The Southern Man, South Early Winters Spire IV 5.12a or 5.10a 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: 1,000'
OverviewThis is one of the best 5.12s at Washington Pass. Steep, straightforward climbing, clean fall potential, and ample protection make this a great option for those looking to break into the 5.12 grade. It is also a good option for 5.10 climbers looking to gain some aid climbing and big wall experience. The Southern Man is consistently steep and gets steeper on the second half, giving it an ominous big wall feel.
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Route HistoryThe Southern Man was first climbed in August of 2008 by Mark Allen, Leighan Falley, and Joel Kauffman. The route had long intrigued Allen, particularly the continuous dihedral running nearly to the top of the wall. The lower section of this dihedral was part of the obscure 1965 Anderson-Myher-Richardson-Young route, which climbs to the left of the lower East Buttress and traverses much of the south face toward the southeast face of the spire. This 1965 route intersects the 1968 Beckey-Leen Direct East Buttress route on South Early Winters Spire atop Pitch 4 on the large ledge. The 1965 party bivied on this ledge, climbed up a pitch on what is now Southern Man and retreated from this steep system via a two-pitch pendulum, then finished on easier ground to the left.
On August 24th Allen, Falley, and Kauffman climbed the Direct East Buttress until the large ledge below the first bolt ladder a 500-foot dihedral to the right of the 1968 Beckey-Leen Direct East Buttress route on South Early Winters Spire. Kauffman led Pitch 5 and began finding old iron near an alcove. The group hypothesized that these must have been left by the 1965 party before they pendulumed to the left. The climbing was stellar and the three climbers hung like bats in a crack belay under the alcove roof. Kauffman continued his block head-on with steep aid climbing up a dirty crack. After 100 feet, Kauffman set a belay and Allen took over. He stretched the rope out a full 60m where now most climbers break it up into two pitches. Allen’s lead was even dirtier than the last, but the steep dihedral yielded straightforward and solid aiding. Allen fixed the line and watched the day’s light fade to gray as the others jugged. After 50 feet of climbing to the crest, they topped out in the dark.
Allen reported that the southeast face felt like a mini big wall: steep, exposed, and requiring tricks. They named their route the Southern Man because of the aspect of the route and after the Neil Young song, Southern Man, from his album, After the Gold Rush.
First free climbed in September 2009 by Bryan Burdo and Bobby Mathews. Burdo had looked at the line while cleaning and bolting The Hitchhiker in 2006 and 2007 but thought it looked like extremely dirty 5.12 climbing with lots of loose looking blocks. After Allen, Kauffman, and Falley had climbed the route, Burdo began to wonder more about it. Allen sent Burdo pictures and a topo and gave him a bunch of beta.
Burdo teamed up with Bobby Mathews and together they battled through the dirt to make the first free ascent. Bobby Mathews even onsited the route. They decided to break up the second headwall pitch, which is how most parties typically do. “Most people just don’t bring enough gear to adequately protect the 200 feet pitch.” They both thought that the rock and the quality of climbing was superb but the route was super dirty. Burdo went back on his own ... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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