Infinite Spur Alaska Grade 6, 5.9, M5, AI 4

  • Currently 5.0/5

Mount Foraker

Alaska, USA

Trip Report
Buttermilk Bigwall Bouldering Expedition
Tuesday April 23, 2013 10:58pm
Credit: climbski2

I will admit that at times I have been accused of making fun of the small (very small) but growing subculture of the grand sport of climbing known as bouldering.

Recently however I felt it might finally be time to reconsider my position on this perhaps noble pursuit of the diminutive. Might I be overlooking some great if at first squint incomprehensible epic adventure? Had I been missing out?

My good friend and climbing partner of twenty years with whom I had shared countless Alaskan adventures in some of the larger climbing objectives available just happened to be on a roadtrip and would be in Bishop soon.

Each discipline in climbing has it's great Mecca, for some it is Yosemite and El Capitan, For others it might be the Himalaya's and Kangchenjunga or K2. Countless are the epic stories and legends these massive stuctures have inspired.

Online research indicated that among this fringe group of the fringe known as climbers, Bishop California was in close proximity to one of boulderings great destinations. The Buttermilks. This I thought to myself would be a good place to find the beauty and awe that must be inherent in this school of discipline.

Plans were made and eventually the great day came. After long minutes of planning and deep logistical strategery we were about to tread on hallowed ground.

Years of climbing on every terrain imaginable had come to this moment. We were as prepared as we could be. Trembling slightly at the sight before us we hoped it would be enough. The fact was we were intimidated, one should not be embarrassed to say they are humbled when beholding climbs of legendary status. Even if you almost drove past them oblivious due to the actual mountains in the background. Fortunatly the road is severely washborded and made us drive slowly so we didn't miss them.

We wondered if we had enough gear for this expedition. After two carries however we felt we might have enough for the seige effort. Had we brought enough rope? Food , water, fuel, wands? Much thought was given to the fact that we had left behind the orange sleds and portaledges. Would this be the fatal misjudgement that doomed the whole effort?

Second Carry from Advanced Base

Vast numbers of walls of rock stood before us.. so many that at first our greatest difficulty would be picking our line amongst so many possibilities.

Great care must be taken when choosing a line. It should be aesthetic and inspiring but also within the abilities of the team. We settled on a likely looking but hopefully moderate route choice. No sense getting over our head on our first effort. We simply could not decipher the strange rating system involved. A local indicated that our choice could be as much as V0 or possibly a walkup .. he wasn't sure, but it was certainly "highball". We felt that the highball asterisk should make this a worthy objective.

We brought to bear all of our vast climbing experience and a wealth of techniques and equipment on the problem confronting us.

Old School Sit Start

Matt drew the short straw and got the first lead.

As an experienced belayer I always choose my technique based on the objective hazards involved.

We hoped we brought enough rack.

I begged the leader to "sew it up" I've never lost a partner yet and I wasn't about to begin today.

Matt had to dig deep and came up with little known and questionable protection schemes. If the hook didn't hold perhaps enough tape would? Clearly an advanced bouldering technique for desperate times.

Matt struggled on as the seconds dragged on like years

After long desperate tribulations under the threatening clear blue skies Matt managed to make it to the summit. Expedition Buttermilk Bigwall Bouldering was a success.. we called our sponsors to share this great victory.

As Expedition photographer I was constantly confronted with the conflicting needs between my duties as belayer and the need for the best angle. I comforted myself with the idea that sagebrush might make for an excellent autobelay device due to it's inherent ability to snag ropes.

Now it was my turn to follow and clean the route.

One should always check their harness and knots before committing to the unforgiving force of gravity.

Please do not fear for the author. I have years of experience and I developed this knot as an advance speed technique for just this type of demanding application. It is properly tied and I assure you that it is perfectly adequate for the demands of the task.

As I approached the summit I inspected our anchor. I was relieved that Matt had not tied into it and had not attached the rope to it. Had I fallen we might have lost him and our precious equipment. Perhaps the risk was somewhat alleviated due to my new revolutionary bouldering tie in knot. Fortunately this remained untested.

I must say I have gained a new-found respect for this arcane and great discipline called bouldering.

Later that day I had time to observe the locals at work. I noticed they never seem to check their harness or knots before venturing off the ground. The are however not completely without climbing savvy even if they are a bit light on equipment. We looked at them and they looked at us.. Worlds apart in the same place. Or is it the other way around.. I'm confused now.. which style of climbing is more absurd? What I can tell you is that the buttermilks are astounding formations and like any great climb they compel you to do so on first sight.

I still believe ropes are superior to those huge square things they lug around to avoid the body mangling effects of groundfall. But to each their own.

  Trip Report Views: 16,337
About the Author
climbski2 is a mountain climber from Reno NV.

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  Apr 23, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
This is awesome.

Boulder climber
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:21am PT
The one time I went there, it was more about hiking up to a high point. I saw part of Smoke's run on the way, and was totally gassed at the summit.

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:25am PT
Do you care to comment on how many "Placements" seemed to be "Enhanced"?


Way out there....
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:34am PT

Mountain climber
The Ocean
Author's Reply  Apr 24, 2013 - 09:58am PT
The history of this great route seems to be shrouded in mystery, While unlikely it does seem possible we made the first trad ascent of it. As such no chiseling or drilling was apparent.

Chinchen. As with any heroic story the details of the expedition have been shown only in a positive light. Lies of omission have been perpetrated and failings have been glossed over. Mistakes were made. But we will not dwell on those. Much was learned by our intrepid team members..

Way out there....
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:43am PT
You guys looked like you were having fun. That matters the most. Well, that and not decking.

Mountain climber
The Ocean
Author's Reply  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:50am PT
lol by any chance did you solo by us on the south face of this epic boulder?

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:51am PT
How in the world did you guys summit with NO alcohol consumption ON ROUTE?

Must have truly been a epic desert ascent.

Mountain climber
The Ocean
Author's Reply  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:53am PT
I did miss out on the beer mug shot.. Like i said .. mistakes were made.
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Apr 24, 2013 - 12:54am PT
On a scale of 1 to awesome, this is super great.
TFPU, ya freaks!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Apr 24, 2013 - 11:22am PT
climb in a push

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Apr 24, 2013 - 11:35am PT
Hahaha. This is great

Sport climber
moss beach, california
  Apr 24, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
Good god, I think you've got it! Just the right amount of gear (gear is good, old gear is better), however, the rope is obviously overkill. Loved the anchor. Smoke liked to use what he called his clothes line and yours, sir, is for BIG clothes. Cheers!
Smoke up the chimney (get him at the Rubber Room)
Smoke up the chimney (get him at the Rubber Room)
Credit: silverlynx

Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Apr 24, 2013 - 08:45pm PT
Wow! one of the last great problems in climbing solved! Awesome really awesome! This had to be multi-day climb! No question at least 7 days right? Wow! This is what climbing is all about! Truly perspirational!

  Apr 24, 2013 - 09:15pm PT
The real question is- where did u empty the poop tube? Did someone inform u the buttermilks are poop sensitive? This ain't no big wall poop tossing area & over the past few years with all the bigwallers looking to climb harder than 5.9 showing up, the poop is really starting to take its toll on the milks. Just trying to educate here. Pack your poop if ur bouldering expedition style.

Sport climber
Made in California, living in The Old Pueblo
  Apr 24, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
This is so funny ... and awesome.

Way out there....
  Apr 24, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
Funny RyanD, but sadly true.
Big Pete

Mountain climber
Portland, ME
  Apr 25, 2013 - 01:35am PT
This is fantastic.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 25, 2013 - 11:21pm PT
I hope you took a rest day????
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Apr 28, 2013 - 01:41pm PT
Rough life.
Michael Nicholson

Big Wall climber
Thousand Oaks
  May 2, 2013 - 04:03am PT
Can I get the topo?
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Mount Foraker - Infinite Spur Alaska Grade 6, 5.9, M5, AI 4 - Alaska, USA. Click to Enlarge
The route follows the stunning center ridge.
Photo: Mike Gauthier
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Mount Foraker - Sultana Ridge Alaska Grade 3, 55-degree snow - Alaska, USA. Click for details.
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Mount Foraker
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The route follows the stunning center ridge.