South Arete of South Early Winter Spire

August 1997

Climbers: Mitch Hungate, Ron Husa, Bruce Kolpack, Terry Mataya, Mark Swanson.

I met up with Mitch, Ron, Terry, and Mark for breakfast early Saturday morning. The goal this weekend was the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak. After breakfast, we headed for North Cascades National Park. We stopped at the Marblemount Ranger Station to get our permit, only to find that the Boston Basin area (the approach route for Forbidden Peak) was full. So we had to change plans.

View from the RoadTerry came up the idea to climb South Early Winter Spire. South Early Winter Spire, 7807 ft., is a member of an incredible group of peaks just South of Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway. Also included in this group are Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, and North Early Winter Spire. South Early Winter Spire is the highest peak of this group. The photo at the left shows South and North Early Winter Spire from the North Cascades Highway just East of Washington Pass. We chose the South Arete route (left skyline) because of it's aesthetics and moderate difficulty.

After a short approach, we found a great camping spot next to a snow patch on a heather bench beneath the South Arete. We were joined by a family of mountain goats and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

We got up early and were climbing by 6 AM. The first pitch was suppose to be a 5.5 slab move. But instead, we inadvertently began the route with a more difficult oblique crack, lead by Terry. Off route already! (hereafter known as the Vulgarian Variation!)

The next pitch was a scramble. Mitch lead a cool 5.4 chimney, and the remaining pitches were scrambling, class 4, and easy class 5.

We were back at the campsite by noon. A quick hike down, lunch in Marblemount, and an early return home.