Middle Bell Tower, South Face. On September 1 Rich Ream and I approached the base of the Middle Tower after a two-hour hike up Bell’s Canyon. Two weeks earlier, Rick Reese and Rich had climbed the large dihedral on the right side of the face to a point about halfway to the summit but retreated because of darkness. Leaving that route for Rich and Rick to finish, Rich and I decided to try the large south face exposure to the left of the dihedral. The first pitch ascended the wall to the right of a large cleft which dominates the lower wall. The lower portion had one section of hard direct aid, while higher, the free climbing was wonderful. A low-angle ramp was climbed to the left to make a feasible entry to the face above. The next pitch was moderate climbing on “chicken heads,” followed by some tricky direct aid leading to an exciting traverse under an overhang. From this point a crack above looked reasonable but it died out in 25 feet. The leader had to descend some 15 feet to a traverse involving “chicken heads” and long stretches, which led to another crack, which was climbed by a few direct-aid pitons and some hard free climbing to a hanging belay. This crack ended; indeed the worst difficulty was finding a route through the abruptly ending crack systems. To reenter the crack 30 feet to the left, a bolt was placed 15 feet above the hanging belay for a pendulum to it. This crack was then climbed on five aid pitons until it too died. The second man then swung off the face and climbed high enough to allow the other also to make a swinging exit. Since it was now almost dark, in lieu of a bivouac we descended to the canyon for the night. Early the next morning we reentered the face to our previous high point. A large groove of deteriorating rock was climbed for 200 feet to the summit ridge. Descent was made via the couloir to the east. Although the potential climbs in the canyon are short, from 400–700 feet, they offer difficult challenges on rock reminding one of Tahquitz Rock or Yosemite. 45 pitons and 3 bolts. NCCS III-8-A3.
Ted Wilson, Alpenbock Climbing Club