Rebel Yell, Chianti Spire III 5.10b
Avg time to climb route: 2-4.5 hours
Approach time: 3-6 hours
Descent time: 3-6 hours
Number of pitches: 7
Height of route: 600'
OverviewRebel Yell is sometimes referred to simply as the East Face. It is one of the best alpine rock climbs in the Cascades. An obvious line even from the ground, the climb ascends a striking crack system up some of the best granite at Washington Pass. One of the longer approaches and an untypical roadless view give this climb a more remote feel than many others in the area. Views of the rest of the Wine Spires and Silver Star Glacier are impressive. The steep, parallel- sided cracks are similar to those at the Index town walls.
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Route HistoryMark Bebie and Jim Nelson made the first ascent on June 8, 1986. Heather Paxon and Carl Diedrich added one of the two popular starts in 1987.
Interest in the east face of Chianti all started when Nelson and Bebie spotted an obvious crack splitting the upper headwall on the spire and photographed it. Later they poured over the slide and made statements like, “It’s an outer space-like hand crack,” “looks fantastic,” and “I wonder how steep that direct start is?”
On May 25, the pair set out toward the east face of Chianti, but once below the spire, their plans changed. Instead of a direct start, the two started farther right (north) than where either of the normal starts are today. Bebie climbed up and then made a spectacular leftward traverse under roofs to a hand crack in the corner. From there, Nelson started Pitch 2, which was wide, wet and icy, to gain the top of the shoulder on the right side of the face. The pair down climbed a short distance to reach the main part of the east face of the spire where the route travels today.
Five pitches up, Bebie was forced to aid around the crux because it was wet and icy. The next pitch was also wet, and their outer space style “hand crack” now needed a 4” cam. The crack was soaked, so they rapped off, vowing to return.
After two weeks of much warmer weather, the pair returned on June 8. Dry rock found them free climbing quickly to their previous high point and then into the unknown. After quickly dispatching the offwidth pitch that had repelled them a few weeks before with its wet conditions, Nelson and Bebie made it to the summit.
Now that Rebel Yell is a Cascadian classic, it’s hard to believe that when they climbed this route, theirs was likely only the fourth ascent of the Chianti Spire. The name Rebel Yell, comes from Nelson’s and Bebie’s shouts of exhilaration and yodels of joy as they “rebel yelled” on the tiny summit of Chianti.
Both Bebie and Nelson are very prolific Washington climbers, achieving many first ascents, both before and after this one.
StrategyRebel Yell is a fairly popular route but the grade and the approach tames the crowds. On a busy weekend you might have to share the route with one other party, but you are likely to have it to yourself mid-week. Climbing Rebel Yell in a day is not uncommon but because of the long approach, about half the parties attempting this route spend the night at the Basin Camp or at Burgundy Col. If there is another party on the route, you can pass them by taking one of two variations at the start of the route, but once atop Pitch 3, passing becomes more difficult.
There are two different starts that meet half way up Pitch 3. The right-hand start, which was established the year after the first ascent, begins on the far right-hand side of the face and ascends a large, obvious dihedral and a wide crack and chimney feature in the back. For some time, this was the way climbers typically started the route. However the left-hand start (first ascent unknown), while harder, is of higher quality, cleaner, and is now more common. For this more direct left-hand start, climb the super clean lower angle corner until you are forced to pull past a roof (5.9) below a cool flake leading to the top of Pitch 1 (175 feet).
Pitch 2 is possibly the best pitch of the route. It starts with a pumpy hand shrinking to finger-sized crack in a very clean corner that is sustained 5.10- climbing with a slightly harder section near the top. You can easily pull through the hardest sections on gear, and the crux has a clean fall. You can just link these first two pitches in a massive 200 feet pitch but the rope drag is bad. Pitch 3 is a fun chimney on clean rock. Half way up, traverse right to where the two variations join.
Pitch 4 is a little loose and awkward with a blind step-around move to gain the triangle ledge. The fifth and crux pitch is the stellar one. It starts with the crux, an off-balance hand crack that leads to the more memorable and sustained widening splitter crack on the headwall. It begins with cupped hands, goes to fists, then to big fists ending on a nice ledge. For those unaccustomed to offwidths, this wide 5.10a section could certainly feel like the crux. The next pitch offwidth looks even harder, but you can stem into a corner to rest and move up. The summit is a great place to rest, hang out and enjoy the day. The true summit is very small (one by two feet) and each climber will lead to the true summit independently.
Most climbers leave all the gear they don’t need, including their approach shoes, at the base and pick it up on their way down. The many ledges can hold snow until early or mid-summer, and some water will seep down the cracks. At this time of year, the route can be wet, even days after a storm. By mid-summer the route is dry, and because of its exposure to morning sun and relatively clean granite, the route dries quickly after a storm.
Retreat StormThe descent route is to rap the face, so to retreat, simply rap the route, noting which anchors to use and which not to use. The route faces due east and climbers often can’t see poor weather which typically comes in from the west, so be aware of the weather forecast.
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