Greg Collins, Mal Miller and Reave Castenholtz established this route in 1982. The Northeast Arete is a short route (we did it in four pitches bottom to top; the guide book has it broke down into six pitches) on a small objective (Sundance Pinnacle) passed on your way to and fro the Cirque of the Towers. It is definitely a worthy route to climb on your way in or out of the Winds.
It appears from the few descriptions out there that the first two pitches per the guide book do not get climbed often. They were quite chossy with medium and small blocks not cleaned. The second pitch however, off the large sloping ledge with large blocks, was actually a decent pitch worth doing. The crux climbing however is all located on a long pitch (my 3rd) from the ledge below the large slabby northeast face to an obvious horizontal hand rail (200’+). From reading the Bechtel guide, the author has not come anywhere close to actually climbing this route. The spectacular 3rd pitch moves up a right facing corner that peters out onto slab. Mantel up the slab to clip a button head (only fixed gear en route; doubt seriously it would catch a fall unless you brought a screamer). Then make an exposed traverse right at the grade for several meters to a small finger crack. This crack leads up the face to just below the summit at a horizontal crack where I built my belay on small gear. The hardest move of the route for me was surmounting a bulge half way up this small finger crack which involved mostly slab technique. This crux was protected with a precarious Metolius #0 above but a bomber C4#1 below. The last pitch was still attention getting as you traverse right on the hand rail until you can climb another finger crack starting with a small ramp on less quality rock to the summit. A few stems were key on this last pitch. Looking at photos of this last pitch from another party, there appears to be options. Going up that finger crack versus taking the hand rail all the way to the arête was the more challenging and interesting exit.
We dropped our packs on return from the Cirque just above the last switch back descent to Big Sandy Lake and approached from the southeast to the base of the climb. I noticed tents pitched in the area if one wanted to camp here. Climb up the grassy slope to access multiple ledges and keep moving right around to the north. We took a short rap off of a slung block to get at what we perceived was the bottom of the original route which is to the right of the main corner on Sundance Pinnacle. The first pitch was a dirty right facing corner.
Steph Abegg, my partner and photographer for this climb, did an outstanding job on this topo pic displaying the route as well as writing up a detailed trip report on her blog site.
Route DescriptionNortheast Arete, 500’+/-, 5.10+
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.8/ Climb the obvious right facing chossy corner to a large sloping ledge with large boulders resting on it. There are a few loose blocks on this pitch.
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.9/ Move to the rear left section of this ledge and locate a decent looking right facing corner that turns left facing when you pull the small roof. It also has some loose blocks. The upper half was much cleaner than the lower half. End at the long ledge below the broad northeast face above.
3rd Pitch- 200’+- 5.10+/ Climb the small right facing corner to the top of a slung pinnacle. Continue past a cool mantel move and clip a bad bolt (button head-2014, I would bring a screamer if you have one). Extend all your placements to this point if you want to send this face in one pitch. Make an exposed slab traverse right a few meters to the base of a small finger crack (5.10). A solid piece fits as soon as you hit the small seam, but again, extend it if going to the top of finger crack to avoid unnecessary rope drag. Continue up to a bulge. This is the crux move for me (5.10+). A bomber C4#1 fits underneath the bulge, about the only medium piece you use on this entire pitch. Mantle and slab up over the bulge as the seam almost disappears. A precarious Metolius #0 will fit, but I would have much rather had a micro off-set cam or nut here. Continue up the stellar finger seam to an obvious horizontal. Set a hanging belay here on small gear and a C4#3 if you brought it.
4th Pitch- 90’- 5.10-/ There appears to be two options for this pitch. When I led it, I stopped on the horizontal hand rail at a small ramp that led to a finger crack through less quality rock to the top of the wall. I saw a photo of someone going further on the handrail to easier ground. First option is 5.10-, second option is 5.8. Climb out the hand rail and place a bomber C4#2 before mantling back up and left to a small ramp. Follow it up to a finger crack and stem up to the summit. There is another interesting mantel in there somewhere, but the stemming is what is key.