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Mendenhall Towers
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Solva Buttress 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1000', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: 
Season: Summer
Page Views: 2,425
Submitted By: Jared M Carlson on Aug 16, 2011

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BETA PHOTO: The route

Description 

Leave crampons, ice axes and boots on snow near the bergschrund. Scout the schrund and MARK YOUR DESCENT SPOT WELL - you need to be able to see your mark from hundreds of feet up while you're trying to figure out your line on the descent - Leave something bright/large a couple of hundred feet out from the rock in line with your gear and exit point onto the snow so you can see it from far above.

Follow triangular snow patch on left side of 4th tower up to chossy gully, or solo up easy gold slab on right side of gully

Pitch 1 - 5.7 Belay from ledge at top of gully. Route starts on diagonal crack from right to left up face, and follows the obvious flake up to a belay in the blocks on the left at top of flake

Pitch 2 - 5.2 DON'T GO RIGHT. Climb left over blocks away from belay, and traverse/climb over easy terrain. Keeping going left longer than you think you should. If you're actually going up any corners or vertical faces, you've started up too soon. Head up easy slabs and face climbing

Pitch 3 - 5.2 Stick to left of ridge, skirting the edge of the bowl to your left. Lots of options for easy lines

Pitch 4 - 5.6 Begin trending right, continuing up slightly more challenging terrain. Belay from blocky, slanting ledge on ridge proper

Pitch 5 - 5.6 Head slightly down and to the left of the main corner/roof uphill from belay ledge, continue up left side of ridge to a big ledge

Pitch 6 - 5.7 Continue up face slightly left of ridge, to an interesting and somewhat exposed traverse across a short flake. Downclimb left side of flake, and start up a corner with good feet and some fun tricky maneuvers. Belay above the roof/block

Pitch 7 - 5.4 Easy terrain up from corner, onto several successive enormous ledges. The 1st or 2nd are your best bets if you're planning on a bivy, they are palatial to say the least. Belay from lowest ledge

Pitch 8 - 5.8 This pitch is the business, and the best pitch on the route. Start from lowest of the three ledges up an easy, blocky pitch to next ledge. Good rope management on this pitch is critical, think before you place gear, the potential for heinous rope drag is extremely high. The most fun to be had on the route is following a shallow offwidth-ish crack on the right side of the face after 2nd ledge, then traversing out past the end of the ledge into some AWESOME exposure on the right side of the ridge, following easy climbing up into blocky terrain. Lots of holds and great feet, exposure makes it memorable. Trending to left of ridge is also an option, possibly a bit easier, and less exposed. But you're on an alpine trad climb, so why would you want less exposure?

Pitch 9 - 5.0/4th class? Head up easy terrain with lots of pro onto a big cruiser slab, belay from a slung block around backside of upper right hand corner of this slab. There are some 5.10-5.11ish cracks to be had on the big face to your right as you head up this slab, definitely worth a look

Pitch 10 - 5.1 Turn right around the backside of the ridge, following a loose blocky ramp up to the summit slabs. Enjoy the view of the icefield!

Descent - Rap down Pitches 10,9 and 8, trend into bowl at left slanting ledge. Lots of potential chockstones and horns to be slung. Have fun, stay far to left in the bowl and away from the ridge, lots of potential for stuck ropes on and near ridge.

Location 

Route is located on south ridge of the 4th tower (Counting L to R) of the Mendenhall Towers Massif.

Best Approach - via Heli - Landing Zone can be found within 100-200 yards of bottom of ridge.

Other option - LOOOONG slog up Mendenhall Glacier, starting at top of upper spur of West Glacier Trail, following the Mt. Mcginnis trail til it splits off toward Mendenhall Glacier on top of ridge. Use Google map satellite images to plot best route through icefalls/crevasses on glacier. Gnarly approach, allow at least a day to get to base of towers, 10+ miles of glacier routefinding

Protection 

Full Rack of Camalots up to 4, double up on small sizes, full rack of nuts. Lots of webbing and/or cordage to leave on rappel. No bolts, rare fixed pieces here and there


Photos of Solva Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
4th Tower, Mendenhall Towers
4th Tower, Mendenhall Towers
Heli Dropoff
Heli Dropoff

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By Jared LaVacque
Administrator
From: Anchorage/Grand Junction
Aug 18, 2011

Great Description!