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Pawnee Grasslands
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West Butte - Northeast Face T 

West Butte - Northeast Face 

YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b A4 X

   
Type:  Trad, Aid, Chipped, 1 pitch, 300'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b A4 [details]
FA: Rumored to be the Sterling Fire Dept. 1909
Page Views: 1,967
Submitted By: Brian C. on Nov 4, 2011

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Photo credit to John Longnecker. 1968. Approximel...

Description 

I do not recommend this climb for anyone that does not love obscure climbs and loads of manky choss. The mud on the technical pitch is rotten, dangerous, and crumbles under the slightest touch. A free ascent is impossible, requiring aid techniques to be used. The original pieces of "gear" are a century old and have eroded severely making them extremely unreliable. A fall would almost guarantee a quick trip to the ground (warranting the A4+ rating). Also, the anchor possibilities to belay and rappel are poor at best.

With that in mind....

Approach the West Butte via the standard trail. As you pass below the imposing south face, make sure to look up and be amazed that this whole tower is held up by mud. Leave the trail on the east side of the formation and do an ascending traverse around the north side. As you ascend, look for the obvious weakness in the lower cliffs and work up towards it. When you get close, the original pins will come into view on a NE face.

Ascend the steepening and unprotected mud cone (extremely unstable and follows very eroded chipped steps) to gain access to the vertical wall. Make several scary aid moves up the slightly overhanging wall to gain a small ledge. On the ledge, mantel up to the slightly higher shelf and perform a dangerous leftward traverse on small mudhorns to reach a "belay stance". Bring up your second while imagining your anchor is much better than it actually is. From here, perform a delicate scramble up through more loose terrain to reach the slopes below the summit cap. The cap's weakness is on the west side and pick whichever way you want to reach there. Try not to think about the descent too much because it will ruin your stay.

To descend, merely reverse the route and pray as you rappel on the worst anchor I've ever trusted.

Location 

Look for the line of pitons up the NE face.

Protection 

Only pro are ancient (100+ years old) pitons eroding out of the mud. We placed one nail (literally a 10" nail) for the ascent and placed 3 nails as a belay/rappel anchor.


Photos of West Butte - Northeast Face Slideshow Add Photo
Here's an idea of the pro.  This was not the worst pin.
BETA PHOTO: Here's an idea of the pro. This was not the worst...
The "anchor" we placed Jan. 2011.
BETA PHOTO: The "anchor" we placed Jan. 2011.
"Good" gear on route. Pray one doesn't fail while you're on it or you're screwed.
"Good" gear on route. Pray one doesn't fail while ...
Route outline.
BETA PHOTO: Route outline.
Photo credit to John Longnecker. 1968.  Approximately the 5th ascent and last known ascent.
Photo credit to John Longnecker. 1968. Approximat...
Mud season is in.
Mud season is in.
West Pawnee Butte.
West Pawnee Butte.
Rappelling the opposite side. The anchor is 2 pieces of rebar pounded into the ground.
Rappelling the opposite side. The anchor is 2 piec...
Noah leading the pitch. A sharp eye will indeed see an ice ax sticking out of the mud. <br />
Noah leading the pitch. A sharp eye will indeed se...
Me coming up the pitch.  I re-aided so as not not weight the anchor.  The faint "cowboy steps" can be seen.
BETA PHOTO: Me coming up the pitch. I re-aided so as not not ...
Thinking light on the 100 year old pins.
Thinking light on the 100 year old pins.
Register.
Register.
Summit of the west with the east behind.
Summit of the west with the east behind.
Summit view with East Butte in the background.
Summit view with East Butte in the background.
This is by far the best piece.
This is by far the best piece.

Comments on West Butte - Northeast Face Add Comment
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By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
Nov 4, 2011

Whoa.

Cool.

josh
By Patrick Vernon
From: Albuquerque, NM
Nov 4, 2011

Agreed, coolest thing I have seen on MP in a long time!
By Andrew Shoemaker
From: Garden Valley, ID
Dec 10, 2011

Way cool. What an obscure route! Would of never thought the Pawnee Buttes were climbable.
By Noah8000
From: Vail, CO
Dec 14, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b A4 X

I agree. I don't recomend this. The lead was terrifying. 5.6 ish moves above gear that is horrible. But if you have to get to the top. This is the way. Bring an ice axe (Seriously) and a few 9 inch nails just in case. Nothing else! Pitons or any rock gear is useless. (I brought it all and used none.)
By Simon W
Aug 3, 2014

With enough ascents, this thing will probably clean up and become a polished, mud-pile classic!