Monday, August 27, 2012

Nez Perce, Southwest Buttress

8/12/2012  Leah, Natalie and I approached the route and made it to the base of the upper buttress before the wheels came off in the form of a dropped approach shoe.  We spent the remainder of the day exploring unknown terrain on the west side of the buttress on rappel, in search of shoes and conveniently found them at the base of the climb.  We vowed to return...
The offending shoe.
 8/25/2012  Leah, Natalie and I approached the route, excited for a shoe-dropping-free ascent.  We once again soloed the easy first pitch, and I led the 5.9R pitch without incident.  Natalie styled the long third pitch, and Leah led the first pitch on the upper Buttress.  I lead the crux pitch through the roofs and chimneys, shaking my head at the loose chockstone that still resides in the chimney.  I also lead the final pitch, fully enjoying the excellent climbing in the final dihedral.  Great route, beautiful day, amazing partners, just another perfect day in Montana. The descent was easier than I remembered, and we were soon swimming in the creek.
Natalie on the 3rd pitch.
Natalie and Leah climbing above the Noble Gas chimney
on the crux  5th pitch.
Descending below the Upper Kootenai Buttress.
Approach shoes blocked out to protect the innocent from the 8/12 incident.
The Southwest buttress of Nez Perce has the reputation of being a scary adventure climb.  I think that the reputation stems primarily from the poor route description in the Climbing Montana guidebook.  The "correct" route takes a logical line of sustained, medium quality climbing with excellent position and good gear (except for pitch 2).  Here is how I climb the route.  Note pitch ratings and lengths are different from the guidebook:

Nez Perce
Southwest Buttress
IV 5.10b
FA:  Lee/Shreve 1970

A Bitterroot classic with good climbing and amazing position.  By following the normal route, this “adventure climb” should be fairly safe and straight forward.

Approach via the normal climbers trail to Blackfoot and the Cornlier, or ascend talus below and east of the buttress before traversing west along the toe of the buttress.  The climb begins at the southwest toe of the buttress.

Pitch 1 - 5.4 Climb easy, low angle terrain on the Southwest corner of the buttress.  Scramble up easy, broken dirt and scree to the base of the buttress proper (60 feet).

Pitch 2 - 5.9R Climb up to a tree, then further up and slightly left to a small roof.  From the left side of the roof, climb up and slightly left on thin cracks and shallow dihedrals, placing protection wherever possible (micro TCUs usefull).  Step up and left around a shallow bulge (no gear) to steep cracks.  Climb these for 20 feet to a belay ledge with an old bolt just west of the southwest buttress (100 feet). Note:  This pitch can be safely climbed with small TCUs for protection, but be prepared for some difficult and flaring gear placements and moderate length runouts.

Pitch 3 - 5.10a  Climb straight up the the thin cracks on the west face for 30 feet (crux) to gain the southwest buttress.  Continue up low angle, flared cracks to a small ledge.  Trend up and left, back onto the west face, eventually passing some platey, loose blocks on the west face, then up easy terrain to a tree belay on a large ledge at the base of the upper buttress (170 feet).

Pitch 4 - 5.8  Climb up cracks on the west side of the buttress, eventually climbing up and left to a small belay ledge on the southwest buttress.  Belay at a piton and a rock spike (120 feet).   

Pitch 5 - 5.10b  Climb straight up steep rock (crux) to the base of an L-shaped roof.  Pull the roof, and continue up into a long squeeze chimney with a loose chockstone (slightly runout).  From the top of the chimney, climb the right of the two dihedrals to a sloping belay ledge below a small roof on the west side of the buttress (150 feet).

Pitch 6 - 5.9+  Pull the roof directly up and right of the belay (don’t fall!).  Continue easily up and right, then straight up past two pitons to a large dihedral on the west side of the buttress.  Climb this high quality dihedral to its terminus (crux).  Continue up easy terrain to a belay near the top of the buttress.

Pitch 7 4th class:  Easy terrain leads to the summit. 

Gear: Standard double rack plus doubles or triples of micro TCUs (purple or grey) for the 5.9R pitch.  One #3 camalot should suffice.       

Descent: From the summit, either descend straight east down slabs (very exposed), or traverse back and north to gain the talus gully between Nez Perce and Blackfoot dome.  Descend the gully to your packs and reverse the ascent route to Blodgett Creek.    
Looking up from Pitch 3.

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