Laurel and I headed to WA Pass to climb “The Southern Man”on South Early Winter Spire. There was almost no snow at WA Pass. Since this climb is a carry-over and hard, we traveled light, taking only our shoes, climbing gear, and follower pack.
We had to cross a little snow patch to get to the base of the climb, I learnt to use my nut tool as an ice ax for self belay, fun thing to know!
The first first 4 pitches are the same as the “Direct East Buttress”, and the climbing ranges from 5.4 at the start to 5.9+. I lead those, having fun on the last pitch: a few moves traverse under a roof, followed by a short wide left facing corner ( didn’t use any # 4 cam, not really needed). Then another short 5.8 left facing corner. I ended at a tree belay.
I set up my belay too high on the ledge (should have stopped at the first ledge on the left). At that point the bolt ladder of the “Direct East Buttres” route was visible. It took us some time to figure out how to start the route, but the 5.8 corner and blocky section of that pitch was easy to define. This next pitch was rated 5.10A, Laurel started to lead from now on to the top of SEWS. We ended up at a hanging belay, above a few fixed pitons.
The following pitch is the crux with a steep and pumpy 5.12A section, followed by a 5.11 section. It all felt hard to me, especially after hanging on that last belay. The exposure was getting to me too, making this climb feel even harder, but acting as a good motivation to keep moving and get as fast as I could to the next belay. Good job to Laurel on that one. And the next one for that matter.
That climb made me realize that I don’t think I will ever be able to lead something so hard, even if I was able to follow just fine.