North Face, Burgundy Spire III 5.8+
Avg time to climb route: 2.5-6 hours
Approach time: 2.5-5 hours
Descent time: 2.5-5 hours
Number of pitches: 4
Height of route: 800'
OverviewThe route most climbers ascend on the North Face of Burgundy Spire is a hybrid of the 1953 Northeast Face and the 1958 Northwest Face. After the three day first ascent via what looked to be the shortest and easiest route, Burgundy Spire was widely considered the most technically difficult peak in the Cascades.
The North Face is a mega classic. It’s a fun climb on mostly solid rock with incredible views of the western Cascades. The climbing is very sustained with a fair amount of old school and slightly burly 5.8, making it more suitable for climbers solid at the grade. Combining the North Face of Burgundy with the West Ridge of Paisano Pinnacle makes for an incredible 13 pitch IV 5.9- outing that is highly recommended as one of the best climbs in the area.
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Route HistoryThe Northeast Face was first climbed by Fred Becky, Michael Hane and John Parrot on August 15-17, 1953. The Spires were originally labeled One through Four, but Fred Beckey and his partners gave the spires their current names, Chablis, Pernod, Chianti, and Burgundy, which have stuck and are nearly universally accepted. They are named because of each spire’s wine bottle-like appearance.
After several previous reconnaissance missions, Becky, Hane and Parrot hiked in via Cedar Creek over the pass and down the Silver Star glacier to camp on a rocky outcrop alongside the ice. They had come intending to climb Burgundy Spire, but the peak looked extremely difficult on all sides. The North Face looked a little less steep but not much easier than the other sides of the mountain.
Beckey remembers, “Head on, any route looked like an intense experience, but the profile view suggested possibility.” Beckey, Hane and Parrot planned to lay siege to the peak in a multi-day effort. Where today most parties climb up from near Burgundy Col, Beckey and company climbed up a 300-foot snow couloir from the east to gain the big sandy bench, a few pitches up the North Face. They had left a cache of gear here the previous year and started up the steep headwall on loose flakes and discontinuous cracks.
Pitch 1 was difficult and the climbers used many pitons. This took the rest of the day, and the three men fixed their rope to a sliver of granite, rappelled and went back to their camp. After a powerful rainstorm during the night, they ascended back up to the bench the following day and prussiked to their high point.
Hane led the next pitch, a mix of challenging free and aid climbing. After making good progress, the rope stop paying out for several minutes as he battled between two overhangs. He finally pounded in some pitons and came back into view. The next section looked even harder. Parrot led another long and difficult pitch, mainly on aid, to gain the large ledge at two-third height on the north face.
The climbers walked back and forth on the large ledge, looking up at the steep, blank rock above them, wondering where to go next before rappelling down the face and returning for another night in camp.
On the third day, the climbing looked extremely difficult. They started off on direct aid near the eastern ridge before the rock blanked out. They then attempted to lasso a higher block, a crazy idea that it worked to get up the last few feet! They carefully ascended their lassoed block, joyous of the ground gained.
The three climbers were forced to place one bolt to protect a small overhang, and after another hour of climbing up the sharp ridge and a few problems negotiating the gendarmes in the knife edge ridge, the climbers were on top.
One final gendarme that looked difficult on all sides separated them from the top. Running out of options, Parrot attempted another lasso, and again it worked. He carefully ascended the rope. Not sure that it would stay in place, he gently prussiked up the line as the tension increased. He finally made it to safety and drilled another bolt to anchor the rope.
Climbing the final chimney, Parrot placed a bolt with his back on one side and his feet on the other before hoisting himself to the summit. On top, the three climbers couldn’t believe the difficulties they had overcome. The route up the North Face of Burgundy Spire ha... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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