Burgundy Spire, N.Face via W.Ridge of Paisano

August 14, 2007 / 5.9, ~14 pitches, trad.

Climbing Burgundy Spire was the last of our objective near Washinton Pass. We do not feel like doing the North Face alone as that climb is pretty short (and the approach long!). We're a lot more attracted to the West Ridge of Paisano Pinnacle, a route that generally gets good reviews. So we link both together, making for a ~14-pitch climb (8 pitches for the West Ridge and about 6 -more or less- for the regular North Face).

After the usual early-morning routine, we drive to the trailhead and start hiking at 6:15AM. It's a long, steep haul to the bench (took 1h50), where we find the permanent stream 300 yds to the left and refill our water bottles. We continue up the steep trail toward the col, before traversing sketchy gravel slopes to the obvious notch at the base of the route. This takes an additional 45 minutes.

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Burgundy Spire and Paisano Pinnacle seen from the approach.
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The steep trail to Burgundy Col.
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Great views of the Liberty Bells across the valley.
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The first pitch of Paisano Pinnacle (5.8).
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This pitch ends on a palatial ledge.

We take a rest and gear up before I start up the first pitch (couple moves of tricky 5.8, 140'). Eric then moves the belay to the next steep section (cl4, 160'). Pitch 3 is mine; a great 5.7 hand crack to the base of a strinking 5.8 twin crack up a steep wall (140'). This pitch looks really good. I start up the pitch but end up to belaying 60ft higher where the climbing gets considerably more insecure and tricky to protect (probably also quite a bit harder than 5.8). Eric follows, then takes over the rest of the pitch, which turns out a bit scary… thin moves up to a small ledge, then around the corner to the left to find a nasty, loose 5.9 crack that leads back to the arete… ugly (sorry, no pic as Eric was out of sight).

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Leading pitch 3 (great 5.7 handcrack).
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The striking twin cracks of pitch 5.
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Taking a rest. From here, the route climbs the ridge proper in three pitches.
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Eric starting pitch 6
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Looking back toward Burgundy Col.

After that, the route turns into a real ridge climb, with steep 5.8'ish steps and easier lower angle sections. Mostly on good rock, the route stays in good overlaps/cracks and always left of the ridge proper. Pretty good route, actually.

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Views.
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Eric at the belay at the top of pitch 6.
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More great views of the Cascades.
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On pitch 7, looking up at Eric and the belay.
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Last pitch (p8).

We stop for a while at the top of the pinnacle, have a bit to eat and drink, before downclimbing onto the North Face of Burgundy.

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Taking a break on the top of the pinnacle.
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The North Face of Burgundy (seen from the top of Paisano).
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At a belay near a first nest of slings, after ~1.5 ropelengths of simul-climbing.
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From there, a short pitch lead to the base of a steeper dihedral.
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Lucie leading the dihedral.

The beginning of this is horribly loose gravel and sand on ledges, heading up toward the steeper through. We simul-climb for maybe one and a half rope lengths, to a first nest of rappel slings. From here, we make a short pitch to a second rap anchor atop a large chokstone and at the base of a steeper dihedral leading to Burgundy ledge. I take the next pitch, which turns out to be a pretty good one. Above, a short step of 5th class to the right leads to the huge Burgundy ledge.

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The long traverse around the west face - just below the chimney.
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First short pitch from the ledge.
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Higher on the same pitch.
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Starting up the "lichen" pitch.
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Traversing left on an easy ramp to...

A long (about 50m) 2nd class traverse to the right, around to the west face, and including a short 5th class downclimb in a chimney of sorts, leads to the base of the slabby face to the summit.

I make a short pitch up licheny overlaps to where the climbing gets a bit runout. Eric takes over with a slightly scary pitch up slabby lichen and meager protection, ending with a leftward traverse on an easy ramp, to a bolted anchor at the base of the beautiful last pitch.

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...a bolted anchor.
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Eric starting the last pitch...
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...which begins with a really fun finger crack...
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...and continues up a double offwidth crack to a stance below the summit.
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Views.

He takes the most obvious (5.8) exit pitch, which starts in a really fun corner with a sharp finger crack, then continues to the summit up a double offwidth crack. Protecting this with a single #4 Camalot gets a little spicy (could use a #4.5 in addition to the #4 to make it safe). This ends at a rap anchor (slings around huge block), 10 feet below the pointy summit block.

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Scrambling up the pointy summit.
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Looking across to the summit of Chianti Spire.
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Looking back at Lucie from the summit.
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Scrambling down the nasty lower portion of the NF to reach the rap stations in the gully.
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Rapping the gully.

We take turns going to the top, on belay, then have some prosciutto sandwiches for lunch and some water before starting the raps down. Short rap back to the bolted anchor, followed by a full double-rope rap back to the ledge. We reverse the traverse back to the top of the NF proper and start rapping again.

The descent gets ugly from here. We do two short single rope raps first, to get back to the anchor on the chockstone we used on the way up. From here, we make one full length double rap to small ledges a few feet above the sandy benches. We belay each other from there to a sling anchor at the top of the steep gully that leads back to just below the col. Two more long and somewhat scary raps down this gully (lots of loose rock) lead us back to "firm" ground. In all, it took us about 2 hours to get off the spire.

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Looking back at the NF of Burgundy from the gully.
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Back at the base of Burgundy Spire with the Liberty Bells in the background.
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Going down sandy slopes back to the base of Paisano Pinnacle.
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The huge block/chockstone marks the top of a small gully that leads back to the base of the route.
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Coming down the gully...

A pretty quick descent (about 20 minutes) along the base of Paisano leads us to a short climb to a large chockstone at the top of a small gully that leads straight back to the notch at the base of the route. We squeeze under the chockstone and down-climb the gully (4th class) to our boots.

We watch the sunset from here, before starting the very long, knee-busting descent. We decide against stopping for more water at the benches, in the interest of time. It is dark by the time we reach the benches. We do the rest of the descent by headlamp, hopping down the steep dusty trail.

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...to the two pine trees at the base of the route.
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Enjoying the sunset before the knee-busting descent back to the car.
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The end of a long day.
   

Water at the bench: Go left through meadows then follow trails into the woods. Stay approximatively level with the bench. Listen and find the spring in ~300 yards.

Gear notes: What we had: set of nuts, set of hexes, black to purple aliens (double green and red), Camalots .75, 1, 2, 3, 4 (for NF of Burgundy). The 5.8 OW exit pitch on the North face would protect well with Camalot #4 (x1) and #4.5 (x1). Tricky manoeuvers required with only one #4.

Topo: A reasonably good topo of the West Ridge of Paisano can be obtained from the guide service (North Cascades Mountain Guides) in Mazama (they keep a bunch of free copies outside their door). Good beta on how to find the first pitch. We found that the lengths of the first three pitches were off (our estimates: 140', 160', 140').