A long face crack splitting the upper wall provides a beautiful line and fun climbing on excellent rock (after a brief section of crumbly rock starting the first pitch that is mostly snow-covered early in the year).
Due to the aspect, a casual (non-early) start is advised to maximize sunshine on this enjoyable crack climbing classic.
FA - Fred Beckey, Dave Beckstead, 1965
FFA - Steve Risse, Dave Tower, 1985
As for other routes on the west side of the Liberty Bell / Early Winter Spires group, take the Blue Lake Trail past a few switchbacks to the open meadow, where the obvious climbers' trail heads up the hill on the left. Head for the base of the West Face of SEWS, and then contour back left on a light trail along the base of NEWS.
Follow skin tracks through the forest to the open slopes, cut off left after several steep rises. If you have any reason to think snowshoes might be helpful, bring them, its easy to stash gear at the base on the climb.
The route starts on the left side of the West Face, left of a white flake.
p1 5.8 - up and right on good holds to slightly rotten flake system. Moderate climbing with reasonable protection follows. A few funky chimney moves are encountered. Reach a terrace, which will be snow-covered early season, with many small trees; belay high and use many slings to reduce rope drag, or belay low and scramble together to move the belay up. (Same first pitch as the Northwest Corner).
p2 5.9 - up a steep right facing corner on large holds and good jams with lots of pro. Above a rest ledge on the left, continue up a clean crack with a few more 5.8 moves. Belay at a small ledge with several cams at the anchor. The first half of this pitch is simple 5.7-8, but there are some more strenuous lie-back moves toward the top. Some parties may choose to split this pitch in half, belaying at the large ledge, with a 70m rope it can be combined the following pitch.
p3 5.9 - start with a short (8') unprotected 5.8 lieback up a 5" flake. Quickly you have the hold of your dreams and easy climbing to clip a bunch of slings on a flake. Out right to clip a bolt at the lip, which protects the start of an airy 5.9 undercling/lieback. Off-balance moves with decent small footholds are protected by a small cam and a fixed pin. Easier moves on beautiful rock reach a nice ledge below the crux.
p4 5.11a - up the obvious thin finger crack above, which is very well protected with small wired nuts and TCUs. Foot pockets and the relatively low angle make this reasonable, but it is still essentially a tips crack. After about 15-20' real finger jams become possible and difficulties ease to 5.10a briefly, traverse left and continue up, the grade steepens again for another tips section, this one lower angle; stop whenever, the belay will be hanging regardless.
Some, including the previous owner of this page, consider this pitch to be 5.10c, and cite comparisons with routes in Yosemite to back it up, a more appropriate comment might be that Washington Pass grades are not old-school, they are more similar to Leavenworth than the Index Town Walls.
p5 5.7 - Climb up until the crack starts petering out then do an easy friction traverse right, a moderate 5.6 crack (which will be very wet early in the year) leads to the summit area.
Double set of cams to 2", single 3", standard nuts, long slings
One 60m rope is sufficient for rappelling down the S/SW route, although it does not quite reach to the best anchors (fixed pins) on the second rappel, so be prepared to downclimb a few moves there and possibly place a little gear temporarily.
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2006 Trip Report
2013 Trip Report