American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Hallett Peak, Fourth Buttress

Colorado, Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Dougald MacDonald
  • Climb Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017

Just to the right of the Third Buttress of Hallett Peak and the nasty descent gully for Hallett’s western routes, a prominent fin leads to the headwall of Point 12,308’. No route had been published on this formation, which is shorter than Hallett’s popular north-facing climbs.

Mark Jenkins and I approached the fin on August 21, scrambled a couple of hundred feet, and roped up directly beneath the steep north-facing prow. We climbed three pitches straight up the prow, the second of which was marginally protected 5.8, followed by a very enjoyable traverse along the narrow, multi-spired ridgeline. After downclimbing into a sunny bowl, we rejoined the crest and scrambled along it, with a bit of hand-traversing on the knife-edge, to reach ledges beneath a prominent crack on the right side of Point 12,308’s steep headwall. I estimated this crack to be 50’ tall; Mark thought 120’. It turned out to be 150’ of dead-vertical 5.9 jamming and stemming—one of the finer crack pitches in the Park, marred only by a worrying refrigerator-size block that can’t be avoided. We topped out on flat tundra after four roped pitches plus several hundred feet of fourth- and low fifth-class scrambling. The steep final pitch could be avoided easily by scrambling gullies to the right; there also are harder-looking crack systems, to the right and left, on the same splendid headwall.

Later we heard from Dale Remsberg, a Colorado-based IFMGA guide, that he had climbed this same fin with guides in training some years earlier, though he didn’t recall the exact line; they may have followed an obvious crack system on the lower section, to the right of the prow we climbed directly. Regardless of who climbed what first, this is a very fine, Chamonix-style rock ridge that deserves to be done more often. We called it the Fourth Buttress (750’, 5.9 PG-13).

– Dougald MacDonald

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