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The Flying Buttress 

YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 800', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c [details]
FA: Peter Croft and Lisa Rands - 8/2011
Season: Summer
Page Views: 5,395
Submitted By: Luke Stefurak on Jul 10, 2012

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BETA PHOTO: Front view photo topo


This route takes an improbable and steep line straight up the North Buttress of Merriam. This was originally reported to the AAC as the Croft-Rands Left. After one approach pitch there are four stunning pitches of steep cracks and exciting moves before the route rejoins the North Buttress route.

P1. 5.8 45m From the small ledge on top of the toe of Merriam head up a shallow dihedral for 50 feet before stepping right around the corner onto easier ground. Continue up until you can step left onto a decent ledge. There is a balanced loose block on the left side of the ledge.

P2. 5.11 30m
This pitch is visible from the ground and the P1 belay. For refernece you can see a piton halfway up the first seam/corner. From the belay traverse left past a large balanced block. Move past the block with care to reach a thin crack. Layback up past the piton to a small alcove with more opportunities for gear. Tricky moves lead to a stance and a thin hands crack that takes you left towards a roof. Belay at a small ledge with two fixed nuts and small gear.

P3. 5.11 40m
This is the incredible roof crack pitch visible from the ground. Work up a 4" crack in pristine granite towards the roof. Plug and chug out the steep hands roof until the angle kicks back and you are rewarded with 30' of blissful hands. The crack thins down to 1" and a set of face holds appear to the left. Traverse across these carefully to another crack. This thin hands crack leads you through a small roof (cruxy). Build a belay when possible.

P4. 5.11- 40m
Pitch four follows a large flake system also visible from the ground which then becomes two amazing thin fingers cracks at the end of the pitch. From the belay work up the flakes climbing carefully due to some brittle rock. A steep section in the middle adds excitement before the crack starts to pinch out at the end. A technical and thin crux, with occasional face holds, leads you to a large sloping ledge and a comfortable belay.

P5. 5.11 25m
The golden face above the belay is the the final obstacle before the larger cracks that lead to the summit. Crimp and finesse your way up the face, placing barely enough gear to keep you off the deck. After 10 feet, a few good pods open up and you are rewarded with killer jugs. Romp up the golden granite and take a step of faith across stacked blocks to gain another killer ledge.

P6. 5.10 60m
There are two options here and we took the left side since it looked cleaner. They meet up after about 50 feet of climbing.

Follow the wide crack on the left using the arete to gain a small ledge with many loose blocks. Continue up the corner until you meet up with the North Buttress route a the first, and easier, of two offwidths. Save your large gear for the second and plug your way up the wide cracks. Eventually you will reach easier ground and the detached summit block.

An exciting traverse, under the massive summit block, leads right to the summit ridge where you can build a belay.

P7/8 - 5.5
Additional traversing is required to get to the true summit. This section is shared by all routes and is about 500' with occasional moves up to 5.5


This route climbs the skyline of the North Buttress. The first pitch is just right of the start of that route.

After gaining the ridge the standard traverse is required to get to the true summit of Merriam.


Double set of cams from Green C3 to #2 Camalot. Single #3 camalot and #4 camalot or #4 friend.
Small nuts useful.
Extra #1 or #2 camalot

Photos of The Flying Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: money pitch
money pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Casey post crux on the golden face of Pitch 5 of t...
Casey post crux on the golden face of Pitch 5 of t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Casey leads the amazing 4th pitch of Croft-Rands L...
Casey leads the amazing 4th pitch of Croft-Rands L...
Rock Climbing Photo: Original Topo by Vlad
BETA PHOTO: Original Topo by Vlad
Rock Climbing Photo: Photo Overlay of Merriam by Peter Croft. Shows bot...
BETA PHOTO: Photo Overlay of Merriam by Peter Croft. Shows bot...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at the Croft-Rands Left from the ground...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at the Croft-Rands Left from the ground...

Comments on The Flying Buttress Add Comment
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By fossana
From: leeds, ut
Sep 23, 2012

Thanks for the page and great pics, Luke.
By Luke Stefurak
From: Seattle, WA
Oct 22, 2012

Totally rad line, hopefully more people will get on it! It is so amazing that all the pitches link up.

The North Buttress + Flying Buttress is a killer way to spend a weekend at Merriam. Both routes have very steep climbing for the Sierra!

Edit: Got the update from Croft. It's called the Flying Buttress. He said the other route named Gargoyle, aka Croft-Rands Right, is even better. Guess I need to go back!

Trip Report:
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Mar 1, 2013

Wow - not to be confused with this Flying Buttress
By Ryan Williams
From: London (sort of)
Mar 16, 2013

Or this Flying Buttress.

Hope to do the Sierra version someday. Anything put up by Croft will be amazing.
By TeleRoss
From: San Diego, CA
Aug 28, 2013

Absolutely stellar route! Beautiful steep splitters on an amazing buttress.
Also climbed the Croft-Rands Right, another **** alpine gem!
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Jul 24, 2014
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c

A good route but maybe not a classic: some questionable rock and two hanging belays (one of which can be eliminated with a 70m rope) detract, but the roof pitch is memorable and there are several other fun sections. Soft for the grade?

P1: 5.8
P2: 5.10d
P3: 5.10c
P4: 5.10c
P5: 5.11a
P6: 5.10a

Link P3 (the hand crack roof/face traverse) and P4 (the long flake/short finger crack) with a 70 to eliminate one of the hanging belays.
By Karsten Duncan
From: Sacramento, CA
Aug 17, 2015

Agree with Josh that it might not be a mega classic. According to the summit log we were likely the 11th-12th ascent of this line so would expect some flakes and general crustiness but there are some sections where you have to avoid some spooky stuff. Still, generally nice rock, moves, position, and a route worth doing.

Also agree with Josh on grades, pitch 2 might even be 5.10b. Rack of C4 doubles to #2 and one #3, #4 worked great for us.

With a 70m we linked Pitch 1-2 in a rope stretcher and then 3-4 with just a few feet to spare.

Beta alert.
On last 5.11 face pitch got in a good .75 on the left of the two cracks and then a hard to see but good blue metolius master cam a body length up in the right crack. After that climbing eases and pro gets more plentiful. No need for micro stuff.
By benkraft Kraft
From: San Francisco, California
2 days ago

P2 piton is gone - finicky purple C3 / BD 5-6 stopper sized pieces replace it. We thought this pitch deserves its 11 rating (possibly height dependent).

Great route!

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