American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North Howser Tower, Armageddon

North America, Canada, Bugaboos

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: 1999
  • Publication Year: 2000

“That shifty, nibbling sonova…!” The sun wakes us instead of the watch we had set for our alpine start. A nearby pika must have had a midnight snack of my salty watch wristband. A full-moon approach brought us here to Applebee Campground in the heart of the Bugaboos, the Hounds Tooth erupting from the glacier, purple shadows dancing.

The morning opens clear, August 25. Snowpatch Spire lights up with alpenglow, its golden snow-cup precariously perched. We decide the pika was right and continue our leisurely morning. Coffee jump starts and we make our way across the glaciers, over crevasses, through notches and up and down drainages. The toe of the mammoth tower finally comes into view in early afternoon: the west face of the North Howser Tower. We climb 1,000 feet of granite to a fine bivy perch. Then night moves in, windless. An endless horizon of purple peaks poke into the pink, gliding clouds. Mike and I wake with staring smiles. The headwall looms above. Our path continues up a soaring right-facing dihedral with a few roofs splitting it, the first dihedral to the right of the All Along the Watchtower comer. The yet-unascended terrain bounces back thoughts of impossibility. The idea of climbing it is hellishly evocative, the other options creating only a pale when compared to the Armageddon (our name for the route). We figured we packed just enough in our one backpack to keep us alive through the worst, through an Armageddon event.

We look up. Finger locks—it’s gotta be, all the way, until that roof anyhow. And, oh yeah, that shellfish, scalloppini-looking pitch. Oh, and, can you see… Ahhh! Let’s go, whose lead?

It’s going. It’s going. Fingies, flares, arm bars, your lead, my lead.… Arghh! A pecker and a blade; damn, we have to aid climb ten feet of the thousands that we’ve freed. No problem though. Our goal is to go up, so we do.

The sun’s angle lowers with the route’s. Mike’s final block of pitches leads us to a devilish horn of rock protruding from the wall. It’s dark. The moon is silenced by the advancing army of clouds. As the wind picks up, the bivy sacks and sardines come out, no sleeping bags of course (just enough to survive Armageddon, remember). Lashed to the horn, we sit inside our sacs.

“Sacreman!” we yell, trying to communicate over the wind’s howl. French-Canadian blasphemy comes in handy when trying to laugh through a sleepless night. Armageddon has come.

Morning arrives all too slowly. Hail is now surfing the currents of wind. The bivy sacks are hard to leave, but sitting on our numb butts doesn’t entice either. We go! Snow falls; fingers numb. We continue up dihedrals, around corners and over some ice. A bit of gendarme navigation and some ridge-work finally takes us to the summit. It clears, and we get the views. Good God! Armageddon (VI 5.11+ A2) has ended. The feeling that comes to mind is flight. Great! Now we have to get off this thing.

Jonathon Copp, unaffiliated

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.