We arrived in the parking lot for Moro Rock at 7:00am on a warm clear morning. From here a tourist trail blasted out of the rock will take you up about 400 steps to the summit. We thought we could find a more challenging alternative, and headed downhill through the brush and loose sand and leaves. The descent took an hour, with some loose rock, a bit of bushwacking, and the awesome East Face looming above us.
I had scouted the start of the route on a previous trip. As shown in the guidebook the route starts at a small pine tree, that requires a bit of bushwacking and loose gully scrambling. From the tree, the initial moves are super exposed and unprotected. So we decided to take a variation that isn't shown in the guidebook, starting up the very toe of the buttress in a left facing corner. The bonus is we get two extra pitches for free.
Pitch 1: The first pitch is fun. You go up the corner, until a small roof, place a #4 camalot under the root, then move left around the roof and you can place a yellow Alien. A few more moves that might be 5.8 then surmount a knob at the top and belay. Bring second up and have him move down ten feet and setup a stance. There were two long runners around the top of the pedastel. (Photo of Paul belaying from the pedastel).
Pitch 2: Straddle the pedastel then carefully step down, move one or two moves up the corner, till you get a #2.5 Friend under the lieback flake. Instead of continuing up the lieback, I stepped right and balanced up some edges and flake tops, then easier climbing another 25 feet to a belay at a bush.
Pitch 3: From the bush easier climbing up cracks, flakes, and knobs. The hardest move was climbing through a bush while wearing the backpack. The belay at the top of pitch 3 is about 50 ft above the 8' pine tree that marks the start of the "regular" route.
Pitch 4: With some trepidation I lead out left to a crack splitting the face. It protects well, but it's not an easy crack. It's not deep, so you can't really get good jams. Luckily it's not too steep. At the top of the first crack I got a good yellow Alien placement, then I could reach up to slot a nut in the start of the adjoining crack. The move between the cracks seemed too difficult for me, so I yarded on the nut and was able to reach higher for a handhold. More tenuous crack climbing up to a tiny single branch 18" tall bush where I got a good hex placement. The angle eases off, and I continued another 30 feet to a belay ledge. The ledge has a bush and a rock with some old rappel slings. I breathed a sigh of relief as I clipped in and relaxed and concentrated on slowing my heartbeat as Paul cleaned the pitch.
Pitch 5: Paul made quick work of this pitch. Up the corner, pro is a bit sparse, nuts in the corner. Probably 5.7. The top of the buttress is about 80 feet up. Then another 80 feet of low angle slab (3rd class) to some overhangs. Belay in an alcove below a chimney.
Pitch 5.5: Paul spotted me as I worked up the 10 foot chimney move.
There's a lovely lunch ledge here. We arrived at noon and had a snack and drank a bunch of water. The weather was great: warm, but with a breeze to keep us from frying. Very high cirrus clouds to keep the sun from being too intense.
Next we had to bushwack through the "Jungle" ledge shown on the topo.
Route finding isn't obvious. Although you can get a good view of the upper
pitches, you can't really see where they start. Paul beat his way left
and up through very dense bushes.
I stayed lower and found easier passage through a tunnel in the bushes and then moved left. However, I found myself at the base of a trough that was about 5.5 and had to delicately maneuver over a bush about 20 feet up.
At the top of the trough there's a big jumble of boulders and we couldn't tell any obvious line. We wandered back looking up chimneys and couldn't see any signs of other climbers. So we decided to start back where we came up the trough.
Pitch 6: There is a crack that looks easy but is actually kind of delicate that goes up 20 feet or so, and then move left onto a ramp. From there it's fourth class zig zag along ledges and ridges. After 100 feet you can see the upper pitches and can figure out where you need to go. I tried to get in good position (directionally) for the next pitch. I pretty much ran out the rope and had a standing belay in dishes below a crack with a #4 Camalot, #1 Camalot for anchors.
Pitch 7: Amazing staircase ledges, about 8 inches wide. They are perfectly level, square cut ledges, it's literally a staircase. Then turns into knobs. Super fun climbing for about 80 feet, up to a corner. Good pro under the corner. Turning the corner is pretty hard, 5.8 I think. Then with your right leg in a wide crack you shimmy up a move or two. Then comes the crux. You have to move up out of the crack onto knobs. The exposure is very daunting. The pro is pretty good. But the moves are tough, left foot on knobs right smack on edge of the dropoff. Strenous to pull yourself up out of the crack onto the knobs. Then make a few balancy moves on knobs without much handholds. Very airy at this point! (Photo of John standing on knob.) Then there is a small projection that you can loop a sling over for a marginal placement. Using the projection for a handhold you have to make a long step left to a foothold and then step into the deep corner. Thrilling! I started calling Paul "Mr. Air" after he led this pitch.
Pitch 8: Squeeze chimney moves for 20 feet or so. Not really difficult. Feels secure. Just slow going, inch at a time moves. Then the cracks split off, and stepping into the left crack is much easier. A long fun easy fifth class pitch. I found two belay bolts on a ledge below the "5.6 ramp".
Pitch 9: Runout! Climb straight up the face on 5.6 - 5.7 climbing about 70 feet with no pro! It's low angle but sustained. You could climb the corner further left, but it looks dirty and would need gardening to get any pro. And it looked a bit harder. Paul went all the way right to the knobby headwall. It turns to vertical knob climbing. Mostly knob slinging for pro. About 40 feet of super awesome, dead vertical, exposed climbing on an arete, right smack to the top. Fantastic! Photo of Paul leading the arete. Luckily a crack appears right at the top. There's a #4 Camalot placement that's very reassuring, then a few feet more and you're at the top. Belay from pro in the crack. This pitch reminded me of Traveler's Buttress at Lover's Leap.
Pitch 10: Fourth class up and right, to a big flat unroping area. From the unroping area there is another 700 feet of third class scrambling to the summit. We arrived at the top about 4:30 p.m. Photo of Paul and John on summit.
A superb climb with route finding challenges, terrific views, and varied climbing. Challenging and exhilirating.
Moro Rock seen from the west. The South Face route ascends the right skyline.