ApproachApproach as for the Colchuck Glacier route. Once on permanent snow below the glacier, make for the base of the objective buttress, whose toe is at about 7,200 feet elevation. Note that this buttress is climbing to the false summit.
As you walk up you have a great view of the buttress. Try to chose a line you can make peace with :-).
The Kearney guidebook describes a start right at the buttress toe, that seems to actually climbs for the early pitches on the west side of the buttress (also the east wall of the Northeast Couloir). Whereas the Beckey guidebook stays entirely on the east side of the buttress. We, being big Kearney fans, wanted to follow his description, but gave up after a half hour of trying to get on the rock at the toe, blocked by an impressive moat. All the options seemed to involve cramponed ice moves, then stepping onto blank slabs with a big hole beneath. No thanks!
So instead, we hiked up about 100 feet on snow, looking for the first place to gain the rock. We found a spot where the ice touched the rock, and a few hand-jam moves would allow the leader to make a stance and change into rock shoes. It's hard to describe this actual spot, and I can't claim it was the best location. Take a look at the picture for the general idea.
From our block stance, we climbed up and a bit left on beautiful granite for some 5.7-5.8 hand jamming. We reached a level area with a large block festooned with fixed slings where people had made rappels to the glacier.
The Beckey description mentions "pink, rotten rock" and we could see this section very clearly to our right. After a misadventure in that area, we resolved to stay on the left side of it and find our way above. A pitch of 5.6 led past a fixed piton with a mix of slab and crack climbing, then gained a long ledge. Refer to the picture again, and you'll see that we walked left along this ledge for 20 meters, then turned up at the first chance then walked back to the right.
Now we scrambled easy terrain for a rope length further to the right to get below a clean dihedral mentioned clearly in the Beckey route description.
This dihedral offered two amazing pitches of 5.6. First up a shallow blocky corner, then leaving the dihedral for a barely-visible-until-you-are-in-it crack leading up and right across a slab. Fantastic exposure here, but good protection, and obvious way ahead. We climbed these two pitches as one simul-climbing pitch. We were hurrying a bit because the walking on ledges and dead-ends below cost a fair bit of time.
At the top of the slab you reach a point where the Kearney and Beckey descriptions of the route meet up. Really, it's like they are seperate climbs.
At this point you've made it to the long ramp that trends 100-200 feet below the crest of the buttress. Travel the ramp for at least 60 meters, probably more until steep walls above you begin to admit of possibilities for ascent.
I don't know if our route to reach the buttress crest is the official route or not. I've puzzled over the different descriptions, and I think that Kearney's description matches what we climbed much better than the Beckey description. Sorry to be so vague, hopefully someone with the canonical information will post it here!
So, what we did was follow the ramp until emerging on a slabby face, with frankly frightening smooth walls beyond. We turned up the ramp for slab climbing with sparse protection for one rope length, then found a belay stance just below where the wall steepened. The last few moves of this pitch were rather nervey, as protection was inadequate. Be ready for a few moves of 5.9 slab climbing and mantelling.
From our belay nook, we could see that a hard bouldering move would allow us to gain a crack that was not as steep as the face we were on. If you come to this point, it is the only option that makes sense. Guessing the "bouldering move" to be about 5.10b, we were elated to find beyond a stellar 5.8 hand crack that led to a ledge 100 feet below the buttress crest. From here, a pitch of 5.6 leads easily to the crest. It's an amazing look down from there!
On the crest, follow it for several rope lengths of pleasant climbing until blocked by vertical walls. The area below the wall might hold snow. The idea now is to traverse to the right until reasonable (that is, no harder than 5.7) to turn back up. We traversed for 30-40 meters, then came to a smooth-looking and wet slab that ran all the way across this side of the buttress. Climbing this slab is easier than it looks. It's about 5.5 despite the moss or seepage you might find, thanks to an incut crack to hand traverse, hidden from below.
Above the slab, climb broken, lower angle rock for 2-3 pitches to the false summit. We emerged just right of the false summit, climbing through mixed snow and rock.
Now, walk almost due west to the true summit. To descend, stomp down the Colchuck Glacier, glissading when possible.
Essential GearBring a 60 meter rope, and a full rack of cams and nuts. Don't forget a headlamp, just in case.
Miscellaneous InfoIf you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
Trip ReportsNE Buttress with Kearny variation
Sky Sjue TR
Dave Burdick Attempt