OverviewFirst ascent of Lower Buttress occurred in 1970, and was done by Don Jensen and John Fischer. Don Jensen completed the ascent of the whole route in 1971 with Keith Brueckner. This climb is featured in Peter Croft’s “The Good, the Great, and The Awesome.” It is arguably the most intimidating and direct looking line on Temple Crag, and one of the best in the Palisades overall. Lower Buttress itself looks like a little big wall when you are approaching it. Strategy for this climb is to not fear the Grade V 5.10c tag in Croft's book, and manage your time efficiently. Majority of the route is 3rd to mid 5th class past the Lower Buttress, but due to length of this climb more than a few people have bivied on route. If you belay all pitches I think you WILL bivy. Rock on the Lower Buttress is quality, sustained, fun, and original. If you are a fit and confident 5.10 leader it is a great alpine route to tackle. Be prepared for 8 sustained pitches, and a lot of simul-climbing or soloing past it. Maybe not a good choice for a first alpine route, but a great adventurous climb overall.
Getting to the BaseFollow the approach directions to Temple Crag from the main page. Out of Glacier Lodge campground follow the climbers trail till it splits. Take North fork of Big Pine Creek option.
Bonus Tip: Closest parking lot is not for overnight use. To avoid parking at a different parking lot (mile or so further down the road)you can pay 5$ a night to park at the Glacier Lodge store's lot. Ask them how.
From the camp between 2nd and 3rd lakes make your way towards Temple Crag. Cross the creek and attempt to follow the trail up towards the boulder fields for as long as you can. Boulder hop for a bit (yes, you are going the right way and it will end). You may stay on some intermittent sandy trails, but each party can choose own way, there is not really a wrong way as long as you hike towards the crag which towers above you. Under the first buttress there is an obvious ledge from which the route starts. We chose to go further up and traverse from L to R to get to the start of the climb. Snow was melted there and it worked very well. There is another option- to start at the base and find your way up on 4th/low 5th class. After you've scrambled up to the base (you are on an obvious ledge now) on some 3rd class loose crap you see a clean set of dihedrals going up from a long ledge. Examine the photos here to see how the 1st pitch looks. There are about 3 dihedrals there that look climbable, according to reports one on the left is “not well protected 5.10c/d.”
Pitch 1 - 5.10b crux. Right facing dihedral with some interesting quarts right to the left of it (between the two dihedrals).
Pitch 2- 5.8 Continue your way up the corner sustained vertical corner to the top. All the moves are there. Belay ledge has a couple of pins. Possible to combine first two pitches with a 70M rope (we did).
Pitch 3- 5.10a traverse left and head up in a dihedral. This is another cruxy pitch with a very thin finger crack. Experienced crack climbers are required, and you will want a lot of thin pieces here. This was very hard.
Pitch 4- 5.7 Head a bit to the left and up the rock. There is an intimidating chimney ahead, and you are aiming for it. Choose your way, I am sure there is more than one option. I think we combined this with P4 on the topo to take us to the base of the chimney.
Pitch 5 5.8 After going over a bunch of low 5th rock you are faced with some 5.8 jams and stem over a roof, continue with some stems and find a ledge before the roof pitch.
Pitch 6 5.8 Very cool or very grueling chimney. There is a possibility to exit left or right, choose as you want. Exit R is supposedly 5.8 face. We took the left exit. Plenty of holds in the beginning and than you reach a wyde crack follow it up half way up and exit. Before this crack you can still find some features and you are not required to know how to climb a chimney, if you do it is a squeeze chimney. Original.
Pitch 7- 4th/low 5th. We coiled the rope and followed the line of least resistance to the top of the ridge. Simul climbing would make things faster than belaying, this is a long climb you have to simul climb if you do not want to sleep on this rock.
Pitch 8-Similar to the last pitch, you continue the scramble up following whatever you want.
Pitch 9- traverse the exposed 4th class ridge towards the middle buttress.
Pitches 10 to 30- the start of the Middle Buttress. There is supposedly a hand crack over a roof that goes at 5.10 somewhere on this buttress, which is the ‘right way.’ We walked to the right side of the buttress searching for it but found something else. My partner attempted to climb a VERY sustained 5.10 c/d, not very well protected pitch but had to drop the idea after he got 35M or so up it, didn’t seem like it would go anywhere great. Since we spent about an hour or so there we traversed more right into a small gap with a crack/chimney in it after about a hundred feet of 3rd class. After 3rd you get on 4th class and than about 5.6 headwall chimney/crack. We simul climbed the route from here. Continued up, traversed left, continued traversing on the left side and to the top of the ridge line after several hundred feet. There is some good exposure at places and some loose rock at times. Keep your eyes opened. Traverse from here to the summit is not a set line, you must be comfortable doing own route finding. As long as you are going towards the peak and up you are on the right path.
On route we encountered a rap, and continued traversing on the left side of the ridge. There was another rap station bellow the first, but we didn’t use it. After you traverse the ridge, the obvious line traverses to the right side and over the gendarmes. On the last gendarme there is a rap station which you take down to a sandy ledge (left side of the ridge when you look towards the peak). From that ledge you rappel again into a loose crap gully. There you can eat take a small break and sprint up to the top. We traversed to the right side of the most prominent “red” tower/arête, down-climbed a 4th class little section, climbed up some loose gully, and continued climbing up towards the summit ridge exit.
This gully is about 700 feet or so. It is mostly class 3 with class 2 and class 4 mixed in, depends what route you pick. At the top we encountered a 5.6 or so exit to the summit ridge. This exit had a section that will scare you for a moment. You grab the obvious rock that seems like a good hold, and this giant thing moves in your direction. If you have a good reaction you will push it back in place and scramble for a better hold, but that big rock does the same. Somehow you stem and move up and over to the summit ridge. Pack everything and continue up to the summit. Last part is a VERY exposed class 3 with a jump or step over a wild gap. After that the summit is just a few feet away.
Route topo (not mine):
Essential GearRack- bring more thin cams (crux is a finger crack) and a set of nuts, good amount of slings for simul climbing. Standard rock rack with doubles from .3 to 2 should be more than enough. Maybe one # 3, and bringing a # 4 is optional I think, we didn't!
Some times you may want to have crampons/ice axe to get to the base of the route (although VERY unlikely). More likely you may need them to descent from contact pass (not often neither). Best bet to find out would be to ask some people who climbed on Temple Crag within couple of weeks of your scheduled trip and by watching temperatures (warm=no need for crampons, possible to glissade from the pass. Cold=snow may be icy. It depends.)
External Links"All overnight backpacking trips in the California wilderness areas require a backcountry permit. Currently day trips do not require a wilderness permit, except for the Mount Whitney Trail, Desolation Wilderness, and a select few other areas. In addition, a quota system is in place on many of the popular trails in California including, of course, the Mount Whitney Trail. Check with the respective National Forest or National Park for wilderness permit information and the specific wilderness permit processes as these change from time to time."
White Mountain Ranger District
798 N. Main Street (Highway 395)
Bishop, CA 93514
Phone: (760) 873-2500