West Pawnee Butte via Northeast Face (5.6X A4+)January 27, 2013
Crew: Jen Crim, Mike Offerman, Teresa Gergen, Sue Personett
Third anniversary climb of the West Pawnee Butte?? Noah and Stewart and I had been plotting another ascent by putting up a new route, but unfortunately had not yet been able to arrange a time to head out east. I had posted on CC.org to see if anybody else was interested and came up with a smattering of interest. With Noah still in Patagonia and facing a beautiful forecast, I thought it would be an excellent idea to head out to the Buttes to scope out possible lines and potentially climb. Mike was easily convinced and Jen, Teresa and Sue wanted to come along for the show and climb the East Butte. Not wanting to deal with ladder shenanigans again, I chose to go for the old pin route that Noah and I had climbed two years prior. The route had been a frightening ordeal, but I figured I had gained lots of aid experience and thought that if armed with a few nails, the route would go easier than last time.
Pulling into the Buttes was a surprise, as the trailhead had been extensively developed and improved. A new fence and gate were built as well as a new parking lot, restroom and picnic benches. We quickly sorted through my mountain of gear and began making a straight line for the West Butte. The approach went very quickly and we soon stood at the base of the route and began racking up. Mike put me on belay and I slowly began moving up the choss. Using my ice tool to provide some extra traction, I fearfully moved upward while simultaneously raining mud down on Mike below. The first piece came but provided little comfort, as it was nail barely attached to the wall. Each piece only added to my adrenaline, and I felt like I was standing on a teetering house of cards about to collapse. The 6th piece along with a frightful mantel put me on a tiny, yet familiar ledge. My only solace was that I knew the "anchor" was hiding just above me. Unfortunately, the final piece was the worst of all, and I stood and eyed it cautiously. I wiggled it by hand, tied it off, and watched as it noticeably moved under my weight. Taking a deep breath, I stepped onto it and quickly mantled onto the ledge above. I left my aiders attached to it, and carefully traversed left to the "anchor".
I called off belay and tossed down a tail of rope for Mike to tie the other ropes we had brought along. I pulled them up and trailed the lead line as high as possible before scrambling to the summit. Anchoring the rope(s) proved straight forward, and I slung an entire corner of the summit and tied our ropes together. As I rappelled back down the route, I reached over to the final pin and plucked it out by hand. It was frightening how easily it had come out! On the ground, everyone was given a brief how-to on ascending and we soon all stood on the summit. Once again, nobody else had signed my register since the last year's ladder climb. Snapping photos and enjoying the view was quite enjoyable, and proved to be a reminder why I like this summit so much. We used the rebar anchor from the previous year to rappel, and the trip to the ground went smoothly. Teresa and Sue made for the East Butte, and back at the packs we parted ways. The hike out went quickly and we snapped some photos of Sue and Teresa on the East Butte from afar. Once again this had been a great trip and it felt good that we were all able to successfully make the summit. The final question is, until next year????
More photos here.
Additional Information on climbing West Pawnee ButteTrip Reports: Trip #1, Trip #2, Sarah T
Gear: Nails are really the only way to protect this, I recommend 12'' spikes. Bring tie-offs for the nails. Also, screamers are mandatory.
Disclaimer: This is VERY dangerous. If a single piece fails, you're going to the ground. It's doubtful that this route will not see many more ascents. Also, I removed the final piece, so a new one will need to be placed during any future ascents. Be careful out there.