East Buttress

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.56390°N / 118.2911°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical Rock Climb
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 4 - III, 5.9 (YDS)
Sign the Climber's Log


Immediately after Trail Camp, leave the Whitney Trail and hike over talus towards the toe of the East Buttress of Mt. Muir. Depending on the season, several snowfields may need to be crossed or walked around. Total elevation gain between Trail Camp and the beginning of the route is 650 feet.

Route Description

I am preserving the original Class 4 rating with respect of the first ascent team. However, you will be hard-pressed to keep the difficulty at 4th class on this route. Short 5th class sections are encountered throughout the route, and if you get off-route (not hard to do), you may be required to climb a couple of pitches of sustained mid-5th class in order to get back on the crest. Hence, this route is not recommended for a Class 4 climber. You should be comfortable solo'ing easy 5th and leading up to 5.7 if you want to increase your chances of success. Prior to us climbing the route, there were two known variations to the classic line. We believe that we established a third one, mostly due to our routefinding errors. We missed the classic line and decided not to climb the unprotected "chimney variation". Our variation turned out to be more aesthetic and well protected than the "chimney" one. The classic route and all known variations are described here.

Classic Route (Class 4+): Stay on the right side of the buttress until you are about half way up. Follow the obvious gully/chimney system that leads to the left. At the end of the chimney, go right and up until you gain the crest of the buttress between the two prominent towers. Climb around the higher (2nd) tower on the left side until you find the steep gully/crack system that leads back to the crest right below the summit block. The summit block can be climbed directly from the crest, or from the right side (easier).

Variation (Class 5+): After reaching the top of the gully/chimney system half way up the buttress, go over the crest of the buttress on the left and drop down the Southeast Face a little bit until you reach the obvious sandy gully. Follow that gully up until you reach the squeeze chimney. Climb up that chimney for 70-100' as it leads you to the crest of the buttress between the two towers. The chimney is relatively low angle in the beginning and steepens up towards the end. It is poorly protected and will require a lot of free soloing. Not recommended with a pack.

Variation (5.7): From the bottom of the chimney described in the previous paragraph, climb the crack system directly to the top of the lower (1st) tower for approximately 200'. This crack system is located on the right side of the chimney. The rock here is mostly vertical and well-protected. Approximately 2/3 of the way up, there will be a vertical squeeze chimney filled with loose blocks. Unless you are petite and can fit into that chimney, it is better to climb around it on the right side (arete with lots of chicken heads). An intermediate belay station can be set up on the sloping ledge above the chimney. Once you top out on the 1st tower, you can unrope and follow the crest until it merges with the classic route.

Direct Route (III, 5.9): Follow the crest of the buttress the entire time. Spectacular, very exposed and much harder climbing will be encountered throughout the route.

Descent: Follow the regular 3rd class route down to the Whitney Trail. Take the Whitney Trail back to Trail Crest.

Essential Gear

Light alpine rack: a set of stoppers, one set of cams up between 0.5" and 3", lots of slings to minimize the rope drag. Ice axe may be useful early in the season.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-3 of 3

asmrz - Jul 19, 2012 8:14 pm - Voted 10/10

Route Description-All Guide Books

The description in all the guidebooks tries to (desperately) make this route an all out scramble. The easiest way to go is to follow dirty and loose gullies on the far right of the buttress. Not sure if John Mendenhall climbed it that way on the first ascent in 1935. He was after all an amazing rock climber for his times and a true Sierra pioneer! A much better (but technical) way is to stay on (or extremely close) to the buttress all the way to the 1st Tower. If you stay on the buttress, the climbing is 4th and easy to mid 5th class, but it is clean, steep and on solid rock. At the BASE of the 1st Tower, go all the way to the LEFT EDGE of the tower and climb straight up the tower. It is steep but not too difficult. We roped about 100 feet of it. I thought there were some moves on the Tower, but Penelope said "easy peasy", (she followed it!!). A friend soloed the buttress a few weeks later and thought the 1st tower had some solid 5.7 on it, but either way, the difficulties are short and soon you are at the top of the first tower. Once you get to the top of the 1st tower and the notch behind it, there are two ways to go. 1. Go left 2. Go right.. Either way it is 3rd and 4th to the summit. See my drawn topo of the route here on SP. If you stay on the prow all the way to behind the 1st Tower, I would rate the climb about 5.6/5.7 or so, but the rock is steep and solid and climbing enjoyable. Pitty this route does not get done more often. When done as a technical rock scramble ON THE BUTTRESS, the route is quite nice. Just don't try to go the easiest way (skip the loose and dirty gullies on the far right of the buttress!). P.S. In the summer of 2012, we found the conditions at the Trail Camp area of the Whitney Trail quite appaling. Trash, feces in bags strewn around, about 100 people trying to camp in this fairly small area, a huge mess. If you hike up the right side of the Inlet that feeds the Trail Camp lake, you'll find wonderful flat area a few hundred yards up, water near-by and total solitute. This is THE spot to camp for East Buttress!


RyderS - Sep 10, 2013 6:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Possible Route Alteration

Update as of 9.8.2013 Not sure how this may affect conditions on the East Buttress route, but a huge rockslide swept down the East Buttress/face of Mt. Muir on Sunday, late morning on Sept. 8. Haven't heard our found much in the way of news, but there is a big rock scar visible 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the face.


haishan - Sep 11, 2013 1:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Does "Mendenhall Route" exist?

My wife and I went to solo the route, so looked carefully for the easiest way. All guides show the original class 4 Mendenhall route as a line moving to the right side of the first tower (class 5 variations noted above go to the left side). There appears to be no 4th class route this way. We ended up traversing way too far right along a sloping ledge (looking for the easy way), then followed 4th class slabs and several short steps of 5.6-5.7 climbing on unstable rock, back up and left to join the ridge above the towers. Maybe we can get our route-finding errors published in the next edition of Secor's guidebook too :)

Viewing: 1-3 of 3



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.