Type: Trad, Alpine, 1700 ft, 12 pitches, Grade III
FA: Alpine Monkeys
Page Views: 3,913 total · 93/month
Shared By: Joshua Reinig on Aug 8, 2015
Admins: C Miller, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

13 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick

The Altar Buttress

The Altar Buttress is the longest moderate route in Idyllwild's Backcountry. Not only is it an Ultra classic full value adventure route, it also takes you to panoramic views of a beautiful alpine cirque.

Put on your all day shoes, buckle your chin straps and launch off on this magical 1700' ever narrowing and very exposed ridge of a buttress.
The Altar Buttress can be broken down into several obvious sections, the Mystery Notch Tower, the Black Tower, the Step Around Tower, The War Bonnet ect. Although pitching it out can be done in a number of ways. Overall rock quality is amazing and each pitch still has potential for new FA variations. In general stay as true to the ridge as possible the entire climb, traversing (right) around each tower encountered, immediately re-gaining the ridge.


Start as low and direct at the obvious toe of this giant elegant buttress via a super clean 5.4 finger crack. Throughout the entirety of this route bailing is fairly easy usually only requiring one -two rappels off the east side of the buttress. If you do make it to the summit, (Yes it has a bitchen technical summit) it will require two 30m rappels off the east side.


Standard traditional rack gear to 3", 5" if you want to fire the direct 10a variation to the Black Tower Pitch!


Xander Bremer
San Francisco, CA
Xander Bremer   San Francisco, CA
We approached via the South Ridge, which was mellow and easy hiking. Descend the PCT until some switchbacks and then drop into the north face, aiming to the skier's left of the block of rocks to the right of the buttress. In the gully is a pretty obvious climber's trail down to the toe of the buttress.

The first four pitches were pretty obvious from the topo, but after that it got pretty experimental. Found an awesome, vertical, lichen-filled crack on P5 that seemed possibly unclimbed that went at about 5.9 (hands and wide fists), which was my favorite pitch of the route. I think we messed up the War Bonnet, I led up the 5.7-ish off-width on the left. Stay low and right.

At the end of the climb we encountered a long traverse (2nd class, mostly) across a saddle, and stayed right of the main headwall, but I think it goes and I wish we had done it. Going up from the right is kinda meh, really loose, mostly 4th class. We reached the saddle between the top of Algoot and whatever is next to it, and found a nice 5.8ish couple moves by a little pine tree to reach some easy climbing up ant-infested blob features to gain the summit.

I think there are LOTS of ways to gain the summit - I'm talking to you forest service folks we ran into who were asking about beta to reach to summit block... Mostly 5.7-5.8 options, but I'm sure you could make it a lot harder if you wanted. We found no obvious rap rings or other protection/anchors/gear to rappel from, but were very pleased to see that it was a very basic, single 15-20 meter rappel off of a stout tree on the southeast face into the gully that lies between the summit and the Fire Lookout. Would go easily with a single 60m rope.

All in all, a great day out, fun to do with no topo. The advice to stay to the right of towers and then regain was excellent. Fun to look at a crack and guess if it goes, then go for it! Super aesthetic, a bit mungy in places, very wandery, lots of 4th class, and some really excellent crack climbing! Jun 4, 2018