South Early Winters Spire 7807 ft
July 19, 1998
Kim and I needed one more climb to complete our requirements for the Mountaineer's basic climbing course and as luck would have it, a co-worker of mine, Dan R., was a climb leader for the Everett branch of the Mountaineers. I often talked with Dan about climbing, so I was excited when I learned that he was leading this climb. I immediately signed Kim and I up.
We caravaned to the Blue Lake trailhead and started hiking up. The forest soon gave away to a beautiful alpine hillside dotted with green heather and white granite boulders. We were making good time on the trail with Kim in the lead. One of our party hadn't been out in a while and was having trouble keeping up. So Kim took the rope he was carrying and proceeded to cruise up the trail still in the lead. The trail became steep and we wound our way up to the ridge where the south arete route starts. We roped up and left our packs in the trees where we hoped they would be safe from the local hairy, white residents. Since there were five of us, Dan and I tied in to one rope and then Kim tied into a second rope tied in to me. Dan started climbing the first pitch which requires an awkward friction move, the only difficult move of the entire climb. In climbing shoes it wouldn't be difficult at all, but in clunky mountaineering boots, it was challenging.
The second pitch involved some stemming in a chimney, which was fun. Then we gained a shoulder in which we scrambled up with the rope looped around our shoulders. The third pitch contained an exposed lie-back on a steep ridge for about 20 feet. On one side of the ridge we were looking at 20 foot tumble but on the other side it was a few hundred feet to the southwest couloir. Exciting! I belayed Dan across, although it was unprotected. He reached the other side and fixed a line for the rest of us to use. One by one we girth hitched a leash into our harnesses, clipped the other end to the fixed line, and made the traverse. It was a comfort to know that if we should come off, the fixed would catch us.
The last pitch was up to the summit. The south arete is fairly moderate but the north and east sides are quite steep. I poked my head over the side and looked down. Wow! The highway was a tiny thread winding around the pass. It was over 2600 feet to the pass below! I cautiously stepped back and continued up to the summit with greater respect for where I was.
From the summit we were able to look across the tops of the other peaks that make up the Liberty Bell group: North Early Winters Spire, Lexington, Concord, and Liberty Bell itself. We saw some other climbers on the North Spire and waved. Ah, what a great place to be! Looking north we were treated to an impressive view of some very jagged peaks which I believe to be the Picket Range. We could look northwest and see Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan. This summit was especially rewarding for Kim and I since it completed our requirements for graduating from the basic climbing course. We had committed most of a year to this course and it was a great feeling to know we would now graduate.
We rappelled and downclimbed the route and reached our packs just in time to see a mamma goat and her kid nosing around them. They were probably looking for some salt to lick. I took a picture of them but it was getting dark and it didn't turn out very well.
We picked our way down through the boulder field and found the trail to the forest before it was dark, which was fortunate. We reached the cars well after dark and then began the most dangerous part of the climb: the long drive home.