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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - South Early Winter Spire/Southwest Couloir

Stunning views. A straight forward and fairly easy climb when the conditions are good. Be careful with the large cornice at the top of the couloir!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Our route from the Blue Lake Trailhead.  The parking area was unplowed so parking was next to the road.Screenshot_20220518-073300_Drive.jpg

This climb was on 5/17/22.

Our group of 6 met at the TH at 6:30am and departed around 7am with snowshoes on.  It was easy following the many ski tracks through the trees.52081193877_e921c11a37_o.jpg

The snow was firmer once we left the trees and the views of the spires were beautiful.52082564174_5132a8c97e_o.jpg

We kept looking for the SW couloir, but didn't realize one can't really see it until only a couple hundred feet before being at the entrance.  Red line showing the entrance.InkedPXL_20220517_153837979_LI.jpg

Looking back.  The blue skies are trying to break through.

IMG_2425.JPGEntrance to the couloir.InkedIMG_2428_LI.jpg

Now a good view of the SW couloir.  InkedIMG_2431_LI.jpg

We find a flatter spot to take a break and rope up into 2 teams of 3 using 60m ropes.  Lori W leads off at about 10am carrying 6 pickets.  The clouds are lifting and it's going to be a lovely day.52082327356_e76e4ed9d6_o.jpgThe snow is in great condition for kick stepping and getting a good self belay.  Entering the couloir.52082345783_860a150f3f_o.jpg

At the intersection between the 2 couloirs.  We take the one on climber's right.IMG_2465 (1).JPGLooking down.IMG_2476.JPGNearing a constriction about 2/3 up.  People often start placing rock pro on the sides of the walls starting here, but we had so much snow that Lori continued using pickets except for the 1 cam placed.   She ended up leading the entire route due to all the snow and the easy climbing. 

IMG_2478.JPG IMG_2487.JPGAt the top of the couloir.IMG_2506.JPGOnce at the top of the couloir, we unroped to scramble the 30' or so to the summit.  The climbing of the couloir had been easy, but it was this last part that was sketchy.  We had not anticipated to be so.  If the rock had been dry, it would have been easy, but with so much snow it wasn't.   Photo of the sketchy portion although it doesn't look that bad here.IMG_2534.JPG

Albert S was belayed up to set a fixed line.IMG_1165.jpgWe did not know where I was standing was actually a cornice.  Someone broke through when coming up next to me.  Should try to stay left of where I am.  Right above where Albert is is a fairly large flat area for everyone to sit.PXL_20220517_190224608.jpg

Once the fixed line was set, everyone prusiked up carefully.  Too many stunning views to post, but here are a couple.IMG_2559.JPGIMG_2553.JPGIan and Rodica happened to be on the same route as well.  Ian's photo of Rodica taking our group photo.  Small world!52081295037_a36acc8376_o.jpg

Heading down.52082823560_346be1d6e4_o.jpg
PXL_20220517_201110700.jpgPXL_20220517_204713834.jpgAlbert is the last person down so I belay him down.  The others have already picked up the 2nd rope at the top of the couloir and are down climbing to the rappel tree about 30' or so below.  Photo taken from the rappel tree looking up.IMG_1187.jpgOnly a few people can be at the rappel station at once so the rest are anchored at another tree above the rappel tree to wait their turn.52082348893_8173907044_o.jpg

Once the 2nd rope is at the rappel tree, a double rope rappel is set up.  Lori descends first to check out the lower anchor where we hope to set up a 2nd double rope rappel.  It is good to note here that several people did a pendulum swing when rappeling down the fall line.  I took the rope a sharper skier's left to avoid that, but that might have been why the rope got stuck when being pulled later.  The rappel tree.PXL_20220517_223452780 (1).jpgRappelling down the fall line where people did a pendulum swing soon after this.52082824485_224e18bd85_o.jpgThe lower anchor was in a sketchy place so everyone decided to down climb the rest of the way instead.   Unfortunately the rope got stuck when Albert and I were trying to pull it which wasted a good hour with me having to prusik back up trying to unstick it.  After many tries, I was finally able to about 3/4 way up.

A last photo as we head back to the cars.  Our leisurely climb took about 12hrs c2c.52082331146_97475c8437_o.jpgThe awesome group who helped make it successful and fun.  Also, many thanks to Stephen Sugiyama who gave us a ton of helpful beta on this climb.   Thanks to many in the group for the use of their photos as well.20220517_130552.jpg