During the second to last weekend in June, prior to mandatory quotas via permitting in 2013, we found the Incredible Hulk in typical California form, overcrowded. The easier and more popular routes on the face, Positive Vibrations and Red Dihedral, each saw approximately five parties on one weekend day. Therefore, after climbing Escape from Poland we opted to climb the much less visited Outguard Spire. Few if any of the local Californians in camp even knew which spire Outguard was among the Little Slide Spires group. You can’t see Outguard from the Hulk bivy site. It is named Outguard for a reason as it is the further northern spire, separated from the others by a col. It basically "guards" them on approach. The East Face Direct is the main route to the summit and was established by David Nettle. There is another route up the SE arête. Croft has the East Face Direct in his book “The Good, The Great and The Awesome”. The positioning is pretty cool, but the climbing is average on loose granite. Those conditions were expected of course on an eroding spire, but we still loved the adventure of it. The exposed summit definitely has a Bugaboo feel. Croft’s book also has this route listed as an alpine IV climb, but it is closer to an Alpine II climb at most. We got up the route in 5 pitches and the approach over from the Incredible Hulk trail is maybe 20 minutes. The descent involved a quick three raps.
This first pitch is perhaps the most spicy and committing of the group, although the second easiest lead of the day in terms of being sustained. The traverse left and then up a short tight dirty corner should get you ready for the rest of the climb. The second pitch is the cleanest following a nice finger splitter. It also has the lone pro bolt on the route which was not necessary. One could debate which is the crux pitch of the route between the 3rd and 4th. The 3rd pitch has what I felt was an almost impossible hand traverse to get clean on lead at this grade level. The 4th pitch is the most difficult rated (5.10d) following a tight corner up chossy granite crumbling under foot. Both of these pitches were burly off the deck. The 5th pitch is a meandering 5.8 line up corners through loose blocks. The summit is best done while roped up due to exposure but offers just a bit of 5th class to reach. Two full raps with a 70m rope get you down to the ground and one more short rap down a chossy gully gets you back to your packs.
Where approaching up or down the hill from the Incredible Hulk, locate the obvious individual spire with a broad east face marked with a large roof. Outguard is much beefier than the other Little Slide Spires and stands alone at its northern outpost. When even with the base of the spire on the main trail, simply traverse the rocky slope due west. The first pitch starts off of a sizable ledge in which to suit up at the far left corner of the east face.
- Outguard Spire, 800’, 5.10d
1st Pitch- 40m- 5.10c/ Move to the far right side of the ledge and follow the cracks up and back left. The first traverse move left is committing, via gear and quality of rock off the deck. Once you gain that first move, the traverse left is easy over to a short mantle that eventually leads to the base of a short dirty corner accepting micro to small gear. The ledgy aspect of this corner is cruxy. It goes much easier as a layback, but that obviously is committing with the ledge below. Continue up and right via easy ground past an old bolt to a comfortable gear belay on a small ledge.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.10b/ The first of three sustained pitches yet the most straight forward of the route. Traverse right to the base of the finger splitter which does offer up shallow flaring hands when needed. Climb it to its terminus and move right under a roof to below a short right facing corner.
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.10c/ The short corner directly above had two fixed pieces in 2013. The intent could be variable, but I suspect the high piece with a biner is not a bail biner but rather a way to protect the traverse up high for the leader. The crux of the route in my opinion is the sloping and shallow crack just meters above the belay that takes you left to another finger splitter before the main right facing corner. If you are going to protect that high up, then both the leader and second will have to down climb the short corner. In any regard, make the hard traverse left several meters and run up the finger crack above. Unlike the previous pitch, any hands will be far and few between (another crux) until you can move left to a hand crack. When you can exit left, follow your nose to yet another right facing corner with a piton (2013) at the base.
4th Pitch- 50m- 5.10d/ This is the crux pitch in terms of the FAer’s allotted grade. There are two corners. The first one is the crux, the second one is maybe 5.8. The crux is a flaring corner, right foot out on the right wall scraping loose granite whilst leveraging the small finger crack and shuffling up. Placing pro you trust is thought provoking. It is all small. Eventually you get a huge jug on the arête up left and exit the corner. Move left and up the next corner to yet again the base of a corner with a wide crack above.
5th Pitch- 50m- 5.8/ Climb up the wide crack above and traverse right when it gets too wide (crux of the pitch). Follow up the next corner right and pick your way through short obstacles treading lightly in and around large blocks. Do a medium sized gear belay at the top left shoulder of Outguard.
6th Pitch- 5th/ Traverse left, up, then down to the rap station at the southwest corner. From there do a quick roped ascent to the summit where there is a piton (2013) if for some reason you were not comfortable down climbing back to the rap station. We followed cracks on the west side of the summit block and had no issue with the down climb.