Glasair Aviation


The view of the east side of the Early Winter/Liberty Bell group is dominated on first glance by the sweeping expanse of the East Face of Liberty Bell. But eventually the eye wanders up and outward to catch the perfectly chiseled profile of the East Buttress of the South Spire as it soars magnificently above all else. Such is the lure of this feature that it motivated Fred Beckey to pack the drill and spend three days in 1963 forging his way over its' flawless granite, creating one of his most classic Cascade routes. Today, the route goes free, but most climbers pull by at least a full bolts to allow a relaxed enjoyment of situation. In a generous move that hopefully presages further anchor upgrades in the area. Peter and Dave Gunstone recently replaced the rusty old 1/4- inchers with some nice solid 3/8" bolts.

This is a climb which may actually be better with at least some aid moves as the bolts were not placed with free climbing in mind. Any way you do this classic, however, expect great rock, wonderful exposure on a major rock feature of the area's major summit, all in a full, but reasonable, day from the car. Clip and enjoy one of the finest rides off of the highway!

Approach (about 2 hours)
From the road hairpin 1/2-mile east of the Pass, ascend west up the "Hairpin Gully" to where the hillside opens, allowing a clear line to the base of the buttress, staying low as the base slabs are approached, then ascending directly to the toe of the buttress.

The Route
Follow easy climbing for two pitches from the buttress toe toward the obvious left- facing comer system. This has a 3 " crack (5.9) which in a long pitch reaches a tree-ledge belay. The continuation of this system leads to a belay below the first bolt ladder. Ride this puppy over the exposed buttress crest (5.8 AO or 5.11 a), to a belay off of bolts on a flake. Clip another bolt and gain a short crack (5.1 Oa or Al) and follow features and another bolt to a belay at a large sloping ledge. Follow the second bolt ladder (AO or 5.1 Od) and a few mantel moves to a ledge with a belay bolt. Another long but easy pitch reaches a sandy ledge belay. Climbing up and left around a comer out of sight of the belayer reaches the summit. For all of the bolts on this route, two more would allow a fine scenic perch atop the buttress. Instead, to find anchor placements you must climb down into a small chasm behind, out of communication with the second. Easy climbing leads to the true summit.

Full rack, including a 4" cam; lots of quickdraws and aiders if necessary.

Downclimb into the Southwest gully, rappelling where necessary. From the base, return by climbing over the South Col and scree-riding back to the hairpin, unless you stashed a bicycle at the Blue Lake Trailhead. or have faith in your Hitching Karma.

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