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South Early Winters Spire (7807 ft)

South Arete 5.4

October 14, 2004

Greg and I still had energy to spare after our nocturnal descent off of Liberty Bell so we decided to head back up the trail and climb the south arete of South Early Winters Spire. Since South Early Winters Spire starts higher and is a longer route, we passed on a hot breakfast to give us as much time as possible on the route.

We hiked up the familiar trail but for some reason I thought the turn off for SEWS trail was farther towards Blue Lake than the trail for Liberty Bell. Soon we were at the lake and realized we had gone too far. The lake was very nice, though! So we back tracked to the turn off we took the day before and kept an eye out for trails branching off to the right up towards SEWS.

It was great hiking up the slabs past the golden larches. We had really lucked out on the weather. We commented that it was actually pretty warm as we hiked down off of Liberty Bell the night before. As we hiked we noticed that there seemed to be several different trails to take. To make sure we found our trail, we built a few cairns to mark the fainter parts. We arrived at the base of the route around 10:20am, 2 hours after we left the truck.

The trail through the forest offered welcome shade
Greg led the crux friction traverse with no problem
Greg set up a good belay at the base of the chimney

Since I did most of the leading on Liberty Bell, Greg took the first pitch. Greg protected the move then climbed and quickly and effortlessly up the slab. I remember following on this pitch when I first climbed it 6 years ago and trying to smear past the tricky move with my clunky mountaineering boots. It was much easier this time with my Trangos. I really like these boots!

I climbed up to where Greg had built an anchor at the base of the chimney and started leading the second pitch. Chimneys have always been enjoyable for me. It doesn't feel exposed like a slab and it's fun to move back and forth from side to side, working up the holds to the top. Soon we were at the sandy ledges and we tied the rope in kiwi coils and simul-climbed up to the exposed ledge near the top. I lead across and was surprised to find a bolt hidden on the other side of the ridge half way across. It really isn't needed, but since many folks new to alpine rock climbing do this route, it probably offers them some peace of mind. I clipped it and continued across and up the other side.

We simul-climbed the upper part of the route
This route offers so many excellent views
Greg belaying me across the ridge

Greg climbed across the ridge and hung out while I snapped a few glory shots of him. He promised to return the favor when we came back across it on the descent. With the major obstacles behind us, we untied from the rope and scrambled along the ridge and up to the summit. It was a glorious day and we enjoyed our time on top, looking at the views, picking out peaks, and taking fun summit photos.

The only bolt on the route was behind this ridge
It's about 2000 vertical feet down to the highway below
Greg on the summit!
Peter on the summit!
We downclimbed and made three short rappels back down to the base
Clouds were starting to roll form as we hiked back down through the meadow