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North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Angel Wings, South Arête, Original Route

Angel Wings, South Arête, Original Route. In February 2002 Jason Magness and I made what we believe was the first winter ascent of the South Arête of Angel Wings, in Sequoia National Park. After an 18-mile snowshoe approach, we pulled off our plastic boots, put on the rock shoes, and started climbing 5.10 off the snow. The route is on clean, golden Yosemite-like granite and follows a nearly continuous crack system, all the way up to the 5.11+ Black Roof.

We led in blocks, French freeing when necessary for speed, and my leads got us to the Black Roof. Jason Magness then took over and with a few pulls got through the roof and traversed straight right to a chimney. The chimney, presumably dry in summer, was a raging creek. On sparse and marginal pro, Jason ascended the chimney with his back pressed against the wall, water cascading over his back. When I reached his belay, Jason poured so much water from our only chalk bag I expected to see fish.

A wet sitting bivy ensued, and by the next morning we were eager to reach dry ground. We decided the Rowell-Jones 1971 line (V 5.11+) would offer the quickest way to the summit plateau. Full of ice, flowing water, and squeeze chimneys, it was the wrong choice. Without an axe or crampons I tried to chimney above the ice in plastic boots, eventually wriggling out of the chimneys, after two pitches, into a lower-angle gully filled with snow. The ice I knocked down shredded the ropes and nearly took out Jason. Finally we emerged from the gully and after a rappel and another gully attained the summit plateau.

Craig Clarence, AAC