Friday, June 29, 2012

Merriam Peak - Direct North Buttress

The North Buttress of Merriam Peak, John Muir Wilderness
Merriam Peak
Direct North Buttress
IV, 5.10
June 23, 2012

Suffering from a severe case of early season restlessness, Jaime and I arranged for a three-day weekend of alpine rock and started to consider our options.  We could drive 7 hours to the North Cascades, which was threatened with mediocre weather, or we could stretch out the motorized approach and put in a solid 15 hours to the east side of the Sierras.  Folks around these parts are still skiing on a deep maritime snowpack, but with a lean snow year down south the alpine conditions in California were rumored to be excellent.  Crappy Cascades weather or California sun and golden granite?   

Despite having only a brief three-day window, we choose the Sierras and left Portland at about 5 pm on Thursday evening.  By 4:30 am Friday morning, we were asleep on the side of 395 in a canyon of granite.  After a few restless hours on the side of the road, we drove down to Bishop, picked up our permit and a couple of supplies and then started the hike from Pine Creek trailhead around 2 pm.  We finally rolled into camp at about 11,000' at 9 pm to cold, blustery conditions.  We brewed up some hot water and hit the sack after a long 24+ hour push from PTown.

We got a late start on Saturtday morning after an uncomfortable night of sleep interrupted periodically by wind trying to flatten our tent walls.  Once we got on route, we enjoyed sunny conditions for a few pitches and but then found ourselves in the cold shade of the north facing buttress.  We finally topped out to more sun and more wind, and then made it back to camp at 6-7 pm.
Sunday morning, we woke up as soon as the sun hit the tent and packed up the kit for the hike out.  Back at the car by 1 pm or so, we got back on the road and arrived in Portland around 2:30 am early Monday morning.     

We enjoyed the route, which has a reputation for being a bit chossy by Sierra standards, but compared to the Cascades we found the rock to be pretty darn good.  The setting was beautiful, remote, and peaceful.  The wind ... well ... it was persistent.  But overall, we had a great weekend.

The approach from Pine Creek trail head into the John Muir Wilderness
Banded walls of stone above Pine Lake

Our bivy site on the banks of Upper Royce Lake underneath Merriam Peak
Whitecaps on Upper Royce Lake
Late morning approach to the route
Jaime making it look easy on the first pitch
Jaime cruising a cruxy .10a face section on pitch 2
Following pitch 2.  Photo by Jaime Bohle

The impeccable triple crack corner that defines the route

Following the triple cracks.  Photo by Bohle.
Somewhere high on the route.  Photo by Bohle.
Slightly off route but into a sweet 5.10 finger crack.   Photo by Bohle.
Traversing under the summit capstone.  Photo by Bohle.

On the summit
Summit views
Views of the Royce Lakes Basin
The Pine Creek Drainage

Views from the descent
Rack Notes:  single set of TCUs, single set of nuts with some brass, double set of cams to #3, a #4

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