North Buttress 5.10b/c

 
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Merriam Peak


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Merriam Peak North Buttress 07-06-13

by BFK
Tuesday July 16, 2013 2:21am
When I moved to CA in 2009 I bought the Fiddler/Moynier High Sierra book to get an idea of what the high Sierra had to offer. 2 formations really struck me and reminded me why I climbed in the first place; Merriam Peak was one of them.
First View of Merriam Peak from Royce Pass
First View of Merriam Peak from Royce Pass
Credit: BFK

The remoteness and relative lack of info on the climb added to the allure but I knew I had quite a bit work to do improving my (lack of) trad skills before heading up to the North Buttress. Fast forward a few years and lots of valley/Tuolumne time and I was ready to make the long slog up Pine Creek to Royce Lakes.
Mosquito Heaven
Mosquito Heaven
Credit: BFK

The prior weekend I got the opportunity to climb with someone I've always respected and we managed an 18hr 20 min trip up the RNWF of Half Dome so I figured I would be solid for the North Buttress; I just needed a partner. Somehow I managed to convince someone with 3 compressed disks and no cartilage in their right knee to make a 10 mile approach.
Darlene 'enjoying' the hike up.
Darlene 'enjoying' the hike up.
Credit: BFK

With the long 4th of July weekend we decided to make a comfortable trip of it and camp up at Royce lakes.
Royce lakes isn't a bad place to camp
Royce lakes isn't a bad place to camp
Credit: BFK

Despite having done more committing climbs, Merriam still gave me a few jitters when looked up at it the next morning. It's a rather imposing peak and the route isn't as obvious as I expected (yes, the triple cracks pitch is obvious but the entrance and exit not so much). I thought we had the entire peak to ourselves but as we approached we realized there was a party ahead of us. They were just starting up the Flying Buttress, which looks very rad.
Trevor (?) and partner heading up Flying Buttress
Trevor (?) and partner heading up Flying Buttress
Credit: BFK
They yelled down some beta as to the start of the North Buttress which saved us some time. The also gave me an added confidence boost by allowing me to see some people clearly more badass send what is clearly a more badass route! With the start identified we headed up without delay:
Heading up P1
Heading up P1
Credit: BFK
Darlene coming up P2, great fingers section at the end.
Darlene coming up P2, great fingers section at the end.
Credit: BFK
There is supposed to be a 10a section on P2 but it all felt pretty easy. There are a few short sections of good fingers but overall the rock quality on the first 3 pitches is definitely sub-par. I would say the rock quality is the major drawback of the route (then again, it is an alpine route so just don't expect splitter valley cracks). Darlene took P3 and she made quick work of the awkward traverse under the bulge to get into the giant corner. Being at the base of the triple cracks corner was like a dream come true and it really is a fantastic pitch!
My sad attempt to mimic the classic Bob Harrington shot (minus hexes)
My sad attempt to mimic the classic Bob Harrington shot (minus hexes)
Credit: BFK
Pushing past the alcove on the triple cracks pitch.
Pushing past the alcove on the triple cracks pitch.
Credit: BFK
I found the corner climbed very smoothly although I may have made it a bit harder by transitioning between cracks a bit to early in an attempt to save big gear. I highly recommend pushing past the alcove for about a 170' pitch, otherwise P5 will be awkward for the leader. Also note, there is a giant block in the corner with a chalk 'x' on it. If it goes, your belayer doesn't have a chance so use extreme caution.
Hanging belay on top of P4 works nicely with a #4.
Hanging belay on top of P4 works nicely with a #4.
Credit: BFK
Darlene took P5 which has another nice fingers section getting to the belay. P6 is the crux and while pretty secure it'll make you breath a bit harder for sure. It's more sustained than cruxy and frankly I thought it was the best pitch on the climb (sorry, no pics, you'll have to see it for yourself). P7 has the S-crack and offers a little bit of wide fun. P8 has the exciting roof traverse which offers lots of exposure.
Yeah, it may be 5.7 but I was happy to place a few pieces.
Yeah, it may be 5.7 but I was happy to place a few pieces.
Credit: BFK

The next few pitches offer a bit of wandery ridge traversing. There is a great short section of pure knife edge ridge traversing but by that point we were too hungry to stop and take a few pics. This summit is quite nice too.
Summit shot showing the x-country travel you take to get to pine creek...
Summit shot showing the x-country travel you take to get to pine creek pass.
Credit: BFK
View from the decent, the block you traverse under is visible near the...
View from the decent, the block you traverse under is visible near the top.
Credit: BFK

We did the route in 7 hours, certainly no speed record but it made for a great day. In the end, I was grateful to have been able to finally tick off a climb I had admired for several years, but even more grateful to have been able to do it with a great partner. I can't imagine doing that hike (both ways) with such a significant knee injury and that alone was the most impressive part of the trip!

P.S.: This past weekend I got an up close look at the other climb that struck me from the Fiddler/Moynier book and I nearly pooped my pants,... I've got some serious wide training to do!

  Trip Report Views: 830
BFK
About the Author
BFK is a trad climber from San Francisco, CA.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
SeanH

Trad climber
SLC
  Jul 16, 2013 - 03:06am PT
Yo! Lookin
Good Brian! Nice Trip Report.
Darlene and you make a good team. TFPU.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Jul 16, 2013 - 09:19am PT
very nice.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 16, 2013 - 09:54am PT
Looks like a good climb.....good going!
eKat

Trad climber
  Jul 16, 2013 - 09:57am PT
NICE!

TFPU!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Jul 16, 2013 - 10:00am PT
Beautiful peak and TR!
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jul 16, 2013 - 11:10am PT
Nicely done! TFPU
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jul 16, 2013 - 11:25am PT
What a beautiful part of the Sierra, fairly remote too. Tomestone quality granite, fantastic.....TFPU!!!
A bit further to the northwest on the Sierra High Route:
Charlie D. & Nancy S.
Charlie D. & Nancy S.
Credit: Charlie D.
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Jul 16, 2013 - 11:45am PT
2 thumbs up.
10b4me

climber
  Jul 16, 2013 - 11:55am PT
Really nice tr, and pics. Thanks.
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Jul 16, 2013 - 12:43pm PT
Rad! Merriam is a really cool place!
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Jul 16, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
Nice report and great job on the climb! Glad that people are getting on the Flying Buttress too!
ag.Fox

Trad climber
Reno, NV
  Jul 16, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
Sweet report! Merriam added to the list
Reeotch

climber
4 Corners Area
  Jul 16, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
Way to go!

One of the hidden gems of the sierra . . .
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Jul 16, 2013 - 04:16pm PT
Great TR.
Really like the attempt at copying the classic Bob Harrington photo. You need a wool sweater and collared shirt though ;-)
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 16, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
Another beautiful place, thanks!!!
Bob Harrington

climber
Bishop, California
  Jul 16, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
Nice trip report. So what's the other route???
BFK

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 17, 2013 - 01:31am PT
So what's the other route???

Thanks for the comments! So the route is the Harding route on Keeler... I was up in the Whitney portal last weekend doing some routes on Whitney and Russell and got to scope it out. Pretty daunting looking up at it.
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Merriam Peak - North Buttress 5.10b/c - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The prominent North Buttress of Merriam Peak
Photo: Ryan Crochiere