August '04


High Anxiety leads to Big Falls

on the Black Buttress with Chad



       During my last week in Stanley, I managed to slip away with Chad to have a go at the Black Buttress. Our goal was a route called High Anxiety and the route lived up to it's name. Sandbagged at 5.9, much of the route was loose or covered in lichen which made the whole thing feel insecure. As I watched Chad lead the first pitch, I wondered if we were even on route. We hadn't been able to match our topo to anything on the formation but we also had a photo with a line drawn on it that made sense. Hmm..

      On the second pitch, I was forced out onto a slabby face using hope for protection and was rewarded with an old, hidden bolt after a 25 foot runout. At the end of the pitch, I managed a desperate traverse to the "anchor" with only one cam to stop me from a bad fall.  When I got there and found a fixed pin behind this tiny tree, I started to feel better. After all, it was Chad's lead now and I could relax for a pitch.

      When Chad arrived, we briefly discussed our options. The route was more serious than we had been expecting. Still, we had managed two dicey leads and we figured the route eased up after then next pitch when the angle relented. We decided to finish the route so we would never be tempted to come back.

     Chad started the pitch with a very difficult face move that bucked me off on second. He traversed out left and started climbing a somewhat dirty finger crack.  He placed a cam but didn't think it was a solid placement. As he placed a second cam he popped off. Twenty-five feet later, he was hanging at the end of the rope with a banged up elbow. Running on adrenalin, he climbed hand over hand up the rope to his highest pro and built an anchor.

     When I arrived at the belay, Chad's elbow was starting to swell. It didn't seem  to be so painful as to suggest a break, but it hurt when he pulled hard with it. We decided to bail. Fortunately, we didn't have any trouble getting down with the single rope we had with us. Although I must say I don't like rapping off a tiny tree and an old, upwardly-driven piton!

     We spent the rest of the day hiking around and looking for new climbs. The Black Buttress drainage is quite impressive. It would be worth spending a week in this area instead of the Saddleback Lakes drainage (E. Perch) for a change of pace. There is no water source though unless you are there early enough to melt snow. Maybe next year...

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Chad giving the signal to blow past the wilderness permit stand at the Redfish Lake Transfer Camp.

Looking at the Super Slabs from the approach to the Black Buttress. It almost looks like Manure Pile Buttress from this angle.

Working up the final steep slopes to get to the base of the Black Buttress.

The Black Buttress as seen from the approach.

Looking across the valley to the south side of Mount Heyburn.

Chad works his way up the first pitch.

Working out some interesting moves! :)

Unfortunately, there was no place to protect the traverse for Chad so he got some excitement.

Chad launching up the third pitch. About thirty feet above that tree, things got interesting.

Happy to be down with no more trouble.

Hiking around looking for new routes.

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