Trip Report    

Basic Rock Climb - South Early Winter Spire/South Arête

Successful Basic climb for McCarthy-Johnson SIG, not much snow on approach, still dirty/chossy above the chimney, used the new rappel route!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

The South Arete route is well-known, so I'll stick to what was notable, especially since the early June rockfall.

south arete arrows.jpg

Soon after the rockfall near the chimney on pitch 2, crews trundled/cleared the route of major rocks. They did a great job - huge thanks to those involved. But be wary of rock fall from the end of pitch 1 to about 250' above the main chimney on pitch 2. This section is still full of rocks, choss, and kitty litter. We were consistently kicking down debris even with very carefully chosen steps, especially just above the chimney. 

The gullies and whaleback sections were as advertised. As many trip reports have noted, it really is up to the team to either scramble or pitch out the sections from the chimney to the whaleback. Choose your own adventure.

We left all ropes at the whaleback traverse (after setting a hand line for everyone) and scrambled to the summit, which was was pretty T3-T4. After the whaleback, you can either a) dip left into the gully and follow a short knife-edge or b) clamber up boulders climber's right. The summit down climb is no joke. Either gully or boulders will get you back to the whaleback - use caution either way.

The most notable aspect of the climb was the new rappel route bolted since the June rockfall. It is climber's right, independent of the ascent gullies, and thus keeps climbers and rappellers mercifully separate. I was told this was a huge improvement from before. THREE brand-new, shiny chain and ring systems have been bolted into the face of the South Arete. Find the highest one by down climbing a 50-ft section from the clearing at the end of the gully system. (Sorry, didn't note elevation.) In other words, from the whaleback, keep down climbing and/or rapping and looking skiers left for the first bolt. 

new rap.jpg

From there it is a smooth, glorious set of rappels from one shiny station to the next til you're back at the packs (and the many friendly mountain goats and their babies). We read of a way to double-rope some of rappel, but we chose single 60m raps to each station since it was our first time on that route. Account for the extra time of extra rappels.


There are a few minor snowfields remaining as of this date - we did not use the axes or tractions we brought. Honestly, the approach could have been done in trail runners. Still, it got slushy and postholey by afternoon, so you might bring spikes to be cautious. 


Buggy as hell at the trailhead - you've been warned.

Great group, good spirit, glorious area. And got three Basic students their rock climb credits and therefore graduated. What's not to love?

12:30 total. 6 am-6:30 pm.