Type: Trad, Alpine, 1500 ft, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 5,509 total · 67/month
Shared By: Vic Zeilman on Mar 12, 2012
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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9 Opinions

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The North Buttress is a fun and worthwhile alpine route up one of the more aesthetic peaks in the San Juans. Midsummer would be the ideal time to climb the route, since the rock should be dry and snow free and the snowfield at the base of the buttress will have receded somewhat. Spring and fall could provide a more full-on alpine experience with the potential for ice and mixed climbing on the route.

Once you're at the base of the buttress, climb 5.6 rock until you're basically following a ridge (4th and low 5th) up the path of least resistance. Continue climbing the ridge until you gain a notch below the summit (the top of the Snake Couloir). From here, it is the same finishing pitch (5.6 or so) to the summit.

Descend the main trail to Lavender Col and drop down the scree field below Kismet and back to Blaine Basin.


Park at the Blue Lakes/Blaine Basin trailhead. Follow the trail to Blaine Basin and up to the moraine which sits below the North Face of Sneffels. Ascend the snowfield to the buttress which is between the NE and NW snow couloirs. This is the North Buttress, directly left of the Snake Couloir route. Once at the base of the buttress, the best place to start is fairly obvious, and there are some ancient pins at the start.


A single set of cams and stoppers. Depending on the season, an ice axe and/or crampons could be needed to ascend the snowfield at the base of the buttress.


Ray Hellinger
Gunnison, CO
Ray Hellinger   Gunnison, CO
Love this route. Have done it a couple of times. First time I ever attempted it, in mid July, I got caught in a major ice storm that covered the peak in and inch of ice. Had to downclimb 5.6 terrain. Was scary as hell!! Every other time, had perfect weather..... Jul 16, 2012
Nic Harnish
Durango, CO
Nic Harnish   Durango, CO
Beware the snowfield. Did it in sneakers one time, that was dumb. Jul 27, 2012
Steven VanSickle
Ouray, Co
Steven VanSickle   Ouray, Co
Has anyone ever heard of a winter ascent of the N. Buttress? Dec 7, 2012
Bryan Gilmore
Bryan Gilmore   FLG, AZ
Steven, Kitty and Lyle Dean did that - maybe 10+ years ago. Jul 10, 2013
  5.6 R
  5.6 R
Loose rock everywhere (it is the San Juans!). We used a 70m and roped the first pitch, I was able to with just a bit of simul'ing get to a large rock on a very large, flat area for the first belay. We solo'd after that.

As of a week ago, the snowfield was about 150' worth of approach. Did it it sneakers cutting steps with an ice ax. Aug 10, 2014
Retreating from the route would be quite annoying, so an early start is highly recommended.

Approach (Blaine Basin Trail, ~5 mi): relatively flat for the first half, steep the second half. Trail, rock hop, and low angle snow for about 300 ft. Axe or aluminum crampons highly recommended. We grabbed a couple sharp rocks and burned a lot of time kicking with trail runners. A bit of rockfall - it's good to have mobility. Depending on snow extent, the final scramble to the base is quite loose.

Pitch 1 (5.6, ~150 ft): a bit alpine and loose but plenty of solid options. Start on the left side of the buttress with one piton buried in a crack and sheltered around a wall. The pitch is somewhat sustained and steep in shallow dihedrals/chimneys. Make your way up the most reasonable terrain. The crux involved an awkward move over a somewhat sketchy block. Once the angle and difficulty ease, there's a piton and solid anchor spot about 20 ft up and slightly right.

Pitch 2 (5.4, ~60 ft): can be combined with P1 with a bit of simul, but communication might be more difficult. Climb shallow but moderate angled chimneys up and slightly right via easiest path to an obvious open bench below the steep reddish wall. Depending on comfort, stash the rope.

Final ~900 ft (3rd-5.easy, choose your own adventure): scramble up and right, and bypass the steep wall via steep but JUGGY and obvious class 4 on right. Continue scrambling up the broad gully straight up, choosing your own path and difficulty. Eventually, top out on a ridge a hundred ft shy of the summit and move left, above the top of the Snake. The final 50 ft summit pitch is perhaps 4th-5.easy and can be bypassed left towards the standard route if desired.

Descent: a car shuttle to Yankee would be fantastic, but in lieu of that, either 1) descend the SW Ridge (class 3) to Blue Lakes Pass, and take the Blue Lakes trail back to the car, 2) descend the standard route around a thousand ft to Lavender Col (class 2 with one move of class 3). Scree ski and rock glacier talus hop left back to Blaine Basin or right down to Yankee, where one could catch the Blue Lakes trail or a shuttle, or 3) descend the Snake if it is in and you hauled skis up the route. Aug 15, 2016