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The Star Wars Buttress

  • Grade context: FR
3
FR
5a

Description

This narrow fin of rock is the lowest of several buttresses and the first encountered when entering the School of Rock area. It’s situated near the eastern boundary of the scree & talus flow. The upper ridge of the buttress can easily be rigged with anchors for a few solid top-roping routes.

To access the upper ridge, hike about 30 meters on ball-bearing scree, up along the western base of the buttress, until you come to a thread-like path that switches back toward the top. A short bit of 4th class climbing will put you there. Sturdy, natural cairns of angular boulders can be used as anchoring points, but make sure the stones are well situated; it doesn’t take much effort to tip some of these bad boys off into the abyss.

The following routes can all be anchored from a single point on the summit:

  1. Death Star

  2. X-Wing and Red Five Standing By

  3. Jedi Mind Trick

Access issues inherited from Djebel Ressas

Regional Status:
Most of Djebel Ressas is now an excellent setting for a day of rewarding outdoor activity. But the site hasn’t been developed in any formal sense as a recreational objective. Perhaps that’s partly due to its official status as a “nature preserve”. Just as likely, though, it’s because there hasn't been much of a demand for that kind of development in Tunisia. Ressas is a bit off the beaten path, and most folks prefer to spend their leisure time nearer the beaches or in other venues. At this writing there are no maintained hiking trails, trail markers, or service facilities at the mountain. Images viewed on Google Earth™ give some idea of the approaches and the general landscape.
Access:
Until January of 2007 hikers at Djebel Ressas could come and go as they pleased. That winter, however, stricter regulations were established following a brief police action against fundamental Islamic insurgents hiding in the surrounding region. Since then, permission is needed in order to explore the mountain legally. This can be arranged by checking in at a national guard station in the nearby village of Mornag and receiving a permit. Later, you might be required to present the permit to an officer waiting at the base of the mountain.

If you don’t mind flying under the radar, an unofficial approach would be to arrive early enough in the morning (say before 8:00 am) to reach the trailhead before the officer, thereby avoiding the annoying detail of acquiring and presenting a permit.

It may be possible to arrange for permission in advance by contacting the regional security officer at your country’s embassy in Tunis. I do this when I’m scheduling a group excursion to the mountain, just to avoid any hassles. You’ll be asked to provide basic information about your trip such as the date, number of your party, names of participants, and a brief itinerary outlining your plans. Working with the U.S. embassy, it usually takes me from one to two weeks to secure a permit in this way.

Ethic inherited from Djebel Ressas

Guidelines

The development of climbing at Djebel Ressas has been gradual and sporadic. In the absence of an active climbing community no rules have been established beyond those personally dictated by good form, common sense, and respect for the local herdsmen who graciously allow access to what is essentially their backyard. While sport climbing has taken hold on Djebel Zaghoan to the south, the climbing on Ressas has remained traditional. Some old isolated bolts can be found on the higher cliffs, but no bolted routes had been established at the time of this writing.

Grades:
The ratings indicated for these climbs are tentative and have only been backed up by a very small handful of experienced climbers. Besides, the folks I partner with aren’t much concerned about that side of the business, anyway. As long as you’re climbing with pals, and the rock is fun and safe, it’s all good.
Future Development:
The projects described here are just a fraction of what could be done, and there’s plenty of potential for new developments. Undoubtedly, stronger climbers will put up higher caliber routes in the future.

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Routes

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Grade Route
  1. Begin in the exit of a ravine on the lower east side of the Star Wars Buttress.

  2. On solid holds, make your way to the base of a cracked boulder stacked about 11 meters above the belay stance.

  3. After a few careful hand placements in the boulder cracks, traverse left and over to an inset foot ledge scratched along the base of a convex face beneath the anchors.

  4. Ascending the face, seek jams and small holds hidden along a guiding vertical seam just above.

FA: Jim Ryan & Christian Hettick, 2005

This one starts at the lower south-side base of the Star Wars Buttress, opposite from Death Star. It can be identified by the conspicuously large and slanted overhanging block situated ten meters above the deck. The climb is usually top-roped, but it’s gone free a couple of times. The crux section above the platform ledge can be tricky to protect and TCU’s are nice to have there. Otherwise a light rack of stoppers will serve nicely.

  1. Begin with easy moves for five meters, up a low corner fissure to the top of a platform ledge.

  2. Next comes the crux; five meters of face climbing upward and left, pulling on well-spaced blades and pockets, then reaching directly up for hidden buckets on the massive leaning block. (Or, bypass the block by moving right onto a leaning slab.)

  3. From the slab, traverse left onto the big block and move upward for an easy six-meter scramble to a splitter that’s just beyond vertical.

  4. Work the crack until winning onto a narrow ramp.

  5. Edge left and upward, and scramble up to the summit. Boulders provide ample anchor foundations.

Variation: Red Five, Standing By (5.8+)

Here’s a deviation from X-Wing that takes a more direct and challenging line from the top of the leaning slab.

  1. Instead of moving left to the slanted boulder, traverse right and ascend on steeper slabs.

  2. Once level with the bottom of the big splitter on climber's left, edge over to the crack and finish as before.

FA: Jim Ryan & Christian Hettick, 2006

This has the same starting position and belay stance as X-Wing.

  1. The route immediately moves right, up a scrappy ramp and through heinous bushes, to a squatty dihedral under a roof. Just above eye-level, look to the joint where the roof meets the wall and locate a grippy, angled crack.

  2. From here, assault the roof directly, or exploit the crack and use alternating underclings to lie-back your way diagonally around the upper left edge.

  3. Next, embark on a delicate dance past tiny, rough scoops and finger grabs to where the wall leans slightly beyond vertical.

  4. Find a suitably high placement for one hand, then commit-and-go by pulling down, while smearing with feet.

  5. A blind reach to a perfect bucket hold hidden just out of view is the ticket past the final crux.

FA: Jim Ryan & Christian Hettick, 2005

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