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North America, Canada, British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos, Various Free Ascents

Various free ascents. In July and August Nick Martino, Cedar Wright, and I freed two unrepeated aid lines on the Minaret of South Howser. On both the Italian Pillar (V 11+) and the Southwest Pillar (V 12- R/X) we created new pitches that wander from the original aid lines. Climbing in a team of three was interesting, with the leader clipping two 7.5mm ropes into each piece, and the seconds gingerly free-climbing, each on his own small line. Making first free ascents on such an inspiring, clean-cut, Half Dome-sized feature with two great friends was top-notch excitement. We climbed both lines “team free” (everyone free-climbing everything, no jugs), no falls, in 14 and 16 hours respectively, camp-to-camp.

We’d attempted the Southwest Pillar the year before, finding the first two pitches to be long, butt-cheek-clenching experiences. The route looks like a continuous 2,000' hand crack from camp, but it was a continuously hideous, hard-to-protect, flaring butt crack. It took us two years and some fixed copperheads to overcome.

The Italian Pillar, with wild but well-protected roof pulling, a dramatic “golden groove” crux last pitch (this variation to the original route goes up the middle of multiple parallel, arching cracks, with stemming and jamming between grooves), and a stone’s throw from a five-star base camp, could become one of the more sought-after climbs in the Bugaboos. On the initial attempt by Cedar and I, we continued on through torrential rain and fog, fighting “team free” to the last pitch, before seeing the eyes of god and making a wrong turn. With dry rock and three people, we triple simul-climbed) for 500' and found the true finish. On both ascents we continued past the summit of the Minaret and along the 900' summit ridge (steps to 5.10) to the summit of the South Howser Tower itself.

Nick and Cedar also made the first free ascent of Lost Feather Pinnacle, which went in a day at 5.10 and involved a 5.9 down jump that was “definitely X” for the follower.

Renan Ozturk, AAC