Devo's Climbs

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Alpine Climb: Washington Pass

I spent Saturday night at Lone Fir campground in the North Cascades, having come from climbing with Dave, Kurt and Hunter in Darrington. Being alone, I was hoping to hook up with someone to climb somewhere in Washington Pass. With that in mind, I was up at 6:30 am, had some breakfast and coffee, broke camp, and was on the road to Blue Lake trailhead by 7:30. The parking lot was fairly empty at that early hour, but I did speak to a couple heading up to climb the Southwest Buttress on South Early Winters Spire (5.8). I followed shortly after them and hiked to the base of the South Arete on South Early Winters. At 5.4, with a lot of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, I figured that if I wasn't able to meet up with someone, I could solo this moderate and enjoyable route.

South Early Winters: South Arete (5.4)

At the base I ran into a Mountaineer's Basic Rock Climb outing led by Connie Anderton. I said hello and found out there was another soloist preparing to ascend the route in front of them. So I introduced myself and asked if he would like to climb together. He agreed and that's how I met Ron, an Irishman living in Vancouver, BC.

The hardest move of the route was at the bottom - an exposed friction slab move about 12 feet up - and we decided that it was best to belay Ron over this section. Once past the crux, we soloed the rest of the climb up through a chimney and over a mix of blocky rock, sandy ledges and a short, exposed ridge to the summit, 7,807 feet. We spent a good amount of time exploring the summit, taking pictures, enjoying the wonderful view, and talking about our climbing experiences. For the descent, we downclimbed the route (maneuvering around the Mountaineers, who had only made it as far as the second pitch), and rapped the last 12 feet to the ground. We had moved quickly; it was only 11:30 am.

I told Ron that I was going to head over to Liberty Bell to climb the Beckey Route (5.6). He had initially planned to leave after climbing South Early Winters and get home early, but as we hiked down and I described the route, he changed his mind and decided to join me.

Liberty Bell: Beckey Route (5.6)

The Beckey route, per usual, was busy. It is the most popular climb in the area, perhaps even Washington State. We soloed the 5.0 chimney on the first pitch, bypassing a couple climbing on the nearby face. The second pitch was a flared chimney with numerous chockstones rated at 5.5. I remembered this as being rather insecure despite the moderate technique and chose to go on belay. We doubled up Ron's 60M half rope to 30M and I started up. This was a short pitch and I reached the belay with just enough rope to anchor off. There we met a young couple guided by North Cascades Mountain Guides and we waited while they climbed ahead.

Once they were up, we simul-climbed pitch three with Ron on lead and then soloed the remaining bit to the summit at 7,720 feet. More pictures and conversation followed; then we descended via the south face rap route. We made the trailhead by 3pm - a day of enjoyable and efficient climbing. Ron and I shared a chilled porter and munchies and talked about climbing together again in the future. I gave him my contact info and we went our separate ways.

On the way home, I stopped by Bonnell's to check on Dave. His right foot had swollen quite a bit and was bruised heavily. How discouraging. I hope it heals fast and he's back on his feet soon. Sorry Dave!

Ron's pictures:

South Early Winters Spire. We climbed the buttress on the right.

Ron and I on the summit of Liberty Bell

North & South Early Winters Spires from Liberty Bell


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