North Buttress 5.10b/c

 
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Merriam Peak


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
North Buttress of Merriam day-hike (Photo TR)
Tuesday June 26, 2012 3:45pm
Although I love to camp and spent the most amount of time in the mountains for as long as possible, at times I do like to push my body, test my limits and see how I perform under stress. This time the goal was to climb a route (North Buttress of Merriam Peak) that was as intimidating to me at this point in my life, as my first ever alpine rock climb was, less than two years ago- Swiss Arete on Mt. Sill.

North Buttress of Merriam
North Buttress of Merriam
Credit: Vitaliy M.

In addition, we decided to do the route car to car to add to the challenge. Doing it car to car means a 17-18 mile round trip, around 6500ft of elevation gain, and a grade IV 5.10b as a cherry on top, all in a day.

Sunrise!
Sunrise!
Credit: Vitaliy M.
First glow
First glow
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After a drive from the Bay Area we arrived at the Pine Creek trail-head at 10pm. It was a bummer to get there so late because we had to wake up at 2:30am. After eating some food and finishing packing we hit the trail. Moon-less night was illuminated with our head-lamps, and a wall of dust we raised going up the switch-backs. At dusk we were moving past the Upper Pine Creek Lake, and at sunrise we witnessed the first rays of sun hit Bear Claw Spire AKA Treasure peak.

Awesome view
Awesome view
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Finding the warmth
Finding the warmth
Credit: Vitaliy M.

As we hiked through the gap between Treasure Peak and Spire Peak a gorgeous view opened up- Merriam Peak, Royce, and Feather stretched from left to right. Morning sun was appreciated.

Merriam on the approach
Merriam on the approach
Credit: Vitaliy M.

We passed the Royce lakes on the eastern side and moved towards Merriam. North Buttress was a stunning rock formation that stood out in the center. Elegant, yet blood-chilling, this formation is one impressive chunk of rock!

Buttress
Buttress
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After a food break and racking up our gear, we approached the climb. The snow at the base was minimal and we were able to get over to the buttress without the need to put on crampons (which we did not bring). The crux of the approach is not to break an ankle on unstable boulder field. Although the views make up for this mild inconvenience.

Good looking granite on our first pitch
Good looking granite on our first pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Me leading up the 1st pitch. Photo by Bryan
Me leading up the 1st pitch. Photo by Bryan
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After we made it to the base, I volunteered for a first lead. At first the thin crack above looks fairly hard, but it ended up being no harder than the advertised 5.9 in the topo. Next, Bryan took us through the 10a face pitch. The climbing we found through these two pitches was a lot better than we expected. Pitches were not one move wonders, but required concentration and technical climbing for most of the length.

Bryan on our 2nd pitch
Bryan on our 2nd pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Coming up pitch 2. It was chilly.
Coming up pitch 2. It was chilly.
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Our pitch three was again mine. Not sure if I went a bit too high or what, but with protection about fifteen feet bellow my feet the mantel to the traverse ramp left was for sure exciting.

My pitch (our 3rd). 5.9
My pitch (our 3rd). 5.9
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Although excited after the mantel, before me was the triple crack pitch I dreamed of leading ever since I saw the photos of North Buttress a year ago. Since not much protection was placed before and rope drag would not be too much of a problem I decided to link these two pitches.

triple cracks
triple cracks
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Connecting the 3rd pitch with triple cracks pitch. What a great 70M pi...
Connecting the 3rd pitch with triple cracks pitch. What a great 70M pitch it was...
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Having a 70 meter rope helped since I needed every meter of it to make it into the alcove belay at the top of triple crack pitch. Belaying in the alcove had an advantage of hiding from the wind, and possible rock fall from above. Triple crack pitch was everything I wanted it to be. A great variety of jamming, stemming, and transitioning from one to another allowed me to be creative and have a lot of fun.

triple cracks pitch
triple cracks pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Bryan coming up
Bryan coming up
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Belay from the alcove.
Belay from the alcove.
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Bryan was excited about the long pitch and took the next two pitches as well. Although he was not able to link them due to wandering terrain, he took the crux pitch (our 5th) in great style. Although not easy, the crux pitch did not seem too hard for me neither. The training is paying off. An overhanging hand crack kept at 5.9 by ability to stem, followed by a some harder moves (won't spoil it) above.

Bryan leaving the alcove
Bryan leaving the alcove
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Going up more perfect cracks
Going up more perfect cracks
Credit: Vitaliy M.

I took the last 5.7 pitch, which featured a WILD traverse under a HUGE block. This block is bulging about 10 feet out on top of the buttress, and can be seen even on the approach.

Bryan beginning pitch # 5
Bryan beginning pitch # 5
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Traverse goes bellow the block
Traverse goes bellow the block
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Looking back at the traverse under the huge block with Royce lakes bel...
Looking back at the traverse under the huge block with Royce lakes bellow
Credit: Vitaliy M.

This was a perfect finish to a great climb. From there we had another 300feet of 4th class scrambling to the summit. Rope drag here was annoying and we lost too much time figuring out where to go. After we got it figured out we were in the sun, and on the summit shortly.

Knife-edge ridge scramble to the summit
Knife-edge ridge scramble to the summit
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Views from the summit
Views from the summit
Credit: Vitaliy M.

We spent about thirty minutes eating, taking photos, checking out the summit register and taking in the views on the summit. Few minutes after us, another pair of climbers topped out after doing one of Peter Croft's new routes (which looks awesome by the way).

These names are familiar!
These names are familiar!
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Our signature in the summit register
Our signature in the summit register
Credit: Vitaliy M.

I would rate north buttress of Merriam as a 4.5/5 star climb by alpine standards. It was everything we wanted it to be- an aesthetic line up a beautiful buttress. Dirty scrambling was absent. Pitches of sustained (but not hard) technical climbing present. Yes, there are some big blocks that may go at some point, but this is an alpine climb. For a less traveled route, the rock quality is fantastic (in my opinion).

North Buttress on the Descent
North Buttress on the Descent
Credit: Vitaliy M.
View of Merriam on the hike out
View of Merriam on the hike out
Credit: Vitaliy M.

The hike out offered a few more picture worthy stops, but for the most part involved battling mosquitoes. Bryan and I surprised ourselves by hiking out with some day-light to spare- 17 hours after we left the car. Although we did not try to beat any records ourselves, we were happy to get back at a reasonable time because on the next day we went to Yosemite Valley to watch Hans Florine and Alex Honnold set the new speed record on the Nose.

Back at the trail-head
Back at the trail-head
Credit: Vitaliy M.

  Trip Report Views: 2,472
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
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Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 26, 2012 - 04:16pm PT
Great trip report and photos! Thanks for sharing.
x15x15

climber
  Jun 26, 2012 - 04:58pm PT
way to go dhude. check out the difference between this year and 2 years ago... almost exactly two years ago. http://vimeo.com/13075945 big snow vs. no snow...
WML

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jun 26, 2012 - 05:22pm PT
Beautiful line, well done. That thing is definitely on the list....looks like aesthetic moves up an aesthetic feature - what more can you ask for?

Again, well done c2c
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Jun 27, 2012 - 12:38pm PT
Thanks! Did you take cheburashka?

(Kind of a loose usage of the word "hike", too.)
femaleexpat

Mountain climber
Sactown, CA
  Jun 26, 2012 - 05:27pm PT
Nice trip report...Yah the rocks, whitish colour I have not seen that in my life yet so I guess I have to wonder more in Bishop :)
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Jun 26, 2012 - 05:29pm PT
Thanks for the TR! It was nice to run into you there! I think that's me in the red jacket in your picture of pitch 2 and on the ridge in the end!
eKat

Trad climber
  Jun 26, 2012 - 05:29pm PT
NICE!

TFPU!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jun 26, 2012 - 05:43pm PT
15x15, is that seriously exactly 2 years ago!? wow what a difference. I was sure happy not to haul axes and crampons up. Seems like you guys had an awesome trip too. Ghostrider and Dark Star also, nice.

Thank you all!

Mighty Hiker, Cheburashka was resting, I will need his help soon though.

Impaler, was nice meeting you too. Great job you guys. Those Croft's lines you did look awesome. Maybe in couple of years I can re-live the feeling of being intimidated by the same buttress if I approach those...who knows. : )
I believe this is you as well:
View of Merriam on the hike out
View of Merriam on the hike out
Credit: Vitaliy M.

What a beautiful area...
msiddens

Trad climber
  Jun 26, 2012 - 06:07pm PT
So beautiful- on the list and it must go down!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Jun 26, 2012 - 06:19pm PT
Very nice job doods...that cah to cah stuff --maannnnnnn. Id take two days for the approach and "thinkin bout it"!
mooch

Trad climber
Old Climbers' Home (Adopted)
  Jun 26, 2012 - 06:37pm PT
Proudness!! Great job boys! Next year.....a certain arete on DP ;)

Sorry I couldn't keep to our schedule for that one. Mooch is a punter! :P
Bryan B

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
  Jun 26, 2012 - 08:32pm PT
It was very nice as a day trip. Much less work than carrying heavy packs up the approach. Thanks for posting the TR Vitaliy.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 26, 2012 - 10:18pm PT
Way to go Vitality,
thanks MUCH for all your great TR's.
-e
PeteC

climber
  Jun 26, 2012 - 10:35pm PT
Strong work! We climbed it a couple of weeks ago during the cold snap and were quite cold! Isn't the grainite basin ambience wonderful!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Jun 26, 2012 - 10:59pm PT
Charlie on the  classic triple crack corner, North buttress of Merriam...
Charlie on the classic triple crack corner, North buttress of Merriam Peak
Credit: RyanD

super classic ridge traversing took us to the true summit
super classic ridge traversing took us to the true summit
Credit: RyanD

Very cool TR & awesome photos, did this one last fall & spent a few days back there & brings some very nice memories to the surface. Great climbing, great rock, many splitters & many jams. Great job on the car to car, you did a total of 92 switchbacks between pine lake & the parking up & down. So beautiful back there, thanks for the psyche! Although I don't have many high Sierra peaks under my belt I would agree with the 4.5 star status, great route! Read my TR(& first ST post) on it here.


http://www.supertopo.com/tr/North-Buttress-Merriam-peak-Royce-lakes/t11342n.html
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jun 27, 2012 - 12:33am PT
Ryan, I commented on your TR back in Feb 9, 2012 : ) Looked over it a few more times before heading out too. It is a great one. Nice to have these areas with less traffic, amazing scenery, and great climbing. Although I think traffic there is rapidly increasing.
poc

Sport climber
  Jun 27, 2012 - 12:50am PT
Nice one pink bits.
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
  Jun 27, 2012 - 01:03am PT
Thanks for the great TR and photos, Vitaliy. It's definitely high in my to do list.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Jun 27, 2012 - 01:04am PT
Oh hey Vitality! I haven't looked at my TR since I posted it until I saw yours today, thanks for the comments & again great work on the C2C on that one. 48 switchbacks we counted between pine lake & the parking. Forget about the climbing, Doing that alone 2 times in 24 hrs is a big day!
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Jun 27, 2012 - 01:30am PT
Great job and killer TR.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 27, 2012 - 03:08am PT
Amazing amazing amazingly beautiful. Thanks for writing up this great TR! This must be the line you mentioned with good cracks, yes? That triple cracks pitch looks all-time.

Elegant, yet blood-chilling...

Succinctly describes an ex-girlfriend of mine.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
  Jun 27, 2012 - 11:31am PT
Trip reports take a lot of time and effort to put together, and yours are always a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing your wonderful day.
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Jun 27, 2012 - 12:16pm PT
awesome.

always daunting to grind up from the bay, hit the trailhead, and do the turnaround without any chance to acclimate.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jun 27, 2012 - 12:35pm PT
Wow - great TR and pictures!

Such a beautiful area and the climb looks awesome. TFPU
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jun 27, 2012 - 04:28pm PT
Thanks again all for the nice comments.

le_bruce, yes it was. Cracks and climbing on this route is spectacular. I seem to say it in all my TRs, but I wouldn't make one if I did not like it. Been lucky with good routes lately.

48 switchbacks we counted between pine lake & the parking

My strategy was to avoid counting them, but by the end of it I was wondering if it is more than on Whitney trail (never been, but heard there is a hundred or something?)...
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Estes Park, CO
  Jun 27, 2012 - 07:14pm PT
I will have to talk to Peter but Bradon Downey and his wife may have done the spitters through the roof a while back it may not be a first assent.
splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Jun 27, 2012 - 07:33pm PT
awesome TR. looks beautiful.

Sh#t Wedge!! What's up.
Zander

climber
  Jun 27, 2012 - 07:38pm PT
Sweet!
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jun 27, 2012 - 08:07pm PT
Dang, way to get after it. Makes me sad that a Feather Peak/Mt. Merriam trip I had planned 20 yrs. ago fell through. I had even driven up to Bishop only to have my partner call me and tell me he couldn't make it. Some day...
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Jun 27, 2012 - 11:49pm PT
mmmm like candy. muchos gracias.
Spike Flavis

Sport climber
Truckee California
  Jun 28, 2012 - 12:06am PT

Bad Ass!!

Now that's a car-to-car ascent!
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Estes Park, CO
  Jun 28, 2012 - 08:14am PT
Splitclimber....Just dealing with Nursing school back in VA. Hope to be back in Cali for the month of Aug. Then my last semester.
zoom loco

Mountain climber
san diego ca
  Jul 2, 2012 - 10:39pm PT
Single Push! A great style for the sierra, good work. Sounds like a great peak I'd like to get on sometime--thanks for getting the word out about these lesser known gems.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
  Jul 3, 2012 - 03:18am PT
very strong....inspiring..

that climb looks very very very good.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 3, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
Thank's guys.

Zoom Loco, if it was a 17 hour outing for us, it will take about 6 for you. Very short day. : )

The Wedge, nursing school was my toughest accomplished goal...although Hospitals did not hire new grads when I got out. I did not end up in one. : (
Coach77

Gym climber
Sierra Nevada, CA
  Jul 4, 2012 - 09:58pm PT
Great Picks - I love that place. I lived up ther for a couple of summers. Whitaker and I had the greatest Top-rope The High Sierra has ever seen on that thing. Kinda naughty of us to fix ropes on it but boy was it fun to run a couple laps on it after a day of trail work. Jake top-roped the 700 feet (we only fixed to where the buttress turned to ridge) after work one evening 3 times. Congrats on doing that thing car to car! PS we were bad to fix ropes on it for a month but we did buff the route of choss and rubbed a ton of lichens off it I am sure by way of lapping out.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 5, 2012 - 02:14pm PT
WOW. this Top Rope set up idea you guys did is great. I will confess: I really want to set up a TR on the last pitch of 3rd pillar of Dana. Do that 5 times, than walk up Dana couloir...doesn't that sound great?!
Myles Moser

climber
Lone Pine, Ca
  Jul 6, 2012 - 02:27pm PT
Man you have been busy! Keep it up.
Some Random Guy

climber
  Jul 9, 2012 - 02:13pm PT
It was very nice as a day trip. Much less work than carrying heavy packs up the approach.
i hear that. i discovered the wonder of the car to car last year and NOT having to carry all that shit! man it makes a difference. fast and light is the way to go.

17 hours is impressive. did this last year over two days.....hiked in leisurely the first day and did the climb and hike out in about 12 hours day two. killed my knees by the time i got back to mordor....

not that i have that much high sierra alpine experience but everything about this climb is ultra classic! the crack systems....the crux.....traversing under the summit block......the ridgeline scramble.....SWEET! when my partner dragged my out here last year i was contemplating why i do these things during the final part of the approach. upon reaching the summit i realized why and it was worth it.


on a separate note, big shout out to lisa rands......UR HOT! feel free to pm me
F C

Social climber
truckee,ca
  Jul 9, 2012 - 03:52pm PT
Proud! awesome..good on u
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Jul 9, 2012 - 05:10pm PT
"Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco."

You are annoying me by getting out a climbing so much!

Thanks for another great report and keeping climbing on the first page
:-)

Erik
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Oct 16, 2012 - 08:10pm PT
Vitaliy you have been slacking on Trip Reports! Shouldn't you be climbing lots since it is Yosemite season?

Bump for sweet adventures.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Oct 25, 2012 - 01:34pm PT
Cultureshock, I decided to retire from climbing, and instead will post on supertopo more often- argue about the ethics, style, and put people down. Sounds a lot easier than climbing! : )


jk

I been busy at work and didn't have much time to write (been climbing during all my free time pretty much). Now that the weather will be a bit more shitty, the time will be there..
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Oct 29, 2012 - 02:23pm PT
Vitaiy M. in repose.  Do you never slow down?
Vitaiy M. in repose. Do you never slow down?

I love Vitaliy's TRs. They are inspiring, informative, and well-photographed.

It's too bad he's so damn annoying and ugly.

His TR's should ever be bumped, however.

He's bidding to be THE NEXT T. R. DONINI.
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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