Trip Report
Merriam Peak North Buttress
Friday August 20, 2010 2:32am
Arriving at Royce Lakes 11,750'. We climbed Merriam Peak's North Buttr...
Arriving at Royce Lakes 11,750'. We climbed Merriam Peak's North Buttress the next day (peak on the left)
Credit: backcountry
Here are some pics of a climb and general High Sierra area I totally fell in love with last week. My friend Tim and I climbed Merriam Peak's North Buttress. This was as good as I'd hoped it would be. When you see it, come goes on the list. I saw it in 2004 when skiing Feather Peak. At the time I had only top roped a few times, but I remember thinking WOW, how awsome would it be to know climbing well enough to do something like that. I had never even noticed a big granite wall, spire, or buttress before.

Then I forgot about it. Until a month ago.

I have a longer write up with pics of both summer and winter here:

A sweet last minute addition to my pack was my daughter's kid's camp pillow. No tent neccessary, it's California right? Temps were in the high 30's at night for a few hours, and a perfect 70 all day.

Here's an approximate crude route drawn in the peak of the North Buttress route. This route was first climbed in 1976 by Bob Harrington and Vern Clevenger. A second route to the left called Silver cloud was put up in 1994. and I read in the summit register of a few other first ascents, one by Peter Croft last year to right of this line somewhere 5.9.

Tim and I left Tahoe 8-16 at 6am, arrived at the Big Pine Trailhead and hiked 5 hours to the Royce Lakes. What an unreal, varied, and ultimately beautiful hike up there. We left camp around 7:30am and started climbing an hour later. I think we spent about 7 hours on the climb, who knows how long on the ultimate scenic tour descent, and then 3 hours getting down 4200' from our Royce Lakes camp to the car. The trailhead is 7400' and the peak a little over 13k. Moynier's Guidebook says 900' for the climb.

Tim and I swapped leads and simulclimbed the ridge above the buttress. He led the 2 pitches with the 10a and 10b moments. They were easy to protect and short. This whole climb follows cracks that protect well, but there is a lot of loose large rock to avoid. Not loose like in slippery sand, but more just blocks that vibrate and will eventually come off.

After Tim combined pitches 2 & 3 (be careful on these, this is the vibrating rock area I'm talking about)...I led the famous 5.8/9 parallel cracks shown in Moynier's Guidebook. This is the dihederal pitch you can make out from anywhere.

I belayed in this alcove above the 4th pitch (from Moynier Fiddler's High Sierra Climbing Guide). This was our 3rd pitch.

We are loving it!

Tim leads out of the cave and steps right with an exciting 5.9 move to gain a sweet hand crack, and combines the 2 short Moynier Topo pitches to reach the base of the crux 10b pitch. This was really excellent climbing, from the dihedral to the summit. Really, the entire climb was fantastic...the best I've done. Just with some loose boulders around you, most of which can be climbed around without touching. A few however down lower are right in the line.

in the left pic, is the second half of the combined pitches above the dihedral, with a really clean and fun 5.8 crack. On the right, Tim brings me up and gets psyched for the 10b part. The first overhanging part is actually 5.9+. The whole pitch is short and easy to protect. The 10b part is a short lieback, and Tim flew up the whole thing no problem.

Tim is at the 10b spot on the right pic

Above the crux pitch is a short 5.8 wide spot

I stayed on lead for another micro short pitch under the 5.7 roof. I was well prepared for this. A friend took me up OZ-Gram Traverse and Fairest of All a few weeks ago (I didn't do the leading). These had very long roof traverses at higher difficulty. This Merriam roof was only about 40'. Still, it was really fun. A big drop below, finger sized crack in the corner of the roof, and nice dishes for feet. Speaking of Fairview Dome's Fairest of All climb,(I have pics on my messageboard), a friend Logan from Tuolumne SAR reportedly replaced the old rusty bolts.

Then you get this view of the summit. Whoa.... Moynier says 3rd class ridge hopping for a few hundred feet to the summit. I just did Moon goddess and Sun Ribbon 2 weeks ago... this looks much harder. A supertopo person said low 5th class and a long way (He may have gone on the right of the ridge). We experimented with a traverse out left out of view and found the Moynier way. You definately don't believe it'll work until you just try going around the corner to the left. I can't remember where I read this, but someone said you stay on a narrow ridge to the summit. Ummmm, I didn't try that, but look at that ridge! It's a blank and vertical spire. Moynier's topo does show a line on the left side of the ridge, but you just don't expect it to be this dramatic when you get there. A fantastic finish to an amazing climb!

Tim on the west summit. Gemeni Peak is the one on the right with some snow.

Looking back north at Royce Peak's south slopes. Bear Creek Spire and Mt. Dade to the right in the background.

Anyone know which crack system is the new 5.9 croft route he mentioned in the summit register?

Coming down off the notch between Merriam and Royce Peaks is easy class 2/3.

Re-joining the trail after a nice stroll through paradise (the terrain below Co Co La Pass. Poished granite slab sidewalks all connected together with little streams, tiny meadows, wild flowers, and big granite peaks surrounding you. The High Sierra is incredible, and this might be one of the most incredible spots within it.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing?

Here, have some more. A few huge mountains made up of both white AND black granite slices, with house sized boulders strewn about the base. This spot is at lower Pine Creek Lake about an 2 hours from the car.

  Trip Report Views: 6,021
About the Author
Mike Schwartz - Tahoe City

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  Aug 20, 2010 - 01:19am PT
Looks awesome !

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 20, 2010 - 02:19am PT
gonzo chemist

the east coast, for now.
  Aug 20, 2010 - 03:34pm PT
Absolutely SPECTACULAR! I've never heard of that route, but man it just made my to-do list! It looks great. What a beautiful area!

thanks for the TR!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Aug 20, 2010 - 04:19pm PT

What a great set of pictures!

I had a buddy who used to just rave about this thing.
Now I can see what he was talking about!
Brian More

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
  Aug 20, 2010 - 04:26pm PT
Josh Nash

Social climber
riverbank ca
  Aug 20, 2010 - 04:43pm PT
I love the mounatins!

Gym climber
  Aug 20, 2010 - 04:57pm PT
Nice TR and great adventure.

Oakland, CA
  Aug 20, 2010 - 07:35pm PT

Blood running, daydreaming. Great pics!

  Aug 20, 2010 - 07:50pm PT
Mike -

You and Tim must be stoked!!

Alright! I'll drop by the store tomorrow for a toast!!


Social climber
Santa Cruz
  Sep 1, 2010 - 01:10pm PT
very fun route, although we came down the other side when we did it last month.

Trad climber
  Sep 1, 2010 - 01:20pm PT
Great stuff! Looks like a blast!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 1, 2010 - 01:30pm PT
Great climb. Great Area. Great TR!



Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
  Sep 1, 2010 - 03:18pm PT
Wow! Thanks for the fine TR

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Sep 1, 2010 - 03:39pm PT
I've known several folks who have done the route. they all say good things about it.
the Fet

  Sep 1, 2010 - 03:47pm PT
my daughter's kid's camp pillow

A likely story!

Seriously, good TR.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Sep 1, 2010 - 04:13pm PT
rad lunch time read...many thanks for sharing this TR!

Still no word on Croft's 5.9 crack?

  Sep 1, 2010 - 05:55pm PT

Trad climber
  Sep 1, 2010 - 06:52pm PT
man I love this TR, again!
Bob Harrington

Bishop, California
  Sep 2, 2010 - 10:26am PT
Great photos! Those camp pillows are essential for backcountry comfort. I was hiking on the Pine Creek trail Sunday - maybe I almost ran into you guys.
Slabby D

Trad climber
B'ham WA
  Sep 2, 2010 - 12:00pm PT
You Californians are so freakin lucky!

  Sep 2, 2010 - 12:14pm PT
wow, I've never been in the high sierra and now I feel even worse about that. great pictures and report -- looks like grand fun!

Mountain climber
Marooned, 855 miles from Tuolumne Meadows
  Sep 2, 2010 - 02:25pm PT
Really fantastic TR. Great area for sure.
The Alpine

The Sea
  Oct 1, 2010 - 10:35am PT
Damn I love the Sierra.

Trad climber
  Oct 1, 2010 - 02:15pm PT
Missed this earlier. Great pics and TR. Merriam is definitely on my list now.

Trad climber
sacramento, ca
  Oct 1, 2010 - 04:11pm PT
Good choice of a climb, that looks awesome!

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Oct 1, 2010 - 04:18pm PT
more utopian sierra granite ...
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 1, 2010 - 06:35pm PT
Fantastic TR!!!!
Good on Y'all!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 1, 2010 - 06:42pm PT

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Nov 15, 2010 - 03:01pm PT

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Dec 14, 2010 - 12:03pm PT fight all of the bullshit with some CLIMBING
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Dec 14, 2010 - 12:20pm PT
nice work.
The Warbler

the edge of America
  Dec 14, 2010 - 12:27pm PT
seriously cool looking route - thanks for the virtual tour!

  Dec 14, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
Thanks for posting! Thank granite sure looks cool!



jamais, jamais pays
  Dec 14, 2010 - 01:05pm PT
Another one to add to the list
Thanks for posting up

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Dec 14, 2010 - 01:27pm PT
A grand TR. Missed it the first time around, so glad to see it now. Makes me stoked for summer in the Sierra. Great job guys.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 14, 2010 - 09:55pm PT
Totally friggin awesome, beautiful pictures, beautiful rock!

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Aug 16, 2012 - 09:00pm PT
Awesome route and stellar report. Burly fellas. Way to get it done.

Also, Roadie, a dude here at ST said on the Beta page for this route that he just soloed the route, maybe the first solo of this thing. Whoa. Nice job Roadie. Thats the sickness right there.

Sport climber
Port Townsend WA
  Aug 16, 2012 - 09:23pm PT
Thanks for sharing, looked like an excellent climb!

  Aug 16, 2012 - 10:53pm PT
Nice work guys! Sooooo many good locks on that one & high fun factor!

I think the croft cracks are lookers right of the NB & are more like 5.11 but look totally splitter and amazing.

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
  Aug 16, 2012 - 11:08pm PT
Peter Croft and Lisa Rands did a route, maybe two, to the right of the North Butt, 5.11 or .11+. I was up there this morning and they look good.

Trad climber
  Aug 17, 2012 - 04:29pm PT
Great report, love the pics, exp that bivy site, can't ask for better views. Did both Merriam and Royce years ago, up the 2nd and 3rd class routes. Its beautiful back there!!!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jul 16, 2016 - 02:14pm PT
Bump for climbing content
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