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BETA PHOTO: Looking up at Awful Buttress from the Bivouac ledg...
This route probably falls under the category of "Adventure Climbs". Route-finding for the first few pitches can be difficult, and the straightforward upper pitches involve grunting through chimneys, wrestling off-widths, clawing over bushes, delicately treading over balanced boulders, and some lichen covered rock. If all this hasn't sunk in yet, there's the name of the buttress itself...
Pitch 1-2, 250ft: Some variations, one of which is climbing 100 ft up a blackened corner to a nice ledge with a small tree. Off to the left of the ledge is a broad sloping ramp. From the ledge, angle up and right following mossy cracks, or traverse right for 50-100 ft and find a weakness in the rock above to gain the "Bivouac ledge", a large vegetated ledge. Many of the routes on the NE face start from this ledge and share the first few pitches with this route.
Pitch 3, 60ft: Take the large crack system at the back of the left (North) side of the Bivouac ledge which starts off chimney like up to a small chock-stone, at which point there are some good face holds off to the left which allow escape from the corner. Continue past an awkward bulge to a comfortable ledge off to the left. Build an anchor with small wires using a tiny seam at the back of the ledge.
Pitch 4, 60 ft: Probably the dirtiest pitch. Fight past vegetation over stacked flakes which are jammed into the crack-system. After 30 ft, choose between a squeeze chimney stright-up, or a crack system to the right. The crack on the right is dirty. It also is formed behind a pillar of rock which may not be that well attached to the cliff, although you don't realize this until you get to its top. At which point delicate face moves are required to regain the corner system.
Pitch 5, 120 ft: Crux pitch. Start up the chimney and gain the large chock-stone, then break onto the face on the right and up an off-width crack. A small seam to the right of the off-width offers some additional holds and protection (piton and old 1/4" bolt). After a rest-stance, the off-width continues up for another 40 ft to the top of the buttress.
The top of the buttress is a sharp ridge dropping down into Boyer's Chute to the south. 400 ft of 4rth class scrambling are required to gain the summit.
Awful buttress is located on the North West face of the NRE. Approach from Rabbit Ears canyons and take the first prominent gully which leads SE to the base of the NW face.
There are rappel anchors that can be found at the top of the route. These drop you into Boyer's Chute with a double-rope rappel.
Large cams (#3 camelot and bigger) are reassuring but not required if you're comfortable in large cracks. Aside from the piton and bolt on P5, no fixed gear is found on this climb.
Southwest Mountaineers Description
Approach by the prominent gully in Rabbit Ears Canyon which leads southwest to the base of the northwest face. Go to the far left corner of the northwest face, only 100 yards or so from the Cwm, and traverse right some 100' to the first belay spot.
The first pitch goes up an easy slab. Then go right up over some bushy ledges and moss foot holds to the base of a short, wide crack provided with a loose chock stone about 15' up. Jam up this, which lands you on the spacious Bivouac Ledge (so named because Dick Ingraham spent a chilly and unexpected night there on an early unsuccessful first ascent try.)
The pitches described to this ledge serve many routes. At the back of the concave middle third of the northwest face of the North Rabbit Ear, there are two great crack systems. The larger, right-hand one serves the Pea Pod Route and, at its top, the Chimney Variation of the Awful Buttress Route. The left-hand, smaller crack system is the way of this route. Bulging out between them is the Awful Buttress itself.
Take to the left-hand crack system getting onto a steep slab to its left just above a chock stone (the belay stance) and conquer a small awkward overhand. Then go up an easy pitch composed of vertical flakes. Above this is an excruciatingly narrow squeeze chimney which can be elegantly avoided by passing on the right, then crossing back left on the top of a large loose-looking flake to a tiny grassy foothold. Above this a little way is the Garden, a small plot of greenery scooped out of this airy wall.
The next pitch is the crux. Chimney up the flaring crack at the rear of the Garden to a chock stone, then face out, take a wide chimney stance, and vault onto the Buttress itself. Mount a few feet, which brings you to a slab split by a wide, bottomless, hold-less jam crack. Jam up this, using cross pressures as much as possible, with the right foot against a small crack up the middle of the slab. Exit oozing at the top (about 12 to 15 feet up) to the right, using a minuscule flake for a right foothold, and some imaginary finger holds, and remembering not to fall.
This was the original route. A variation continues up the jam crack several more feet to safety. Another variation goes up a shallow groove in the middle of the slab, possibly using a sling in the convenient bolt there for an aid step. (The bolt provides pretty good protection also for the jam-crack lead.)
Continue up exposed nontrivial blocks to a good belay spot under a sort of a roof. From here, swing out onto small holds and get into a steep narrow crack, which ends at a narrow platform. An awkward chimneying move for a few more feet (or a little friction slab around the corner to the right) lands you on a spacious level area marking the top of the difficult middle third of the Face. All northwest face routes end up here.
The last third of the northwest face lies back in a long series of third and forth class slabs. Mount to the summit this way or use the fixed rappel point one pitch up which (with a double-rope rappel) puts you at the bottom of the Chimney in Boyer's Chute. If you go to the top, drop down the South Face on an easy ramp to the rappel point (two fixed pins). A 120' rappel lands you in a spacious, scooped out place on the south face. Coil the ropes and free climb down to a good big rock bollard about 60 feet above the NRE-MRE col. A single rope rappel from the bollard lands you on the col. Thank Gerch and descend by Rabbit Ear Canyon. (Modern note: there are now bolts for the second rap.)
Chimney Variation, Class 5.6
First ascent: George Goedecke and Dick Ingraham
Follow the Awful Buttress Route to the Garden. Then traverse around the Buttress at this point on a surprisingly good ledge. This puts you into the large right-hand crack system at the base of a very tight, overhanging squeeze chimney. Fight your way up this, then climb easier rock to the narrow ridge of the spur which separates Boyer's Chute from Surprise Buttress. From there drop down some 12' into Boyer's Chute and climb back up a short crack system (which forms part of the last pitch of the Chute Route) to the "spacious level area."
BETA PHOTO: Awful Buttress topo
By Karl Kiser
Sep 18, 2010
The Awful Buttress variation went up several chimney pitches and is probably the chimney variation mentioned above (5.7). Then there is a belay on a steep ridge of rock near the top. The Pea Pod variation pitch (5,8) is a steep relatively short off width pitch to the left. The end of this pitch would place one a bit below the top of North Rabbit Ear.