American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, Nooksack Tower, Winter Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Nooksack Tower, Winter Ascent. Well, “the Devil had fallen,” but not the Demon. Nooksack Tower awaited a winter ascent. Dan Cauthorn and Bob Crawford had attempted it the previous winter. Seven stormy days inside their tent was the reward. However, their ordeal was not over when they got down. A rather large bill awaited them for services rendered, or not rendered. It depends on your point of view. Personally, we feel that winter climbing in the Cascades is justified, and we resent persons in the Bellingham Mountain Rescue Unit who advised the sherrif's department that it is not. In early February 1983 Kit Lewis, Tim Wilson and we two set out to give it a try. The approach went well, and in two days we reached 6500 feet across from the Tower. From our camp, Nooksack Tower plastered in winter snow looked very impressive indeed. What was it that Fred Beckey said? “Mammoth rock tower, one of the most difficult summits.” We retired to the tent to talk about which route to try, deciding on the easiest one possible, up the gully. At five A.M. we set off across the glacier with the weather looking good for at least one more day. We reached the base of the tower shortly after daybreak. The gully was straightforward and by eleven A.M. we were standing in the sun eating lunch at the base of the tower’s east ridge. Two pitches of steep rock climbing (difficult to protect) were the crux of the climb. Above, another snow gully led to the summit with one final rock pitch. On top, in the sun once again, there was just enough room for the four of us. A spectacular place to spend the night, complete with views of the northern lights. In the morning we watched little wisps of clouds forming around the higher peaks. The high-pressure system was breaking down, but it had lasted long enough to give us some memorable experiences.

Greg Collum and Jim Nelson

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