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We have planned to climb this route, South Arete, for years. We climbed the SW Couloir a year ago in the Spring. But we wanted to do an all rock route within our climbing level, so this route was very attractive. Last Fall we came up to the base of the route, gave it a try, but it was too cold, snowing and we quit. Our goal was to return this summer on a nice warm day to test our skills on this famous, scenic route. We expected to find it "crowded" as the Potterfield/Nelson book says, but we had it all to ourselves on a perfect day. No pressure. This is a fantastic climb for beginning 5th class rock climbing. Great belay stations, good rock, great places for all the protection you want to place.
The first pitch is rated the hardest at 5.4. It doesn't sound too hard, but I needed a good cam placement, and some careful, deliberate moves to get up to easier ground, which came quickly. There are no sustained difficult pitches. From the first pitch, you enter a series of "gullies". We had no problem finding our way to the next challenge, the "chimney". The belay is very solid, kind of in a cave, under a big chockstone. You just wedge your way up, find the hand holds and away you go into ledges and sandy paths. You could pitch a tent in some of those places. A few hundred feet before the summit is a neat feature of a short ridge. We quickly made the summit from this point. Two other climbing parties summited at the same time we did. A group of three from New York were climbing the Southwest Rib. I encluded one photo of them. Another party of two from New Zealand came up from the east side, not sure which route. Very impressive to see them top out in front of us. We downclimbed half the route, rapped the lower part from the chimney down.
I would recommend this route highly. A single rope, 60 meters is plenty for all climbing and rappelling down. We took too much gear, I'd take no more than 6 cams, medium size and same number of nuts and several slings. Whatever makes you safe, but also comfortable.
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