Type: Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Fred Becky and Dave Beckstad, 1965 FFA: Steve Risse and Dave Tower, 1985
Page Views: 14,965 total · 99/month
Shared By: Ian Wolfe on Aug 3, 2006
Admins: Scott Coldiron, Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick

You & This Route


148 Opinions

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Description

This and the neighboring Northwest Corner Route are two of the finest alpine rock climbs I have had the pleasure to yet accomplish. Great movement, committing moves, huge exposure, beautiful position: some of the best climbs in the Washington Pass area.

The West Face shares its first pitch with the Northwest Corner, a somewhat dirty face up to a chimney with trees above (5.8). From here, move the belay up 3rd class terrain to a huge sandy ledge at the base of a large corner, the base of the second pitch. Climb this corner on the left side (5.8+) 50 feet to a good belay ledge. Continue up this corner (5.7), step left and and lieback up a 5" flake (5.8) until you can stand and put in some pro. Continue past a horn with lots of slings around it and undercling right, past a bolt, below the small roof (5.9). The crux pitch (5.11-) begins at the end of the undercling, so get psyched. Climb the thin (!) crack up and a little left until it eases up and you can step left into the next crack system. Build a belay here (~40 feet up) or continue up another thin finger crack (5.10c) until it opens up to 2" and eases off to 5.8. A few moves across the slab below a bolt bring you to an easier crack system. Finish up the cracks and then run across easy ground to the summit. Enjoy the views of North Early Winter Spire, Liberty Bell, and the Wine Spires!

The descent is down and (skier's) left of the summit and descends into the notch between North and South Early Winter Spire. Three single rope raps bring you down to the notch (often snow-covered), another gets you off the large chockstone (a fun, free-hanging rappel), and some scrambling and downclimbing (or a short 30 foot rap) get you back on the ground.

Location

Look for the dirty cracks leading to a tree-topped chimney left of center as you approach the base of the tower.

Protection

Rock rack up to 3". The crux pitch and the 5.10 above it eat small stoppers like candy, but if 5.11 is near your leading limit, consider bringing a set of micro cams so that you can just plug and go.
Billy Danger
Asheville, NC
Billy Danger   Asheville, NC
This is a fantastic climb in an amazing area. The thin 11- crux is short and hard. I found the jams and locks to be really technical. The last pitch felt easier than 10c. I seem to remember it rated as 10a in our guide, but it's a really good pitch too. I dragged a #5 all the way up there but it was too small for the wide crack. Feb 3, 2009
Keenan Waeschle
Bozeman, MT
Keenan Waeschle   Bozeman, MT
with a 70 you can make it to the top from the stance above the 10d crux pitch. fantastic route. Aug 1, 2011
Johnny MacKinnon
Leadville, CO
Johnny MacKinnon   Leadville, CO
Kudos to the folks who bolted the descent (Thanks CJ)! Great route. 60m won't make it to the rappel anchors if you try to link the last 2 pitches. I tried and got very very close. I recommend making a belay when you can because it gets slabby and crackless if you go too high. Aug 21, 2011
Great route in an amazing setting. This climb is very accessible for the solid 5.9 trad leader if you don't mind aiding the 30 ft crux section of p4 and pulling on gear on a couple moves of p5. I was able to get a workable #5 in the wide crack with some fiddling to avoid the potential factor 2 on the belay anchor.

We got a late start but can say its very reasonable to descend in the dusk/dark if the weather is dry and you know where the first rap anchors are in the notch with the tree (and have a headlamp) Oct 3, 2012
James Ellis
Seattle, Washington
  5.11a
James Ellis   Seattle, Washington
  5.11a
Incredible route. It is possible (and highly recommended) to climb this in three pitches with a 70 meter rope. You can just barely link pitches 5 and 6 if you build your belay a bit high at the start of pitch 5 and manage your rope well to keep it as straight as possible. This makes for a huge exposed pitch of splitter climbing. Do it. Jul 14, 2014
geoff georges
Seattle, Wa.
  5.11-
geoff georges   Seattle, Wa.
  5.11-
Don't expect to protect the wide crack unless you bring a green or blue big bro. I have not protected it, and it is kinda scary, not 5" as stated here, more like 8".
It has come to my attention that a blue Big Bro does not work if you want to place while standing on the ledge. So as others have said a #6 works. I placed a .5 or smaller way to the left with a long runner, and had a #1 at my feet below the ledge. Aug 15, 2014
James Ellis
Seattle, Washington
  5.11a
James Ellis   Seattle, Washington
  5.11a
It should also be noted that the layback is safer if you link that pitch with the one before it. Otherwise you're looking at a factor 2 if you blow the layback. Aug 18, 2014
Curt Veldhuisen
Bellingham, WA
 
Curt Veldhuisen   Bellingham, WA
 
Rap anchors are excellent - fresh double bolts! They're rigged for a single 70 m though. A 60 m works, but you have to do a bit (10-20 feet) of easy but very exposed down-climbing. Knot those tails or watch them closely! Jun 1, 2015
One of my favorite routes!
  • I've heard you can link pitch 2 & 3.
  • I'd recommend linking the 11a and 10b pitches.
  • On the last pitch, don't go to the chains out right after the slab traverse, stay in the crack and you can reach the final anchors.

Instead of rappelling the Chockstone Route, you can rap down Labor Pains.
  • The first rappel shares the same anchor as the chockstone descent, but instead rappel down the face to some chains.
  • A 60m will get you down but a couple are rope stretchers!
  • TIE KNOTS IN THE END OF YOUR ROPE!
Jun 7, 2016
Matthew Bernstein  
  5.10d
Awesome route! Sweet rock higher up with a fun and short crux. The last few pitches are all super fun. The face rap route as mentioned in the previous comment by Derek is sweet (TIE KNOTS IN YOUR ROPE ENDS). Jun 23, 2016
Nick Drake
Newcastle, WA
  5.11-
Nick Drake   Newcastle, WA
  5.11-
You can link P2 and P3 easily, it does make the layback feel better knowing you've got a lot of rope out. Also nice to have more rope in the system for the 9 traverse if you choose to just run it after clipping the bolt.

On the crux pitch I found micro nuts easier to find placements for than cams, because there is a perfect nut placement every 6" it seems. Harder to find sections parallel enough to make me happy with micro cam placements (sure of equal lobes). Plan on small cams if you want to plug and go, I only used from 000 C3 up to a blue alien in the lower crux and upper 5.10 section. Really nice stance above the 5.10 bit with a good view of your follower, much nicer to split up this way. Jul 5, 2016
N. Aksamit
Canmore, AB
5.10d
N. Aksamit   Canmore, AB
5.10d
Pitches are pretty short if you do it as 5. The crux section is really short as well. If I were to go back I would try to connect 2 and 3 (be mindful of rope drag after the undercling as you'll be going back left eventually). If I had the smaller gear, I'd do the crux finger crack and up the adjacent (.10) crack system and build a belay when it gets wider and mellower, otherwise the crux pitch is super short. I pulled the #6 out of the backpack for the layback pitch only and it was the perfect size. Aug 25, 2016
Charles Rackson
  5.10c
Charles Rackson  
  5.10c
A very tipped-out #5 C4 fits right off the belay to protect two or three 5.8-5.9 layback moves to jugs, but if it shifts at all, it easily becomes useless (it shifted when I climbed past it). A #6 would be perfect. Without a #6, I would either link pitches or hang the belayer a ways below the anchor to avoid a factor-2 fall.

One other gear note: a large nut would have been nice for the anchor at the top of the crux pitch (right under the dead tree). Aug 17, 2017
Brennan Enright
Seattle, WA
 
Brennan Enright   Seattle, WA
 
I wouldn't worry too much about the off-width/lieback section. It's super short and if you climb it as an off width it's pretty secure Jul 7, 2018
npaolini
Vancouver, BC
  5.11-
npaolini   Vancouver, BC
  5.11-
Awesome route with some great splitter crack and cool moves. We climbed it in 3 pitches with a 60m and a microtraxion but a 70m certainly would have been nicer for linking. Linking through the layback definitely felt safer than stopping to belay, unless you bring a 6 I guess. I would have been psyched to have brought a third green alien or doubles of small/med nuts for the crux but that is with gear spaced pretty closely in that section. Rappelling the face was good, just reaching a couple of the anchors with the 60m. Aug 7, 2018
RyderS Stroud
Dali, Yunnan Province, CN
RyderS Stroud   Dali, Yunnan Province, CN
A great route. This route the right amount of hard climbing to make the day feel full-value but not too much that you redline and get overworked by route's end. Felt chill for .11- (I think it is .10d in the new Herrington guidebook). The crux is short and the remaining finger crack sections feature dreamy, perfect constriction pods for your fingers. If the grade is at your limit, don't get scared off and do this route! Protection through the crux is straightforward. It's a great place to go to "finger lock school." It was my partner's intro to this kind of climbing, and he had a great time! The first 3 pitches are fun, moderate adventure climbing. The 5.9 P3 has some good, thoughtful climbing in a nice, more exposed position.

Other notes:

- Like Keenan says above, a 70m rope will take you to the top from the .10b pitch above the crux. If you top out just right, you will find an awesome bolted anchor just beneath the summit! Just make sure you bring plenty of long runners. We had 10 alpine slings plus 2 double-length slings.
- The crux pitch and the .10 finger crack above are totally linkable. But split it up if you want good photos of your second pulling the crux.
- The short wide section on P3 can be disposed of quickly within a few moves. A little committing, but it is over soon. Didn't seem worth bringing a big cam (which would likely be a #6 and would have no other home throughout the route).
- There seems to be 2 descent routes off NEWS. The one in the Nicolson guidebook seems closer to the summit and deposits you closer to the top of the gully between NEWS and SEWS. We didn't take this route ourselves but noticed a lot of rap tat above us as we rapped down the other route). The other rap route is marked by a really well-bolted, new rappel station where West Face reaches the summit ridge of NEWS. This route was very straightforward all the way into the notch. Perhaps I am misinterpreting the topo, but that's what it looked like from what we saw coming down from the route. Sep 25, 2018
Some recommendations on linking pitches with a 60m and 70m rope as well as a description of the new rappel route down the west face:

northshorealpinism.wordpres… Sep 27, 2018