North America, Canada, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos, South Howser Tower, Catalonian Route, First Free Ascent

Publication Year: 2004.

South Howser Tower, Catalonian Route, first free ascent. There we were, back in the Bugaboos, in August, on another blue-sky day. Beginning in the dark, we were excited. Not sure what we were up against or where the Catalonian Route (VI 5.10 A2) went, we knew we were in for an adventure. Having found the start the previous day, Dave Edgar headed up the polished slab with headlamp bobbing. A few moderate pitches to cut the chill, and we hung a left as the wall steepened. A clean corner with a perfect finger crack dissolved into tiered overlaps. Aid or free? Some wandering about provided the answer. Up we went and quickly found the Catalonian’s bivy with a fixed pin, so we were on route after all.

Again it was Dave’s turn to take on the evil (we were leading in blocks, with the second jugging), so into the wet chimney he went, loose flakes and all. He styled it with class, and our pace kept up.

Overhanging moves, a shift change, and a couple of thin pitches put us in an open area headed for the summit ridge. A storm that had been beckoning finally hit, and we picked up the pace. Off route with no pro, I downclimbed and settled on the correct option. By passing a small roof on the right, we had gotten all the aid sections to go onsight at 5.11. Cruising past, Dave took the lead, and we simulclimbed to join the Beckey- Chouinard, reach the top, and descend. A quick dash down the rappels, blowing snow, a stuck rope that came free at the last second, and we were on the glacier, 17 hours or so roundtrip from the base. The storm dissipated. We romped down the packed trail and glissaded below the col, making quick time back to camp for dinner and laughs. We remembered what climbing was all about that day—lots of fun with a close friend, some uncertainty, and the persistence to figure out the answers.

Chris Geisler, wandering in Canada