Terrace Tower, The White Tower first free ascent, and Light in August. Yan Mongrain and I arrived in the Cirque of the Unclimbables on July 28. On August 10 we brought our gear to Terrace Tower, a squat, flat-topped spire near Bustle Tower, to just “have a look.” We were attracted to The White Tower on Terrace Tower, first climbed by Paul Friberg and Kurt Blair in 1997 and rated III 5.11 Al. The route ascends the left side of a prominent white pillar, with the steepness of the wall giving it a Rostrum-like feel. After our mandatory groveling through two loose, grassy pitches, Yan led the first of the steep, enjoyable pitches, a perfect crack in a left-facing corner. I then set off on what we thought was the Al section, an imposing dark, wet-looking overhang. It was dry enough to free, although wecould easily picture the roof being very wet and therefore unfreeable. Sustained, slightly loose 5.9 climbing brought us to the summit. We rated the route III 5.11, and thought that the A1 roof was not much harder than the rest of the route. After asking around camp and reading route information, we determined that the route had not been freed prior to our ascent.
While on The White Tower we spied a possible line to the right of the prominent pillar. We fixed ropes on the first two pitches, pitches shared with The White Tower. The third pitch proved to be the crux, and on our first attempt I fell onto a poorly placed .75 Camalot. I then aided to a good anchor, and we cleaned and worked the section on toprope. Dirt in the cracks and the subtlety of the moves required us to resort to this maneuver. An onsight ascent would certainly be a feather in one’s cap! After pulling the rope, Yan led the pitch. Above this pitch the crack widened to an awkward, overhanging chimney, which finally led to a belay on a huge wedged block.
We had been climbing on the right side of the prominent white pillar. Above the block we could stay on the right side of the pillar and surely top out without much additional difficulty (the right side showed evidence of a previous, probably aid, ascent), or we could veer left up a steeper crack system splitting the pillar itself. We headed left, up very steep hand and finger cracks, passing three roofs along the way, giving ourselves three added pitches of sustained 5.11. The last pitch looked relatively easy, and we wearily congratulated each other on our new route, thinking the ascent was in the bag. The last move before the summit, however, presented a serious problem: a sloping, slightly overhanging mantle onto a grassy ledge. After much difficulty and many expletives, the move was accomplished by a dynamic lunge into a moss-filled crack, fingers buried in mud and moss, and the adept use of a knee. Yan and I named our route Light in August (8 pitches, IV 5.12-).