The Flying Buttress
Avg: 3.7 from 130 votes
|Type:||Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, Grade III|
|Page Views:||26,242 total, 131/month|
|Shared By:||Charles Vernon on Jul 6, 2001|
|Admins:||Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac|
DescriptionThe Flying Buttress is one of Rocky's alpine classics, and is unique compared to the typical big faces and pinnacles throughout most of the Park. It follows a steep and narrow rib of rock (the west-most of several on Meeker's North Face), presenting moments of sudden exposure and fantastic belays on the narrow rib itself. There are so many variations that about 3 separate routes could be described; in Richard Rossiter's guide about 10-12 people are credited with various FAs and FFAs.
As mentioned, the route follows the right-most of about three rock ribs that protrude from Meeker's north face. The long, broad gully leading up to the saddle between Longs and Meeker lies to the right, and the rib itself is bound on either side by smaller gullies that hold some snow for most if not all of the year. From the ranger cabin, hike up talus slightly SE to the rib. Rack up at the base of some long third-class scrambling which leads up to a smooth prow where the 5th class begins.
The easiest line takes the right-most dihedral on the east side of the rib and finishes in a chimney for a 150 foot pitch. This is a really good pitch; however, the direct is even better. It takes an excellent 5.8 hand crack on the right side of the prow itself and then traverses left through a juggy dark band to pick up a beautiful left-leaning finger crack/seam (sustained 5.10). Continue weaving back and forth across the rib for another 40 feet to a good belay ledge.
P2 - Continue directly up the obvious line on the prow (5.10a at first, then easier), or a fun, slightly easier variation takes the dihedral just around the corner. If following that line, continue on the left side until exposed 5.9- moves lead to a fantastic belay ledge with 2 old bolts (150 feet).
P3 - A little tricky: head up left on the prow to pick up a 5.8 crack and flake. Then traverse right beneath the obvious roof past an old bolt, and climb around the roof on the right past pitons, with great exposure, 5.9-. Continue up the much easier prow and run out all the rope (60m rope handy to reach a good ledge). The obvious three-inch crack (5.9+ jugs) through the left side of the roof is probably the best way to do this pitch, though, and may be the most spectacular part of the route.
P4 - Continue easily up on the right side of the prow for 60-100 feet to a belay beneath the final steep corner.
P5 - Climb the hand/fist crack in the corner, exit right, and continue to the top of the rib.
Unrope here and scramble (3rd-4th class) across the exposed top of the rib (staying right where it rears up briefly). This brings you to a horizontal break on Meeker's north face. One can continue to the summit via low-5th class to the east, or take one of several steep 5.10ish lines on the 200 foot wall above (seldom done). Most parties head west to 4th class scrambling (or snow sliding) back to the base.
Special Considerations: the route goes in 4 pitches with a 60m rope; done this way it is one of the fastest grade IIIs in the Park (of 8-9 that I have done). The climbing on the 5.9 pitches is not very sustained. 2 ropes is probably overkill on this route as it is possible to make a quick retreat down either side of the rib at almost any point (looks like one or two rappels, with a number of fixed anchors); one 60m rope is certainly enough, though trepid parties with a mere 50m might want to toss in a trail line.
If you do go to the top of Meeker (west summit is the highest), the descent is made from the Loft (the broad saddle between Longs and Meeker): from there head east and down to a well-cairned ledge system that bypasses some cliffs (this point can be reached fairly directly by scrambling down from the summit of Meeker). The ledges deposit you at 3rd class scrambling or possibly snow sliding (not the same as the descent from the top of the rib).