Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - South Early Winter Spire/Southwest Couloir

A fun early-season alpine climb near Washington Pass.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The Blue Lake trailhead parking lot is snowed in but the privy is functional. The snow coverage in the upper couloir is thin or bare in several spots but the route was generally in good condition.

The weather forecast was not encouraging but we decided to give the day a shot. It turned out quite well. The sky was full of high, heavy clouds but it was mostly dry while we climbed.

Our party of five left the trailhead at 6:30 a.m. The temperatures were cold in the morning and cool in the afternoon so we were able to approach the route in boots and crampons without floatation. We roped up at a small stand of trees near the couloir entrance and started up around 9:30 a.m.

We used a running belay going up the couloir. There was good snow coverage for most of the route, although the upper couloir was starting to melt out. We left our crampons at the top of the couloir and scrambled to the summit, arriving around 11:00 a.m. We couldn't see distant mountains but we had great views of closer-in peaks like Silver Star and Cutthroat.

The descent was a short rappel from the summit to the couloir, two double-rope rappels down the couloir, a downclimb to our stashed gear, and a plunge step (or ski) back to the cars where we arrived around 3:30 p.m. As we packed up it began to snow.

Gear: We used one 60 m rope for the ascent and two for the rappels. We used a few cams, one nut, two hexes, and two pickets.