MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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July 15, 2019

East Face of Lexington Tower

The East Face of Lexington tower is a hidden gem, overshadowed by the Southwest Rib on Early Winter Spire and Liberty Crack, the prominent line up the massive east face of the Liberty Bell.

Then there is the elephant in the room: Chimney and off-width. Just reading these descriptors in the guidebook often make us breakout in a cold sweat and turn the page scanning for phrases such as “splitter hand jams” or “good edging”.  However, if you want to be a well-rounded climber you can’t escape wide climbing forever, and the sooner you embrace it the sooner you can do classic routes (think Steck-Salathe in Yosemite and Epinephrine in Red Rock). The East Face of Lexington is a great place to start; with just a bit of knowledge of wide climbing technique, you will be chicken winging your way to glory in no time (the chicken wing requires you to bend your arm towards your chest like a chicken wing which you stick into the crack.)

So when a client of mine told me he wanted to climb Lexington and I asked, “You realize Chimney and off-width are part of this, right?” to which he replied “Yeah that's why I choose this route”. I knew we were going to have a good climb.

There is just a short section of snow climbing to get to the base, as is the case with many cascades climbs. After the snow there is a big ledge to transition to rock climbing. The first pitch is relatively easy, with good edges, but still requires good balance. Following this there is an excellent crack system to follow with many sections of high quality 5.8 crack climbing for several pitches.

This crack system brings you up to a somewhat intimidating roof with a bombay (flaring) chimney running through it - luckily this is not where the route goes. There is an awesome crack running out right that you foot traverse over, leading to a short layback up to yet another hand crack. With 500 feet of the route below you, the exposure is wild! If this pitch was at a crag it would a five-star route! 

The next pitch is the first off-width pitch.  Going with your left side in, a combination of chicken winging and chimney technique will get you up. A highlight of this route is the small piece of 2x4 lumber wedged sideways into the crack and has a sling attached to it.  You can clip-in here for protection on the way up (the block is surprisingly sturdy).

One more pitch of off-width and a pitch of 5.6 get you to the top of the route. While this route doesn’t top out at the highest point of Lexington Tower, the summit was never the point and the views are excellent. There is a walk off descent to the west, bringing you to the Blue Lake trailhead. 

So if the thought of a little bit of wide climbing makes you break out in a cold sweat, or if a little bit of scraping and groveling sounds invigorating, or if you just want to get off the beaten track a little bit, let’s go get on this climb!