American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, North Howser Tower, Southwest Buttress, "Young Men on Fire," Bugaboos

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

North Howser Tower, Southwest Buttress, “Young Men on Fire,” Bugaboos. After a grueling, multi-day 25-kilometer approach to the base of the 3000-foot-high west face of the North Howser Tower, we looked up the massive face, a classic big wall of similar steepness to the Nose on El Capitan, though in reverse. The first half was vertical or overhanging and the top angled back until it finally hit the summit ridge. I spied our line, well to the right of previous routes on the right edge of the west face. Right up the center of the buttress lay an outrageous dihedral that seemed to go on for miles to what we nicknamed the “Sundial Tower,” a semi-circular formation of cleaved granite. Above this was a huge roof of large hanging blocks. Then, the line eased a little as it continued on to the summit ridge. August 28 was the first full day for Canadian Warren Hollinger and me on the wall and we managed six pitches of hard direct aid. The technical crux was two very thin pitches right in the middle of the dihedral, taking 0- and 00-TCUs and small knifeblades on body weight only. It snowed on the 29th but on the 30th we were back up the ropes and forged ahead. The granite was generally good, but there was a particularly loose section of the Sundial, where I had to equalize ten pieces all to one point to set up a safe haul point. Hollinger finished the day with a brilliant lead by torch-light through the huge jammed blocks at the top of the Sundial Tower. On August 31 we each led three pitches at a time up the really fine arête. On September 1, we had a bleak Patagonia-type day. By midday we had reached the summit ridge. At past seven P.M., we rushed to the top and bivouacked a short distance below. Bang! We were in the middle of a lightning storm. Lightning was flying in all directions. Bangggg! We both received a direct hit and our clothes and bodies were burnt. Unconscious, Hollinger couldn’t move at all and had suffered a very bad second-degree burn to a third of his back. I had severe burns on my left buttock and on my right thigh. I had no feeling in my right forefinger. After 30 minutes, I managed to get Hollinger to his feet. Other storms swept in. At 6:30 A.M., we packed the sacks and checked the rope. The only complete rope left had three large burns, revealing the core. We repaired them with duct tape and started down the east face. A few hours later, we were on the Vowell Glacier. At the Kain Hut, a girl who was helping us had a book. I glanced at the title: Young Men on Fire.

Jerry Gore, Alpine Climbing Group

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