North Buttress 5.9

  • Currently 3.0/5

Mt. Goode

High Sierra, California USA

Trip Report
More Lauria LOre
Monday November 3, 2008 1:39pm
King’s Highway

We didn’t show up on the summit by mid-afternoon. We had not returned to Bishop by late evening. We were still not back by the following morning. Debbie wondered whether she should notify the Sheriffs Department. No. Come to think of it, the Sheriffs were out of the question, I had told her many times that if I ever went missing in the Sierra the first place for her to go was Wilson’s Eastside Sports. Give them the details. Let them decide what to do next. I didn’t want the Inyo Search and Rescue Team out looking for me prematurely. I’d never live it down.

Where did they go? When did they leave? What route were they contemplating? How were they equipped? All these questions were asked within seconds of Debbie’s disclosure to the crew at Wilson’s.

The answer she gave: They left Bishop at 11:00 AM to do the north buttress of Mount Goode and …. She was immediately interrupted. No wonder they didn’t get back. The Wilson people were adamant. There’s no way they could do the north buttress of Goode if they left Bishop at 11:00 AM. They’re lucky if they even got on the route by 1:00 PM! Those guys have as much experience in the mountains as anybody around here. They are fine. They probably bivouacked on the summit. Go ahead, head up the trail. You’ll probably meet them coming down.

It was 10:30 in the morning of July 12, 1985, when Dave King phoned me to ask if I was up for the north buttress of Goode.

“Hell yes! When?”

“ Now!”

“ Now?”

“ Yeah, come on get your gear together.”

I told Debbie of our plans and she decided to hike up the southeast slope of Mount Goode and leave some sandwiches on the summit for us. Great!

By 11:00 AM Dave and I were driving out of Bishop up to the South Lake trailhead. We were wearing tee shirts, shorts, and carried small packs with climbing hardware, a rope, rock climbing shoes, and two liters of water. In addition, King had a lightweight nylon wind breaker and I had a down sweater, nylon wind pants, and a red onion. The onion was the sandwich ingredient that Debbie had forgotten to take with her when she headed up the trail.

At the base of the buttress at about 1:30 PM, slipping and sliding on the steep snow in our rock climbing shoes, we realized that maybe, by the “looks” of it, we were not going to do the buttress route. It “looked” way too difficult to start this late. So we started traversing to the right, to the west of the buttress, until we found easier looking terrain. We had no idea whether a decent route lay ahead of us, but we just started taking the path of least resistance.

As the warm afternoon dragged on we swapped many leads on relatively easy fifth class pitches until King ran into difficulty surmounting a slight overhang. King is arguably as good an un-roped 4th class mountaineer as there is in the Sierra today, but roped climbing using protection is not where he excels. He struggled for what seemed like an eternity before he backed off and asked me to try it. I found it quite difficult and rather than waste any more time on it, I used aid. I attached a nylon sling to the chock I had placed under the overhang and stepped into it to reach better holds above and we pushed on.

It had become apparent to me that we might end up bivouacking. The sun had dropped below the crest hours ago and now it was really getting dark. I had just finished a long pitch and had reached an ideal bivouac ledge - lots of room and fairly flat. Perfect. “Hey, King let’s just quit here and get comfortable before we lose all the light.”

“Aw, come on we’re almost up. There’s probably only a couple of pitches left. Let’s keep going. It’s my lead.” And off he headed into the gloom. After letting out over 100 feet of rope and waiting through another eternity (that’s two in one day), and now sitting in total blackness, I heard King begin to complain about the lack of light.

“I can’t see my hand in front of may face, Don. I can’t see the cracks! I can’t figure out how to place any protection. I can’t move up. I’m going to have to stay here.”

“Are you in a good spot?”

“Not exactly, it’s kinda small and wet, but I can sit down and there’s room for you.”

Oh, now we’d done it. He couldn’t place any more protection. He couldn’t move in any direction. I was above the big, flat ledge and couldn’t move down – not enough rope. I had one choice. Move up to King and sit out the night.

I felt my way up the pitch, removing King’s hardware placements using backcountry Braille and arrived at King’s perch. He had climbed a very steep crack system that abruptly widened into a 2-foot wide, parallel-sided, 3-foot deep stone “stairwell”. Imagine this. The stairwell was only 5 feet high before it closed back down into a thin crack system. The stairwell had only two steps – the one that King’s feet rested on and the one he was sitting on. His back was resting against a 2-foot vertical wall with water trickling down its center. It’s like he was sitting in a miniature claustrophobic outhouse with no door. The ledge or step that his feet were resting on was only deep enough for me to stand in front of him. This description is based on what I was able to discern in the darkness and what finally I was able to observe later.

“You realize, of course, that we are spending the night here don’t you Mr. King? You know we could be 160 feet lower on a nice big, flat, sandy ledge, don’t you?”

“I thought I could make it to summit, Don, sorry.”

We decided to make the most of it. I obviously couldn’t stand there all night, so we agreed to alternate sitting in each other’s lap. It was obvious, wearing only tee shirts and shorts, that maybe our extra clothing could be swapped as part of the process. We worked out a procedure. The lap-sitter, being on the outside would wear the down sweater and wind pants. The lap-sittee would wear the windbreaker – let’s not forget that the sittee also had to put up with the water trickling down his back. We would sit that way until one or the other of us got too uncomfortable to stand it any longer, then we’d switch.

At first we amused ourselves by watching the red and white strings of traffic running up and down Highway 395 on the Sherwin Grade. We talked about whatever came to mind and eventually we’d doze off. Only to awaken with a start when the sittee would fall forward and abruptly hit the end of his tether on the tie-in. This would most often result in a position switch.

We had finished all our water before the bivouac and now thirst and hunger were beginning to occupy our thoughts. Then it hit me! Eureka! I have an onion in my pack! I love red onions. Dave King uses them in his gourmet cooking, but I love them. Not only was I hungry, but the moisture was craved also. I offered King a bite.

“No way, doesn’t sound appealing.”

I ate the whole thing. Now that was okay, because at the time I was the lap-sitter on the outside. But when it came time for “the switch” and I became the sittee in back of King, then came the complaining, the whining, the gasping, and the occasional tears.

“God, Don, why did you have eat the damn thing? I can hardly breathe much less sleep.”

So it went through the moonless night:

Switch … sleep.
Switch … listen to the whining.
Switch … sleep.
Switch … listen to the whining.
Switch ...

With sufficient light at dawn, we could see the summit ridge not more than 200-feet above. A pitch and a half and we were up.

The summit register was holding down what was left of Debbie’s “lunch bag”. The damned summit monkeys had managed to shred it and devour its contents, but always thoughtful Debbie also left a can of beer. After sharing the beer, we signed in and raced down the southeast slope to the trail.

Fifteen minutes down the trail we met Debbie and Bob Bartlett on their way up to meet us.

Her first words to us, “Did you sleep well, boys?”

Bartlett just smiled and nodded, “Yeah, sure.”

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  Trip Report Views: 3,966
Don Lauria
About the Author
Don Lauria is a trad climber from Bishop, CA.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Nov 3, 2008 - 01:42pm PT
Is that like, Don L'ore'ia?

Great stuff, Don! Send more!
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Nov 3, 2008 - 01:47pm PT
Big flat sandy ledges are pretty over rated, don't you think?
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 3, 2008 - 01:47pm PT
Letis hear it for Studs Terkel - an American hero.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 3, 2008 - 01:55pm PT
Big flat sandy ledges are the Hiltons of the heights!
Small outhouses are the Bates Motels.

Trad climber
Albuquerque, NM
  Nov 3, 2008 - 02:05pm PT
Bet that you were glad to see that early morning light.

Big Wall climber
Republic, WA
  Nov 3, 2008 - 02:25pm PT
You gotta love a good forced bivy, It really builds character.

  Nov 3, 2008 - 06:26pm PT

This is what we are after around here!

Thanks Don for these pearls from the past.

Social climber
  Nov 3, 2008 - 07:13pm PT
hey there... say, more great stuff...

say, and little does the world know---modern "so-called" entertainment is sooooo shallow...

you guys are living the "right stuff", even when it seems to turn out wrong... oh, my....

thanks so very much for the kind share...

  Nov 3, 2008 - 09:08pm PT
Nice Story,
I'm enjoying all you memories.
I tried to climb North Buttress once.
Keep the stories coming.

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Nov 3, 2008 - 09:27pm PT
Eating up every story, digesting, and luvin it.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2008 - 05:50pm PT
An Art Gran Story

Yes, Art Gran took his share of kidding about his famous descriptions of “hard” moves on his latest climbs. Always with animation – and total re-enactment , sans rock.

I first met Art at Stoney Point in Southern California - a bright Sunday afternoon with a large Sierra Club contingent in attendance. I was there with Jack Hansen (the “original Vulgarian”) and Yvon Chouinard.

We were bouldering at Boulder #2 and Gran and I had just climbed a steep route on the south side. We dropped the rope to Yvon and he tied in. For whatever reason (it was a very nice day), Yvon was wearing a full length heavy wool overcoat – a thrift store bargain. It was buttoned closed from bottom to top. When he signaled that he was ready to climb, Gran whispered to me, “Grab the rope. Let’s pull him up.” So, the second Yvon yelled, “Climbing”, the two of us hauled. In a matter of seconds Chouinard was on top gasping for breath and laughing nervously. He literally had not used any of his extremities in the ascent. His overcoat had spared his body from abrasion, but in the dynamic contact with the sandstone the coat had lost all of its buttons.

Gran was in stitches. Yvon had stopped his nervous chuckling. He was untying and seriously inspecting his damaged coat. I quickly explained that it was all Gran’s idea – sorry about the buttons, Yvon. Chouinard was no longer amused, but Art, still laughing uncontrollably, had dropped to his knees and began rolling around the top of the boulder. Yvon and I left Art with his rope and downclimbed to the road.

As we trudged toward our next objective, Chouinard was mumbling and staring down at the front of his coat, feeling the texture of the abraded material. Glancing back at Boulder #2 - Art was still on top coiling the rope and still laughing. Chouinard looked back and mumbled something about hyenas and burros – or was it jackasses?

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
  Nov 5, 2008 - 09:35pm PT
Bump for a cool climbing story.

right here, right now
  Nov 5, 2008 - 10:49pm PT
'Bartlett just smiled and nodded, “Yeah, sure.” '

Bob Bartlett, assuming we are talking about big Al's brother, is such a mellow, unassuming guy; a perfect foil to the benighted warriors!

And that Chouinard -he don't need no stinking buttons.
Just imagine what that little haul session would have wrought on a dainty foam back cagoule!
(No doubt foamback was naught but a sparkle in his eye back then)

Those were tasty little vignettes Don.
More snacks please...

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
  Nov 16, 2008 - 08:06pm PT
Just stoked that I was able to meet you with J. Barklow in 2000! We ended up doing some freak show "Venetian Blind" I think at Temple Crag, more loose rock than I am comfortable with! I remember you and King acting like that was business as usual! I knew then that we were "Newbies" to the area! Cardinal Pinnacle was a blast! Peabody Boulder amazing!
The stories are so stellar! I am one of the biggest Yosemite "Golden Age" buffs that exsists on the planet! You guys were risking the 'Big Chips' back in those days! No beta, or very little! Thanks for the stories, keep em coming! Just wish I could listen in person over a bottle of Merlot, or a bottle of Sierra Pale Ale, my friend!
I just moved up to Sedro Woolley, WA it will be great to do some Beckey routes soon! You guys rock!


Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Nov 16, 2008 - 08:48pm PT
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for these wonderful stories. Please keep writing and posting them.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  Nov 17, 2008 - 11:55am PT
Don: ie, title of courtesy

L'Ore: ie, the source from which valuable matter is extracted.

-ia: ie, pathological condition

Don L'Oreia
Jon Beck

Trad climber
  May 27, 2017 - 04:12pm PT
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
  May 27, 2017 - 04:22pm PT
I have been remiss in not having prostrated myself at the feet of the greatness that still stalks this forum. So it is with the greatest of respect to the now long in the tooth , once hard charging monsters of stone, that I do so here and now.
Thank you all and if my scurrilous presence is an irritation I humbly apologize.

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Jul 2, 2017 - 02:19pm PT
A bump for forced bivies, partner-whining, red onions, & beer...

Social climber
Butterfly Town
  Jul 4, 2017 - 06:16pm PT
Great Stories, Don! Thanks!

Ice climber
Virginia City, Montana
  Jul 5, 2017 - 04:51pm PT
So, Don, who is this Debbie person you speak of? (heh)

Trad climber
  Jul 5, 2017 - 10:13pm PT
Nice TR. For me, its the adventures and epics I remember best.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 6, 2017 - 01:26pm PT
What a great story. The millennial in me wants pictures, social media posts and a helicopter rescue from a story like this.

But I would admit, a good old fashion story without pictures that and without fanfare is absolutely the best kind. Loved it. Thanks for sharing.

Mt. Goode - North Buttress 5.9 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route as seen from the final approach to the snowfield.
Photo: Chris McNamara