West Buttress

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.70670°N / 107.6882°W
Additional Information Route Type: Scramble
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: 3rd to 4th Class
Sign the Climber's Log


The approach is straightforward, as you can easily see the route from 550. From near the top of Molas Pass on 550, take the dirt road to Andrews Lake, and park. Follow the Crater Lake Trail heading toward Snowdon Peak. The trail switches back for a for about 1/2 mile and and reaches a plateau, where you will find a large meadow, where good camping is found. From this meadow, leave the main trail and head Northeast toward the Buttress. There is no maintained trail to the base of the Buttress, so you will have to do a bit of bushwacking.

Route Description

The route is the line directly beneath the summit. Once you reach the base of the buttress, head straight up over fairly easy 3rd class slabs and boulders. As you get higher, the route steepens, and you encounter a great deal of loose rock. The route is a bit easier if you veer right of the buttress proper and enter a shallow gully right next to the buttress. Most of the climbing is 3rd and 4th class, but the loose rock and exposure make a rope and running belay a good choice. When the steep climbing ends, you are literally a few feet from the summit, from which Silverton and the beautiful San Juans can be seen. Descend by downclimbing the route or the NE Ridge route. Be careful on the descent, as it is easy to dislodge rocks on to partners below you. The Buttress itself involves about 800 feet of climbing.

Essential Gear

A 9mm rope and a light rack of a few stoppers and cams would be a good idea, but watch for loose flakes when placing pro. In early season snow might be encountered on the route, but I do not recommend climbing it under such conditions. Summer afternoon showers are common in the San Juans, so rain gear is recommended.

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

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Evil Jesus - Jan 28, 2006 4:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

There's a couple of other ways to do the west buttress route. The spine of the west buttress disappears into a 4th class headwall near the top. I haven't done this yet, but I know someone who has. Another way (that I've taken) is to traverse left (north) at the point where the ridge goes into the headwall across the adjacent couloir to the slabs near the summit. There's a couple of easy class 4 moves to get out of the couloir and class 3 to the summit from there.

It is also possible to descend (or ascend, I suppose) via the south ridge to "W" couloir (look at a picture, you'll know why it's called that.), and then down the couloir to the base of the mountain. The couloir forks a short distance from the "W", and either fork goes, but they're both pretty steep. You don't need a rope or rack for the west buttress, or "W", but a helmet wouldn't be a bad idea.

Rclee - Sep 3, 2011 3:58 pm - Hasn't voted


I did the West Buttress today (Sept.). There is no bushwhacking on the approach-- there is a good trail all the way to the talus field at the base of the peak. There was very little loose rock on the route- very nice slabby quartzite. I basically stayed on the "spine" up until the "headwall". The climbing never exceeds 4th class, but I suppose you could make it harder at a few spots. Novices will want a rope. It would be deadly for anybody if wet. Only an idiot would climb this or anything else in the San Juans without a helmet. The descent down the N ridge is unpleasant-- this is a lot easier with snow on it (e.g., in spring, after doing Naked Lady).

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