Dow leading the crux 3rd pitch
El Segundo Buttress
is not near as impressive as the Whitney Portal Buttress
nor are its climbs anywhere close to the classic status of No Country for Old Men (5.10c)
or Ghostrider (5.10c)
both of which are solid 5.10 eight pitch routes. However for budding moderate trad leaders, the Beckey Route
is as popular as any climb at Whitney Portal. It is relatively non-committing at four pitches with a walk off. Beckey established it in 1971
and it was freed six years later.
The main body of the climb is the middle section. I combined the 2nd and 3rd pitches for a full 70m rope lead for the crux of the climb.
The first and last pitches are uneventful. That middle section however offers a fun roof pull followed by a few decent sized run outs protected by the occasional slung feature that lead to a finger sized crack/flake (photo to the left).
You can park on the left at the sharp final left turn before the Portal or park in the shade on the old road across from the group campground. If parked here, hike the dirt road until it dead ends. Hike up on the left of an old horse corral and locate a decent climbers trail. Follow it up to just below Premier Buttress. Continue up a fainter trail in the gully between Premier and El Segundo. The route starts on the right side of a large block about 1/3 up the gully,
just before the massive roof system on the east face of El Segundo. There is a large Ponderosa tree near the start. This route does not start at the toe of the buttress that a photo topo on MP.com shows. Rather it starts 1/3 of the way up on the right (east) side of the buttress.
Route DescriptionEl Segundo, Beckey Route, 700’+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 150’- 5.7/
Start in the right facing corner (photo) on the right side of the block laying against the southeast face right before the huge roofs on the east face proper. Climb it to the top, traverse left, then straight up through a few shrubs to a left facing corner (photo). Climb it up to a ledge about 40’ below the triangular roof above (photo) which is the main feature on the route.
2nd/3rd Pitches- 225’- 5.9/
Cross the right arête above and you will get visual of a smaller roof further above, that is the one you will be pulling vs the larger one right above the belay. Climb a crack system on the right side of the arete up to the smaller roof and make an easy pull (hands) with solid protection via a piton and hand piece. Trend up and right on run out ground following a seam. Sling one solid knob and place micro to small gear when the seam intermittently opens. Expect some run out slab climbing. Near the end of your rope, clip a piton and traverse left to a fixed two bolt belay. The crux of the route might be 2/3rds up this pitch when the knobs and gear become sparse but the crack gives you fingers when you most need it.
4th Pitch- 300’- 5.6/
Climb knobs and features on lower angled ground through 5 bolts. Have the 2nd ready to simul climb or split this final section into two pitches or solo the final ground to the summit. The posters on MP.com discuss in detail some “rivet” but it is inconsequential to the route wherever it is. In fact the 5 bolts are not really necessary as there are plenty of features to protect this final easy pitch.
We were led to believe you had to hike back north east for a good bit before scrambling down climber’s right and circumventing back to the col between El Segundo and Premier. The reality is that competent parties can down climb ledges from the summit more directly. But if you do follow the climbers trail back east, and then down, make sure to ascend back southwest to almost the summit of El Segundo to locate the blind gully vs being sucked down to the east side of Premier Buttress, particularly if you left packs at the base
. Harness your approach shoes for the descent.
70m rope helps with getting it done in 3 pitches which flows well. The gear call on MP.com called for single and/or double to C4#4. If I did it again, I would take a single to #2, with some brassies/small off set nuts and maybe double up on micro cams to #.3 and/or a few small off set cams for that run out seam on pitch 3. We took a single #3 and #4 and never placed them.
This route is mostly south facing, not much shade to be had.