• Date - 07/16/2009
  • Elevation - 13,497'
  • Route - North Buttress
  • Miles - 3.0
  • Elevation Gain - 2,100'
  • ACME Mapper - Link
  • Caltopo - Link
  • Partners - Jeff Shafer


After climbing Spearhead the previous day and spending the night in upper Glacier Gorge, Jeff and I got up shortly after 6:00.  Two parties had arrived at the base of the north ridge of Spearhead as we prepared breakfast and hot drinks.  We weren't in a particular hurry because our intended route for the day was significantly less popular than the north ridge of Spearhead.  After we ate, we meandered across the valley to Green Lake and then to the north buttress of Pagoda Mountain.  Neither Jeff or I had done any significant amount of research on the route or read any trip reports.  All we had to go on was a two sentence route description from an old guidebook that read...  Pagoda Mountain-North Buttress (5.6) Scramble to the base of the route, climb five pitches to the ridge crest, and then scramble to the summit.  Other online sources grade the route 5.7 which both Jeff and I would generally agree with by the lines that we climbed.

Not knowing exactly what was ahead of us added to the excitement for the day.  We ended up completing the climb in five pitches.  We accurately scrambled into the base of the north buttress from the left.  I didn't think the first pitch looked too bad, so I asked Jeff if I could start us off for the day.  He quickly responded with a yes and said I was up anyway.  I took off up some easy terrain but slowed my pace as the pitch seemed to get progressively more difficult the higher I got.  I used all but 10' of the rope on the first pitch and set up and anchor in a good stance about 20 feet below an overhang.  As Jeff reached my belay station, he agreed that pitch one ended up being slightly harder than it looked from below.

Jeff climbed a nice crack to the right of the overhang above us and then traversed left and up above the roof on some slabs to a convenient belay station.  For pitch 3, I traversed just slightly more to the left and climbed a slabby dihedral, a short vertical section back towards the ridge, and another large left facing corner to easier terrain.  I used the entire length of our 60 meter rope on this pitch.  From here, Jeff lead a shorter pitch 4 up and then traversing left to a large grassy ledge below the vertical prow of the north buttress.  Pitch 5 was a long and sustained vertical section that I stretched the rope on once again.  This was a very fun and exciting pitch that seemed to go on forever.  I started on a small face and worked my way into a long chimney system left of the buttress that takes you to the ridge crest.  Unfortunately, the upper part of the pitch contains some loose and dangerous rock.  As Jeff came into site, he said he didn't think he'd ever reach me.

The ridge from the top of the climb to the summit remained class 4 in many areas and we stayed roped up for a couple of scrambling pitches.  Pagoda Mountain was a new peak for the both of us and upon reaching the summit, we enjoyed some salmon on tortillas while taking in the views of the surrounding area.  Neither Jeff or I had ate or drank much during the morning so lunch was very rewarding.  The walk-off down Pagoda Mountain's east ridge was fun.  However, the descent from the saddle between Pagoda and Longs to the basin below was loose, rotten, and annoying.  After getting back to our camp, we snacked some more and then enjoyed mashed potatoes and ramen noodles for dinner.  I got to wear the camp booties.  We sipped some Knob Creek and turned in for the evening.


ApproachScrambling to the base of the route.James starting pitch 1.Jeff following pitch 1.Jeff following pitch 1.Jeff leading pitch 2.ViewsJeff following pitch 3.Jeff leading pitch 4.James leading pitch 5.James leading pitch 5.Jeff following pitch 5.ScramblingScramblingSummit PhotoA sideview of the north buttress of Pagoda Mountain.DescentPagoda MountainDinnerCamp