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East Buttress 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1000', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Bob Brinton, Glen Dawson, Richard Jones, Howard Koster, Muir Dawson, September 1937
Season: June-September
Page Views: 34,030
Submitted By: Nick Wilder on Jan 23, 2006

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Mt. Whitney's East Buttress, just below the Peewee...

Description 

The premier moderate route in the Whitney Area.

Day 1 Hike to Iceberg Lake. Day 2 Do climb. Day 3 Hike back to Whitney Portal.

Eleven fairly consistent pitches on excellent rock. The route starts up a scree slope where you head to left-facing corner on the right side of the "second tower", which is directly on the east buttress.

It's pretty easy to stay on route - don't stray far from the true buttress. If it's obviously harder than 5.7, look around and get back on route.

p1. Easy climbing up the corner. 5.5-5.6
p2. Nice face climbing. 5.6-5.7.
p3-5. wander around the buttress taking whatever line looks best. Head for the left side of "the peewee" - a huge roof/block that looks rather ominous. 4th-5.6
p6. up the left side of the peewee. usually dark and cold. Feels good to get on top of it. 5.6
p7-11. cracks and blocks that generally trend left. The more left you go, the sooner you'll hit a talus field and start walking to the top. Climbing stays easy right on the buttress, with a few boulder problems to overcome.

Top out, dazzle the crowd that hiked up the Whitney Trail and listen to their cell phone calls (golly gee honey - you won't believe where I'm calling from...).

Protection 

I brought about 5 cams, up to a #2 Camalot. 2 full sets of nuts, and lots of long slings. Lots of natural anchors and ledges.

Descent 

Descend the Mountaineers Route.


Photos of East Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
John Fujii pauses on the crest. Iceberg Lake below.
John Fujii pauses on the crest. Iceberg Lake below...
Roping up at the start of the route.
Roping up at the start of the route.
Fun shot of Peewee on the East Buttress.
Fun shot of Peewee on the East Buttress.
Brett leads the 5.7 piton-protected variation above the 2nd Tower.
Brett leads the 5.7 piton-protected variation abov...
Mt Whitney at sunrise.   East Buttress is clearly visible on the right side of the picture.
Mt Whitney at sunrise. East Buttress is clearly ...
Duke soloing high on the East Buttress.
Duke soloing high on the East Buttress.
Straight down the buttress. Camp at Icerberg Lake below.
Straight down the buttress. Camp at Icerberg Lake ...
rippled slab is the first 5.7 section
BETA PHOTO: rippled slab is the first 5.7 section
looking over to Russell
looking over to Russell
looking up at the E Buttress
looking up at the E Buttress
On the approach to the East Buttress.
On the approach to the East Buttress.
Pinnacle Ridge
Pinnacle Ridge
Mike Morley and Jeff Crow atop Mt. Whitney after summiting the East Buttress on a bluebird day in late May, 2002.
Mike Morley and Jeff Crow atop Mt. Whitney after s...
Around the 4th pitch. Fun slabs ahead.
Around the 4th pitch. Fun slabs ahead.
Jonny pulls down on the right side of the Peewee. Photo by Brett Barrett.
Jonny pulls down on the right side of the Peewee. ...
flakes around P4/5
flakes around P4/5
Jeff Crow approaches the belay on one of the upper pitches of Whitney's East Buttress in late May, 2002.
Jeff Crow approaches the belay on one of the upper...
top of the 20' tower (marked on Supertopo)
top of the 20' tower (marked on Supertopo)
Orange dihedral pitch on East Buttress, Mt Whitney. Photo courtesy Bill McConachie
Orange dihedral pitch on East Buttress, Mt Whitney...
Seth on lead.
Seth on lead.
2 climbers on top of the 2nd tower
2 climbers on top of the 2nd tower
looking down on the 1st pillar
looking down on the 1st pillar
run-off
run-off
Melody Wong having fun on the crest.
Melody Wong having fun on the crest.

Show All 59 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on East Buttress Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 24, 2014
By Chris Owen
Administrator
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Mar 20, 2006

Pitch 3-5 and 6 above; I headed for the right side of the Peewee, and passed it on the right.
By Floridaputz
From: Oakland Park, Florida
Aug 21, 2006

This is an outstanding route. Much more 5th class climbing than the East Face. You can start off right at the 1st Tower (start of E Face) and do a 5.8 inside corner, or go around the base of the buttress (N) to the standard start. There are variations all over this route, but staying on the Buttress is probably the most fun. I was most struck by the amazing rock formations, great belays and outsanding views.
By Mike
From: Phoenix
Sep 18, 2006

We did this route, as a party of 4, car to car in 24 hours. Although I don't remember exactly, we needed much less than the listed 11 pitches- more like 6 or 7 with a little simul-climbing thrown in.
By 426
Mar 6, 2007

Classic, fun route. FP's description is right on. Watch where you traverse. You can also top out direct on the summit through some devious overhangs right near the top. 5.9?? maybe more like 5.10.
By Josh Hibbard
From: Los Angeles Area, CA
Mar 26, 2007

I climbed this a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Supertopo makes a very good route description and diagram for detailed beta(as does the description above).I do remember reaching a huge block on the final pitch of which the only feature was a crack system to the top of the block. My friend went up the crack and thought it to be more like 5.9, not 5.7. My partner and I took an airy step around the left side of the block (climbers left) and the move was not more than 5.7 and was easily protected (for the leader, at least).
I would recommend this route as a classic Sierra climb.
By Buzz Burrell
Aug 5, 2007

Did this today; not what I expected. It was 4th class, with four 25' sections of 5th class. Long way to haul a rope for that. Good rock though, and great scenary and position.
By Chris Owen
Administrator
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Aug 7, 2007

That's not how I remember it Buzz.
By vic madrid
Jan 21, 2008

Bill McConachie & I did the East Buttress route in a day from Whitney Portal at the end of last summer (2007). We left WP at 4 am and arrived at Iceberg Lake around ~ 9am, started climbing around 10 am, and reached the summit at 6 pm. We went v. light...our packs (including rack & rope) weighed 18 lbs (mine) & 22 lbs (Bill's). We used a 50 meter, 9 mm rope with a modest rack of cams, stoppers, carabiners, and lots of slings. We took rock shoes, helmet, & head lamp each. For clothing I brought long pants, parka, gloves, long sleeve synthetic shirt, wool cap & approach shoes. We were fortunate to have excellent weather. For food we brought crackers, cheese, salami, energy bars, chocolate, and dried mango. We carried a H20 pump w/filter, so we started the approach from WP with only 1 liter H20 each. When we arrived at Iceberg Lake we filtered 2 L each for the climb. The water filter, light rack, and good weather were the keys to success.

The E Buttress starts very close to the start of the E Face route, near the Tower Traverse. Basically you're looking up at the left side of the 2nd Tower at the start. Check out the SuperTopo for this route...it is fairly accurate. The climbing is easy to moderate but exposed with 4 or 5 pitches in the 5.6 to 5.7 range.

We descended the Mountaineer's route and filtered H20 again for the hike out. The Mountaineer's route is basically a gully of flowing talus (i.e., it sucks). The Ebersbacher ledges are fairly straightforward to go up, even in the dark, but descending these ledges in the dark is another story. You have to be very careful and we ended up retracing our steps several times before we made it down these ledges. It took us all night to get back to WP in the dark. In retrospect we should have descended via the hiking trail from the summit not the Mountaineer's route. I'm sure we would have made it back to WP by midnight. Instead we arrived back at WP at ~5 am the next morning.

Get fit, Go light, Be safe, Have fun!
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Feb 16, 2008

My notes from 2002:

- 5.5 hr approach from Whitney Portal to Iceberg Lake via N. fork of Lone Pine Creek

- 5.5 hrs on route (5 x 60m pitches + 300' 3rd class)

- 1.5 hr descent via Mountaineer's Route w/o crampons
By Dennis
Jul 2, 2008

Duke Cutter and I climbing the East Buttress last week. Permits were easy to obtain at the Lone Pine office mid-week. Be sure to ask for North Fork permits.

6/24: Hiked to Boy Scout lake with 45 pound packs. 3 hours.

6/25: Climbed East Butt of Whitney on 6/25. 2 hours approach to base of climb, 3.5 hours on the route with some simul climbing and soloing, 2 hour descent back to Boy Scout Lake.

6/26: Climbed Fishhook Arete on Russell and hiked back to the car. 3 hour approach, 5 hours on the route, 2 hour descent down the 3rd class East Ridge, 2 more hours to the car.

Highly recommend this 3 day itinerary.

The supertopo is helpful for general landmarks on the East Buttress, but we found it to be otherwise useless. We passed 3 parties on the first pitch via the 5.8 variation (though didn't find the pitons as listed on Supertaco). This variation is fun and the rock is relatively solid. However, on the rest of the route the rock is suspect in many places, breaking off on occasion and falling from above as well. Bring your helmet!

Overall a fun adventure, though perhaps not as aesthetic as Fishhook Arete.
By TylerW
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 12, 2010

much better than east face, IMO. a great route.
By Dan L
From: ZION
May 12, 2012

Day 1 - 7 hour approach to Iceberg Lake
Day 2 - Climbed Pitches 1-8, Simul climbed pitches 9-11 with some interesting route finding, 8 hours on route; Descended the Mountaineers Route and hiked back to WP in 2.5 hours from Iceberg.
By Chris D
From: the couch
Jun 13, 2012
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

What Buzz said.

It's a spectacular position, and the rock is outstanding. The views are mind-boggling, and the climbing is quality; it's just not very hard.

P1 was some sustained easy fifth, then the rest of the climb was 4th and 3rd interspersed with fun, casual low-fifth class moves. All of the harder moves are easy to protect and a fall would usually land you on a big ledge.

The "5.7, poor pro" face climbing at the start of P3 that everyone gets excited about is good, but the climbing is easy with lots of crystals and features to climb on. The "5.7 Fingers" called out on P7 of the supertopo is actually probably the crux of the path we took, but still goes at under 5.7 if you use everything available to you.

All in all, very positive holds abound, and there are many options as you ascend the buttress. If you're competent at 5.6 and lead lots of trad routes below 5.7 including multipitch, there is no reason why you can't do this route from rope-up to summit in 5 hours, swinging leads with no simulclimbing.
By Anfarwal
From: Denver, CO
Jul 11, 2012
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Did the car-to-car last weekend. Started the hike in at 1am and got to iceberg lake by 6:30pm, weather was perfect; barely any wind. Topo was right on for the approach; we had no problems with the ledges and following the cairns up from upper boy scout to iceberg.

Took 2L on the hike in and refilled at iceberg lake with a filter. Like vic, we went light--60M rope, 2 sets of nuts (although we used only 1 set), doubles of 0-3 in TCU/master cams (could have just brough 1 set), doubles of 0.75-#2 BD cams, lots of slings. For clothes: long pants, long sleeve wicking shirt, R1, nano puff and soft shells, liner gloves, wool hat, buff and approach shoes, socks with our climbing shoes, hiking poles (for me, bad knees). Walkie-talkies were a must, and we had a GPS. Once the mountain went into the shade (2pm), the temps dropped into the 30's, and every with all of the layers I was still pretty cold. I had to do it again, I'd probably bring a down sweater too, and probably add another 0.5 L of water.

Fantastic climb with great views; route is generally mellow with a crux on every pitch except the last 2 (which is 4th and 5th class). We had some route-finding issues that made this climb longer, especially when we were trying to get over the summit blocks. I got surprised a few times (like on pitch 5, I barely made it to the belay ledge for pitch 6 with a 60M rope).We topped out late in the day, and took the Mt. Whitney Trail down to avoid doing mountaineer's at night. We had some issues on the hike down (altitude related), so the easier trail for us was the right decision, although it took forever to get down (the switchbacks are a knee buster!)
By 46and2
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jul 23, 2012
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

We got caught in a very nasty storm (unexpected and NOT in the forecast....but hey this is the Sierra) on this route a couple years ago; freezing water running down the cracks makes it much more spicey and interesting. Watch the weather! :-)
By Nelson Day
From: Joshua Tree, CA
Sep 4, 2012
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Brutal approach. 4,300 feet elevation gain in 4 miles at elevation. The climb is totally worth it. This is the most beautiful area I have ever climbed in. Every pitch has breath taking views with excellent position. The climbing is not very sustained, but there are a few 5.7 places. We climbed this with a 70m rope and I was able to link pitches 6&7. Pitch 5 is a rope stretcher as mentioned by someone - a 60m rope is highly recommended for this pitch. Pitch 5 is about 200 feet long.

At the top of pitch 7 (after an amazing flake), I mistakenly went halfway up the offwidth pitch, which goes straight up from the belay. I didn't have enough large gear to feel comfortable on it, so I down led it. The actual pitch 8 goes to the left up much easier (5.6-5.7) terrain. You should feel comfortable running out 5.7 for this climb - there are a few places that don't offer much protection, but the climbing never gets harder than 5.7. Except maybe at the top where you can "choose your own adventure" climb to the summit on the last pitch.

I took a full metolius rack and a #0.75, #1, #2, and #3 BD camalot. I placed the #3 on almost every pitch; very useful. The pro seems to be mostly in the .5-3" range. I placed a nut on every pitch as well. I took 14 slings, which was too much, but I didn't place much gear. Probably 3-4 pieces per pitch, except for pitches 6 and 7, on which I didn't place any gear except for the anchor.

Hiking down the mountaineer's route was my least favorite part of this whole experience. The whole route is loose with large rocks that could kill someone if dislodged with someone below. Be careful. Some relatively easy downclimbing on the mountaineer's route is required. Not anything worse than the average walk off in Joshua Tree, though. The descent down the mountaineer's route took about 1 1/2 hours back to Iceberg Lake.

We set our alarm for 5:00 AM at Iceberg lake and left our campsite as the sun was coming up at 6:00 AM. The approach to the base of the climb took about 45 minutes. Take your time; you will burn out at elevation if you push the approach too hard. We started climbing at about 7:15 and topped out at 12:30, and weren't pushing ourselves too hard. No point - the climbing is spectacular and the views are breath taking. Take your time on this route, it is worth taking some extra time to admire your surroundings and appreciate the climb!

Make sure you make a note where the approach crosses the creek at the 2nd creek crossing. We walked past it and had to go back up the slab, which was strenuous after a full day of climbing. The crossing is NOT obvious. Our GPS was the only thing that saved us in the end from wandering around trying to find the crossing. It took us about an hour of blundering around to find the crossing on the way down. I definitely recommend trecking poles for the descent. Going downhill over loose skree and ankle breaker sized rocks requires a lot of concentration, and the trecking poles were almost necessary. Especially when you have a 50 lb pack on your back. I slightly rolled my ankle at 11,000 feet on the descent, which got my heart going.

Both me and my partner carried packs to the top with 3L of water each. I ran out of water right before arriving back at Iceberg Lake. I wore a R1 and carried a rain jacket, which I used as a wind breaker on the descent. I was completely comfortable the whole way up the climb, although we did finish the route before the route entered the shade, which seemed to be about 2 PM. The shady sections of the route were definitely cold and I was eager to get off of the belay at the top of pitch 3 and back into the sun. We took sandwiches for lunch, which we ate at the summit and were thankful for.
By Justin Tomlinson
From: Monrovia, CA
Oct 21, 2012

Minus a star for the crowds, and minus another one for loose rocks at some of the belays. Having this all to yourself would be great, but chances seem rare for that.
By Vit
Jul 5, 2013

Agreed that the climb is overrated at 5.7 - I would call it 5.5 at most, with most of the route being 4th. There are jugs everywhere. Great views. Route never felt exposed.
By Tradoholic
Jul 8, 2013

Never really exposed and only a few moves of 5.6 between ledges. Simul'd it but it probably would have been safer to solo. Remember to go right of Pee Wee and more to the left higher up for the easiest pitches.
By Arch Richardson
Sep 24, 2014

Enjoyed this fine route yesterday, completing it c/c in a long day, (us being average climbers in our 60's). The fall weather was flawless, and there were no other parties on the route, or on the East Face. We did the approach at nite, climbed the route from 8 to 2 while the face was sunny, and descended the hiking trail. Easy to get a Whitney Zone day pass the day before, for free. A pleasant alternative to fighting the crowds in July-August.