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South Early Winters Spire
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Southwest Rib 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 600', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Donald Anderson & Larry Scott, 1964
Season: Late spring to early fall
Page Views: 15,130
Submitted By: BenCooper on Apr 27, 2009  with updates from Nick Sweeney and 1 more

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (120)
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Bear Hug, 4th pitch


This a great route on very good rock, with good pro on the harder sections, and some easier and spicier slab runouts. Definitely a step up from the Beckey Route in length and commitment, but not as committing as say, the NW Face of Liberty Bell. Also, note that you can add a long pitch below what I call P1. We just traversed in, but it is possible to climb up directly to the left-leaning white crack.

References: Beckey Bible (Cascade Alpine Guide, Rainy Pass to Fraser River) has a good topo.

P1: Scramble up the easy ledge that starts in front of the Y-shaped Larch tree. Belay off of a sturdy tree and follow cracks straight up through an awkward bulge with great gear to an awesome ledge at the base of the Wavy Crack. 5.8+, ~160 feet.

P2: climb the nice, wide, 5.8 left-leaning crack. Belay at the top of this crack at a tree. 5.8, ~80 feet.

P3: Continue up and left to a tree, then up and right to a belay below the Boving Roof and the West Face route to the left. 5.6, ~60 ft.

P4: Step out right around the corner then go up to the base of the obvious dual offwidths, past some delicate, unprotected 5.6+ slab moves. ~100 ft. This can be linked with the next pitch.

P5: The bear hug pitch. Climb the very fun dual offwidth crack. From the top of the cracks, move up and right below a white wall into a corner and belay. 5.7+, ~80 ft.

P6: clip a bolt, then climb easy slab (5.5 or so) to the arete. Continue following the slabby arete with no pro, and belay at the 'Rabbit Ears,' two bouldery towers with rappel slings. Watch rope drag. ~165 ft.

P7: Either rappel or downclimb into the gully, then climb up from the gully on easy crack systems to the summit blocks. 5.5, ~80 ft. Watch your rope line here if you combine the downclimb with the cracks to the summit. I remember doing this as a short downclimb pitch, then a short pitch to the summit.


The route is located on the south/west side of the WA Pass group, on the west face of South Early Winter Spire. Hike from the Blue Lake TH for ~1.25 miles until you reach a clearing. From here, follow climber trails (step lightly and around the fragile alpine meadows) to the far right side of the face, underneath the SW Couloir.

From here, scramble up the couloir past the giant chockstone. Continue up about 50 feet until you can find a decent spot to traverse left across some ledges and through some trees on the face. I remember doing a short 20 foot rappel to get to the beginning of the 5.8 left-leaning crack.

Descend the South Arete route with some class 3/4 down climbing and a couple of rappels.


1 60m rope. 1 set of stoppers, 1 set of cams to #3 camalot, with doubles in the 1" to 2" range for extra comfort, though it's not really needed. Also bring a large cam (approx. new #5 camalot size) for the Bear Hug pitch.

Photos of Southwest Rib Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The 10b finger crack variation
The 10b finger crack variation
Rock Climbing Photo: Unknown climber on SW Rib as seen from the S Arete...
Unknown climber on SW Rib as seen from the S Arete...
Rock Climbing Photo: The route.  Bear-hug pitch visible, as well as the...
The route. Bear-hug pitch visible, as well as the...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Bear Hug pitch
The Bear Hug pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Unknown climber on SW Rib as seen from the S Arete...
Unknown climber on SW Rib as seen from the S Arete...
Rock Climbing Photo: Beargugs cracks.
Beargugs cracks.
Rock Climbing Photo: Down Climbing the South Arete...
Down Climbing the South Arete...
Rock Climbing Photo: I decided to belay from the top of the bear hug on...
I decided to belay from the top of the bear hug on...
Rock Climbing Photo: Top of the bear hug on pitch 4
Top of the bear hug on pitch 4
Rock Climbing Photo: Part way up 4th pitch.  After 3 tries, I finally f...
Part way up 4th pitch. After 3 tries, I finally f...
Rock Climbing Photo: 2nd Pitch, super fun crack
2nd Pitch, super fun crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down mid crack on the 2nd pitch.  Very enj...
Looking down mid crack on the 2nd pitch. Very enj...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch four taken from directly about the 10b finge...
Pitch four taken from directly about the 10b finge...
Rock Climbing Photo: Justin high on the route.
Justin high on the route.
Rock Climbing Photo: Heading up the couloir and left to the start of th...
Heading up the couloir and left to the start of th...

Comments on Southwest Rib Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 16, 2016
By sqwirll
From: Las Vegas
Apr 28, 2009

I'd recommend climbing into the gully on the right of the rabbit ears. It's fairly easy and avoids the rappel. The rappel is kind of scary since I'm not quite sure what is holding the rabbit ears on.
By blakeherrington
May 2, 2009

The best way to reach the base of the slanting wide crack (listed here as P1) is to begin at a Y-shaped Larch tree, then follow corners and cracks straight up. (5.8)

A second option for pitch #1 is to the left of this, and is .10b gear-protected face, with some flakes and cracks.

Above the wide slanting crack (pitch #1 here) you can also go straight up and climb a three-star 5.10- finger crack.
By Ralph Bodenner
Jul 7, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

+1 to Blake's first suggestion for P1. Fun, steep, well-protected 5.8. With a few longer runners, you can link the 5.6 slab with the 5.7 bearhug pitch (which protects well with a single #5 Camalot). After the next slabby pitch, simulclimb toward the rabbit ears, but move down and left around them on a ledge (one bit of exposure, easily protected). You will reach the notch this way without rappel shenanigans. Then it's a short 5.4 wide crack to the top.

A big avalanche path now obliterates the trail at the second switchback. Hike straight up when you meet it until below the slabby cliffs, then pass them on the right.
By Nick Jackson
Feb 23, 2012
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

The 5.10 finger crack Blake speaks of is incredibly fun, I definitely recommend it.

Also, we didn't take a #5. There's a spot for a small (yellow?) TCU behind a chockstone for the wide section on the left leaning crack pitch that's good for some mental pro.
By Jordan Sahlberg
Jun 14, 2012
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Very fun route. To echo the sentiment of those above, the 5.10- crack above the classic 5.8 jam pitch is absolutly amazing.
By geoff georges
From: Seattle, Wa.
Aug 15, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Another fun variation is to climb the Boving roofs, instead of the slab traverse to bear hug OW. Stiff 10b.
By Jennifer L
Sep 9, 2014

Using the route description from Supertopo, if you opt to do the easy 5.5 variation on P3, you can link P3 and P4. P4 is really short. Just don't clip into the tree that's used for a belay at top of P3, otherwise there's a lot of drag.
By Nick Drake
From: Newcastle, WA
Jun 19, 2015

Really fun route, highly recommend it. On the final pitch a 70m did not reach the rabbit ears with sparse and long slung placements, horrific drag. I had my partner simul the last 30 or so feet. Consider splitting this up with a belay off a tree or coil it down to say 40m and simul (climbing after the arete part of the slab is low angle and quite easy). I would recommend downclimbing in to the gully over rapping off the rabbit ears.
By Nate Ball
From: Portland, OR
Aug 15, 2015

After looking at several (too many) sources of info on this route, we got confused about which pitches started where. Our first mistake was to come in from above the chockstone. This is really lame, it's hard to find the traversing downclimb to the left-leaning "Wavy Crack," and this downclimb involves stepping on dead trees directly above a death-plummet. Don't do this. Start at the Y-shaped tree at the base of the wall. Didn't do this pitch so can't comment on it.

The "Wavy Crack" is a lot of fun. If you've got your gear on a sling, don't put it on your right side. A #5 Camalot may help protect near the top, or it may not.

The 5.5 pitch can be linked with the "Wavy Crack." The variation to the right is described as "5.9 layback" in the Beckey guide - is this the 10- blake refers to?

From here, traverse right to a ledge. If you belayed above the "Wavy Crack" then you can combine this with the 5.5 easily. I wouldn't recommend combining this with the next pitch, as you really wouldn't want to have rope drag while creeping up the slab.

The "Nervous Nelly" pitch involves about 60 feet of scary slab with a single solid placement in the middle. There is one move that was a long reach for me at 5'8" while my follower described a scary down-step.

The "Bear Hug" pitch can easily be combined with the previous one. Although some sources say #4's work here, it's only partially true... you can fit one in, but it wouldn't keep you from hitting the slab if you come out. However, although it's heady to commit, once you're in it it's super easy and I felt secure without a #5.

From here, the climbing becomes really easy, with basically one short section of exposure. Traverse right to a huge ledge, then move around the corner and up to another ledge below the arete. The bolt here is a 1/4" relic and is completely unnecessary. Enjoy the final bit of technicality, then continue up to a convenient belay anywhere you wish.

Do NOT go up to the "Bunny Ears" - not sure why anyone would have ever done this. Instead, at a hardy tree, downclimb slightly into the gully. From here, it's a very easy and short romp to the top.

Downclimbing the South Arete is quite easy and obvious. It involved only a single rappel of the chimney section, somewhere in the middle. The rest is mostly 4th class with short sections of unexposed and non-technical 5th.

Great, great route!
By Zachary Winters
From: Mazama, Washington
May 2, 2016

Nervous Nelly pitch takes a #.75BD a couple body lengths before the 5.6 move

Bear Hug pitch starts at #3 widening to beyond #5 at mid height. If you are confident, a 3 or 4 down low will keep you from falling on the anchor, but won't keep you from hitting the slab.

Description of "Aretes" pitch has length wrong. Distance from "bolt" below arete to Rabbit Ears is about 230ft, not 165ft.

Going to the Bunny Ears makes sense when the gully is full of snow, if not snow-filled, the gully is simpler
By Max Leitner
From: Seattle, Washington
May 16, 2016
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Thought every pitch of this climb was awesome. I'd recommend the 5.8+ 190ft direct start described in the SuperTopo guidebook. The crux on that pitch is easily protected #1 and/or #3 and the climbing was fun.

If you do that way remember to set the second belay right beneath the wavy crack. I mistook a rap station for the ideal belay spot and fought rope drag for most of wavy crack which was a bummer.
By Nick Sweeney
From: Spokane, WA
Jun 6, 2016
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

DAMN! This route is awesome. Take a day off and doing it during the week to avoid the crowds - you'll be happy you did. I climbed in on a Friday, and two other teams were on the route behind us. Currently, the approach is all snow, which makes it nice and easy once you find your way through the woods. We brought trekking poles and did not bring crampons or axes but they might be a good idea depending on your comfort on steep snow... there were a few places where long falls were possible, and many people have been injured in falls on snow while approaching WA Pass rock climbs.

I can't fathom why anyone would traverse to the base of "Wavy Crack"... the approach pitch is great climbing and has a short and well-protected 5.8+ crux.

This route is not sustained at 5.8 and is a great route for the new 5.8 leader, as all the cruxes are easily protectable with bomber gear at your waist.
By Eli B.
Jun 16, 2016

Fun! long, mellow route. Fun route finding and fantastic views at the top. Be carful not to traverse too far up at the start or you'll miss the first pitch or two. The bear hug pitch is awesome. A number 4 camelot was nice to have to place at the bottom of the pitch. Fun and easy runout to the top of the pitch where you can sling something very securely. Descent is straightforward if you scramble south from the summit down into the gully, then climb onto the south ridge about 75 feet down the gully (to your left when you're in the gully) and then scramble/rappel your way down the ridge to the bottom.

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