East Wilmans Spire - South Face, September 2003
If you're looking for an easy technical climb that can be completed in the short daylight of an autumn day, is within reasonable driving distance from Seattle, and offers up great views of the Mountain Loop area, look no further. By the way, East Wilmans Spire (EWS) is also a good climb to consider if you have to be back in Seattle by 7pm to attend your buddy's bachelor party. I sold Andy Ball on the idea (the climb, not the stripper party) who in turn invited James Cunnigham to also join us. James lives in Winthrop and was planning on visiting Andy in Seattle anyway. With a long drive ahead of him that Friday night, James suggested just meeting up with us at Barlow Pass the next morning. If he wasn't there when we arrived we were to just proceed without him. Andy and I pulled up beside James' truck at Barlow Pass shortly before 8am. We didn't envy his sleepless night in the truck, and so cut him some slack while he took an eternity to pack and get ready. Finally, we hopped on our bikes and began the 4-mile ride to Monte Cristo. Either my pack was really heavy or I was just tired myself, but the hill climbs wasted me! We locked our bikes in town, next to several other bikes already secured to the bike rack. With bike shoes stashed in the bushes, we started hiking up towards Glacier Basin. This would be my third trip to Glacier Basin and yet the scenery continues to impress me.
We encountered a party of three relaxing in the sunshine as we reached Glacier Basin. Andy and James apparently knew two of the guys from their high school days back on Bainbridge Island. We learned that there was also a party of two ahead of us (we could barely see them ascending the talus slope above us). Planning on climbing the South Face of EWS as well, the party of three seemed content just letting us get ahead of them. Bonus! The scramble up the scree and talus slope that fans out below EWS is tedious and loose, and hints at what lies ahead. Most years, the gully that continues up to the notch below EWS is snow-filled, becoming steep an icy later in the season. How odd, we thought, it was for the party ahead of us to leave crampons and axes behind. A short scramble into the horribly loose gully confirmed that it was in fact mostly snow-free, with only a small finger of snow and fallen blocks of ice accumulated at a constriction. The snow and ice was passable by odd an uncomfortable squeezing and stemming moves in the moat on the left then back right, around a final block of ice for one final pitch of wet, rotten, ball bearings-on slabs to the notch. All said, the gully is 3rd class, with a bit of 4th here and there. The moist and generally rotten rock demand one's full attention. Party induced rock-fall is definitely a consideration. (more...)
Click here to view photos.