Whitney Portal Buttress

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Technical rock
Time Required:
A long day
IV - V, 5.8 - 5.10, A3

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Created On: Oct 17, 2002
Last Edited On: Oct 23, 2002


From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395, head west on the Whitney Portal Road. Follow the Whitney Portal Road to its end. Whitney Portal Buttress can be seen to the north as a smooth high formation. Hike up the Mount Whitney trail a short distance, then follow a sandy gully to a fork. Follow the left fork to the toe of the buttress.

Route Description

There are two obvious cracks at the base of the buttress. Pitch 1 - climb the right crack and a crack left of a pillar to a belay at a bolt ( 60', 5.8 ). Pitch 2 - climb a crack past a small roof ( 5.7 ). Easy aid ( or difficult free ? ) climbing lead to a roof which is turned on the right. Mixed climbing ( 5.8, A1 ) leads to a belay tree ( 165' ). Pitch 3 - follow obvious cracks and face climbing to a belay stance ( 150', some 5.8 ). Pitch 4 - Climb cracks ( 5.6,A1) to a right facing corner followed by difficult climbing to a bolt. Easy free climbing leads to a belay at a bolt ( 130' ). Pitch 5 - there are 2 ways to climb this pitch - either face climb up and right on a dike to a bolt ( 5.6, no pro ) followed by grainy 5.8+ face, or make a couple of aid moves left in a crack followed by 5.8 crack climbing and 5.7 face past a bolt. Belay in a quartz cave! Pitch 6 - either aid the crack out of the cave ( A2 ) or traverse right past a bolt then up on airy unprotected face climbing ( 5.6? ) to cracks and a corner which is followed to a large ledge. One can escape from here via 3 165' rappels. Pitch 7 - difficult climbing up and right on a face past 5 bolts ( 5.8, A3 with hooks or 5.10+ ) leads to and easy slot. Belay at a chockstone. Pitch 8 - climb up and right to a a couple of aid moves in a crack on the face, followed by free climbing ( 5.8, 150' ). Pitch 9 & 10 - follow cracks for two pitches of 5.8, A2 mixed climbing ( 125' & 140' ). Pitch 11 - climb a 5.6 crack to the right of a gully followed by 4th class to the top.
Note: if done in original style the aid is the occasional move ( not continous ) and pins can most likely be replaced with TCU's ( there were no TCU's in the early 1980's )!

To descend - rappel to the east to a notch, then scramble northeast over the east summit, then follow slabs and gulleys east and finally south. DO NOT head south too soon or you'll have to make several scary rappels ( not recommended ).

The climb as described here is pretty much the original Fred Beckey style. No doubt more of this climb could be freed if one is so inclined. We found this climb to be fairly difficult, long and an interesting climb with a lot of varied climbing!

Please see the route topo under overview photos for more information on this climb. Also, see The Climbers Guide to the High Sierra by Steve Roper for more information.

Essential Gear

Many nuts - tiny to 3" including cams and TCU's, 165' ropes.

Miscellaneous Info

Note - the topos and gear list on the topo are from the early 1980's. No doubt most or all the pitons can be eliminated from the gear shown ( there weren't TCU's in 1983 ) and much ( if not all ) of the route can go free today. However, if you want to do these climbs in there original style, aiding the route on nuts and cams, I see nothing wrong with that either!