Skipping Class to climb in the North Cascades...priceless

Skipping Class to climb in the North Cascades...priceless

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 48.50569°N / 120.62256°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Oct 6, 2009
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Fall

No good title for a Rad Day

South Early Winters SpireThe Route up the Southwest Rib

Fall hit and the weather has remained nice due to the El Nino year. After getting turned back on earlier late season climbs on Little Tahoma and Forbidden Peak, I wanted one more chance to do something big before the rain ends the climbing season.

The Southwest Rib of the South Early Winters Spire looked like the best climb for its length (7 pitches), dry rock (it snowed a couple of days prior), and solid rock (granite with rapakivi texture).

My buddy Kyle and I set off at 8:30 am and the drive from Bellingham took so long... we were just so stoked to climb on a clear blue day! I parked at the Hairpin turn right after crossing over Washington Pass (~110 miles from Burlington). We hiked up towards the east face of the Liberty Bell group, following a stream bed towards the notch to the left of South Early Winters Spire. This approach was strenuous, but nice because it was very direct. I would note that we did not go all the way to the notch on the way up, since we though that some easy class 4 scrambling on slabs would be easier than going up snowy slopes up higher.

The approach took about an hour to get to the double tipped larch tree at the base of the Southwest Rib.
South Early Winters SpireGearing up at the larch tree.

Pitch 1: 5.8 I led the first pitch with a good sized rack composed of .5-4 camalots, some micros, and two sets of link cams to double up on the cams. I also had some nuts and hexes as well. The climbing was very straight foward I threw in some sweet 5.9 moves to gain a roof crack to the bely station at a clump of bushes about 15ft below the 4" offwidth crack. I would suggest not starting directly at the base of the larch tree like the guides say but go left more so your pretty much directly below the offwidth crack.
South Early Winters SpireMe at the belay station above pitch 2.

Pitch 2: 5.8 The guides say 5.8, but this is way easier probably 5.7, super mellow climbing, but so awesome! Kyle led this pitch to a solid belay station that would make a perfect bivy site (completely protected by the wind and is 6' by 3').

Pitch 3: 5.9+ Kyle led the 5.9 variation up this amazing finger to hand size crack with solid jams. About 10ft up the crack curves to the left, one must use the crack as an undercling and stem the arete on the right hand side. This pitch made the climb!!

Pitch 4 and 5: 5.8 and 5.4 Kyle belayed me from right below the famous bear-hug offwidth. It was super short, but really sweet! I would recommend bringing two #4 camalots, I used both for sure... Pitch 5 was some easy slab climbing that had one bolt on a super slabby section. At one part you will run into a ridge of rock which you could straddle and climb with no pro or go right of this and go around the ridge with sweet exposure to the right.

After this pitch we were to the left of the summit block, and rapped from slings into the notch between the Rib and the summit block to the right.

Pitch 6: 5.4 I led this super short pitch to the summit with good protection.
South Early Winters SpireMe at the summit.
South Early Winters SpireKyle at the summit.

At about 5:30pm we were at the summit having climbed the route in 4 1/2 hours. The North Cascades looked amazing from the summit and I could see Forbidden Peak in the distance. The feeling of dissapointment from the failed attempt on this peak finally melted away as the fading sunlight warmed my face.
South Early Winters SpireThe North Cascades.

South Early Winters SpireDescent gully.

For the descent we chose to go down the South West Colouir since there was no snow and there was on the South Arete route. The gully was fairly easy with some rock fall. Once on the ridge to the right of the spire we headed to the notch as the last rays of sun were extinguished. This time we went into the notch and descended down this snowy stream bed. We went too far left on the way down and were cliffed out about 500ft above the road. We then had to fight our way through dense fir trees (I almost stepped right off a cliff at one point since I had been walking mainly on the branches of the trees and I pulled a cliff hanger move with one arm lifting myself back onto solid ground after dangling 30ft off the ground). We finally made it back to the car at about 8:30pm and headed directly to Boundary Bay for a growler of the IPA. It was a solid day!


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