American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Bugaboos, South Tower of Howser Spire, East Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

South Tower of Howser Spire, East Face. Of all Bugaboo peaks, the fabulous South Tower had been woefully neglected by climbers and had not been climbed in twenty years. It was the only Bugaboo peak with but one route. To Yvon Chouinard and me, tented at Pigeon Col, a line up the sheer east face was a challenge too apparent to overlook. A direct route up this face had its problems—an overhanging bergschrund, steep ice, and a 900-foot slabby, steep rock wall with narrow clefts and ice patches. It is one of the most glamorous walls in the range and had apparently been considered as a potential route by expeditions before the peak was first climbed in 1941. August 10 dawned warm and clear, but we had overslept. Accordingly we marched up the short glacier slope and were content to cross the schrund, cut steps up an ice slope and climb a long vertical crack to the left side of a flake that divides the hanging ice slope above the schrund. I used 3 pitons for aid and several more for protection; we then left a rope hanging for the next day. A scattering of ice and rock fragments whistled overhead from far up the face, a warning that we also had rockfall danger to contend with. In the morning we climbed the rope; then Chouinard led a 150-foot traverse across shattered rock and ended by rappelling from a chockstone onto the steep hanging ice wall on the right. We were now about 150 feet directly above the worst part of the schrund, with no direct retreat possible. In two leads of step cutting and kicking, we traversed 55° ice to a point where a reasonable exit upward appeared. At first the rock was loose, but when a trough narrowed to a jam-crack, the Bugaboo granite was at its best. A vertical dièdre needed two pitons for stirrups; otherwise the lower half of the face was extremely enjoyable, though strenuous, fifth class. The route followed a cleft in the face. Just before it divided we had to use direct aid up a short wall to avoid an ice patch. It was a relief to get above this spot, for the melting ice had caused rockfall. When we had mastered another difficult section, there was a vertical 125-foot wall that fortunately had good layback holds and piton cracks. The crux move was a severe arm workout on an overhanging flake that had skylight on its inside. We then climbed a slab wall right, a gully left, and on the last lead a purely enjoyable slab-ramp took me to the summit blocks. The climb had taken about six hours from camp. After a long lunch, we descended the normal route by rappels.

Fred Beckey

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