South Face

Page Type
Washington, United States, North America
Route Type:
Technical Rock Climb
Time Required:
Half a day
II 5.7

Route Quality: 4 Votes

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Page By:
South Face
Created On: Oct 27, 2003
Last Edited On: Aug 11, 2005


The easiest approach to the base of this route is from the west. Follow the directions on the NEWS main page starting at the Blue Lake trailhead off of WA highway 20. Some additional pointers: follow the Blue Lake trail for approx. 2 miles (from TH) until a second prominent clearing beneath the west face of Liberty Bell. From here you should see a very clear climbers' trail heading uphill toward the Liberty Bell Spire. The climbers' trail starts off by heading directly for Liberty Bell before turning right (south) traversing steep slopes (and's easy to lose the trail on the slab sections) below the Concord and Lexington Spires. Note that there's a split in the climbers' trail, with the left fork heading up toward the Liberty Bell- Concord notch. To reach the west face of NEWS (or west and south faces of SEWS) you want to keep right at this fork (keep traversing below the spires). The trail eventually leaves the sparse Larch growth and enters an open alpine meadow. Keep traversing below the west face of NEWS until you're near the SW corner where you should pick up another off-shoot trail heading uphill towards the NEWS-SEWS gully (with giant chock stone). The route starts directly below this gully.

Route Description

The route reaches the summit of NEWS in six mostly low fifth class pitches. Beckey calls the route the "South Face Route" although the start of it is at the SW corner of the NEWS spire (it's only after the 3rd pitch that you're technically climbing the south face). This route offers the least technical way to the summit of NEWS and it is often overlooked by more talented climbers most of whom funnel into either the West Face or the North West Corner routes (5.9 and 5.11). Lower half of the route coincides with the standard rap line from the spire's summit.

Pitch 1: 5.0-5.5, 200 feet. The goal of pitch one is to climb into the 3rd class gully below the giant chock stone (see photos) wedged high in the NEWS-SEWS gully. The difficulty of this pitch varies depending on the line taken (ratings are approximate). Starting directly under the 3rd class gully is probably the easiest (4th class to 5.0). One can also start just left of the gully up low angle slabs which probably provides a slightly more challenging option (somewhat runout other than one or two large cam placements in face pockets). Once past the technical part (40 - 60 feet of it), run out the rest of the rope as you walk up the 3rd class gully (no need to belay the gully - not exposed). Your objective is to position yourself almost directly below the huge chock stone where the next pitch will start.

Pitch 2: 5.7, 80 feet. This is the crux pitch of the route. Goal of this pitch is to top out on the giant chock stone. From your belay below the chock stone, move left and up easy (c. 5.5) ledges. If you're on the correct ledge, you should see two pitons pounded into a seam. Move left on this ledge (c. 15 feet) and pick up a vertical corner/crack. Move up this feature (c. 5.6) for about 20 - 30 feet until you're roughly level with the top of the chock stone. Natural and fixed pro options exist (most of the fixed pro consists of old rusty pitons with one or two exceptions). All that stands between you and the top of the chock stone now is the "delicate 5.7 face traverse" - about 10 feet of it. You can clip a (decent looking) piton in the face before committing. Direct rightward traverse looks a bit harder than 5.7 (high angle, low on features type of face). It might be easier to move up (smearing move) to a very slopy ledge and traverse that to the right. The dismount from the ledge (about 8 feet above top of chock stone) onto the chock stone is a bit awkward but easy. Belay from the rap bolts atop the giant chock stone. If you have a camera with you, you can get some nice shots of your second cleaning this pitch. Note that this last traverse section (10 feet) is just as difficult for your second as it was for you (or just as easy).

Pitch 3: 3rd class, 200 feet. Walk up the gully (unexposed class 3 but dirty!) until you're about 20 or 30 feet below the upper (smaller chock stone). This is your belay for the next pitch. Note that this gully can be snow/ice filled till late summer making it a dangerous proposition in rock shoes (this information was provided by Fred).

Pitch 4: c. 5.4, 100 feet. Your goal here is to top out on this upper chock stone from the left side. Move up the somewhat runout (but easy) steps to the left (and starting below) of the upper chock stone. Once level with the chock stone, move back right to top out on it (doing this little traverse a bit higher is easier probably). Belay from top of the chock stone. You're now at the highpoint inside the NEWS-SEWS gully. Here is where the climb starts up the south face of NEWS.

Pitch 5: c. 5.0, 200 feet. Climb south up a "rib" which then turns into a gully/low angle chimney till you run out of rope. There's a huge overhang to your right - you're climbing a gully to the left of this overhang. Belay on gear when you're out of rope or when convenient.

Pitch 6: c. 5.4 - 5.6, 160 feet. The difficulty depends on the exact line taken. Head up the chimney (c. 5.4). At some point you have an option - continue up the chimney into what looks like an off-width (this might be the 5.6 off-width Becky mentions) or move left (5.6 mantle move) onto a face then an adjacent gully. Either way, you top out on the summit slabs just west of the highpoint. From here it's a 100 foot walk (exposed in places) to the true summit of NEWS.

Two ropes (we used double 60m ropes - 50's would probably work as well). Walk back west from the true summit in the direction of the gully you came up. Continue walking west past this gully and turn left beyond a "high protrusion". You should see a good-sized tree/bush with rap slings around it. Do one single rope rap (again, we used 60m rope - 50m would PROBABLY do) to the next rap station consisting of slings around a rock horn. Do a double rope rap (a single rope rap here means you'll be doing another rap off of some abandoned and questionable gear left by other climbers) back to the NEWS-SEWS gully below the upper chock stone. Walk down the gully to the top of the giant (lower) chock stone. No need to belay - it's not exposed but it is dirty! From the top of the chock stone, do a single rope rap (free air for about 30 feet!) off of nice new bolts. Walk down the lower 3rd class gully (unexposed). Either down climb to the ground (probably about 30 feet at the lowest point) or rap off of small trees.

Essential Gear

Double ropes (route description is given based on 60m ropes). Helmets. A light alpine rack - mid sized cams and nuts. Much of the crux pitch has fixed (though not very solid looking) pro. Bring a couple extra large cams if planning on doing the 5.6 off-width version. Double and triple length slings. Some rap slings if existing ones look worn.

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Derek Franzen

Derek Franzen - Jul 9, 2005 9:40 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

If you've climbed the SEWS and wish to climb NEWS (S Face) you can make an easy rappel into the notch between the two. You need to down-climb from SEWS N and down a bit to a good anchor. We used double 50M ropes, the first time we did this Eric rappelled from an anchor (too high on the peak) and ended up not quite reaching the ground. We then reset an anchor about 15’ lower and he made the ground. In nice weather the rappel is fun, in less then ideal weather see here.

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