Mt. Formidable - Direct NE Buttress (FA), III+, 5.9 Hicks/McBrianDate:
On June 22, 2009 Forest McBrian and I climbed the complete NE Buttress of Mt. Formidable. This feature splits the Middle Cascade Glacier from the Formidable Glacier on the mountain’s northeast aspect.
From our amazing bivy near the Middle Cascade Glacier along the Ptarmigan Traverse, we descended onto the Middle Cascade then climbed 40 degree snow to the toe of the buttress and searched for a suitable moat crossing. This dictated our starting point—at the left edge of a sidewalk/ramp system, close to a small, white crystalline band. From here, we climbed about 1000’ of new terrain, up to 5.9, before intersecting the 1962 route near the top of the buttress. The technical crux consisted of a tricky move out of a dihedral on the second pitch. Numerous pitches of less technical, but decidedly alpine terrain (a.k.a. steep, loose, nearly impossible to protect, fifth class heather) led to a snowpatch at mid-height. A couple more technical pitches to 5.8 led to the phenomenal snow aręte that caps the buttress. We then climbed up and over the East Ridge pyramid that sits at the head of the Formidable Glacier (though this can be bypassed easily), probably making the second ascent of that feature (Martin Volken did the full East Ridge a few years ago). Incredibly fun and exposed ridge traversing led from the right-hand col to the true summit. Descent was made by cutting across the south face, generally traversing southeast towards the head of Flat Creek (exposed class 4/5 in spots, no rappels needed); then following the Ptarmigan Traverse route northward to the Spider-Formidable Col and back down the Middle Cascade Glacier. Our roundtrip was fifteen hours, eleven of which were spent on ascent.
All things considered, our route is similar to the NE Buttress (1957) of nearby Johannesburg except that it is not guarded by 2000’+ of heinous bushwacking and the rock quality is better on Formidable. The exposed, but safe position on the buttress crest between two very active glaciers gives the route its appeal.
Forest on the opening pitch
Upper East Ridge
The NE Buttress
Direct NE Buttress
Kurt Hicks, Forest McBrian
July 22, 2009Gear Notes:
A single rack to 3”; small cams most useful. One axe and crampons per person if snow conditions are firm. We placed one Lost Arrow, but other options may exist.Approach Notes:
Hike to Cascade Pass then follow the Ptarmigan Traverse until able to descend down to the base of the NE Buttress.