Paisano Pinnacle – West Ridge (III 5.9)

Paisano Pinnacle climbed via the West Ridge with John on July 23rd, 2016.

We camped out at the pull out for the approach to the Wine Spires, parking our two vehicles as a “V” with the tent in the middle to shield us from passing headlights on Highway 20.  I slept great, but John had the opposite experience… sorry John! Cutthroat Creek road would have been a better option for dirtbag camping near our approach.

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The spartan campsite at mile marker 166.  Photo: Nick Sweeney
Neither of us were feeling 100% as a result of our massive effort in the Enchantments the previous weekend, so our proposed link-up of the West Ridge of Paisano Pinnacle and the North Face of Burgundy Spire seemed like a good option.  If completed, this would make for a grade IV 5.9 day out, but if we topped out Paisano too late in the day we could easily bail.  Besides, the West Ridge of Paisano is known to be a great climb in its own right:  is stacked with quality pitches on good rock.

John and I made quick work of the approach until we botched the final section – finding the start of the route was not hard, but finding the correct path to it was! All told, it took 3.5 hours for us to reach the base of the route from the car.  A couple of guys from Seattle had camped at the bench camp at 6500 feet – a wise strategy.  The bench camp is really plush in early-mid season when the nearby stream has not dried up! I would recommend using it if you are climbing the Wine Spires or Silver Star.

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John starting our second pitch (P3 according to the guidebook).  Photo: Nick Sweeney
They started the route just ahead of us and were struggling a bit with the wet rock on the first pitch.  I linked the first two pitches together and brought John up to my comfortable stance at the beginning of the third pitch as shown in the Supertopo guidebook.  The Seattle dudes started the next pitch but promised to let us pass before they started the crux pitch 4 – thanks guys!  They even let us use their anchor – classy dudes.  While waiting for them to finish the pitch, I made small talk with Stef and Jeff, an awesome couple who came up the route behind us.  Total crushers! The Seattle guys allowed Stef and Jeff to pass as well.

John lead the crux pitch, which was can only be described as awesome. This would be a CLASSIC pitch at the local crag – so good!  The crux moves were in a strenuous flaring chimney protected by small cams.  Fun climbing, but I was happy that John took the lead – I would have been right at my limit the whole time.

A couple more good pitches brought us to the final slab section that is described as “5.8 face, mental crux, spooky” in the guidebook.  Don’t bother bringing much gear with you on this pitch – just a set of wires and your smallest cams.  I started leading with a rattling nut placed a few feet from the belay, but was getting spooked looking at the runout and blank face ahead.  Jeff asked me if he could come take a look, so I traversed back to the belay.  Jeff clipped the nut I placed, and was able to place a great .2 X4 cam a few feet higher, which is the key placement on this pitch.  He offered to leave the cam behind for me to clip on my lead, which I gladly accepted – John and I didn’t have anything that small.  Once Stef followed the pitch, I began my lead and gladly clipped the cam they had left – very comforting! From there, I made a handful of spooky 5.8 slab moves until I finally reached a jug.  From here, I was home free – there was still no gear but I knew that I would not fall off.

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The last good stance before committing to the slab on the final pitch.  Photo: John Guy
Soon John and I were on the summit and agreed that it was too late in the day to start up Burgundy Spire.  All that was left was a short downclimb, a few rappels, a search for our packs and yet another miserable slog down to the car and the day was in the bag.

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Gear Notes:

We brought a set of wires, Totem Basic Cams green and yellow(roughly equivalent to .3 and .4 X4 cams), doubles of C4 .5-2 and a single #4.  We brought two 60m twin ropes but this climb would be done better with a 60m single – the rappels are set up for 30m each.  I would strongly recommend that you bring a .2 X4 or equivalent for the last pitch (I ordered a blue Totem Basic as soon as I got home).  I think that you could get away without the #4, but it came in handy on a couple of pitches – I would bring it if I did this route again.

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