Type: Trad, 520 ft, 3 pitches, Grade II
FA: Fred Beckey, Brian Goechel. 1968
Page Views: 2,276 total · 16/month
Shared By: outdooreric on Mar 31, 2007
Admins: Aron Quiter, Euan Cameron, AWinters, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Portal Road Closure Details


The climbing only warrants two stars. Its all pretty easy, then out of nowhere is a single difficult slab move at the 5.10 bolted headwall. The single hard move can be French Freed at 5.8 A0. I give it an extra star for a combination of the FA team (Beckey deserves respect) and for the views you will encounter along the way.

I was able to do this climb in three pitches with a 60-meter rope. The old topo shows it done in five, so any combination can be had. There are no fixed anchors until the end and many places to belay.

The strategy I followed was climb until there was about 5-10 feet of rope left and then belay. It worked out that with my 60 meter rope, I found excellent belay ledges using this strategy, but if you don't have enough gear there are plenty of other viable belay locations.

Pitch 1, 5.6: Traverse right into a rotten off-width crack and climb the OW past a small bush. From the bush, follow an obvious low angle splitter finger crack. There are a few more bushes to pass and more cracks to climb, and eventually there is an excellent ledge in a sort of an alcove at 190 feet. Sling a boulder for the anchor.

Pitch 2, 5.7: Starts with a left facing corner with a tight hand crack that splits off to the left. I took the right crack over the bulge and upwards from there. This led me to a cool juggy flared chimney and then to a lieback flake. There were a couple of face moves to gain a boulder that can be climbed on either side. Belay on the top of the boulder with 1.5-3" cams. 195 foot pitch.

Pitch 3, 10c or 5.8 A0. From the belay, you can see the steep headwall above. One bolt leads to a hollow hanging pillar. At the top of the pillar is the bolted headwall. Its not quite the bolt ladder I was expecting. There are some mandatory free moves between the bolts even if aiding. I can't honestly rate the free move since I couldn't do it cleanly. The Bartlett guide rates it at 5.10c, but it may be harder. Four close bolts lead to some easier slab climbing, then another bolt, and finally a bit of a runout to the bolted anchor. 120 feet with 6 protection bolts and a couple pieces for this pitch.

I rappelled from here. The original route continues on to the top of the formation with a walk-off descent.


Starts about 30 feet up the left hillside from the lowest point of the buttress. There is an unknown route that starts at a grungy looking groove on the toe of the buttress. THAT IS NOT THE PREMIER ROUTE. Head up and left from the grungy looking groove, look for an obvious splitter finger crack and head for that.

Thanks to SP Parker (from the local the SMC guide service), there is now a rappel route and all new bolts. To descend, rappel 120 feet, staying right of the edge to a bolted anchor near the start of the final pitch. Another 120 foot rappel will take you to the ground and an easy walk back to the base.

I speculate that the rappels could be done with a single 70 meter rope, but I cannot verify that, since we had two ropes.


I recommend double cams from .6-3" a set of nuts and some slings. At least 6 quickdraws for the last pitch. The final pitch has a bolted anchor, otherwise natural gear anchors are necessary.
All bolts are modern 3/8", replaced by SP Parker.


Bryan G
Bryan G   Yosemite
You can now climb a 4th pitch and still rappel. Either head up and right, past a couple bolts to a corner (original finish). Or head up and left past bolts and a roof to a crack on the face. Both options are fairly moderate and end at the same bolted rap anchor. Aug 26, 2011
I've done the Premier Route a bunch of times now, and have a couple things to add to the great description above:

-I agree, the route as described above is about 2 stars. Add the final pitch described by the previous commenter, and do a variation to pitch 2 and it gets better. As the "easiest" multi-pitch climb in the Portal, I think it's pretty good.

-Pitch 2 variation: If you do a full 60m pitch 1 and belay at the comfy ledge, the crack systems fork above you (you can also walk off left...). The above description mentions the right fork. I've done it both ways, and enjoy the left fork more. Climb a hand crack, then squirm through a bush (isn't that a common theme in the Portal?) to a sandy ledge. Belay here, or better yet, head straight on up the above hand crack as it arcs left to a bolted belay. From the bolted belay face climb on knobs back right to the crest of the buttress and join the above described route just below the bolt ladder.

-Descent options: "Bishop Area Rock Climbs" indicates 3 options:

1- Rappel the route with two ropes. Actually, you rappel pitches 4 and 3, and then drop skier's right into the gully alongside the formation. Then walk a little ways to your pack. Either carry descent shoes, or get climbing shoes filled with sand.
2- Do a "30m" rappel skiers right from the final bolted belay. Totally doable, but it's some real-deal down-climbing in that gully.
3- Top it out, and walk off in the gully between Premier and El Segundo Buttresses. Enjoyable enough, and you only have to carry one rope. But some of the climbing to the top is totally heinous.

Yesterday we unearthed a 4th option. You'll need descent shoes, but only one rope. And there's no mandatory deathly downclimbing. Some route-finding is required, for sure. From the final bolted belay, do another pitch. Wander your way up chimneys and brush, but it's not as bad as that sounds. Un-rope on sandy ledges and wander up a little bit more. At this point the crest of the Buttress is rather broken. Just before the crest again smooths out, go up and over, towards El Segundo Buttress. Scramble straight down from the base of the smooth prow to a sling-and-ring rap anchor on a thread. One 30m rappel gets you to sandy walking back around to the base. Or, better yet and as we did, go across the gully and climb the Beckey Route on El Segundo Buttress. Top that one out, and you score 11 pitches of pretty sweet moderate climbing. Apr 23, 2012
Northern NM
Souljah   Northern NM
Great route info guys. When we did Premier 28 years ago the headwall hangers were homemade aluminium angles. Crafty fellow, that Mr. Becky. If memory serves 10c seemed about right. May 2, 2012
A fun outing and probably the "easiest" multipitch route at the Portal. P1 finger crack is a treat and really fun for 5.6. The P3 bolt ladder looked really hard for 5.10c; I felt the crumbling holds at the start of the bulge and said screw this, I'm pulling through in the interest of time. It seemed to wander right and left of the bolts quite a bit, and the bolt ladder is reachy even if pulling through (I'm 6'3" and still thought it was a stretch!).

Without much effort, we found the rap slings per Jediah's recommendation (4th option) above. This drops you right near the toe of El Segundo Buttress and allows for some cool enchainments. Link it up with the Beckey Route 5.9 on ESB for a Grade IV day (~11 pitches).

PS - this is a minimum of 5 pitches (to the top), not the 3 listed in the description. Fred's climbs never ended at a rap station 2/3rds of the way up a wall, juss sayin'... May 14, 2012