South Face of Washington Column

It rained on Wednesday, forcing hordes of climbers to abandon their climbing attempts and seek shelter from the weather. What that meant for us, is an opportunity to get a jump start on a popular 'big wall' route in the Valley.

Normally the South Face is teeming with wall climbers, planning to spend the night on Dinner Ledge, three pitches up the rock, and then finish the ascent the following day. However, when we showed up at the base of the route a little before 8am, there was only one party ahead of us. After some congenial negotiation, we decided that Tom and I would be able to pass them easily on the second pitch, by taking the 10a free variation while they aided the 11. After that we were on our own.

We each free-climbed the first three guidebook pitches up to dinner ledge. Then, I led the Kor roof – which has a bit of a reputation for being reachy, but was actually no problem for me, even at my modest height of 5'1″. Tom short-fixed several times through the next two aid pitches and then we free-climbed to the top.

Having experienced the top of this route, now, for the first time, I am happy to say that there is no need for me to ever experience them again. The aid pitches on the route are beautiful, but the free-climbing, especially at the top was loose, and ugly.

As we rapped down, we encountered the crowds that are typical of the route. There was a party of three fixing two pitches above Dinner Ledge, another party of two waiting on the ledge, and another behind them on the first pitches. Plus, there were two parties setting off on Skull Queen, which also leaves from Dinner ledge. We counted our blessings at having managed to knock off this route without encountering so many crowds.