Tucked away in northern Washington, the North Cascades National Park is explored by locals. Set aside to protect the northern Cascadian mountain range that spans through the Pacific Northwest. Many lakes and campgrounds are visited throughout the year, but climbers head to the alpine routes that were first ascended by the locally famous Fred Beckey. Fred wrote books and explored the PNW for years and was a dirtbag before it was a cool. He is still skiing and climbing moderate routes into his late 80s. Fred’s sense of adventure is still alive.
Driving through Washington Pass into the park, there are numerous rock walls. If speeding around the hairpin turns through the pass, many may miss the alpine climbers attempting to summit the very peaks Fred Beckey found roughly 50 years before without the present day road infrastructure.
Deciding to attempt the South Early Winter Spire alpine climb, a trad climbing route near the pass, Andy and I parked at the hairpin turn. With climbing, I have learned that compounding decisions can make or break a trip. Little did I know we would be making many throughout the day.
Starting at the winter approach, we were slow moving up the rocky trail up to the base of the rocks. Then, it started to get even more challenging with loose scree. This is when we realized our slow moving approach would leave us to a “late” start to an already popular climbing route, so we decided to turn around but not before taking in the views of the gorgeous rock walls.
Forest fires due to a dry summer and lightening were burning to the east, so throughout the day, a smokey haze was blown into the pass.
After returning to the car, we back-tracked to the Blue Lake Trailhead for our next attempt. With plenty of time in the day, we continued through the North Cascades parks to Winthrop. I quaint little Western town. We found homemade ice cream, a brewery, and other tourist attractions to make the drive worth it before heading back to WA Pass to pirate camp at a trailhead.
After a restless night of sleeping, we decided to wait and attempt SEWS when we were fresh, so we packed up and returned to the city.