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Pagoda Mountain
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Crescent Ridge 
North Buttress 
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North Buttress 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 1500', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Buckingham, Brook, Catwood and Cox, 1958
Season: summer
Page Views: 7,711
Submitted By: Eli Helmuth on Jul 4, 2006
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BETA PHOTO: Looking up at the complete North Buttress of Pagod...


This overlooked classic takes a dramatic line up the center of the north face of the very aesthetic Pagoda Mountain. Although the route is a bit "raw/dirty" at the moment, only due to a lack of visitors, the rock quality, route quality, position and big summit make this a moderate classic which compares easily to the nearby North Ridge of Spearhead - arguably, it is an even more aesthetic and inspiring route.


The North Buttress is very obvious to see from below when standing in the meadows just east of Spearhead. Approach the route up this valley aiming for the col between Pagoda and the West Ridge of Long's (Keyboard to the Winds). There is an obvious, horizontal, dark band of rock which bisects the bottom of the route, about 400' above the base of the first slabs at the bottom of the face. Approach a grassy ledge system from the left (east) side of the buttress and make an easy but exposed traverse into the base of the route which is easily identified by the 3 left-facing, corner systems rising up on the left side of the buttress crest.

Taking advantage of nice but mostly small belay ledges, we did a 8 pitches consisting of:

P1. Climb 40m up left-facing corners to belay on top of a flake (exposed 5.5).

P2. Go 55m up more left-facing corners to a small ledge (halfway) where one traverses left to climb a short unprotected slab (5.5) up to another splitter crack system which leads via more discontinuous cracks to the top of the 1st ridgecrest (5.7).

P3. Go 45m up and left on slab (5.4) to large grassy ledge directly below and left of a vertical prow.

P4. Climb 50m up an almost vertical section of juggy climbing (30' left of prow) aiming for chimney system which contains a fair bit of loose rock (be careful here) (5.7)- belay at nice stance in chimney.

P5. Go 50m up a chimney then a face to top of ridge crest (5.5).

P6. Continue up ridgecrest (airy 4th class) or step down to the west side of the ridge and walk through talus to base of 50m slab below and just right of crest (5.3).

P7. Do a 40m pitch up featured slabby terrain to just below summit. Scramble or rope another 20m pitch to the top (5.3).

Descend down the mellow (2nd) class East Ridge of Pagoda and then down from the col between the "Sievers' Tower" and Pagoda. It is an easy walk down, stay north to avoid short cliff bands.


No fixed pins, slings or any signs of travel were observed on a recent ascent. Many parallel cracks exist on the gorgeous granite of this ridge so many cams up to 3" and some nuts will suffice for protection.

Photos of North Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
This is how my partner and I pitched out this route.  Six pitches of roped climbing, with a long 4th class scramble to the top, maybe three rope lengths worth (tan/lt. yellow line at top).  P4 was more of a traverse (orange line) to get to the huge ledge system below P5 & P6.  Climbed it 9.1.07
BETA PHOTO: This is how my partner and I pitched out this rout...
Looking down on P. 4 (crux pitch) after emerging from the "staircase face" which is steep but positive 5.7 climbing.  Pictured are Patrick and Chip Linnemann on Chip's 50th birthday!
BETA PHOTO: Looking down on P. 4 (crux pitch) after emerging f...
P7 above the 4th class narrow ridge crest and just 60' below the summit.
P7 above the 4th class narrow ridge crest and just...
Nice view of Pagoda.
Nice view of Pagoda.
The North Buttress of Pagoda as seen from the east.  The "vertical tower" can be seen in the top of the photo -the crux 4th pitch starts up the left side of the gold colored rock on this skyline prow. The dark band that the route starts above can be seen in the bottom right hand side. The bottom 3 pitches stay on this side of the buttress as they ascend the corners just left of the skyline ridge. Classic!
BETA PHOTO: The North Buttress of Pagoda as seen from the east...
Looking down the ridge.
Looking down the ridge.
N. Buttress
N. Buttress
Climber approaching the summit after an ascent of the North Buttress.
Climber approaching the summit after an ascent of ...
Tim starting up the "crux" pitch (p4).
Tim starting up the "crux" pitch (p4).
The steep headwall.  This is the funnest section of the climb.
The steep headwall. This is the funnest section o...
Tracy coming down the descent gully.
Tracy coming down the descent gully.
Pitch #3 (I led) was run out.  We followed the group ahead of us who didn't like the dihedral/left-facing-crack for whatever reason (green line).  So, I went around to the right (red line) and was faced with steep slab (5.7) and ended up ~35' above my last gear placement below a shitty roof.  Finally got a #1 DMM Wallnut placed, so that I wouldn't plummet off that steep lichen covered slab.  Fun.
BETA PHOTO: Pitch #3 (I led) was run out. We followed t...
Despite considering bailing when storms came rolling in early, the route was in the bag.
Despite considering bailing when storms came rolli...
PK looking famous near the summit on Pagoda.
PK looking famous near the summit on Pagoda.
Belay from top of pitch #1.
Belay from top of pitch #1.
A view of the North Buttress.
A view of the North Buttress.
Fabio begins pitch #2.
Fabio begins pitch #2.
Looking down into the upper reaches of Glacier Gorge from near the summit of Pagoda.  Climber on the upper North Buttress.
Looking down into the upper reaches of Glacier Gor...
Fabio nears the end of pitch #3 as I belay him.
Fabio nears the end of pitch #3 as I belay h...
Looking on the first pitch of Pagoda (second pitch looks same).
Looking on the first pitch of Pagoda (second pitch...
Fabio begins Pitch #5, probably the funnest pitch of the day.  This begins above a very large belay ledge and ascends cracks while ending in a chimney of sorts.  Pitch #6 was loose chimney climbing.  I led this up the chimney for a bit, then moved left onto the face so as not to kill my belayer with rockfall.
Fabio begins Pitch #5, probably the funnest ...
First pitch of the headwall... juggy climbing and really fun.  Watch for loose holds though.
First pitch of the headwall... juggy climbing and ...
Comments on North Buttress Add Comment
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By Brian Story
Nov 14, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b

This is not a classic route, but still worthwhile. The rock quality is good on the lower slabs and OK in the steeper middle section. I never encountered anything harder than 5.6 climbing.

By Stich
From: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 27, 2007

To access the start of the climb, you bypass more than half of the lower face of the buttress. There is a scree ramp to the left of the lower face slabs that gets you to the black band of rock. Traverse right at the top of the black band to get to the start of the route.

The crux 5.7 pitch on the vertical tower is pretty nice, though perhaps not as good as the one on Lone Eagle for comparison. It starts at a few detached flakes of rock and trends left from thin cracks with good face handholds and footholds to the even widening chimney. The lower moves are the best.

By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Jul 21, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b

Climbed this on July 19, 2008. Great line - we enjoyed it more than the N ridge of Spearhead, although the rock isn't as clean on account of not getting as much traffic.

The route description above isn't very accurate. It takes 4 ropelengths to reach the ledge below the steep headwall, not 3 (have a look at Jfox's Sept 2007 beta photos). Also, once one gets above the steep headwall there are at least 3 ropelengths of scrambling along the exposed ridge crest before one reaches the summit. Nothing harder than 4th class, though.

By chrisp
Jul 21, 2008

I agree with Martin here the description above isn't so great. Jfox's pictures pretty much should be the beta for this line. My partner and I did it in 4 roped pitches (70mrope) - we started above the obvious dark band up the descent gully-I managed to get off route (see other picture) and got to the crappy roof.

We unroped once we passed the obvious headwall- lots of large loose blocks above- and scrambled to the summit.

The downclimb off the backside is great- pretty much a trail the entire way down.

There wasn't much harder than 5.6 on this route....

By kevinnlong
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 13, 2008
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b

BEWARE, this route receives little to no sun in the morning. Even with many layers on top and bottom, gloves, and hats, we shivered the charm away out of much of this climb. There was snow/ice on most of the belay ledges, and it was August 12!!! It was all because of the high winds.

Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes if there is any chance of wind, which, then, is almost always.

Also, we were off route twice, and the difficulty of the climb substantially increased in both cases. Our variations to the first two pitches contained 5.9, slippery run out moves. Follow the line of the route if you want a 5.6 climb.

By Andy Novak
From: Golden, Co
Sep 8, 2008

I think Eli's description is right on. Although I do think Spearhead's north ridge is waayyyy more dramatic. Four pitches to the headwall? Bollocks. Did the lower buttress in three long stretchers. Start high. And although the ridge above is airy, no rope needed. Be prepared for a rather nasty (but very scenic) descent down the gully.

By Mic Fairchild
From: Boulder
Sep 20, 2008
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b

While not necessarily recommended, I've done this route by starting at the very base of Pagoda, just above the lake. There's some sneaky slab climbing to get to the normal start, and little pro along the way (although hard to gauge solo). Fun as a roped climb, with 3rd class above the top of the buttress. Great scenery regardless.

By Frederic Regis
Aug 25, 2009

Really liked that climb. I didn't like the descent, but it was worth it.

I had Eli's beta with me and proved to be helpful. We didn't do the 3rd pitch as described: IMO, I think you can make it whatever you'd like for the 3rd pitch (that is if you break the first 5.5 section in 2 pitches)... go far left to drop the grade or just go straight up to keep it at 5.6ish.

By tongmengjia
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jul 19, 2010
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b

Climbed this Saturday. The climbing was just plain fun. I've done a few alpine routes in the Park, and I have to say the view from the summit of Pagoda is one of the best of seen. Amazing. I would whole heartedly recommend this climb.

That being said, the approach and descent were both a pain. I think the description says to allow 40min from Black Lake, but I'd recommend more like 1-1.5hrs. Of course, this was my first alpine climb of the season, and neither me nor my partner were in tip-top shape, so take that advice with a grain of salt. The descent wasn't bad as far as difficulty or exposure, but it was a slog. It probably took us half an hour to scramble down the boulders from the summit to get to the scree gully, and then another 1.5hrs to get down the long, loose gully.

I led P3, and went left. It was kind of 'get-er-done' climbing, and I made an ugly pitch by linking up a series of broken cracks, ranging from finger width to off hands. It was all slabby, though, so the feet were relatively good, with the lichen adding a little spice and insecurity. Some parts were a little run out, but nothing to really worry about. I'd say this variation was approximately 5.7.

We had a little trouble finding the chimney at the beginning of P5. The beginning isn't really a "chimney" per se, you have to do about 20 or 30ft of awkward face climbing to gain the chimney proper, which lived up to its reputation of being extremely loose, but also juggy (just be careful which jugs you grab).

It took us 18hrs car-to-car on this bad boy (we weren't exactly setting any speed records). When we left the parking lot in the morning, there were a few parties already there, all of which were going to Spearhead. We had Pagoda all to ourselves. Despite the long approach and the burly descent, I'd strongly recommend this as a great moderate, true alpine route.