West Ridge, Paisano Pinnacle III 5.9-
Washington Pass, Washington, USA
Avg time to climb route: 3-6 hours
Approach time: 2.5-5 hours
Descent time: 2.5-5 hours
Number of pitches: N/A
Height of route: 600'
OverviewOften overlooked because it appears much shorter than the rest of its fellow Wine Spires, this is without a doubt a relatively long and worthy outing. The West Ridge of Paisano Pinnacle is a classic of the range, one of the better 5.9s in the state. When combined with the North Face of Burgundy Spire, it makes an incredible 13-pitch IV outing in the 5.8+/5.9 range. Paisano has exceptional rock, even in an area know for its solid granite. The West Ridge is more ďsplitterĒ than most other routes in the range featuring many excellent cracks.
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Route HistoryThe route was first climbed by Carla Firey and Jim McCarthy in September of 1971. Not much else is known about their ascent.
StrategyUnlike the South West Rib of South Early Winters Spire, which only has two short 5.8 cruxes, Paisano is far more sustained, with more than half of its pitches at 5.8. But all pitches are well-protected, and with the exception of the final 15 feet of the route on Pitch 8, you could pull on gear if necessary.
While not as crowed as many of the popular routes in the Liberty Bell group, the Piasano-Burgundy link-up is the most popular route(s) in the Wine Spires, so youíll probably see another party on busy weekend. Passing isnít easy except on the 2nd and 5th pitches, although nearly every belay has a large ledge where it would be possible to pass.
If youíre planning on doing the link-up and find yourself topping out Paisano too late in the day, simply make the short down climb and rappel down to Burgundy Col.
The approach to the West Ridge starts off easy enough on a good trail heading toward Burgundy Col. At 7,650 feet, traverse down toward the start of the route. This section is a little sketchy across a steep gully on firm dirt. The start of the route can be difficult to find and unobvious, so study the topo and the photos to get a good idea of where you are going before you begin.
The first two pitches are a mix of tree battling and quality climbing on solid rock. Some climbers find Pitch 1 to be a sting in the tail. After the first two pitches, the route finding is much easier. Once on Pitch 3, the route is awesome with sustained 5.7-5.8 crack climbing on excellent rock. The cruxes of the route are on Pitches 4 and 5. Pitch 4 is deceptively steep with a slightly awkward pair of double cracks. The climbing isnít straightforward and climbers challenged at the grade might find this pitch pumpy. There is some good rest, so figure out the next series of moves before launching into the unknown. You can pull through the hardest sections on gear.
Pitch 5 has three options but is still the most difficult. Option 1 has the greatest amount of fun climbing but involves a short and funky 4th class traverse. You also need to be more aware of rope drag on this option, and occasionally climbers will move the belay across this exposed slab. Option 2 is the most straightforward. It starts off hard but quickly eases. The pro isnít simple, but enough exists to keep this pitch from being runout. Option 3 is 5.9 R and has poor protection. As a result it is rarely repeated and slightly dirty.
Above this, the route finding becomes clearer as you ascend a mostly 4th class ridge until a step with a 5.6 splitter crack. Above this step is a small gendarme in the ridge. Make an easy but exposed traverse on the right (south) side of it. There is then some low 5th class climbing to the belay.
Pitch 7 is fun climbing and stemming that ascends double 5.7 cracks for 100 feet to a belay. The 8th and final pitch is the mental crux. Itís the only pitch on the West Ridge where you canít pull through the hardest moves on gear. Climb up a widening crack that grows from four to six inches. Place your biggest cam as high as you can with a long sling on it, so it doesnít walk. Then launch into 5.8 face climbing. Near the end of the most challenging section, you could get a mediocre micro cam that may or may not do you any good. There is one more insecure crux move, and it can feel like the hardest one as you get farther and farther away from your gear. The key to this final, devious crux is to get a small hold with your right-hand, get your other foot to just below waist level and rock up. Past this move, it is 5.6 and easier face climbing to the top. You can link the last two pitches if placing minimal protection, otherwise there is bad rope drag.
Donít be tempted to leave your approach shoes at the base; it is a pain to get back across the gully on some sketchy, firm dirt and sand over rock. Instead rack up and leave your pack at the point on the trail right before you drop down and across the gully over to the base. Occasionally, climbers will leave their approach shoes here, but there is a lot of loose scree and sand on the descent to reach this point.
About half or climbers camp in the basin and half do it in one long day.
Retreat StormRetreating from the lower portion of the route isnít too difficult, as there is an abundance of trees to sling and rappel from. Once higher on the route where the trees become scarcer, it would be easier to descend down the shorter but steeper northwest face to the gully below Burgundy Col. Because of its slightly lower elevation and sunny aspect, Paisano dries quickly after a rain or snow storm. In fact, it is the quickest drying route in the Wine Spires.
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