Northeast Buttress

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 47.45970°N / 121.4656°W
Additional Information Route Type: Snow and Ice Climb to 90 degrees
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: III WI3 AI3
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The Northeast Buttess of Chair Peak is an excellent high quality, moderate difficulty, mixed alpine route in the Snoqualmie Pass area. This route tends to be in better condition than similar routes like the North Face, and the Northeast Slabs on The Tooth. It is also significantly longer than the North Face. This climb offers good steep snow, alpine ice, and waterfall ice climbing, decent protection, and good belays. Highly recommended.


Start at the upper lot at Alpental Ski Resort. Follow the maintained backcountry trail down the valley to the west. Just before the end of the maintained point, turn right unto a stomped out path crossing the river to the north. Follow this path to the end of the valley at Source Lake.

Now find a climbers trail trending west-northwest heading up the avalanche-prone snow slopes. Keep heading up and traversing north at times, until you arrive in the basin below the steep East Face of Chair Peak. Climb up the snow slope then traverse west to reach the base of the Northeast Buttress. This is the start of the climb.

Route Description

Pitch #1, Option #1- Establish a belay at the base of the rock buttress below the obvious S shaped couloir at the toe of the buttress. Begin the first pitch by traversing 60 degree windblown snow into the couloir. As the couloir narrows, some decent alpine ice is had. Climb the 60 to 65 degree alpine ice pitch using long ice screws and pitons in the adjoining rock walls for protection. The angle quickly drops off to 50 degrees after about 30 feet. Keep moving until a large clump of trees are available for an excellent belay. AI3 - 190 feet

Pitch #1, Option #2- Create a belay in the adjoining rock below the steep headwall just southwest of the Northeast Buttress. Climb the headwall on 50 alpine ice with possible bulges to 70 degree using long screws for protection. Keep climbing directly up the headwall until a few trees are encountered. These trees are down and to the southeast of option #1's trees. Establish the bomber belay. AI3 - 180 feet

Pitch #2 - The idea behind this pitch is to move up the belay so the next pitch can be belayed from the rock outcropping immediately northeast of the obvious waterfall. Climb 45 to 50 degree snow and look for another set of trees or a rock outcropping with cracks for protection. Establish a belay where feasible. snow - 60 to 100 feet

Pitch #3 - This long pitch begins by climbing some 40 to 45 degree snow on the buttress crest. As the grade steepens to 70 degrees, some mixed snow/ice and rock is encountered. I found good rock protection on this pitch from several outcroppings using nuts and cams. Pins would work too. This pitch is a rope stretcher. You are aiming for the large outcropping of rock just northeast of the waterfall. Establish a belay here using a combination of nuts, cams, and pins. There is also a fixed pin on the left side of this outcropping to use. We were short by about 8 feet and had to simulclimb to reach this belay. A 70 meter rope would be helpful on this route. AI3 mixed - 200+ feet

Pitch #4 - This is the waterfall pitch. Start by traversing 70 degree snow on sketchy windblown unconsolidated powder, about 25 feet to the southwest. At the base of the ice, place a long screw on the very thick waterfall offering excellent protection. Now climb the 10 foot high vertical wall of ice, then pull over the top onto 30 feet of steep alpine ice, which gradually lowers in slope from 55 degrees to 45 degrees. Run out the rope and establish a belay in the middle of the upper headwall. Depending on snow conditions, you might have to vary your protection for this belay. I used a bomber 24" picket in rock hard styrofoam snow. In soft snow, a deeply buried picket dug out in a T shape may be the only belay. WI3, AI2+ - 200 feet

Pitch #5 - Finish climbing the upper headwall on 40 degree snow until a cornice is reached. Fight your way over the cornice, then establish a belay at the stand of trees. snow - 90 feet

Pitch #6 - Summit Block Pitch. There are two ways to climb this. The first would be to unrope and just climb up. Another would be to climb up while on the belay at the tree anchor. This would be safer, even though there is no protection while climbing. Ascend the subsummit then drop down into the notch. Climb the headwall of soft unconsolidated snow which is quite steep (70 degrees). Do not fall here! At the summit stay away from the northeast side, which is heavily corniced. The true summit should be in the center uncorniced section, with rock underneath. Steep snow - 100 feet


Downclimb the obvious 45 degree snow couloir heading due south. This appears to be going the wrong direction, but do not despair. Trend east while downclimbing the lower section to gain a notch in the main ridgeline. Look down and notice the rap station at a rock buttress. The station may be buried in snow. It is located on the north facing wall of the rock tower that abuts the south side of the notch, on the top of a cornice.

Rappel off here using one or two ropes. There is an intermediate anchor, so you only need 1 rope. Rappel 60 meters to the base of the steep couloir. Now plungestep some 35 to 40 degree snow down to the base of the East Face. Keep heading East until you hit the approach trail. Follow the trail back to Alpental.

Essential Gear

60 or 70 meter rope(s)
3 to 4 cams .5 to 2 inches
A selection of ice screws from 14 to 22 cm. We brought 7, 3 or 4 would be fine.
1 or 2 pickets
A net of nuts
A set of pins including two knifeblades, and a short thin Bugaboo.
5 or 6 24" slings.
2 48" slings or webbing for tree slinging
2 Ice Tools
Walkee-Talkees for windy conditions (Optional)

Misc. Info

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Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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jacobsmith - Feb 10, 2013 2:13 am - Voted 4/10

Pitch number and gear issues

admittedly, conditions vary but having now climbed this route i must disagree strongly with both your description of the pitches and the gear requirements described. for one, there are no fifth or sixth pitches, that angle of snow is comparable to class 2-3 rock, which no one would pitch out, secondly, i do not believe that your pitch 3 (our pitch 2) would qualify as AI3, even if the snow we encountered was substituted with alpine ice, the angle was simply to low, maybe AI2 under perfect conditions. secondly, as for your gear recommendations, i question the wisdom of giving such specific information on a page for a route that will be different for each group that climbed it, so instead of describing what your group used, maybe you could just say, pitons, small nuts and cams, ice screws of various lengths depending on conditions (as per my experience, the route is climbable using a grand total two pitons, two ice screws, and a picket, although of course we brought more).

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