American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos, Wide Awake Tower, Wild Fire

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Wide Awake Tower, Wild Fire. Being a Canadian Rockies climber bred on shattered limestone and blocky quartzite, I spent the spring and summer road-tripping, determined to learn how to climb cracks. After a couple of months of Indian Creek hand jams and Squamish finger locks, Matt Maddaloni and I hooked up for a week of Bugaboo granite. With 17 trips to this magical playground under my belt, I have had the opportunity to scope some stunning unclimbed gems. As a recent father, I figured that traveling halfway around the world to alpine climb didn’t make sense when we have stuff as good as Pakistan or Patagonia right in our backyard. This was Matt’s first excursion to the Bugs, and he figured he shouldn’t do a new route until he had climbed a classic. So, for his first Bugaboo experience, within an hour of arriving at base camp below the west face of the Howsers, he ran off and soloed the Beckey-Chouinard Route (V 5.10) on South Howser Tower, in less than four hours roundtrip .

With that out of the way, we could focus on the unclimbed northwest face of Wide Awake Tower in the Pigeon Feather group. This 1,200' Rostrum-like pillar of splintered granite hadbeen looked at, talked about, but not attempted, due to its remoteness and apparent difficulty. In 1997 Brian Webster and I had attempted the golden southwest face but were thwarted after only two pitches by weather. In 1999 Californians Todd Offenbacher and Nils Davis completed this same line, naming it Wide Awake. However, the intimidating northwest face remained unchallenged.

Over six days Matt and I aided, cleaned, scrubbed, and fixed ropes, then freed the pitches on lead, until we were close enough to blast for the top. This “aid-point” style produced a high-quality 11 -pitch free route, with six pitches of overhanging 5.11 crack climbing. Highlights include Matt’s send of two 5.11+ pitches: Pitch 1, power underclinging protected by a mix of bolts and fixed pitons; and pitch 3, an overhanging, enduro, thin-hands-to-fist crack. We named the route Wild Fire (V 5.11d) because of numerous out-of-control forest fires that blazed in the valleys below.

Sean Isaac, Canada

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