Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - South Early Winter Spire/South Arête

Fun basic rock climb in the beautiful Washington Pass area during wildfire season.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • For reference, 2018 was a slightly higher than normal snow fall year.

    Route was completely snow free, and dry (no streams or water sources). The trail is easy to find and braids quite a bit (there are multiple trail options for getting to the base of S arete). Trail maintenance is  currently underway to create established trails in the area. 

    Wildfire season was in full force and we were monitoring nearby fires and air quality. No participants had pre-existing respiratory issues/medical concerns, and air quality was no worse than in town so we went ahead with the climb (keeping in mind that we would turn around if the smoke became an issue or discomfort for any participant). On the climb smoke was not an issue and it was actually better than we had expected. We did watch a nearby fire grow and the wind changed directions in the afternoon that would eventually bring thick smoke over WA pass overnight through the following day (see photo for how smoky it became the next day).

    PC: L. Loper

    We lucked out because we practically had the route to ourselves (we only encountered 1 other small guided party)! 

    PC: L. Loper

 We were a party of 6 (mentored leader, mentor, rope lead, and three participants who took the basic alpine climbing course this year).

Car camped at Lone Fir campground the night prior.

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Climbing notes: Great weather, great trip, and crew. Route finding is easy. Horrific rope drag potential on the second pitch (at the top, for the belay) if you try to protect the chimney exit move, extend extend extend. I set up a handline on the whale back/camel hump/shark fin. I used the bolt in the middle of it, and placed two draws in the bolt so followers could move their prusik past the draws one at a time while still having the rope attached to one of the draws at all times. Set up a handline to drop down into the top of the couloir and part of the scramble portion to the summit (I could see some parties forgoing this handline but it was appropriate for our group). The first rap station (big tree just skiers left of the climbing route) had been cleaned of webbing so we reset with blue webbing and rap ring. The second rap doesn't reach all the way to the bolted rap station (final rap station). But it is a very easy and short scramble over to it. Just be sure to remind your participants to gain a good footing and balance before coming off rappel. 

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Gear notes: 60m ropes. Brought 5 cams (.4, .5, .75, 1, 2) and used them throughout the climb. Could have left the .4 at home. Brought two medium/large hexes and didn't use them, leave those at home or sub out for cam sizes. Brought a rack of nuts and only used a couple of them (medium sizes). Bring some double runners for slinging natural pro. 

Food beta: Pickles are the new summit treat. 7-11 sells sliced pickle packs for $1. YW.


Depart TH: 6:40a

Arrive at base of climb: 8:25a

Summit: 2:00p (time between includes break, & rack up time at base of route)

Descend & arrive back to base of climb: 5:10p (time includes 30 min break on summit)

Arrive back at TH: 7:00p (slowed pace on descent for rusty knees)