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first ascent [TR] WA Pass - FA Southern Man 5.9+ C1 (5.11d) ;Recently Reported 8/8/2008

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Trip: WA Pass - FA Southern Man 5.9+ C1 (5.11d) ;Recently Reported


Date: 8/8/2008


Trip Report:


South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S)

F.A. SE Corner “Southern Man ” IV 5.11d (C1 5.9+)

Mark Allen, Leighan Falley, Joel Kauffman Aug-24h 2008

Trip Report By Mark Allen



Index Photo showing Southeast face of South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S.) at Washington Pass in the North Cascades. The South Arête on the left and East Buttress on the right. ~ Photo Tom Smith

A. Beckey-Leen 1968 “Direct East Buttress” IV (5.9 C1) or 5.11

B. Allen-Falley- Kauffman 2008 “Southern Man IV 5.9+ C1

C. Anderson-Myher-Richardson-Young 1965 “Lower East Buttress to Southeast Face” IV 5.8 A2

D. Marts-McPherson 1966 “Inferno Route” III 5.9 A2

E. Briody-Yoder 1984 “Inferno~ Direct Finish” IV 5.10c

F. Windom - Co. 2000 “Escargot” IV+ (5.11 Ao) 5.12

G. Burdo-Johnston 2007 “Hitch Hiker” IV+ (5.10+ C1) or 5.11

H. Burdo-Doorish-White 1991 “Passenger” V (5.11b Ao) or 5.12

I. Coultrip-Sanford 1977 “the Midnight Ride” IV 5.9 A4 (There is little known of this route. Recent explorations have suggested that it might not have been established as previously once thought)


After we put this line up, Burdo cleaned it a few rounds and pulled the free ascent with a partner (rope-gun) the next summer. Its seen 4 free ascents since. All parties are impressed with the classic quality and position. If your looking for a new free climb at a high grade go check it out. This southern face holds a very striking steep and direct line. I planted a photo of this feature in Joel’s mind in 2006 and he was been line-drunk ever since. Leighan was on vacation from Talkeetna Alaska fresh off the “Ruth Gorge-Eye Tooth” and was up for some goose chasing.


Background Activity on the Southeast Corner of South Early Winter Spires

By 1965 all sub summits of the Liberty Bell group had seen ascents, but the steepest and tallest faces still lay untouched. This fact was exactly what Donald Anderson, Paul Myhre, Jim Richardson, and Margeret Young knew when they hitched a ride from Fred Beckey and Dave Beckstead on the bumpy dirt road leading to Early Winters Creek in June 1965. This was the first year the groomed, but primitive, access road was open leading to the trail head for the Early Winter Creek Trail heading to the East side of the Liberty Bell Group. This road eventually opened completely and soon become the North Cascades Highway. Paul Myhre described hanging off the side of an over crowded Volkswagen filled with gear, his three partners, and the Becky party (Myhre, 2008). The two parties had hopes to pioneer climbs on steeper aspects of the alpine spires at Washington Pass. Many climbers shared this hope beginning the second but most influential surge of climbing history at Washington Pass in 1965.


The first visiting climbers in 1937 had a much longer trek from the Twisp River trail over Kangaroo Pass before reaching the group of granite domes and spires know to them as ‘The Towers’ named by naturalist Martin Gorman in 1897 (Beckey, 2000). Kangaroo Pass would be the standard approach for all routes climbed until the new access of 1965. During the first ascent of any of the Liberty Bell Towers the 1937 party climbed South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S.) via the Southwest Couloir. They renamed the Massif ‘Mount Liberty Bell.’ It is unclear if they intended to name the entire row (three major peaks and two minor) or just the highest point known today as South Early Winters Spire. North Early Winter Spire (N.E.W.S.) was referred to as ‘Middle Peak of Liberty Bell Mountain’ after its first ascent in 1950 also inferred to the entire massif as being the ‘Liberty Bell’ (Beckey, 2000).


Fred Becky and his brother Helmy climbed the first ascent of the South Arête on the recently named ‘Mount Liberty Bell’ in 1942. With increasing popularity and route activity Jim Crooks and Fred Beckey would later see the “need for the classic bell [shaped tower] to be separated from its southern counter part” (Beckey, 2000) and named the proximal twin spires North and South Early Winters Spires as a tribute to the mechanical weathering process that he suspected sculpted them. The Liberty Bell Group was no secret to the aspiring Washington climbing community. In 1965 the improvement of access now made the steeper aspects attainable by a few miles on trail. Climbers would kick of this milestone surge by establishing Liberty Crack, the East Buttress Direct, and West Face if N.E.W.S, the Southeast Corner of S.E.W.S. and make the first attempt at the Independence Route (Beckey, 2000).


In June of 1965 the Beckey and Myhre groups walked the trail parallel to the highway construction and beheld the East faces of the enchained Liberty Bell Group. This was the first time most of the climbers had been to the Liberty Bell Massif. The teams climbed up to the spires out of the glacial carved Washington Pass where small surveyor and logging teams continued to clear the swath for the highway. Beckey and Beckstead circumnavigated the massif to pioneer the West Face Route on N.E.W.S. later to become one of the best free-climbs in the Liberty Bell group at grade II 5.10d. Anderson, Myhre, Richardson, and Young found themselves with bivi gear and racking heavily with pitons at the base of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S. They would be attempting to gain the crest via any route possible (Myhre, 2008) and would be the first team to attempt any of the steep East faces of the Liberty Bell group and first route with an on route bivi.


The Myhre party later found themselves 500ft up and two-days out on the Southeast Corner. At their high point new Lost Arrows fixed a pendulum for the four climbers to cross the Southeast face. These artifacts left behind would be of the 50 pitons placed during the rather circuitous but groundbreaking ascent on any of the ‘Mount Liberty Bell’ spires steep East aspect.

Only weeks following the exploration of Myhre’s party, several parties were also inspired to explore the area after seeing a photograph in a local Seattle newspaper showing two engineers leaning against a bulldozer in the proximity of Washington Pass. The striking skyline of the Liberty Bell group in the background captivated Steve Marts and Don McPherson (Marts, 2008). Don McPherson would have remembered this aspect having seen these towers during several of his ascents in the 1950’s on the Silver Star Massif prior to climbing with Marts in 1965. The two were prompted to achieve the same goal, establise new routes on the abundance of rock newly accessible in the North Cascades. Marts and McPherson invited Fred Stanley to join them come up Early Winters Creek. The trio had much larger ambitions than any party to date. They had visions of the much bolder plumb line on the East Face of Liberty Bell Mountain. They were successful and appropriately dubbed the new line ‘Liberty Crack’. McPherson and Marts came back the following year and naturally gravitated towards the weakness centrally located in the Southeast wall of S.E.W.S. This route would most famously become known in 1984 for the Off-Width crux above a skewer-shaped snag that Jim Yoder would free and directly finish out the headwall at IV 5.10c known as the “Inferno Route” (See Index Photo Line D).



Joel Kauffman stepping of the Trianlge Ledge on to what we thought was new ground~Photo Mark Allen

Concept of the Line


Standing from the hairpin we pieced together the line of objective. I spotted three pitches of the East Buttress via the 1965 Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face variation and up to the major ledge called the Triangular Ledge. Here our reconnaissance would need to step off and continue up a 450ft dihedral system running continuously to the top of the Southeast Corner Buttress of S.E.W.S. (Beckey occasionally describes the arête feature making the left flank of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S as the Southeast Corner). I envisioned this potential line to the summit free of bolts and in a single push. Few routes IV and higher that share this statistic like 1985 Child-Goldie Silver Star-East Ridge IV 5.9, 1987 Burdo-Reeses’ Freedom Rider IV 5.10d, 1985 Child-Goldie Silver Star-East Ridge IV 5.9, 1991 Grossman-White Stellar Eclipse IV 5.11a on the west face of Silver Star, and 2005 Goldie-Johnston Gato Negro IV 5.10d. Further; these routes first ascents were done clean, all-free, on-sight, with out bivi gear, fixing, or use of hammers. Savage Clean


This new route would need to be aided yet would not receive bolts in contrasts the route just proximal; the 1968 Direct East Buttress, with two pitches of hand drilled bolt ladders (which is core-town in its own right). This line disserved a visit. Forty-three years after the 1965 quartet established the inaugural bivi on the Triangular Ledge, Joel Kauffman racked up and took our first two exploratory pitches off that same ledge. I would read later the 1965 party last had climbed this pitch in a mixed-free-and-aid style (See photo above). The rock Joel climbed was excellent granite. The slightly left leaning 5.9+ crack had a classic nature with untraveled spice. Finger cracks, grooves, LB cracks, and face on a very protectable pitch of increasing difficulty. Joel found two more pins circa 1960 near the top of his pitch. Not up to date on the details of 1965 ascent we were not sure how far the artifacts would go. (See Index Photo line C and Photo above and photo bellow)



Joel snaps a photo from the Alcove of Leighan Falley and Mark Allen following the 5.9+ pitch. Here the climbers approach the LA pitons the 1965 “Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face” party used in a two-pitch pendulum to a landing bellow. In 1966 this landing became the top of the Inferno off-width established by the 1966 Marts-McPherson “Inferno Route” on Pitch 5 (See Topo). ~Photo Joel Kauffman


Once back at home I began to piece it all together. I learned the rather traversing 1965 Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face route begins on the northeast side of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S. They climbed a few pitches of the East Buttress then ran a high traverse on the Southeast face. During the wide cracks on the Lower East Buttress the party hand drilled two ¼ inch bolts for the 5”off-width too wide for bongs to protect (still spotted today sans-hanger). Reaching the triangular ledge the party bivied for one night. In the morning the quartet climbed a left-leaning crack for 130ft onto Southeast face (see both photos above). Myhre recalls the climb being busy with four climbers and that their line reflected interest of getting off the face with limited time. At the high point of the alcove they placed two pins for a pendulum and headed southwest escaping the steep crack system. This involved a two-pitch pendulum before the party gained the ramp system now better known to lead off the 1966 Inferno route. (See Index photo Line C and Topo). They continued to the summit via the South Arete.


FA Account


On August 24, 2008 8:00am the three of us rack up at the hairpin-turn on the North Cascades Highway thirty-six years after its inception. It’s first time our comrades Dan Otter and Andy Polocheck have been to the pass and prep for the Becky-Leen Direct East Buttress. The five of us ramble up to the S.E.W.S East aspect. The two teams simul-seage the mid-5th lower pitches and each take our own corners on the lower East Buttress. Our party coincidently takes the 1965 variation to the right while Andy and Dan take the 1968 Beckey-Leen corner to the left. Taken the variations we did that day added a fantastic historical reflection to the climb. I foundmyself at the belays wondering what it would be like to discover these lines. What it might have been like two decades ago to be aiding up the 5.9 crack in boots pounding in pins. Did they vision hundreds of climbers float these pitches free in hand-crack bliss with racks of cams. While inspecting the old bolts I applauded the contemporary bloke who removed the hangers seeing that a 5” cam is a cleaner and safer to way protect the crack. Our parties topped out on the triangular ledge. Getting there was like intermission. From our box seats of the Southeast Corner we could scope across the Southeast face from the Direct East Buttress to the Berdo-Johnston 07’ “Hitch Hiker.” Gaping off the ledge we spotted Tom Smith and Kevin Newell on the Leland Windham route affectionately known to the Methow valley locals as The Slug Trail (striking similarity) or Escargot (because most parties thus far pull on draws). Just around the corner Joel’s acquaintance Cole and partner were climbing the Passenger and audible whooping would drift to our ledge. Our friends are all over the place. This made a good day to be exploring. The moral was highly influenced by the partnerships, good weather, and good souls on the wall.



Joel quickly led our pitch 4 off the ledge. Leighan and I seconded the pitch. We were surprised to confirm the climbing was good and the rock sound. Inspecting the 1965 knife blades they were in fantastic shape. I pulled the bail sling from the old iron and continued into the hanging alcove belay. The three of us hung like bats out of the roof crack. We were cramped. The leader needed to leave and soon. We reracked and Joel continued his block head on. Looking down at our progress we observed the yellow and orange lichen painted crack leave the triangular ledge and run continuously though the roof belay then strait up the Southeast Face. The dihedral was continuous all the way to the top. Steep. So much for 5.8 hand cracks to the summit. The dihedral was a left facing corner for 100ft to a small roof where the dihedral changes to right facing for the remaining 300ft. The rock was good and steep. Joel reported good climbing and let us know of his status with a raven call. The line was clean having no hint of previous passage. Off Belay. Lines fixed.


Mark Allen cleaning pitch 5. The team was always reminded of the steepness by plum lines and hanging belays ~Photo by Joel Kauffman


The upper headwall is surprisingly vertical. Loose rock cleaned from the route almost leaves your attention before audibly striking the lower face hundreds of feet down. The dihedral yields its slight overhanging nature and allows for clean jugging to the next piece without touching the wall. Relieved to get to Joel’s belay I regret to find it is hanging. I am comforted by the two 1- inch cams and half-sunk peton that stuborly would not drive or yield to cleaning The aid climbing is dragging out the day and the next pitch is dirtier than the last. Contrary to our aim for fast climbing the chance to free-climb off the anchor is lost.


With our remaining rope I begin to short fix the steep dihedral while Leighan jugs the back of my line. The crack runs the face beautifully and the aid is straightforward. This is the first time I feel the burden of failure lift and the line fall to our efforts. Finishing the line simply means stretching out the rope as far as I can. Near the top I am able to free-climb and scamper up the final jams and mantels to a ledge. I excitedly engineer an anchor and fix the line after a 195ft pitch. After several minutes I nervously watch our light fade to gray. I take this time to pick the lichen out of my hair and teeth. Joel pops up and we quickly rack him. 50ft left to the crest. We top out and now it’s very dark.


During the descent of the South Arête I think about our luxury of this 2008 alpine crag. Being benighted simply brings a different experience. The well-rehearsed descent will take the same amount of time regardless. Contrary to the 1960’s ascent we can run the Blue Lake trailhead back to the car and beer. If it were only that straight forward. We did not leave a car in the upper-lot but at the hairpin-turn on Highway 20. With zero traffic on the road at 11:00pm and a 1-½ miles of the pavement between the car and us we attempt to see the positive in the situation. We all want to be done. “Stars are nice.” No reply. A few cars did pass us but the American fear of cereal killer hitchhikers has penetrated the psyche. We did not receive assistance, not even brake lights.


The August 24, 2008 climbing team. Mark Allen, Joel Kauffman, and Leighan Falley from leftto right. The decision to attempt “Southern Man” was made shortly after this photo was taken the day prior on the summit of the North Early Winter Spire’s “West Face Route”. ~Photo Mark Allen


As a 2008 climbing party we wondered about the pins found on the route. What was the full story? The adventure for us did not begin stepping off the triangular ledge but after I started digging into decades of Washington Pass History. I was surprised to find my time travel take me back to the beginning. The Historical significance of our 2008 climb was not because of any boldness or style but because it’s resurrects old storys of Cascade masters.


Currently the route Southernman has seen a hand full of free ascents first projected by Bryan Burdo and (?) in 2009. The grade of the route has been changed to IV 5.11d after several days of cleaning and climbing. This route by several climbers is reviered as on of the more classic hard free routes currently at the pass.






1. Beckey, Fred W. Cascades Alpine Guide. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers, 2000.


2. Burdo, Bryan, and Brooks White. North Cascades Rock. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Seattle, WA: Rhinotopia.


4. Marts, Steve. "Your Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Sept. 2008.


5. Paul, Myher. "Your Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Oct. 2008.


6. "Original Activity at WA Pass." Beckey, Fred, E-mail to the author. Sept. 2008.


7. Burdo, Bryan. "Known Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Oct. 2008


8. Copyright WSDOT © 2008. "Birth of a Highway." Washington Department of Trasportation. Aug. 2008.



Gear Notes:

See Topo


Approach Notes:

Park at the hairpin. Approach as per East Butt Direct

Edited by MarkAllen

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A fantastic write up and a nice refresher on the history of the area.

Nice route too!

Thank you for sharing.

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Well done team!


Great write up Mark, psyched to try and free climb this route some time.


FWIW: Passenger route has gotten a consensus rating of 11c (and it's really only 3 hard moves, just throwing this out there so folks dont get intimidated by a 12a rating on this stellar line).


Great job!

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Didn't Burdo use some different belays for the FFA?


Any chance you can add some free-climbing info to your topo?

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Didn't Burdo use some different belays for the FFA?


Any chance you can add some free-climbing info to your topo?


He drew you a topo and there's 2 pitches harder than 5.8, go get your untrammeled adventure on dad!

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At least it doesnt say "fun!" on one of the pitches.Thanks for adding to the list of must do/try routes.

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I will work on the free beta in the coming days and mod the Topo.


Blake and Sol, Burdo in fact did use different belays to compartmentalize the crux better. The crux is about 50 of sustained 5.11c/d and the 6th pitch has been given an 11a and it’s a long pitch that maintains the grade. I fiddle with it and post it when I can.


I don’t think any of the pitches have the same “fun” rating that Dr. Wallace speaks of. Sorry bud. But is a fun line none the less. See you boys in them hills.


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Right on Mark. I just figured with all the work you put into the superb TR and topo it seems only fitting to add the free-climbing info in. Thx!

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Nice work. Regarding the topo; the Windham route was done by Leland Windham rather than 'Windom'. Leland told me he was calling the route 'Nothing', not sure if he changed the name, but he was calling it 'Nothing' for several years. I was also told the free version (a short crux) was 13- by various parties including Dave Moroloes.

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A buddy and I did this the other day, and had a good time.


Thanks for the history info and good topo Mark!


You can't get lost once you realize that this route just follows the first crack/corner system left of the buttress crest. Our abbreviated but adequate beta:


1. Climb the DEB to the belay below the first bolt ladder.

2. Walk left on the big ledge and then follow a left-trending system over a crumbly block, past two trees, and into a small cave/nook w/3 pitons (5.9 35m)

3. Climb the excellent crack (starts as a LFC) - crux is low at a fixed wire - belay 20' above a piton and roof on the left, where a nice foot ledge extends left. 45m 5.11+

4. Up the same crack, an excellent 5.10 pitch. You might be able to stretch it out 60m or 70 to the summit ridge, or belay where it switches from 5.10 to 5.8 at the first ledge, with a tree. A really fun and sustained crack roughly 5.10b.

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I am curious about the Escargot route (having done a couple pitches by getting off route on Hitchiker). Anyone have any further info? Cheers, N

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