ApproachThe South Buttress of Mt. Moran contains some of the finest alpine rock in the Tetons. Several routes have been climbed on this massive buttress. The Direct South Buttress was the first route climbed and was a bold undertaking at the time of it's first ascent. If the remainder of the South Ridge is climbed to the actual summit of Mt. Moran, this route is one of the longest alpine routes in the lower 48. A complete ascent of the Direct South Buttress and South Ridge might require AT LEAST one bivouac.
A few comments are in order. The approach is straightforward, however be prepared to bushwack. The trail from the parking lot at the String Lake Picnic Area only takes you part way before you must leave it. You have a choice of either contouring around the north end of Leigh Lake (longer) or following the south shore to the inlet at the entrance of Leigh Canyon (wet). If I had to walk around the lake again, I would take the southern approach. However, the best alternative is not to walk it at all. If you can get your hands on a canoe, (try renting one in Moose) then it's a simple matter to paddle across the lake to the inlet. A nondescript path can be followed on the north side of the creek for the next mile and a half to the talus slope below Laughing Lion Falls. Good campsites are available there.
Route DescriptionThe massive lower ledge which is followed to the start of the route is easily seen from this point. Many people seem to have difficulty locating the actual point where roped climbing begins. Just remember it is located around the corner on the West side of the Buttress. This corner is easily seen from your campsite. A large tree marks the beginning of the steep gully system which is followed for the first two pitches. Resist the temptation to follow the ledge too far. It continues around the prominent corner for quite some distance. The route itself gets better the higher one climbs. The first half of the route involves a lot of traverses on various ledge systems and so numerous opportunities to get lost are available. Beyond the seventh pitch, the route is quite spectacular. All these pitches involve good climbing on clean, steep rock. Of these, the infamous "double-pendulum" pitch and the pitch preceding it are particularly memorable. The aid section beyond the pendulum pitches is steep, but thin to medium wires can be used easily (A1).
Descent from the tree covered bowl at the top of the route (after 14 pitches) is not obvious. A discussion with a climbing ranger about the rappel route down the Blackfin can save you a lot of grief. For those of you wishing to go to the summit, the way is clear (additional IV, 5.7, recommended).
The descent described in Fifty Classic Climbs of North America is NOT recommended. It requires a fair degree of clairvoyance and immense faith in your partner.