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[TR] Mt. Formidable - Direct NE Buttress (FA), III+, 5.9 Hicks/McBrian 7/22/2009


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Trip: Mt. Formidable - Direct NE Buttress (FA), III+, 5.9 Hicks/McBrian


Date: 7/22/2009


Trip Report:

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 arête 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



Pitch 3



Snow Arete



Upper East Ridge



The NE Buttress



Mt. Formidable

Direct NE Buttress

III+, 5.9

Kurt Hicks, Forest McBrian

July 22, 2009



Gear 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.

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Righteous! Good for you two! and thanks for TRing. Please though , You must talk about how it felt to see this route though. Was it planned or spontaneous. Did you do the ptarm?

Oh Man, I saw and thought about that line, I did a solo of the complete n ridge.

GREAT for getting it and I am glad it is a worthy line. (and), What about the ridge to the left?

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Wayne--the line wasn't totally spontaneous. We were both looking to get into a new place for us and see new terrain... but it came about after a quick look at green beckey. The AAJ had no reference to the feature being climbed either. We just went in for the route as a super mellow three day trip. The ridge to the left with the pinnacles looks good from a far but is junk and rubble covered from our vantage point. The east ridge looks like a fun one though.


Unfortunately no hot tubs were poached on our climb...





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