Chockstone Route, North Early Winters Spire II+ 5.7
Washington Pass, Washington, USA
Avg time to climb route: 1.5-4 hours
Approach time: 1.5-3 hours
Descent time: 1.5-3 hours
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 600'
OverviewThis is the easiest route up the most difficult spire in the Liberty Bell group. Because it’s the descent route for the whole peak, it is sometimes dismissed. However, it is a fun and worthy rock climb later in the summer and a moderate “mixed climb” in early in the season. The crux has fun exposed moves around the left side of a house-sized chockstone. It is partially protected by old pitons that add to the historic feel of this route.
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Route HistoryThis was first route climbed on NEWS and was put up by Dick Widrig, Pete Schoening, and Wes Grande on July 4, 1950. This was pre-Highway 20 so the trio hiked 16 miles up Early Winters Creek. They cruised the route and placed only a handful of pitons, mostly on the crux pitch climbing around the chockstone that is the route’s namesake.
StrategyThis is maybe the least popular route up NEWS. But on a busy afternoon, everyone is coming down. The primary down side of this route is the chance that several parties rap through you. Luckily, the rap route only goes straight over the climbing route in a few places. There isn’t too much loose rock, but there’s still some, so let people descending know that you are there. Passing is easy on all but the last pitch.
Most of the challenging climbing is decently protected but there are some smaller runouts on low fifth class terrain. The crux pitch is protected with a few small cams and nuts and over a half dozen old pitons and an old bolt. It is possible to pull through the crux moves on gear. Above the chockstone walk up the gully nearly to its end and climb a pitch up golden blocky rock using one of the rap stations as an anchor. From there, climb a shorter pitch traversing to a sandy ledge (snow in early season) below two chimney features. This is the last challenging pitch. It is easy to ascend the wrong gully/chimney; take the left-hand one. Look up and make sure the chimney you are climbing goes all the way up and that it doesn’t end in a big roof. The final pitch, while far easier than the crux pitch, is a bit runout with limited options for protection.
This route holds snow until mid- summer. The snow in the chasm tends to be icy so be ready to bring boots, crampons and an ice axe until mid-July. Early in the season, soon after the highway opens, this can be a fun moderate mixed climb. In some years, snow stays on the route year-round.
Retreat StormRappel at any point with one 60m rope. Be careful on the 2nd rap off the summit: a 60m rope barely makes it! The part of the route that sits a deep in chasm between NEWS and SEWS is slow to dry. However, the rest of the route, including the crux, gets afternoon sun and dries quickly.
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