South Early Winter Spire – Northwest Face – 5.11A – 8/3/2015

Last Saturday Aaron and I climbed the Northwest Face of South Early Winter Spire. It was a long, hard, strenuous, mentally  and physically challenging, and honestly too hard for me. But now that I am back home, I have the desire to try again and do better and faster.

This route is a five star climb. There was no one on it, while the “Southwest Rib” was clustered with people yelling about everything they were doing. I really enjoyed having the climb to ourselves!

SEWS - NW face route
SEWS – NW Face route

The route starts HARD. The first pitch is long and sustained 5.10 to 5.10+, with tricky pro. When we got to the base of the climb I started to worry a little, but went for it anyways. I started leading until a fixed rusty piton, and then spent a while trying to move above. At that point I was already ready to bail of the piton and get on something easier, feeling defeated.

Aaron took over, found a mysterious hold I didn’t see, and we were on again. I was impressed. He stopped on a ledge before the end of the first pitch, which made more sense than continuing to the base of the 5.11 pitch.

I started leading from there. Starting with a strenuous and weird 5.10+ layback is again, hard. After a few screams I made it to the base of the 5.11 pitch. It looked straightforward, at least! It also looked easier than it was. Again this section is strenuous and alternates lie backing, one foot smear, one foot in the crack, and killed my abs every time I had to place pro. Pro or abs workout? The last moves to the belay are strenuous, again. A jump to reach a hold, and I was battling with a tree to reach the ledge.

SWES NW Face 5.11 pitch
SEWS – NW Face – 5.11 crux pitch

After that the climbing eases until the double roof system that again was a challenge. Pulling the roof is hardcore. The exposure while pulling the last roof is wild. 5.10b. “B” for burly?

SEWS - Boving Roof
The burly Boving Roof

I was mentally tired. Aaron lead us to the summit really fast and efficiently when we joined the Southwest Rib section. Well we actually did not climb up the boulder summit but quickly started the descent.

I had done that descent a few months ago with Laurel which helped tremendously. We got down back to our packs in about one hour tops, the night was falling.

When we got back to the campground ( that is really just a pick nick table), we saw some headlamps shining on SEWS. Were those people climbing? Rappelling? Hard to say.

Leading the first pitch of this climb really threw off my mental abilities. Will I do better next time, having more knowledge? In any case, that climb was definitely at the edge of my abilities. Was that a good idea, or bad one? It is definitely hard for me to lead when I started doubting myself from the first pitch.

Thank you Aaron for supporting me, doing a lot on that climb, and dealing with my mental weakness! I had a lot of fun for sure. Scary fun, challenging fun, hopeful fun. Well it actually was nice overall!

The next day we canoed on Ross lake. Sometimes NOT climbing is great and needed. Canoeing is still a workout and my canoe muscles feel sore right now.

Ross Lake canoeing
Ross Lake canoeing

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