South Early Winter Spire - Southwest Buttress, August 2005
It's been about three years since I climbed Liberty Bell; a return visit to the area was long overdue. This time, with Eric's unused 5-inch cam and a 4.5-inch cam borrowed from Martin at the very last minute, I set my sights for the Southwest Rib of South Early Winter Spire. Combining an 80ft 5.8 crack, a short 5.7 "bear-hug" pitch and an unexpectedly spicy, but short 5.6 slab move, the SW Rib is a fine climb of moderate difficulty, reaching the top of the tallest spire of the Liberty Bell Group. Considering the short approaches (usually no more than an hour), dry, warm Eastern Washington climate and numerous routes of quality on exquisite Washington Pass granite, this is also the kind of climbing I could easily get used to.
Following a worn climber's path, we somehow ignored the direct West Face start below the obvious 5.8 crack visible high on the rock, and blindly hiked up towards SEWS' Southwest Couloir. Content with beginning the climb from here, Eric and I racked up and started up towards the large chockstone low in the couloir. Once above the chockstone, we continued left up a vegetated rib (small pine trees) looking for some indication of a ledge leading "leftward and downward" with "small bushes and trees". Following an abundance of newer slings (with rap rings) tied around the small pines, I figured we were still on-route as I proceeded upwards on the rib. I found myself beneath a steep headwall a few moves later, and again looked left for that elusive ledge. Lo and behold, there it was - a very thin and exposed ledge that traverses high on the West Face to a comfortably shady nook at the belay station directly above the 80ft crack pitch...yes, above! Lame. I briefly considered rapping down to the ledge below us (the correct ledge, incidentally) so that we could actually climb the crack, but seeing as there was a party now making their way up the direct West Face start towards us, we decided to just proceed upwards. Lame. (more...)
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