South Early Winters Spire - 7807' - SW Buttress Class 5.8
After driving to Winthrop all day Sunday April 26th, I made plans to meet an old friend I hadn't seen in years at Washington Pass to Climb SEWS via the 5.8 SW Buttress. I had been wanting to do this climb for quite some time and was happy to get the chance. Jack drove up from Bellingham and met me at the trailhead at 9am. He decided to bring skis so he could make the run back down after we finished the climb.
Starting out, the weather was somewhat cloudy and chilly but we were easily able to stay warm while slogging up the wet snow towards the base of SEWS. Upon arriving at the tree marking the base of the route, we talked for a few minutes about where the start of the route was, packed our climbing packs and started scrambling up some 3rd and 4th class rock until I noticed a nice ledge traversing left which appeared to work out. Jack led the first pitch and headed up the left trending ramp and we quickly realized this wasn't the true start to the route as he had to negotiate a 5.9 slab traverse without much good pro to get to the tree atop the actual first pitch.
I followed but at the crux step getting onto the slab I took awhile and just had jack pull me a little since the fall would have been a decent pendulum into a rock wall which I didn't want to have to deal with. Once at the tree, I started up the second pitch which began as easy 4th class blocky terrain to a huge, snow covered ledge at the base of the wavy crack. I led up this beautiful crack placing the #4 and #3 pieces. Excellent hand and fist jams made the crack fun for me.
For the 3rd pitch, Jack wanted to lead the 5.10 finger crack variation instead of heading up the easy 5.4 stuff to the left. He ran right up placing a ton of good pro and was super stoked to have made the on-sight. It's nice to see old friends of mine get into climbing and after a few years be able to out climb me (in my defense, I do too much mountaineering lol). I struggled to follow the finger crack but made it up after a few rests and I continued up the famous Bear-Hug Pitch. I enjoyed that part eve if it was short. The #5 is all that would fit so I managed to walk it up a couple times and beyond that it was easy scrambling on slabs and blocks to a huge ledge on the SW ridge.
I led the next pitch which was more of the easy scrambling up slabs. I didn't need much pro and I eventually arrived at a large slung block which I anchored into. To reach the summit, we had to make a 15 foot rappel into the gully just to our right and climb a short, 30 foot crack to reach the summit. Since the gully was snowy, and I switched out of my rock shoes, Jack led this final small pitch and I climbed it in my boots. We arrived on the summit I believe around 4pm and enjoyed the incredible views of Silver Star, Golden Horn, Tower, and all the other surrounding peaks and towers. Throughout the day, avalanches would fall down the steep slopes rumbling at us. We thought for sure the mountains were talking!
To descend, we dropped into the large gully just west of the summit and despite our route description saying otherwise, we just plunge stepped down the gully with just a couple rappels. Normally this gully is probably full of awful scree but since it was covered in snow (which sucked for Jack as he didn't bring up shoes) and the fact there were rappel anchors everywhere, we just continued down the gully which dumped us right back at our gear cache. I continued plunging down while Jack had to fetch his ski boots and put his skis on. By the time he caught up to me on skis, we were almost back at the car anyways!
I really enjoyed this climb and can't get enough of the WA Pass area. Climbing there in spring is the way to go! No one else around all day.