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South Early Winters Spire
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SW Rib T 

SW Rib 

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

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 600', Grade III
Consensus:  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: 10,326
Submitted By: BenCooper on Apr 27, 2009

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (88)
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crack variation


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

P2: 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.

P3: Continue right and up to the base of the obvious dual offwidths, past some delicate, unprotected 5.6+ slab moves. ~100 ft.

P4: 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.

P5: 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.

P6: 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 SW Rib Slideshow Add Photo
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...
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: 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: Justin high on the route.
Justin high on the route.
Rock Climbing Photo: start of the route
start of the route
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.10 crack variation
5.10 crack variation
Rock Climbing Photo: Crack variation
Crack variation
Rock Climbing Photo: SEWS
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...

Comments on SW Rib Add Comment
Show which comments
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 JenniferL
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
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!

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