Type: Trad, Alpine, 700 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Bob Ormes, Roger Whitney, and Hassler Whitney, 1949
Page Views: 2,202 total · 39/month
Shared By: Joshua Payne on Sep 22, 2014
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Crestone Peak’s steep east face is home to a number of large buttresses. India climbs the left-most of these buttresses and is noted by an obvious ramp, diagonaling upward to the right. A small amount of beta can be gained from the photo in Bueler’s “Roof of the Rockies” and the description is in Roach’s 14'er guide.

From Upper South Colony Lake, walk right of the Ellingwood Arete, and scramble up talus and 4th class slabs at the base of the buttress until you reach the large ramp at about 13,000'. Belay at the cave on the ramp.

P1. Climb the ramp that traverses the buttress from left to right until you can access a short chimney on the northwest side (5.4, then cl. 3).

P2. A short pitch up the fractured slabs on the left to a short crack with a bulge. Pull the bulge and continue left along the obvious line until you find an old piton below a left-facing dihedral. Belay at the piton (5.8).

P3. Climb the chossy, left-facing corner to reach a narrow, right-to-left, ascending, grassy ledge. Belay on this ledge; we had to traverse left along it for a ways to find an adequate anchor (5.8).

P4. Continue left on the ledge and climb the steep, sharp, right-facing dihedral until you reach the buttress's left skyline and a nice ledge. Belay here (5.8). (One may also be able to stay on the right edge of the buttress at this section as described in Roach’s guide and shown in Bueler’s topo; however, this did not look like the easiest line to us.)

P5. Continue up a short pitch up the easiest line up the south side to the buttress's “Petit Grepon”-like summit (4th).

P6. From the buttress summit, you cross an awesomely exposed knife-edge to gain the complicated upper bowl below East Crestone Peak (4th). Break left to reach the saddle point in the Peak-Needle ridge. From here, there are two options:

1) Climb the gullies and 3rd/4th class terrain to the north, and eventually gain the summit of East Crestone Peak. Drop to the notch atop the Red Gully and continue to the main Crestone Peak summit.

2) From this notch, it would be possible to descend the gully to the south and connect with the Crestone Peak - Needle traverse.

This climb is fairly committing, but it was a good adventure that climbs into some wonderful terrain and shows the Crestones have a lot to offer beyond the popular classics.


This is the large buttress about halfway between Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak. Looking at Crestone Needle from Upper South Colony Lake, this is the first buttress to the right of Crestone Needle. The large ramp that crosses the buttress is hard to miss.


Standard alpine rack 0.1 X4 - #3 C4.


Rich Brereton
Pownal, ME
Rich Brereton   Pownal, ME
Nice, thanks for posting! Looks like you had an awesome adventure. Know anything about any other routes on this buttress? My buddy and I did a line on it left of India a while back, not sure how much was new (if any). The next buttress to the right looks sick as well. Aug 17, 2015
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
Hi Rich, thanks for your kind words; it was a fun adventure. I'd recommend it, but the truth is anything else on this side of the Crestones is probably just as good. When we (me and Josh- who posted this climb) climbed India, we didn't see any hardware or signs of anything else on the buttress itself (or the steep next buttress to its right). However, see the notes below. Along with the Roach 14er book, I've found Bueler's "Roof of the Rockies" to be the most detailed resource for info on 5th class climbs in the Sangres, but even using that, we felt the line in the book was not the best way to go at the top of the buttress (p4 & p5), maybe we were looking too closely. If there is a more useful resource, we would LOVE to get our hands on a copy!

Here's some more info on this section of the Crestones (Ellingwood Arete north to N Pillar):
  • Ellingwood Arete (Ellingwood, 1925)
  • The Arnold-Michel (1953) is described by Roach and shown in Bueler's photo and is the more obvious couloir significantly farther left on the north side of Crestone Needle proper that ends by the Black Gendarme.
  • There was some rotting webbing (I carried it out) on a block at the very top of the gully/couloir to the left, where the India buttress joined the main Crestone massif. Could be from an ascent, or from an ill-conceived escape plan off India or the Peak-Needle traverse back to Colony Lakes.
  • Bueler also mentions a 1962 climb "somewhat left of India" (FA: Pownall-Brown, 1962), with no more info.
  • India
  • The gully to the right of India is written up on Mountain Project as a mixed/ice climb, called Alpine Ambition (FA: Sheridan, 2013).
  • Another rock climb somewhere in this section of the Crestones is mentioned in a comment on the North Pillar page on Mountain Project (FA: Daly-Lowe, early 1980s). "A primo buttress right up the middle...I don't remember much pro, but there were tons of bowling-ball-sized cobbles and an occasional belay.... We did a fair amount of simul-climbing, and it felt like 5.9+ or so. My memory tells me that the buttress went all the way to the top." From the photos, maybe the buttress left of House Buttress (what do I know?)?
  • House Buttress (House-Ormes, 1951) is the next buttress left of North Pillar (described by Roach, photo in Bueler's book).
  • North Pillar (Banks-Shilling, 1986)
  • There are at least 4 other climbs on Crestone Needle south of Ellingwood Arete, which you can try to sort out from the same sources. Some I could tell, some I was less sure of.

There's a ton of amazing terrain here, for people willing to run it on on these cobbles without any info on what they're climbing.... Aug 17, 2015