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bedellympian

[TR] North Sister - Complete East Buttress 12/23/2020

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Trip: North Sister - Complete East Buttress

Trip Date: 12/23/2020

Trip Report:

 

The East Buttress of North Sister is listed in the Oregon High guide book but it doesn’t receive much praise there. However, a close reading would interest any winter climber. The Complete East Buttress (“Direct” would be inaccurate) is an obvious extension of this route and several local climbers (myself included) have made the mistake of thinking this awaits a first ascent. However, it has been done, and soloed, by @now_climbing and maybe others too. When Chris first told me he had done it I was a little disappointed as the mystery was diminished, but when he told me it was his favorite alpine climb in Oregon that piqued my interest and I got quite excited to try it in early season conditions.

Last winter around this time @kyleptarry and I came darn close despite no ice on the upper buttress and plenty of post holing in wind packed powder.

On 12/23 this winter @lim.landon and I decided to give it another go. We hoped the recent rain up to high elevation had created ice earlier than last year but we were betting against ourselves. Despite our pessimism we got lucky and enjoyed near perfect conditions on our way to the summit.

Though a little contrived, this route is really good and deserves more attention: long, varied, good rock (for volcanoes), and pitch after pitch of memorable moderate mixed climbing. I've listed a pitch-by-pitch breakdown below, though it would probably be more fun if you go explore for yourself! 😉

Hopefully someone else can repeat it while its in good nick! 

Here are some pictures... Pictures

 

SPOILER ALERT - PITCH BREAKDOWN

P1- climb the short vertical ice pillar in the middle of the lower buttress follow easier ice up the gully to a tree and short ice step (WI3+/4-)

P2 (simul)- short ice step and snow up to base of cliff, go over ridge crest to R traverse snow and climb up first snow/neve/ice gully to broad snow field on ridge crest

simul/solo snow field, stay on crest over a couple high points until you are cliffed out

P3- down climb steep snow/neve to the R/N side and traverse at highest opportunity to regain ridge crest

P4- black gendarme, climb up and right, down the back side, weave through some orange rock features (downclimb some steep snow) and terrain/body belay (M3)

climb up to the next high point on the ridge (easy snow) and rappel off the fixed tat (25m free hanging rappel), this is the end of the lower buttress

walk up the snow ridge and right to the obvious double gully which starts the upper buttress

P5- if ice is in climb the L of the two gullies (WI2/3), if its dry climb the R gully (runout M4 on nubbins) and traverse back L on easier ground

P6- v-slot, continue up this cool feature above the L gully from the last pitch, you can link with the last pitch if you came up the L gully (M3)

simul up steep snow above these pitches and either skirt the next cliff band on the R up more snow/neve, or go to the chimney on the L

P7 (optional chimney)- climb the chimney past a chock stone and onto low angle slab, some more scrambly bits and then snow above this

P8- the snow narrows and steepens with a big rock face feature on the L ending in an exposed and runout slab section (M3 R), climb snow above this and body/terrain belay

P9 head up and L (don' get sucked R or you'll be stuck beneath steeper rock), until just below the top of the ridge, then a slight R and some short moves to the ridgecrest (M4)

P10 (3 options)- move the belay down the ridge crest to the base of Glissan Pinnacle (the slightly lower of the 2 summits that forms the headwall at the top of Early Morning Couloir) and... 

option 1- traverse steep exposed snow L over the Thayer Headwall to get around Glissan to the true summit (Prouty Pinnacle)

option 2- climb the headwall of Glissan directly (actually quite good, what I would recommend, but more time consuming) (M4, 60m rope stretcher)

option 3- traverse steep snow R over the top of EMC, from here you can descend or wrap all the way around Glissan to the summit (definitely the longest distance, and the least cool)

P11- summit pinnacle (Prouty Pinnacle) walk across the snowy saddle and climb the NE aspect of the summit (either sketchy rock slabs to snow on the L or stacked jenga pile on the R (M3+ R), OR if both those are looking terrible you could go all the way around the summit to the W side and climb the Bowling Alley gully (AI2/3))

Descent options: down climb Bowling Alley to the W and descend the standard S Ridge, OR rappel the last pitch to the saddle and traverse around Glissan on the N side (steep exposed snow, option 3 from P10), and down climb Early Morning Couloir (I prefer this second option as it gets you back to the base more directly). Expect either descent to be exposed and unprotectable, with lots of high dagger down climbing for over 2k'.

Gear Notes:
60m half rope (a 70 would make things a little more comfy), 2 knife blades, nuts from tips to 0.5, single set of cams from 0.4 to 3, screws (2x stubby, 2x 13cm, leave the vthread at home this time of year)

Approach Notes:
Pole Creek is accessible with high clearance 4WD. Skin/slog is a straight shot on snow (less than 2 hrs car to base)

Edited by bedellympian
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Here are some more pictures...

The upper buttress from just before you down climb to the R on the lower buttress, you can see the double ice gullies that start the upper and the black gendarme on the ridge ahead.

IMG_1719.thumb.jpg.66d1a497fb82498145594c817a80c6a5.jpg

Landon enjoying the view S before we start the upper.

IMG_1721.thumb.jpg.41f4594f46e342698dab933c5934b1e0.jpg

Looking back at the lower, you can see the cliff you rappel, just R of the snow crest.

IMG_1722.thumb.jpg.4063b6003fda6316747eb16e399dd1a7.jpg

Landon leading the ice starting the upper.

IMG_1723.thumb.jpg.8d1c224c7e5a530e7d8692d55ecb8b86.jpg

Me leading the headwall on Glissan Pinnacle.

IMG_1761.thumb.jpg.5fe5751bafd0a7b52e7fdd39b9a3da3e.jpg

Me leading the summit pinnacle pitch.

IMG_1763.thumb.jpg.30906f858f3171306207ec1ccd66e15c.jpg

Landon down climbing EMC.

IMG_1744.thumb.jpg.91fe25777db77f2cb8c06413cd9e0adb.jpg

Ice options on the N side of the lower buttress. It could be a fun cragging mission in and of itself when its fatter later in the season.

IMG_1756.thumb.jpg.778c8466873d744cb32358507ad57a6e.jpg

Bottom of the lower. The first pitch climbs the obvious short pillar, then you go up and right between the tower and cliffs.

IMG_1752.thumb.jpg.96d1bb48343f01445bbb4bbb398c3fd4.jpg

 

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