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Mount Moran
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CMC Route T 
Direct South Buttress 
No Escape Buttress Smoke & Mirrors T 
No Escape Buttress, West Arete T 
North Ridge T 
South Buttress Hodini T 
South Buttress Right, Mt. Moran T 

Direct South Buttress 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C1

Type:  Aid, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1500', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a C1 [details]
FA: Richard Emerson, Don Decker, and Leigh Ortenburger
Season: summer
Page Views: 6,953
Submitted By: andrew kulmatiski on Jul 14, 2008

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the double pendulum/aid pitch near the top of the ...


An historic 11p route up a sea of granite on the South buttress of Mt. Moran. When combined with the upper ridge to the summit, this is the longest route in the lower 48. I would be surprised if there is a longer rock route in N. America. The first ascent (1953), the exposure, the paddle in, and the setting, make this a classic.
Climb (5.3) for about 400-500' up a gulley to the second ledge. This gulley is located about 100yds past some trees and the prow (though it is probably possible to climb up some 5.5 to 5.8 almost anywhere from the first to second ledges). Move west about 50-100' and climb 5.7 or 5.9 crack to another ledge system 50' above. Follow this ledge system up and west for about 300-400'. The real climbing now begins up beautiful solid granite. Two, 200' pitches can bring you to the top of a huge detached flake. From the top of the flake some 5.8/5.9 pg-13 climbing (50-75') brings you around an arete to some spectacular exposure at the double pendulum pitch. Two pendulums or an 11d traverse bring you to a 4-move aid section followed by some 4th class. The 4-move aid section can apparently be climbed free at 12a- though you would need some small finger tips. The final pitch follows an amazing handtraverse back east for about 100'. This will leave you at a large bowl with some trees and bushes. Water is sometimes available in a spring here and the rappels begin to east of the bowl.
Continuing to the summit will make this climb several times more difficult. Apparently, good route finding can allow 5.4 scrambling over about 3000' of climbing to the summit. We moved up to the ridge and soloed consistent, extremely exposed knife-edge climbing (5.6) for 1000. It appeared to me that staying below the ridge would allow easier climbing. When faced with a notch and headwall move a few hundred yards east/NE to continue to summit.


Paddle in from the String Lake canoe launch, portage to Leigh Lake then paddle to the Western corner of Leigh Lake at the mouth of Leigh Canyon (1.5hrs). Take a hiker's path from campsite 14b up the canyon (1.5hrs). Head up the scree and talus at Laughing Lions Falls. Scramble up the lower ramp for several hundred yards past a grove of trees and around the huge blunt arete of the buttress to a 5.3 gulley.
Many parties rap from the east end of the bowl at the top of the handtraverse pitch. See descent description for the South Buttress Right Route. Alternative descents can be made at a notch at the end of the long traversing section 1000' past the end of the route. This leads down a gulley to the west towards Mt. Thor (7 rappels in a loose stone chute). Apparently, moving N just above a large chockstone and the first rappel will access a gulley that can be downclimbed. From the summit the CMC route can be descended back down to Leigh Lake.


wires, large nuts, single set of cams with extra 0.75's and 2.0's. A 4 could be used, but isn't necessary. Ace axes and crampons needed for ascent and descent early in the season or in snowy years.

Photos of Direct South Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Kodachrome, gives us those nice bright colors.. Ra...
Kodachrome, gives us those nice bright colors.. Ra...
Mike traversing over the void on the DSB.
Mike traversing over the void on the DSB.
Bobby traversing the long ridge to the summit.  Th...
Bobby traversing the long ridge to the summit. Th...

Comments on Direct South Buttress Add Comment
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By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 14, 2008

Very few people summit on this route, great job! A buddy of mine who has climbed both this route and the Nose in a day told me he thought this route + CMC descent was harder to do in a day. But I think he was yanking my chain. Nonetheless, a huge undertaking.

We did the raps from the bowl, and they take longer than you might think. You need 2 ropes, and most rappels end with some scrambling to the next, and coiling 2 ropes all the time gets old fast. It's either that or drag them through the rubble.
By Drake
From: Golden, CO
Aug 25, 2008

Be very careful pulling your ropes on the rappel. A stuck rope can mean a scary solo or a cold night on a ledge.
By M.Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Mar 26, 2009

This is one of the few routes that has shut me down...twice. Both times due to weather. Even if you don't summit, the early morning canoe ride across the lake makes it worth the while.
By jon jugenheimer
From: Madison
Aug 15, 2011
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C1

Just climbed the route the other day. Some pics of the route can be found on my blog; climbs2high.blogspot.com/2011/...
By Jorge Gonzalez
From: San Gabriel, CA
Feb 13, 2012

In July, 1975, I climbed something called the "the Staircase Arete," which took three days to the summit, we bivvied on a ledge in a storm and made it to a campsite the next night, then summited the next day. I recall a long dihedral, then a traverse across an exposed face which we climbed right up the center, including a little squeeze chimney which you could tunnel through or surmount by pulling up on some jugs from the outside.

To get to it we passed through a swamp with huge downed trees that were barely passable, then crossed two creeks of swiftly moving water. I recall the climb started to the right of a huge gully by walking right on a ledge system, then pulling an overhang through a crack that split a slab by face.

The rangers almost didn't give us a permit to climb the route because it hadn't seen any activity in years. I figure it might have been a variation of the Direct South Buttress, but I have never seen any description of this climb anywhere. does anyone recognize it, and if so, have any other details of it.

It was really a highlight of my climbing career, being only twenty when I did it, and my partner the ripe old age of 14.
By Toby
From: Jackson, WY
Mar 30, 2012


In Renny's book there is a description for Staircase Arete. Looks like a fun route. It goes at 5.6 and is right of the south buttress wall.

Nice work, any old photos?
By Roy Leggett
Aug 12, 2012
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C1

Small offset cams would be the bee's knees for the first moves of aid.
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