American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Whitney Portal Buttress, Ghostrider

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Whitney Portal Buttress, Ghostrider. In June 2000, with Charles Byrne, I first attempted a new route on Whitney Portal Buttress between Satoris and Wonderwall. Alan Bartlett, who established these routes and acknowledged that both had lousy 1/4-inch bolts, long runouts, and a few unsafe belays, encouraged us to add a safely protected route and indeed to retrobolt his climbs.

We climbed the first pitch of Wonderwall to a giant ledge 100 feet up. This grainy pitch’s protection involved rusty, spinning bolt hangers, and we added a bolt. We gained the base of the right- facing dihedral system 100 feet right of the Satoris start. There we found old bolts, which we replaced with 3/8-inch bolts, adding one more protection bolt. The climbing was 5.10c friction, the hardest moves of the climb. Rock quality improved, and we climbed the dihedral to a belay beneath a wide undercling and roof, which proved to be 5.10. We reached a ledge and called it a day.

I later returned with Mark Husbands, and we reached my high point three pitches up. We surmounted a 5.6 overhang formed by a horizontal dike and made a short, bolt-protected traverse on the dike. A slab with one bolt (5.7) led to a large ledge. A Sierra storm forced us off the wall.

I next enlisted Raleigh Collins. We hauled a night’s provisions to the ledge and went to work. The fifth pitch was splendid feldspar knob climbing that went at 5.8. We toproped the prominent stain to its left and found it to be 5.11. The next day we set off for the top. From the ledge at the top of the fifth pitch we joined Wonderwall and climbed a stain for 30 feet to a large bowl. Wonderwall follows the path of least resistance to the right, while Ghostrider continues straight up (5.9) to a diagonal dike. The next pitch is 200 feet of great knob climbing, with bolts 10 to 20 feet appart (5.9). The wall steepens for the eighth pitch with a squeaky move that is barely 5.10a. Raleigh continued up, taking the path of least resistance, and ran out 50 feet (5.9) to a diagonal dike, the eighth pitch of Satoris. We rappel-bolted the runout and discovered that the path of least resistance missed an exquisite bit of edge climbing (5.10c), so we bolted that as well. As I climbed my glasses fell 1,000 feet, and, with the rock turning grainy again, we decided that if someone wants to continue to the summit, they can climb the next three pitches of Satoris (5.9 rotten, 5.6, 5.6) and embark on the heinous descent. Instead, we rappelled.

You can link routes in various ways. By climbing the beautiful dihedral of the first three pitches of Satoris (5.9, 5.8, 5.6), you can avoid our 5.10c. To climb the 5.10c you can tunnel upward from the Satoris dihedral to the start of our pitch two, avoiding the disgusting start of Wonderwall.

I plan to climb the Beckey route on the left end of the Buttress and establish rappel stations down the face. Also, I hope to find good rock and create an independent finish to Ghostrider.

Mike Strassman

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.