Southwest Rib South Early Winter Spire – 5.8 7P

Cameron and I successfully climbed SW Rib of SEWS this past weekend in the Liberty Bell Group in the North Cascades National Park. It was awesome, I have also never been bitten so much by mosquitos in my life. I killed SIX in one slap, well over 100 bites, mostly on shoulders and upper back. Bring bug-spray.

Looking up at the route, which starts on the right side of the spire.

The approach wasn’t bad at all, almost fully clear of snow and no need whatsoever for any traction. We car camped at another trailhead and made it over to the Blue Lake trailhead for a not-quite-alpine 6AM start. We were quickly passed by a party of two and make it to the start of the climb as the 2nd party.

Cameron looking impressed as the spire comes into view

One group of 4 lined up behind us as we got going. As Cameron led up P1, the follower in the group in front of us got stuck at an awkward 5.8+ overhang and decided to bail. The crux was a 1.5m section of slightly overhanging wide hands. Cameron was able to clean their stuck cams and return them back to the leader. I fell twice on the P1 crux before I could figure out the proper beta.

Cameron starting the “Nervous Nelly” pitch, bragging about how only a totem would fit.

I ended up leading 3 pitches and was happy with that. I could have led a few more but definitely would have had a hard time mentally with some run-outs. I took one more fall at the infamous bear hug pitch, seconds after yelling “I found a rest!”

Right after I found a “rest.”

I took the next lead, a traverse to the base of a prominent arete. Cameron led up a slabby and committing arete. This pitch had a memorable section where you had to grab the arete as a sidepull and friction your way up a few meters with protection well below your feet.

Taking the shoes off, one pitch from the summit, waiting for Mia and her partner to pass.

We took a break to let a party pass and took a few pictures.

Views for days

Mia on simul

The final pitch was a short down climb followed by a 10m 5.6 fist crack. Cameron: “I foolishly forgot to rack the big gear, so I placed two marginal cams in poor rock and just went for it. Ooops.”

“5.0” down-climb exposed traverse.

We topped out and were very thankful when Mia (of the party of 4) had shared her water with us. I had taken 1.5L and was OK, but Cameron had taken just 1L and got a bit dehydrated. Cameron: “I was moping around like a baby. Thanks Mia!”

V0/V1 summit top out.

I managed to down-climb / down-solo some of the South ArĂȘte route and took 3 rappels to get to the ground.

We ran into goats multiple times during the approach, at the base, and once off rappel. Some of them got too close for sure. I did my best to look big, while Cameron ran behind a tree.

I really enjoyed this climb and the approach was super easy compared to many bigger routes in Washington. Thanks Cameron for a great day on the rock.

Look at all that loose rock…
Taking a bight out of the saddle bag rappel. The descent route was quite loose and we tried not to pitch anything down on others.

Gear / Misc

We used a double rack of totems, 2x #3, #4 ultralights, one #5 and one #6. offset nuts, 3 draws, 8 single length runners.

Cameron: “The approach was tough for my wimpy legs. Great route on high quality rock. The scramble from the summit to the top of the rappels was not great. I’m not sure how much that is due to the recent rockfall on South Arete. I hope the community will decide to bolt another rap route on some of the more solid features.”