Northwest Corner, North Early Winters Spire III 5.9+
Avg time to climb route: 2.5-5 hours
Approach time: 1.5-3 hours
Descent time: 1.5-3 hours
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 600'
OverviewThe Northwest Corner of North Early Winters Spire is a stunning route on excellent rock. The granite is less featured than is typical in Washington Pass; at first glance this smooth granite looks more like Yosemite or the Index Town Walls. This route is most famous for a thuggishly sustained 3-4” corner crack that starts on Pitch 4 and continues part way into Pitch 5. This corner pitch was put up before cams had been invented and is old school 5.9, for sure. Imagine attempting to slot hexes and tube chocks into it as you jam your way up it. The Northwest Corner is a classic route on the hardest spire in the Liberty Bell group and is worth doing for the sheer quality of the climbing.
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Route HistoryThis route was first climbed in 1976 by Paul Boving and Steve Pollock. Later that summer this pair also established the Northwest Face of South Early Winters Spire. The pair had the original intention of attempting to free climb the West Face but then changed their plans to attempt this undone and obvious line. Pollock went on to claim the first ascent of Dury Falls in the Tumwater Canyon. Boving, a former UW student and Yakima native, was one of Washington’s most prominent climbers in the 1970s until his untimely death in 1977 on a route he put up at Index, Thin Fingers. Boving had climbed Thin Fingers twice before but fell while climbing it for the third time, pulling his gear and hitting a ledge, resulting in a head injury and an issuing coma. He never came out of his coma and died shortly thereafter. People who knew him say he typically wore a helmet but For some reason he didn’t wear it that day. Boving made the first ascent of some of the most famous and most difficult routes of Washington’s like R.O.T.C. and the Boving Route on Dragontail Peak in The Enchantments.
StrategyThis is likely the most popular route on North Early Winters Spire. Mid-week you should have the route to yourself, but on weekends plan to share the route. Passing is difficult except at belays. The first two pitches are shared with the West Face, adding to the likelihood that you will have to wait to start the route.
This route is old school 5.9 put up by one of Washington’s best crack climbers during his prime. You can link the first two pitches if you mind your rope drag. Pitch 3 is a little devious and committing as you make powerful moves out on a steep flake. The route’s signature 4th and crux pitch is sustained and quite physical. There are a handful of acceptable stances to rest and place gear, but the sustained climbing doesn’t let up. As the crack gets wider, most climbers reach deeper into the corner to get better hand and fist jams. If you don’t feel comfortable with wide climbing, bring a triple set of 3-4”. Pitch 5 eases and throws in some balancey face moves to the left of the corner before diving back into the corner. You can pull through all cruxes on gear as long as you bring enough.
The route is often windy and usually shaded, so plan to go on a hot day or bring a puffy jacket. The start is close to the end of the rappels, so leave approach shoes and extra gear at the bottom. The route dries quickly after a storm.
Retreat StormThe first two pitches could be rappelled off of trees with one 60m rope. After that, you may find slung blocks on the top of Pitch 3. Above Pitch 3, you could rappel the whole route with two 60 meter ropes, but as there are no fixed anchors, you would have to leave gear.
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