The Hitchhiker, South Early Winters Spire IV 5.11b or 5.10d C1
Avg time to climb route: 5-9 hours
Approach time: 1.5-2.5 hours
Descent time: 1.5-2.5 hours
Number of pitches: 9
Height of route: 900'
OverviewThe Hitchhiker is a modern classic using a mix of bolts and traditional protection. The result is possibly the best route for its grade, not only at Washington Pass but in the entire state. With spectacular climbing on flawless rock, The Hitchhiker is well-protected, clean, and has the awesome and slightly ominous feel of a big wall. The route is consistently difficult with almost every pitch being rated 5.10 or 5.11, and it’s a great route for 5.10+ climbers looking to break into the 5.11 realm.
The south face of South Early Winters Spire is one of the warmest walls in the Washington Pass region, meaning it dries early in the season and stays warm late into the fall. The route is easier and less sustained than The Passenger, and the climbing style is different as well. The Passenger has lots of steep crack climbing with a powerful crux and only small, short sections of face climbing with very few lead bolts. The Hitchhiker is mostly steep, technical face climbing with lots of lead bolts and only occasional sections of crack climbing. Regardless, both routes are spectacular and are worth doing again and again.
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Route HistoryThe Hitchhiker was first climbed by Bryan Burdo and Scott Johnston in 2007. Burdo, with hundreds of first ascents to his credit, said he had his eye on the rock 250 feet to the right of his classic Washington test piece, The Passenger, for several years. However it wasn’t until Burdo and Johnston where going to climb the Direct East Buttress on South Early Winters Spire in the summer of 2006 that they found themselves looking over at the features to the west. The pair abandoned their plans to climb the DEB and made their climbing day a reconnaissance trip on the lower part of what would be The Hitchhiker. Burdo and Johnston knew they had found something good and felt they had to keep it under their hats and not let many people know about it. The pair started ground up onsite. The line originally started a ways to the right, but after further reconnaissance the route moved to where it is today. They proudly placed bolts on lead for the first two thirds, leading everything onsite and ground up. The first half of the route was pretty clean and didn’t need extensive scrubbing. The final three pitches were steeper and dirtier and required much more cleaning, so they rappelled in to scrub and brush them and place bolts while on rappel.
The whole process was spread out over the course of several days during the summer and took about a week’s worth of time. The route was put up in a hybrid of top down and ground up styles, similar though in opposite order to The Hitchhiker’s neighbor, The Passenger. The Passenger was pre-inspected on the lower half and onsited on the upper half, while the ascent of The Hitchhiker was done the other way around.
Burdo and Johnston named their route The Hitchhiker partly because you can see the highway and the hairpin turn for most of the route, and also because of its proximity to the car-riding theme-named The Passenger, which is also named for the view of the highway. In addition, Burdo and Johnston saw this route as hitching features together between the Passenger and The Inferno route.
StrategyAlmost every pitch is 5.10 or 5.11, which keeps the crowds away. However, this is now a classic, and it is not uncommon to share the route with another party on a busy weekend. While you can pull through all the 5.11 cruxes on gear, you should be a so... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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