South Early Winter Spire, South Arete

Jess and I had spend the last week tracking the snowfall closely. Our goal was to climb a north side Rainier route on the Memorial Day weekend, but a half-yard of snow dump a few days before ruined our plans. We drove as far away from the snow we could get- out to Vantage for a couple days. Arriving back to Seattle with a couple days of our (extra) long weekend to spare. We made the last minute decision to wake up early and go for a low stress climb it SEWS’s South Arete. I had not climbed much in Washington Pass, my only climb there had been NEWS’ Early Winter Couloir a few weeks prior. Getting to know the area a bit more will make for an fun summer and fall ahead. 

I’ll keep this one super brief as there is more than enough information about this climb online. We followed the guidebook (SuperTopo Washington Pass Climbing by Ian Nicholson) route info, which proved to be spot on. Each “pitch” was unexpectedly short, the longest being 30m. The cruxes of the route were rope management and rope drag. Most the climbing was fairly straightforward less-than-5th class, and the iconic and airy “White Camel” traverse looked more scary in photos than real life. (Although I wouldn’t walk across the tippy top of the entire thing…) 

Overall I’d say this is a fun classic “intro alpine route”. The crowds seem to generally agree, so maybe consider coming on a weekday. 

Jessica coming up the first pitch.

At the 1st belay station, nice little view from above.

Jessica following up the next pitch. I personally thought that was more challenging than the “crux” below, maybe due to the snow though.
“The White Camel”, much chiller than I expected from the photos.
Nice view looking back at the belay, just a little scramble away from the summit.
Jess making the final rappel. A 60m rope worked great for this descent.

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