Direct South Buttress
5.9 YDS 5c French 17 Ewbanks VI UIAA 17 ZA HVS 5a British C1
Avg: 3.7 from 29 votes
|Type:||Aid, Alpine, 1500 ft (455 m), 11 pitches, Grade IV|
|FA:||Richard Emerson, Don Decker, and Leigh Ortenburger|
|Page Views:||16,720 total · 93/month|
|Shared By:||andrew kulmatiski on Jul 14, 2008 · Updates|
|Admins:||Mike Snyder, Taylor Spiegelberg, Jake Dickerson|
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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 scramble 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 (1.5-2.5hrs). Take a hiker's path from campsite 14b up the canyon (1.5hrs), trying to keep close to the creek. Bivvies can be found an hour's walk in among the river cobbles and talus on the north side of the creek. Head up the scree and talus to Laughing Lions Falls, visible from the creek. 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.