Early Winter's Spires Climbs

This description details the following climbs: South Arete of South Early Winter's Spire, Beckey Route on Liberty Bell, and Direct North Face of Concord Tower (September, 1994). Also included is the Direct E. Buttress of S Early Winter's (July 4, 1997).

We drove up, camped and got an early start (5 am). We first hiked to the South Early Winter's Spire and climbed the south arete. This is a nice, easy climb. (5.4?, about 4 pitches).

Next, we descended a little and sidled over to the gully which separates Liberty Bell and Concord Tower and scrambled the gully. When we reached the notch, there was one party on the route, and one waiting. We hung out and got cold for about an hour, waiting for the climbers ahead of us to make progress. Eventually we got onto the route and found it very enjoyable. On the descent we decided to do a double rope rap even though we saw slings halfway down. This turned into a minor nightmare when one of the ropes got caught up. My partner, Vic, had to climb back up to retrieve it.

After Liberty Bell, we decided to try to bag Concord tower. We should've climbed the Cave route, but instead tried the normal route, which was quite wet. Vic, lead the first pitch, and I got the second. All the water intimidated me and I headed onto the face to the right of the route. This climbing got increasingly hard as the rock got more and more rotten. Eventually I gained a wide crack and managed to sling a rotten horn. I climbed the crack and then the face to the right of the crack, when it got too wide for me. Eventually the crack narrowed to accept my largest piece (#2 Camelot), which made me feel a little better. I finished the pitch, and then my partner lead one easier pitch to the summit. We flopped onto the summit slab and took in the scenery and fading sunlight. We rapped the normal route and sped down the gully, just in time to get mildly lost in the forest below and have a small argument about how to find the path. Vic, of course, was correct and we found the trail in short order and we cruised under headlamps back to the car.


A single rope will do for all of these climbs, as will a small rack. The Concord Tower route we climbed, which shares a start with the standard route (first pitch), but then runs more or less directly up from the top of the first pitch (rather than meandering to the left) and accessess the summit slab on its right side, is not in any guide book, but looks as if it's been climbed before. It is a pretty ugly route, is probably not much harder than 5.8, but is scary due to loose sections of unprotected face climbing and a somewhat hard to protect crack, bring bigger gear for this one.


16 hours, car to car, for all three summits. There are probably a total of 10-12 roped pitches.

E Buttress Direct, S Early Winter's Spire

A fantastic climb. Climbed with Kari Stiles. We had the place to ourselves and great weather. Got a leisurley start (8 am at hairpin) and reached the climbing at 10. Lots of snow still, which was tough after we dropped our boots and axes near the big tree (last big tree) in the approach/descent gully. The topo in the new Beckey edition is very good, but here are a few notes:
  1. Easy, but start as high as possible, to make the 3rd pitch. Kari.
  2. A little harder (maybe 5.4), again, run out as much rope as possible, b/c the 3rd is long. Ben.
  3. Crux pitch in a way. Following with pack was definitely hard. Kari pulled the overhang to the right to enter a chimney. I pulled it left (the standard way) which was probably 9+. The crack widens after the overhang (20-30 ft to belay) but protects w/ 2 and 3 camalots in narrower spots. The rock is somewhat manky in places: I suffered several direct hits at the belay. Great lead by Kari.
  4. 30 ft of 5.8 hand crack (good rests and decent pro) to a block. Move left protected by very manky bolt. Turn corner and climbing eases through trees to large, comfy ledges. Watch rope drag. Ben.
  5. Bolt ladder. Pull on bolts over crest. Belay at nice 3 bolt (semi hanging) belay, just past flake and before 5.10 crack. (Could continue, but rope drag.) Kari.
  6. Short pitch, probably the nicest crack on the whole climb, to a not very good belay. Kari.
  7. Traverse up and right (scary moves right off belay) to reach 1st bolt in 20 (?) ft. Move to get to bolt was scary. Nice bolt, but otherwise the pro is pretty non-existent. Then more climbing to legdes. Look left to find bolt ladder. There are many more bolts than indicated on topo on this ladder. Ladder stops below a rotten arch (fixed stopper). This would probaby go free at 9/10, but I aided it. Free move to mantle, which isn't that bad. A few more bolts to next mantle, also not that hard. I continued up to trees to belay (last bolt is old). Rope drag. Pretty wild pitch, everything considered. Scary faceclimbing, aid, weird mantles, exposure. Ben.
  8. Long 5.6 to tree ledge. Kari.
  9. Finish is strange. I went up to reach left trending ramp below friction slab headwall. Walk left and around to easier face climbing to top of sub summit, then over to top left corner, where there is a weird move off of sub summmit to ridge. Belayed here w/ tons of rope drag.
  10. Easy ridge scrambling to main summit (simul climb for 1.5 pitches), probably could simul climb previous pitch too, but it is pretty exposed.
Descend the trade route via simul downcliming and 3-4 single rope raps when going gets steep. Then scramble continuation of the S Arete to notch. One rap over really rotten rock reaches the snow (water!).


8AM at hairpin. Climbing at 10AM. Summit at 6:30PM. Reached packs at dusk (9:30). We probably climbed aid sections a little slowly.


We took 1.5 set stoppers (doubling on medium sizes). One set would have been ok. Cams: 2 #2 TCUs, Friends #s 1, 1.5, and 2. Camalots .5, .75, 1 (x2), 2 (x2), 3. We only brought 2-3 double slings, should have had 4-6. Need lots of free biners for aid section (30?): I needed to use biners from cams and finally my chock pick biner on the second aid pitch. The second one meanders so longer runners or back cleaning is useful.

E Buttress Direct, S Early Winter's Spire (7/21/2002)

Climbed it again. This time I led the "odd" pitches. The easy first pitch, the sustained 5.9 dihedral, the first bolt ladder, etc. By the time I finished the first bolt ladder, I didn't have the juice to do the 5.10 crack leading to the second bolt ladder, so I made Nate lead it, which he did brilliantly. I definitely wore myself out futzing around under the roof on pitch 3. Perhaps I was still worn out from the Forbidden trip a few days earlier.... who knows. Car to car in about 11 hours.

Issues/Notes: There is now a well-established rappel route, or so it seems. As I remember, from bottom to top: at the base of the second pitch there is a tree anchor; at the top of the 5.9 (tree anchor); the double-bolt pseudo hanging belay on the first bolt ladder should/might get you down to the base top of the 5.9 pitch (this is questionable, but should work b/c the 4th pitch is short); and then there are 2 more tree anchors above and a 2 bolt anchor on the sub summit. This would mean 6 double rope raps to the easier ground... This means it seems possible to leave shoes and junk at the base and climb with a much lighter (or no) pack at all, as long as you take two ropes. If I did it again, I might try it this way -- following the aid pitches with a pack seems much harder than leading them!

Rack: 1 set of stoppers; double set of cams to #3 camalot (11-12 in all); 10 QDs, 6 single length, 3 double length. If I did it again, I'd just bring one #3, but definitely double up on hand/finger sized cams. 10 cams feels about right. The number of slings/qds was perfect, although 2 double slings is ok.

Time: round trip to car 12 hours. Climbing time, 7 hours. The key to climbing this route fast is really blasting through the aid pitches. For some reason, they always take us longer than they seem like they should... Possibly simul climbing all the way to the base of the first hard pitch and simul climbing from the top of the last bolt ladder. That reduces the climb to 5 pitches: 5.9, 5.8, bolt ladder, 5.10 crack, bolt ladder.

Early Winter's Gully

This is the East gully between the S and N spires. We attempted it in early April 1998. All I can really say is that the gully would make a fantastic climb in good conditions. We had wonderful snow conditions, but by the time we reached the first (steep) pitch of the gully, it was snowing (hard), and by the time T lead the pitch, we started getting blasted by spindrift avalanches. It got pretty scary until T managed to downclimb the steep bit and we fled with our tails between our legs. T nearly chopped the rope on the downclimb and I nearly got knocked off my stance by the power of the snow. T reported more moderate angles after the steep step. From the road, there appeared to be a small chockstone at 2/3 height and a possible cornice problem at top. Snow was good picket snow, but there was water ice around the chockstone at the bottom of the gully. Advise a small rock rack (including pins?), pickets and a couple of screws.

Early Winter's Gully (2nd attempt, mid-May 2001)

Scary scary scary. We made it up and over the first steep step, thanks to some brave climbing by Sven (poor ice conditions). Above, lots of soft snow up to maybe 50 degrees, but seemed pretty consolodated, so we continued upwards, reaching the chockstone at 2/3 height pretty quickly (we simul climbed). I set up a belay about 20 feet under the chockstone when the first avalanche came. It entered the gully below me and above Sven. Sven got hit pretty good, but hung on. Afterwards, he sped upwards. I was pretty sheltered by the chockstone -- or so I thought until the second avalanche came down, entering the gully above the chockstone and sideswiping me. Sven was protected below and left in an alcove, while removing a pin. Sven came up, checked out the chockstone -- the only feasable path seems to be to the right, but it was running with water, devoid of ice and a deathtrap should another snowpatch fail. The left was overhung and running with water. Cool views from up here, but we didn't enjoy them. We decided to bail -- speeding downwards in simul-climb mode. Sven stopped above the steep step (the location of our first belay) and we started mucking about looking for a good pin placement when the 3rd, and biggest avalanche came down. We were over to the left -- and happy to be after we saw the groove this one had scoured in the bottom of the gully. We rapped (quickly) over the step and hurried down the the car. Make sure snow conditions are good: Beckey even says: Beware of snowpatches that could fail... Basically, if there's not a lot of evidence that the gully has cleaned itself recently (if you're there after a good snowfall) I would stay very far away. Also, the gully on the north side of the North Ppire looks amazing: more continuous than our gully and steeper too.

We took double ropes, tools, pins (2 small angles (one of which is still there), 3 KBs, 2 LAs), stoppers, 5 cams, 2 pickets, 4 ice screws (useless at that time).

SW Rib of S. Early Winter's Spire (9/10/01)

This is a fun route, maybe 5.8 in difficulty. The Beckey topo is pretty on the mark, but here's some beta. We traversed onto the route via the descending ledge system from the gully on the right to reach the base of the wide crack. Simul climb all the way up to the base of this crack, and then make the first belay from there. This allows one to climb the 80ft wide crack, as well as the left facing 5.5 open book after wards in one pitch. Make a belay in the easy ground above, and from there climb the nervous 5.6+ (120 ft) slab pitch to the belay block above. From here, the entire rest of the route can be simul climbed. We didn't plan our belays quite so well, and tried to climb from the base of 5.5 book all the way to the top of the 5.6 slab in one pitch -- this is about 200+ feet, and obviously not possible with a 50m rope.

Time: 2 hours approach. 3 hours on route. 1+ hour for descent.

Rack: twin 9mm ropes (one would be sufficient). 1 set of stoppers and cams up to #3 camalot (double on 2 and 3 but single would have been more than sufficient).

Liberty Bell, Beckey Route (9/10/01)

Did the Bell again. We left the summit of the South Spire at about 2, reached our gear around 3:30. We traversed over to Liberty Bell, checked out a cute goat feeding at the start of the standard route. We started climbing around 4:30 or so and reached the top by 6. The descent went well, except for getting the rope hung up (high winds). In fading light I had to go up and get the rope -- we made the car by nightfall (8:15pm)...

Cutthroat Peak, South Buttress (9/11/01)

Another fun route. Take the last gully up to a notch in the ridge. The best strategy is probably to put on rock shoes and dump gear at the broken rock to the right of the gully mouth -- it's easier climbing these slabs up and left into the gully, and much easier on the descent, because you can rap right back to your gear. Plus, the nasty gully feels somewhat more secure in rockshoes...

From the notch you can go left or right -- we went right. A bit of steep climbing gets you onto easy climbing on the right side of the ridge which can be simul climbed to where the ridge steepens. Here you'll see a somewhat nasty looking chimney/gully which can probably be climbed direct, but we traversed out left and then eventually back up. I assume that the options meet again below an even steeper section, where as always there are options. We climbed a nice crack system, with some airy moves followed by a squeeze/flaring chimney, followed by a nice hand/fist crack in a dihedral. Above this, some more steps lead up and left to a headwall area between the two sub-summits. Here is a gravelly gully/chimney system that is pretty nasty. There are a few cracks lower down (on the right), as well as a fixed pin about 2/3 of the way up. In retrospect, closer examination of the crack system to the right might have been easier & safer. At any rate, all this leads to a sandy basin between the two humps. At this point, we'd been moving for about 5 hours without pause and we stopped for a quick lunch before heading off to tag the summit. A half hour later we were on the summit.

Descent: Rap rap rap the route. There are good anchors in place. Due to the nature of the route, one rope is not only sufficient, but recommended. It's a couple raps to get off the summit, wander back to the humps, and then it's about 8-9 more raps back to just before the start notch. Rather than dropping back into the start notch see the fat anchor on a tree that lets you drop into the descent gully (this is why it's better to leave gear at the bottom of the gully). Do an 80 ft. rap to ledges and then go left (looking down the gully) a few feet. Here find a nice rap anchor on a horn that we added that allows a speedy descent to easy ground below. When the going gets a little nasty again, look for more rap anchors that allow you to reach the slabs of the lower gully (angling left, when facing down across the gully to its left side) and a final set that will let you drop back down to level ground. Yes, most of the gully can be pretty easily downclimbed (except for the top and bottom sections), but it's incredibly dirty, and nervewracking -- a fall would be nasty.

Rack: twin 9mm ropes (one would be sufficient -- we climbed the whole thing on a single, doubled 9mm rope. 80 ft was more than long enough for any sections of real difficulty). 1 set of stoppers and cams up to #3 camalot.

Time: 2 hours to start of climbing. 4 hours to summit. 3 hours on technical portion descent + 1.5 more back to car.

SW Rib of S. Early Winter's Spire (6/20/02)

Repeated this climb. Notables: snow all the way down to the parking lot made the approach and descent fast. We left the car at about 2pm, started climbing (via the ledges start) at around 3:30. I led the first easy 5th class pitch to the base of the 5.8 wide crack. Nate led this to the brushy area above. Following with a heavy pack (we carried over boots because we didn't feel like doing the descent in rock shoes; probably a bad idea in retrospect) was a pain. I led the easy 5.5 left-facing open book. Nate did the scary 5.6 slab traverse and I took the 5.7+ twin cracks pitch. A few more scrambling/simuling pitches took us to the top. We got back to the car by 8:30ish.

Rack: single 9mm rope. 1 set of stoppers and cams up to #3 camalot (no doubles this time).

Liberty Bell, Beckey Route (6/21/02)

Did the Bell yet again. We wanted to try the Northwest face route, but the approach gully was so full of snow, that we didn't feel up to descending it in rock shoes. We also didn't feel like climbing with a heavy pack again, so we decided to do the standard. We left the parking lot just behind another party at about 9am. We passed them on the approach but another party had already beat us. We roped up and I led the first pitch, this time avoiding the chimney/chockstone. The face climbing to the right is much more pleasant. At the belay, I met up with the belayer for the other party. We waited until she climbed and then Nate followed. At the belay in the slabs we met up with them and they kindly let us pass. They were both climbing with packs and full goretex rainsuits (it was nothing but sunny and hot). They were debating descending the route to look for a #1 camalot they thought they'd left behind. Weird. I did the fingertip traverse to the right and belayed in the blocky ledges on the other side. Nate led up and over the final slab step and we simuled to the summit. Single rope rappels (no rope hanging this time) took us back to our gear by 1pm. We'd considered doing Concord, but time constraints convinced us to have a leisurely lunch and get home early instead... We counted at least 8 parties on the route -- on a Friday...

Rack: single 9mm rope. 1 set of stoppers and cams up to #3 camalot (no doubles this time).