September 28, 2009

Paradise Buttress - North Face Route

Paradise Buttress (9,727 ft.)
North Face Direct – II, 5.6
FA: Garon Miskin & Kyler Miskin
September 18, 2009

Friday Kyler, Jarik and I did some exploring in the Lemhi Range. In particular I was eager to return to a large buttress on the south side of Gilmore Peak that I had been to earlier this summer.

Dean and Heather Lords and I had done some recon earlier this summer near the south side of Gilmore Peak. Our objective then was to scout a possible base camp site for backcountry skiing in the huge cirques formed by Gilmore Peak, Sheep Mountain and other subsidiary ridges in between.

The high alpine meadow we discovered had impressed me so much that I couldn’t wait to return. Equally as impressive were two steep buttresses that jut out from a ridgeline between Gilmore Peak and Sheep Mountain.

Our intention Friday was to do some recon, snap some photos and assess the probability of routes on the buttresses. As we scrambled over the glacial scree at the base of the first buttress my eyes were drawn to the beautiful white and gray quartzite that forms the majority of the buttress.

The Lemhi Range is notorious for its rotten limestone and the solid quartzite made me almost giddy. Kyler and I found 4-5 pitches of fun, steep rock with scrambling on the lower and upper sections of the route. We climbed two roped pitches, approximately 200 feet each, through the middle of the route.

The alpine feel and mostly solid rock makes this route fun and aesthetic. The short approach (20-30 minutes) over easy ground makes this a great destination for short alpine routes. The other buttress, which is taller and steeper, probably holds a good number of harder alpine and multi-pitch wall routes.

Here’s the skinny.

The Route:

Cross the open meadow on the North Side of the Buttress and re-enter the trees on the opposite (west) side. Keep an eye on the buttress and when you are inline with the center of the North Face, turn left and head straight for the buttress. A couple of huge boulders near the bottom of the scree indicate you are in the right place.

Continue up the scree field straight toward the North Face from the large boulders and locate the bottom of an east/west tending ramp. A small, grassy area marks the start of the ramp.

Scramble up steep 4th class terrain, tending up and right to the top of the ramp. As one approaches the top of the ramp, look for a short, vertical chimney (5.4). Set a belay and climb the chimney. At the top of the chimney gain a narrow ledge and follow a series of narrow ledges up and left to the “J-tree ledge”. This narrow, down-sloping ledge will be obvious from the J-shaped tree growing across it. Directly to the left of the J-shaped tree is a small alcove. Set a belay in this alcove.

The crux pitch, a 200-foot chimney, rises directly up from the J-shaped tree (5.6). The lower section is wide, shallow and run-out.

About mid-way up, the chimney turns to the right and narrows significantly. Better gear is found in the back of the narrow, vertical chimney. Continue to the top of the upper chimney and make an exposed step to the right and onto a small arête. Locate a large tree and boulders several feet above the top of the chimney and set a belay.
Easy 5th class climbing with only moderate exposure above the arête will bring you near a large boulder. Experienced parties will want to coil ropes at this point since the remainder of the route is far less exposed. Make a fishhook left around the boulder and gain the upper section of the arête. The upper arête now leads to the obvious roof-shaped bellyroll pitch. At the southern end of bellyroll step across onto the large chockstone, then stem left onto the headwall face. Using positive face holds traverse up and left to gain the top of the headwall (5.4).

A short scramble on solid rock will lead to the small summit.


From the summit, work south-east toward the forested ridge, staying high. In a very short distance the ridge proper is gained. Walk East along the ridgeline (in the trees) until you cross an obvious game trail. Take this trail and work to your left. Descend the ridge toward the meadow.

The further East one progresses before descending the ridge, the easier the descent terrain will be. A series of good game trails exists all over this ridge and all eventually work their way down to the meadow. Just remember not to get to far off to the right.

 First Pitch - 4th Class Ramp                                                                                                 Belaying from the White Alcove

 Start of 2nd Pitch - Short Chimney                                               Crossing Bellyroll

   Summit - Paradise Buttress

June 10, 2009

Spring Alpine Climbing

Spring in the Central Idaho mountain ranges brings ephemeral ice that can be as difficult to catch in good condition as sunny day has been the past two weeks. However, Scott Hurst and I decided to head over to peak 11,308 and take our chances on White Line Couloir.

What we found was fat ice and beautiful weather. Ok, “fat” is a relative term when it comes to alpine ice – and even more relative when it comes to the White Line. But compared to the lean years pictured in Dean Lords’ blog, the pillar on the first technical pitch was huge!

The unusually wet season (which doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon) made for great mixed conditions on the route.

Though both Scott and I had both been to the summit before, we decided to make our first ascent of the White Line in true alpine fashion and trudged the additional 1,500 feet (through knee-deep snow) all the way to the summit.

The descent was beautiful – more post-holing in soft snow that had been rock solid just hours before. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly conditions can change according to the appearance or absence of the sun.

Dean has been recommending this route to us for years now and we have been stymied by either scheduling conflicts or from missing the short window of weather that allows the ice to form on the route.

Though Dean has pioneered more difficult mixed routes in the Lost River Range, this route is a “Dean Lords Gem” that every Idaho mountaineer should experience. The rock was solid, protection was great, though it took some creativity to find, and the aesthetics of the route are unbelievable!

Justin Avenius and Mike Shaw teamed up on the route just six days after Scott and me. They reported similar conditions and also found the route enjoyable and well worth the time taken.

White Line gave me such a bug for spring alpine climbing that I went the following week to Lost River Peak (12, 078 ft.) and climbed Super Gulley (Snow/Class 3).

I planned to do the route solo but just as I was leaving the trailhead, an SUV pulled up and four member of the Idaho Alpine Club poured out in eager anticipation of climbing the same route. They graciously let me join them. At the south summit one finds a long, knife-edge ridge with fantastic exposure on both sides. This last ridge traverse made the slog up the broad gully, which is often skied, well worth the effort.

Not knowing was kind of terrain to expect, I left my snowboard at home and was wishing I hadn’t as I started the descent. I guess I’ll just have to go back and ride the gully another time!

The Ultimate Expedition

We take many side trips during our journey through life, but remember, your life is unique and the outcome each day is up to you. Find greatness every step of the way as you undertake the ultimate expedition - your life!