North Face Direct
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BETA PHOTO: Red Line shows the approximation of the route
This is the route called "NW Face Direct" in Ingraham's guide. It doesn't feel like a NW face though, you can really only see out to the east, and checking maps and compasses confirms that this is more of a North Face route.
The route meanders a bit through natural weaknesses and the first two pitches are not all that exciting. However the higher up you get, the better the rock gets and the bolder the climbing. The last pitch is on beautiful clean upper slabs, and must have been a very bold first ascent.
Pitch one and two climb up easy broken up terrain, trending left as far as a broad shoulder/ledge overlooking the east side, and then trending back right to a nice ledge at some trees. Pitch 3 goes straight up above the trees to a shallow corner system which trends right. At the top of this is another big ledge at the base of a steep 12ft wall. This is the same wall as described by Ingraham for the regular route. The left side of the wall has a nice crack to climb (5.7) to gain the ledge above where the two bolt anchor/rappel is found. From here the Normal route would go straight up the easy gully, but the N. Face Direct breaks out left on the aesthetic slab (~5.7?). A piton in a right-facing flake marks a point where you traverse left on a ledge (or climb directly up to the summit on 5.8R friction climbing). Continue left until you reach a weakness ("rotten diagonal crack") to pass through a bulge above. Afterwards, a short pitch gains the summit block.
On the North face of the Spire, look for two tall trees right next to each other(one pine, one fir). these are at the base of the face in a sort of gully. Scamper up the gully and pick a starting line to launch upwards.
Descent is by scrambling/rappelling down the "Normal Route" which is on the north face. from the top, 4th calss scrambling gets back down to the top of third pitch where the rappel anchor is found. A short rappel and more 4th class down-climbing gets down to the Spike. If you've left gear at the base of the climb, you can rappel down the east side of the Spike. Otherwise the Normal route takes you back to the saddle between the Spire and Low Horn #6.
There are a few old pins on the route, and the top of the third pitch there is a 2-bolt (old 1/4"ers) rappel anchor. Other than that, a standard-light alpine rack should suffice.
By Aaron Hobson
From: Clinton, TN
Jan 30, 2011
The route description for Ingraham's "NW Face Direct" matches very well to what we climbed, but it didn't feel much like a "direct" line. I'm sure a more direct line could be found, and it may make the first two pitches a lot better.
I cheated a little bit on my description of the final pitch, which is really the best one. By the time we reached the rappel anchor, we were pretty cold and the slab off to the left looked like it wouldn't protect. So I 4th classed up to the top, and let Dan TR out on the face. He verified the piton (which matches Ingraham's description) but then climbed directly up to the summit, over the "R" rated slab. So neither of us verified the "traverse out left" and are not sure whether this grade is reasonable or if it is protectable. It would be nice to return a place a few bolts to make this finish safer. At the same time we could scout out more direct lower pitches, which I suspect would also be "R" rate without additional bolts. Another project for the future... unless anyone out there has some info on this?
For short winter days, the North Face is shaded all day long, and we were pretty cold. This face may be a good candidate for summer climbing, if it stays shady most of the day.
By Jorge Achata
From: Lima, Peru
May 6, 2013
We rappelled to the south, planning to do Razorback right after. I recommend to bring two 60 m ropes for the descent if you are going in that direction.
We tried rappelling from the western end of the summit with a 50 m plus a 60 m, ending up some 10-15 feet above ground. Not really terrible, but now we know.