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Climb South Early Winters Spire - South Arete

Winthrop, Washington



3 miles

Elevation Gain

2600 ft


Added by Nick A.

This is an outstanding alpine rock climb for the beginning trad leader. It offers 360 degree views, and an almost crag-like environment with a very short approach.

From the Blue Lake Trailhead, hike approximately 1.5 miles to an obvious clearing with subsidiary trails that depart uphill and right at a stream crossing. These trails will eventually lead up granite slabs and converge into a main trail. Follow the cairns or aim generally for the southern-most spire (the one to the right before the saddle). After about 2k feet of gain, you should be at level with the saddle. Follow this left until you spot the start which can be identified as directly below a set of rappel chains at the top of the first pitch (see 3rd picture, above). There are plenty of trees (both dead and living) to stow your packs while climbing. Chances are you will not be alone, so if you manage to get confused, simply ask another party. The wall faces due south, so if your compass reads otherwise, you are not on route. (Again, 3rd picture is of the first few moves on this route)

The first pitch starts with the protectable 5.6 crux move and follows a series of 4th class/low 5th class gullies to the rappel anchors. This route is often the descent route for other climbing routes, so it may be prudent to anchor off a tree about 15 feet to the climber's right of the chains.

The second pitch continues directly up the obvious gully to gain a true chockstone chimney (see 4th picture, above). Protect the overhung move and exit the chimney. You will spot rappel tat for your second to last rappel on the descent. Continue past to gain the next rappel station. Set your belay here for the follower. 

The next series of climbing is 3rd and 4th class scrambling with perhaps one or two 5th class moves before gaining the top of the gully system. You will spot the famous Whales Back directly to the left. There is a bolt on the other side of this feature if you chose to rope up for it at all. 

Continue moving up, keeping right of the Southwest Couloir. You will meander left where this couloir terminates. Keep on the military crest of the south face or peak over the edge to catch some exhilarating exposure. Continue up to the summit block.

Down-climb the ascent route and set up the first of three rappels at the top of the second pitch. All rappels are less than 30 meters.

**Note 1, the down climb can be a bit exposed. It is recommended to remain roped up and to continue placing protection during the down climb if you are new to alpine climbing/leading. There are some high consequences for a fall. Some parties set up ad hoc rappel stations where needed. It is prudent to bring rap rings and some extra sling.

**Note 2, camping is not authorized in this area. There are plenty of campgrounds nearby to choose from if you want an extended stay in the area.

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Rock Climbing
Easy Parking
Picnic Area

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