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Merriam Peak
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Direct North Buttress T 
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Triple Cracks Project T 

Direct North Buttress 

YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b PG13

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 1000', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10b French: 6a+ Ewbanks: 19 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b [details]
FA: Vern Clevenger/Bob Harrington
Page Views: 6,421
Submitted By: Old Skool on May 26, 2008

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (27)
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BETA PHOTO: The Route.


The entire route entails some challenging but very fun diverse climbing. The crux 10.b lies on the Seventh pitch. It is definitely a Classic and must DO!

Total of seven technical Pitches with an additional 300' feet of Class 3ish to reach the Summit proper.


Descend Class 2 via the West Ridge to the Col between Merriam and Royce. Then proceed down to Camp.


This is a Backcountry Trad route with ZERO fixed gear.

Gear List:
2ea MET TCU's (#1-3)
2ea MET FCU's (#4-8)
2ea WC Flexi #4 Friend
1 Set Of Stoppers
10 Alpine Slings(Draws) w/Biner's
10 Spare Biner's
2 60m Double's

Photos of Direct North Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: fun ridge climbing
fun ridge climbing
Rock Climbing Photo: The TOPO.
Rock Climbing Photo: Merriam Peak's North Buttress at sunset
Merriam Peak's North Buttress at sunset
Rock Climbing Photo: The Triple Crack Pitch (5).
The Triple Crack Pitch (5).
Rock Climbing Photo: Bruce Lella starting the crux hand crack.  The qua...
Bruce Lella starting the crux hand crack. The qua...
Rock Climbing Photo: Upper North Buttress
BETA PHOTO: Upper North Buttress
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris Orozco following the exceptional "Tripl...
Chris Orozco following the exceptional "Tripl...
Rock Climbing Photo: sweet
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunset on the DNB!
Sunset on the DNB!
Rock Climbing Photo: Part of the class 3-4 summit ridge.
BETA PHOTO: Part of the class 3-4 summit ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: nice
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down from about halfway through the route....
BETA PHOTO: Looking down from about halfway through the route....
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up to really fun crack system. About 5.9.
BETA PHOTO: Looking up to really fun crack system. About 5.9.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the summit ridge toward the North But...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down the summit ridge toward the North But...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up from the start.
BETA PHOTO: Looking up from the start.
Rock Climbing Photo: Merriam's North Buttress
BETA PHOTO: Merriam's North Buttress
Rock Climbing Photo: Kelvin near the top of Pitch 6
Kelvin near the top of Pitch 6

Comments on Direct North Buttress Add Comment
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By Dustysdawg
Jul 30, 2009

That is my beta/topo photo that I put up on Summitpost. Glad to see it is getting used, because it took me a while to make it.
I thought the route was solid, and does not deserve a PG13. There is a little bit of grainyness because it doesn't get climbed that often, but there is very little loose rock. Pretty standard for Sierra granite.
The great thing about this climb is that it is all climbing. There is very little scrambling or easy 5th class.
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Aug 30, 2009

Thanks for posting!
By Rude Boy
From: San Francisco, CA
May 21, 2013
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13

This route is AWESOME! I believe it would be just as poplar as the Third Pillar of Dana if not for the looooooong approach. A wee bit more moderate than Third Pillar too. My main complaint was that it was too short. I could have used a few more pitches. Very fun.
By Dustin Stephens
Jul 1, 2013
rating: 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13

Great route! Especially as you get higher up. First couple pitches are somewhat dangerous and loose. Approach is burly, so be in the mood for a backpacking trip. Mosquitoes can be pretty heinous in mid-summer up until Boyce Lake.
By Aaron Miller
From: Santa Fe, NM
Jun 20, 2014
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

Superb route up a very scenic peak.

Several pitches can be linked. Linked 2 and 3 together, finishing the traverse left to the nice belay below the triple crack corner pitch.
I also climbed pitch 5 and 6 together by going straight up the plumb line of cracks instead of traversing right. Not sure why the topo says "no" as if you will end up in Oz, it links right into the nice belay below the crux pitch. It may look like there are loose blocks on this pitch but they seemed very solid to me, took gear well and never exceeded 5.9. There were a few loose hand-sized rocks just sitting in the crack, as though no-one ever went this way, but we tossed most or all of these off the route.

At the top of the route, there are 2 sections of huge summit blocks to negotiate. The first you take left, as the topo says, but the second is funky and goes right around it to the start of summit ridge traverse.

Also, the ridge traverse at the top is more like 1000', not 300', but its all good.
By Lurker
Jun 22, 2014
rating: 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b

Absolutely stellar route. Looks and climbs similar to Third Pillar of Dana, but with a bit more commitment and logistical challenge. Unsung classic, although apparently it's in the new Supertopo book, so it will probably become a trade route. I feel that it deserves a better description than given; the topo posted on this site seemed fairly accurate however. Pitch lengths below are loose estimates. There are multiple options on most pitches (this is the High Sierra of course); this just seemed like the most well-traveled route.

Approach: Scramble up the right side of the pedestal (3rd class) to the bottom of the route.

P1(5.9, ~100'): Climb ~30 feet of blocky 5.6, then head up the crack just left of the arete. Belay at the "ear".

P2(5.10a, ~100'): Climb the crack straight above the "ear". Fun face moves to link crack systems. Belay at ledge.

P3(5.9, ~100'): Continue up, traversing left on the obvious sloping ledge below the orange lichen-covered bulge. Belay at the base of the "Triple Cracks".

P4(5.9, ~120'): Climb the "Triple Cracks". This seemed like the physical crux of the route. Stance belay just above the obvious alcove. The rock below the alcove is somewhat loose, there is a thin crack just above the alcove that's solid.

P5(5.8, ~100'): Take the center of 3 cracks above the alcove. The left one looks like a wide lieback, and the right one is a splitter (but grainy) thin crack. The one in the middle takes the path of least resistance. After ~50', head left up a couple of rampy lieback sections (not the splitter hand crack directly above). Belay at a large ledge below a right-facing corner.

P6(5.10b, ~120'): Climb the crux dihedral. Stiff off the bat, then eases up. Below the smaller summit block, head left up an offwidth/chimney/stem with a large fixed cam in it. Belay at large ledge.

P7(5.7, ~50'): Head up/right through a small notch, then follow the right-slanting crack system on a slab below/around the larger summit block (the huge one that's obvious from the approach). Belay on another large ledge.

You're now on the summit ridge (~500'). The climbing along the ridge is inobvious, and is definitely not 3rd class, more like mixed 4th/5th class. Lots of gendarmes and large pillars to navigate. We ended up following the ridge proper for ~200', downclimbing to the right of the ridge, then heading straight up through blocky 5.6ish climbing to the summit plateau.

Descent: Down the 2nd class west ridge to the col between Merriam and Royce peaks. There may be a snowfield below the col, depending on time of year.
By Karsten
From: Sacramento, CA
Jul 9, 2014

Great route. I found the crux pitch easy for .10b and would rate it at hard 5.9 or 5.10a at most. Whatever the grade this was a really fun pitch.

On the second pitch just above the face moves there is hanging block at the point where you change from a right-facing corner to a left facing corner. This section is devoid of holds and so it is clear that everyone pulls on this block. My concern was that this block looked totally detached and if it decides to release you and your belayer could be at significant risk. Be careful.
By Richard Shore
Jul 9, 2014

Agreed that the supposed "crux" pitch was quite tame. Steep but perfect hands for about 10' until you can stem out onto the other crack. I don't remember the loose block Karsten speaks of, but thought that changing corners pitch 2 was probably the crux of the route (10a). The Triple Cracks is definetely the highlight of the route, and quite sustained.

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