|South Early Winters Spire
A broad, gentle snow gully that narrows as it goes and can feel like a bigger route despite being easily accessible and not committing.
Begin in the obvious couloir 100' below the South Arete. Ideally the large boulder near the base will be covered with snow. Make your way up the wide section at 25-30 degrees. Continue up the couloir to the fork and take the right side where things steepen (40-50 degrees) and narrow. Continue up past a constriction and follow the hallway of rock walls to the small saddle about 50' below the summit. A low 5th class move will get you to the summit.
Descend by down-climbing or rappelling the couloir.
The route is best when filled with snow, so look to get on it within a month of the North Cascades Highway opening.
Park at the Blue Lake trailhead (1 mile West of Washington Pass) and head into the woods, break out of the trees at about 5,900' and head for the South Early Winter Spire. The large, Y-shaped snow gully below the South Arete should be easy to spot.
Depending on conditions, the route can be completely filled with snow and require no protection or it can include short steps on exposed rock or ice and require some pickets and/or rock pro to 2".
The right-hand gully just after the fork
Looking down from the top of the couloir
Not long after the fork
BETA PHOTO: The Southwest Couloir on South Early Winters Spire