OverviewUpper Glacier Gorge is a rock climber's paradise, with some of the best granite to be found in Colorado. ClimbingLife.
Maybe I've oversimplified the history of this route, first climbed by Buckingham, Brook, Catwood, and Cox in 1958. It is true, however, that there seems to have been increased interest in this elegant and direct line up a striking face. It is equally true that this interest is justified, given that the North Buttress is in all respects the equal of celebrated moderate routes in the Park like the Northeast Ridge of Sharkstooth and the North Ridge of Spearhead.
Getting ThereFrom the Glacier Gorge Trailhead follow the Glacier Gorge Trail to Black Lake. Contour the lake along the eastern shore on a faint trail until that trail veers east and climbs up the drainage of the stream coming from Green Lake. The trail ends shortly after reaching upper Glacier Gorge.
Some krummholz navigation is required here. There are enough cairns to confuse anyone, and though I've lost count of the times I've been in Upper Glacier Gorge, I'm positive that I've never followed the same path through it twice. The line of least resistance, at any rate, seems to be one that aims initially for the base of Spearhead, goes by the bivy place under the huge boulder there, and then aims for Pagoda Mountain skirting the cliffs immediately below Green Lake on the right.
From Green Lake, proceed up the gully that separates Pagoda from Longs for several hundred feet until you are above a band of dark rock that is unmistakable from Green Lake. Trend right and follow grassy ledges to the base of the climb, which is where the characteristic left-facing dihedral of the lower half of the route starts.
It is about 6 miles from the trailhead to the start of the route.
Route DescriptionThe North Buttress Route
P1: Climb the left-facing dihedral for about 40 m to a comfortable belay stance (5.4).
P2: Continue up the dihedral. Skirt the roof that looms above you by traversing right to a shallow corner and climbing it to a convenient belay ledge (5.6).
P3: This short pitch can be done in at least two ways. From the ledge, we went up to the right on a slab (following the party ahead of us). The slab is initially clean and featured, but after you turn a corner, out go the features and in comes luxuriant lichen. Atop the lichen-infested slab is a roof. Traverse left under it until a weakness allows easy progress upward.
Seen from above, it looked that going up left from the belay ledge should have been easier and more pleasant. As we did it, this pitch was roughly 5.7.
P4: Another short pitch on a low angle slab takes you to a ledge at the base of the headwall. Once you get to the ledge, locate the base of the chimney that is about 30 feet to the left (east) of the prow and belay there. There are a couple of moves that are 5.easy.
P5: Climb up the chimney for about 50 m. This chimney is steep but holds are everywhere. The challenge is not to dislodge rocks large and small that are strewn in precarious balance throughout the chimney (5.6).
P6: Continue up the chimney to the top of the headwall (5.5).
[img:331856:alignright:small:The final scramble]
Coil your rope at the end of P6 and continue along the blocky Class 3 ridge for several hundred feet to the summit. We kept mostly on or close to the crest of the ridge.