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TR: SEWS East Butt & SW Rib


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A.D.D. version: Climbed the Direct East Buttress and the SW Rib of South Early Winter Spire with bobbyperu on Tuesday. It was fun.


The "I'm under house arrest and have nothing better to do than read tediously long TRs on CC.com" version:


I rolled into the parking lot of Hank's Harvest Foods in Twisp around midnight Monday. Since I currently have a phone number, but no phone, I've taken to lurking around pay phones with pockets full of change.


I put a buck of nickles into the phone, called my no-phone number, and found a message from bobbyperu: "Hey, come find me if you wanna climb something at Washington Pass tomorrow morning. I'll be bivying somewhere right along the road between the hairpin and the Blue Lake trailhead. Got a little blue car. Should be hard to miss."


Indeed, I barely missed him. The next morning found me speeding up the road to Washington Pass, where I braked hard and swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid running over what appeared to be a log lying in the highway. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be bobbyperu, comatose in his bivy sack. I guess sometime in the night he'd rolled off the shoulder, across the white line, and into the center of the westbound lane of Hwy 20. Lucky for him WA Pass traffic is light at 6:30 am on a Tuesday. wink.gif


We decided on the East Buttress of South Early and threw together a rack. We parked at the hairpin turn and started up the approach gully at 7:00 am. The soft snow and cool morning temperatures made for relatively easy hiking.


Upon arriving at the toe of the buttress, we discovered that we'd forgot a critical piece of gear. We had two thirds of the Rasta Bivy Kit, but had neglected to bring the crucial element of FIRE. Momentarily dispirited, we conferred and decided to proceed up the route despite this spirit-crushing adversity.


BP had to be in Winthrop that afternoon, so we needed to make decent time. I'd never climbed the route before, and BP had climbed it several (OK, like 10) times, so I was happy to follow his leads for the sake of speed and efficiency.


Because honestly, I usually climb pretty slow. OK--real slow. When I'm hauling ass, I move approximatly as fast as a Three-Toed Sloth who's been popping valiums and binging on red wine. When the climbing gets tough, my leads slow to a pace on par with continental drift. My upward progress becomes imperceptible to the human eye without the aid of time-lapse photography: now it's morning...now it's evening...now it's night...


Climbing at a relaxed pace does have it's advantages though. One "Tricky Trick" I use is to find a comfortable stance below the crux of a climb. There I wait for weathering action and the passage of geologic time erode the crux to an easier state before I continue up the climb. The downside is that this strategy can enrage belayers who had planned on returning home sometime prior to the next ice age.


ANYWAY, we simuled the first two pitches up to a tree belay below the big corner. At that point, BP took a variation pitch he called the "flakes pitch," (apparently the 1965 variation in the Beckey Book?) which heads right out of the corner onto the face. Wow. Huge instant exposure and super fun climbing on steep cracks and flakes lead to a wide corner crack (the bolts mentioned in Beckey's book have no nuts or hangers).


This full rope length pitch rejoins the Direct East Buttress route at the top of it's 4th belay just below the start of the first bolt ladder.


BP flew up the next pitch, freeing the 5.11 face climbing, clipping every second or third bolt and once again running the 60 meter rope all the way til he had none left. The pitch was great, starting with delicate face and friction climbing, then traversing right out onto the crest of the buttress, where more face climbing leads to cool crack with long reaches between pods for fingers and hands. Beautiful climbing in a dramatic position! Much to my surprise I followed the pitch in less than a day without falling or pulling on gear.


The next pitch starts with another 5.11 bolt ladder over a bulge that leads up into a steep corner crack with weird moves and a hard mantel. Once again BP cruised up, freeing it all easily. The steep face climbing at the beginning played perfectly to my weaknesses, and I flailed and fell. Maybe I could have worked it out, but I'm weak and we were moving fast, so I pulled on two draws. From the ledge/tree belay above we simuled the last few easy pitches to the top.


It was a perfect, clear, calm, sunny day. We downclimbed the South Arete, chilled a bit and had some food. I sat laughing at BP, who was working hard to produce fire by rubbing two sticks together like a man posessed. No luck. Alas, our smokables would have to wait until we returned to the car to be combusted.


But it was only 10:30 am, so we figured we'd climb something else. We headed down to the Southwest Rib of SEWS, which is a fun 6-7 pitch 5.8 climb we'd both done before. BP took one of the many possible variation pitchs with one move of 5.9 up to the base of the flake/Crack. I led the flake/crack, he took the "nervous 5.6" pitch, I took the wide crack bearhug and then continued around and up the crest of the buttress and we simuled the last couple pitches to the top.


Once again we downclimbed the South Arete. We traversed the ridge, then slid and glissaded down the gully to the hairpin. What a blast. The snow was perfect--you could go fast, but stay in control enough to avoid a granite enema from one of the stray rocks that had fallen down and melted into the surface.


We arrived back at the car at 1:00 pm and finally found FIRE. grin.gif



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uncle tricky- you rock!!! wonderful time climbin wit chu... lets do it again real soon, and have a full day of it!!!. oh yeah... nailed the job! -catcha in the pub... again dood that was one of the better tuesday mornings at the pass... thanx again... great trip report... sooo stoooked! yelrotflmao.giffruit.gif bobbyp bigdrink.gifbigdrink.gifmushsmile.gif

Edited by bobbyperu
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  • 3 weeks later...

all i can say is this: did the east butt again this weekend with jingleDell and this is such a perfect climb!!! i don't know if y'all have climbs that you just can't get enough of, but for me this climb has it all... rich history, dramatic position (especially your first time underneath it at the hairpin contemplating climbin it), direct approach through gully with nice step kickin in corn snow in early season, east facing so total sun if you do it in the morning, (which is wonderful @ almost 8000'). fun steep exposed climbing with lots of variety, 2 distinct free cruxes, one delicate the other steep pocket pulling over a bulge,( or pull thru easily french free) fun flakes, corners, face cracks, mantels,crazy views, easy off down the s.arete, and sweet glissading down to the car. go do this route!!! the sooner the better(when all the snow melts the aproach/descent is all talus-yuk) anyway like uncle tricky describes in his wonderfully crafted tr the climb can be done in 5 pitches with a tiny bit of easy simul-climbing. this route will rockband.gif your world!!! bigdrink.gif-bp

p.s. thanx mr natural for taking me up this route back in the day! that was afun little epic.

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  • 2 years later...

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