

So the next pitch turned out to be my first (real) first ascent (pitch). I'll call it the off-route pitch. I won't give any details about the climbing, in case someone else wants to have the pleasure of having their first first-ascent there, but I'll say that the pro is ok to good and if it isn't, move right and head for the pine tree above about 1/2 rope length above. I took a long time to climb it and would have rated it 5.9, but Mike said it was "only" 5.8+. Either way, another wonderful pitch with good exposure and varied climbing, although admittedly harder than the 5.7 rating of the climb.

The next pitch, the layback and mantle pitch, was a solid 5.7. Unfortunately, there were a couple of semi-loose bits where I didn't want to place pro, but mostly it was ok. Good mantles!

The next pitch, the 2nd to last and I'll call it the hand-traverse pitch, was a bit of a surprise. In the topo, it just says, "5.7 move" so we thought it would be one move and done. Turns out, you have to do a 5.6-7 hand traverse for 25 feet or so and then pull up into a corner which is also 5.7 or so! The fun wasn't done. I also led this pitch and climbed the corner using dihedral techniques, although Mike did it as a layback (which I couldn't do b/c I backed up the piton with gear and had little room for my hands).

The final pitch is rated 5.4, but is a weird 5.4 and you have to watch out for rope drag.

Most trip reports would end there, but I think a few words about the decent are in order (and usually are, since it is usually the hardest part of any climb, I find). Basically, if you don't want to head to the top of Lower Cathedral or down to the swimming hole, just traverse right the easist way possible, neither gaining or losing much elevation. Eventually, we had to go down a little due to manzanita, but we were just below the gunsight notch and climbed easily up to it. The decent down the gully, like all gullies was loose. This one was also steep, so the wrong sized thing could go a LONG way before it shattered. Lots of 4th class downclimbing and luckily, there were 2 rap stations above the worst of the steepness (1st was 2 bolts with a nut backup and 2nd was some slings behind a slimy rock jammed in which I backed up with a #2 tricam).

13 hours from car to car. OK, so I never said we were fast! We made a couple of mistakes, didn't hurry, and had LOTS of wasted time around and b/c of the KDF, which I now believe we could have just gone over ok. My guess is that for solid 5.7 climbers, you could easily slash 5 hours off the time and maybe more for the hardcore.

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