We attempted (and had to back off due to rain) Yellow Jacket Tower near Leavenworth on Sunday. The trailhead is on Icicle Creek Road a few miles outside Leavenworth. The approach is relatively short but quite steep and once you move close to the route, rockfall becomes a real issue. The views are spectacular – we even had a rainbow because of the mist – so it was well worth the effort. The summit just facilitates the trip, and I really didn’t care much that we couldn’t climb. Great group, great scenery and really good exercise going up and down that approach path! Photos by Tom McPharlin.
What a beautiful, evocative name for a peak! The South Early Winter Spire is accessible out of the Blue Lake Trailhead, 54 miles outside Marblemount. I left Seattle at about 7:30 PM, took a 14 mile unintended detour on a deserted road outside Derrington and hit Marblemount at about 10:30 PM. The next 54 miles I didn’t see a single other car – just the stars above and the brooding blackness of the peaks on either side of Route 20. I pulled up to the empty trailhead parking lot at about 11:30, curled up in the backseat and just slept until 6 AM. We got very lucky with the weather – absolutely beautiful fall sunshine!
The approach is a bit steep and takes about 1 hour. There’s one tricky move on the very first pitch of the South Arete route, but other than that it seems to be strictly like 5.5 or so. There’s a really cool chimney move up a thin gully – inside is really fun, like being in the Hall of the Mountain King! We simul-climbed up to the Whale Back, which is an easy Class 4 traverse (we did it with a fixed rope). The summit is just one big boulder on top of a bunch of other big boulders, but affords spectacular views of the surrounding range.
Downclimbing got a bit hairy at times because I was carrying a huge pack. Next time I think I’ll use some of the many bolted rappel anchors.