Northwest Buttress, Tuolumne Route Photo

Northwest Buttress 5.5

Tenaya Peak

  • Northwest Buttress Sun ExposureRoute quality:
  • Northwest Buttress First AscentWayne Merry and John Ward, 1961
  • Northwest Buttress Pitch InfoNumber of pitches: 14
  • Northwest Buttress Approach TimeApproach Time: 30-40 minutes
  • Northwest Buttress Climbing TimeClimbing Time: 4-6 hours
  • Northwest Buttress Descent timeDescent Time: 1-2 hours to car
  • Northwest Buttress Sun ExposureSun exposure: Mid-morning to sunset
  • About the Climb

    The Nortwest Butress of Tenaya peak is one of the easiest long routes in Tuolumne Meadows. The amazing white granite on Tenaya is clean and practically knobless unlike most of the other domes. Most of the route consists of low angle friction climbing, with a few nice cracks and flakes thrown in to keep things interesting. Because of the low angle terrain and the short cruxes, this is a great route to pratice simul-climbing or even soloing.

    Many variations are possible on the Northwest Buttress, especially low down on the route, so even if there are other (slower) parties ahead of you, you will have no trouble passing them. The standard route escapes left just below the top on easy 4th class terrain, but the best option is to continue straight up on an excellent hand crack. Although the crack is rated 5.7, it is short and can be protected very well. Once you get to the top, be sure to enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding granite domes and of Half Dome.

    There are several ways to descend from Tenaya Peak, but they all involve some route finding. The quickest option is to traverse back along the ledge system that brings you back to the start of the route. The longer versions go down along the southwest buttress until you reach the hiking trails near the lake.

    Note that in early season, the snow patch that sits halfway up the route can be a problem, and slab avalanches can occur. However, you can easily scout the snow conditions from the road to avoid suprises on the route.

    Northwest Buttress (Tuolumne) GearLoopTopo {Northwest Buttress (Tuolumne) GearLoopTopo

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    The GearLoopTopo

    Our GearLoopTopo for the Northwest Buttress includes all the information you need for the route, with directions starting from the Tuolumne campground.

    Possible Combinations

    Due to the length of the route and the descent, climbing the Nortwest Buttress will take a large part of the day for most parties. The best option on a hot day is to relax and enjoy the beach on the northern end of Tenaya Lake after your climb.

    In case you want to add some more pitches to the count after coming down from the Northwest Buttress, Stately Pleasure Dome is right next to the lake and is filled with great routes: Hermaphrodite Flake (5.4), Great White Book (5.6R), West Country (5.7), South Crack (5.8R), and Boltway (5.9).

    If you are driving back to the campground, you can also stop at Pywiack dome and climb one of the short routes there: Zee Tree (5.7), Dike Route (5.9R), Needle Spoon (5.10a), or Aqua Knobby (5.9).

    If you climb fast, the ultimate combination would be to start with the Northwest Buttress, cross over to the South to North Traverse (5.7) of Matthes Crest, and then finish with the Southeast Buttress (5.6) of Cathedral Peak. Now that's a big day!

    Similar Climbs

    If you are looking for more long routes with an alpine character, try the Southeast Buttress (5.6) of Cathedral Peak, or the South to North Traverse (5.7) on Matthes Crest.

    For other great slab routes with plenty of friction climbing at a higher grade, check out Zee Tree (5.7), Dike Route (5.9R) or the South Face (5.8) on North Dome.

    Download the Northwest Buttress PDF file or visit the PDF Center.

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