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Routes in North Face

Access Ramp T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b Mod. Snow
Caught Inside T M4 Steep Snow
Cowardice T M2 Mod. Snow
Deception T M5 Mod. Snow
Hobbs-Slate North Face Direct T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Learning to Walk T M2 Mod. Snow
North Buttress T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b A2
North Buttress Direct T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Northeast Wall and Buttress T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Northwest Couloir T WI3-4 Mod. Snow
Northwest Ridge T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Psychopomp T M4+ Steep Snow
Torre Couloir (NW Ridge Var) T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a AI2-3 M2 Mod. Snow
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Type: Trad, Aid, Alpine, 1900 ft, 12 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Jim Wilson, Ron Hayes, Allen Steck - 7.5.1960
Page Views: 258 total · 7/month
Shared By: Preston Rhea on Jun 13, 2015
Admins: Chris Owen, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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The North Buttress was the second route established on the north face of Morrison. It is a shorter version of the North Buttress Direct and traverses onto the north buttress higher and off it a bit sooner. The climb starts on the same 3rd class apron as the Northeast Wall and Buttress. Approach the start of the climb via 300' of 3rd class up and right towards the buttress until the climbing suddenly goes from 3rd to 5th.

Pitch 1 - Traverse up and right about 200' towards the crest of the buttress. While traversing, pass a dihedral that is crackless and continue face climbing right over easier terrain to a small ledge with a pin.

Pitch 2 - Start up the dihedral, but where it steepens, traverse right to a large ledge. Fun crack climbing leads to a second smaller ledge.

Pitch 3 - Tricky aid and free climbing directly up dihedrals and aretes leads to a sloping ledge covered in bright colored lichen. Start by climbing a short pillar feature. The pillar flexes if cams are placed behind the upper half. Slab to an arete leads to a step left into a steep dihedral. Small beaks through the crux gives way to a hand to wide fist crack. This pitch was originally rated A3, but beaks make it a bit easier. This pitch goes free at a grade of 5.8. More information can be found in the comment section below and on the North Buttress Direct page in the description of pitch 5.

Pitch 4 - Fun face climbing up a very featured slab with the same lichen. A pin will be passed about half way up the slab.

Pitch 5 - The crest of the buttress narrows dramatically to a knife edge. Continue along the crest.

Pitch 6 - Broken climbing along the crest of the buttress. At the end of the pitch, there is a ledge for two. It is the only comfortable bivy site on the route, though others may be found on nearly every pitch above this. If comfortable, it is advisable to simul-climb from the start of this pitch to the start of pitch 10.

Pitch 7 - Follow the crest of the buttress.

Pitch 8 - At a tower along the crest, traverse left into a fun crack which leads back to the crest.

Pitch 9 - Another pitch along the crest of the buttress leads to a short headwall.

Pitch 10 - Steep and exciting climbing up the right side of a reddish dihedral leads to another large ledge.

Pitch 11 - Easy climbing up another headwall towards the obvious red chimney. Belay just before the chimney to avoid rockfall on the next pitch.

Pitch 12 - Follow the red chimney to the notch on top. This pitch has a lot of large dangerous blocks. Caution is required.

A short 40' rappel down the back side of the notch leads to easy 3rd class climbing for 400' to the summit.


The route starts about 200' to the left of the toe of the buttress on the upper right corner of a large apron of 3rd class rock.

Descend via the east slopes from the summit. During the 3rd class scramble to the true summit from the top of the route, do not try to contour left towards the east slope until no more than 100' from the true summit. It crosses many ridges and does not save time or make things any easier.


The rack should consist of doubles in cams from 00-#2, single #3, single set of nuts (only the small half is all that useful), one each of the smaller lost arrow pins, 3-4 beaks of all sizes for a total of 9 to 12. If you are a confident free climber (and free about half of the aid pitch at 5.8ish), you could bring doubles in cams from .3-#2, single #3, 1 small beak, 3 medium sized beaks, and 1 large beak.
Preston Rhea
Mammoth Lakes
  5.7 A2
Preston Rhea   Mammoth Lakes
  5.7 A2
Having spent the summer climbing around on the North Buttress trying to suss out the various historical routes, I have a couple notes to add about the crux pitch of this route. In searching for the 1967 route, the North Face IV 5.8, I could not figure out any logical place for it to go except in joining with this line just below the aid pitch. Quite embarrassingly I discovered what I describe here as the aid pitch for the North Buttress going quite free at a grade of 5.8.

This leaves presents us with a bit of a problem and a couple possible solutions: the route was indeed climbed first as an aid line and unknowingly freed by the first ascent party of the North Face route; the route does not go as I have described and the aid pitch is elsewhere; or finally the North Face route does not in fact intersect with the North Buttress route here and in searching for it, I freed the aid pitch at the very moderate grade of 5.8.

I believe the first scenario to be the case as the route as I describe it matches nearly perfectly with the description in The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails by R.J. Secor and it is unlikely to go anywhere else on the face and still match well. The nature of the pitch itself is good evidence in support of the supposition as well. In climbing the pitch in a direct fashion, a couple aid placements could be expected in the 1960s to avoid the otherwise 5.10 climbing in the dihedral. The free version of the pitch is rather bold and daring as it moves out of the security of the dihedral onto an exposed arete with very poor gear and sloping holds. The only factor I cannot reason is in the American Alpine Journal entry for the first winter ascent of this route, the aid pitch is described as two thin and brittle cracks on an overhanging headwall. I can only guess the first winter ascent either picked a slightly different line or exaggerated the steepness. Perhaps we will never know. Nov 28, 2017

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