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[TR] North Howser Tower - All Along the Watchtower 08/06/2019


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Trip: North Howser Tower - All Along the Watchtower

Trip Date: 08/06/2019

Trip Report:

Climb Date: August 4-6, 2019.  Summit August 6, 2019

Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright

Climb: All Along the Watchtower (Grade VI, 3000ft, 32 pitches, 5.10/C2- or 5.12)

Style: Follower jugged every pitch in the Dihedral with micro traxions and runners.  Heavy French/Aid utilized by the leader in the Dihedral.  Two packs brought.  Leader climbed with light pack, except in the Dihedral (where follower jugged with one pack on, trailing the other).  Two bivouacs (one at base of Dihedral and one on the Summit ridge). 

With so little beta out there on the route, we found the route finding tricky.  This post is intended to be a beta sheet to help with route finding.  All Pitch numbers are per Jenny Abegg's topo which was very useful (https://jennyabegg.com/climbing/trip-reportsbeta/all-along-the-watchtower-north-howser-tower/).  Pitches 2 and 3 were confusing and we split each of these into two pitches.  If you stay on route and watch rope drag, you can avoid splitting these up.  They are both full-length pitches.  Pitch 3 is so wander-y that rope-drag might be unavoidable - recommend splitting this into two pitches.  Pitch 16 (5.12 crux roof) in the Dihedral was only pitch where we thought it was mandatory to disobey Jenny and split into two pitches.


Jenny's topo was pretty spot on.  Pitches 8-11 on Jenny's topo are the dyke variation that Westman/Haley did (on accident) which ascends directly up from the bivy ledge.  Jenny's topo does not show the original route option, which splits off 30m below the bivy ledge.  If you wanted to get snow at the bivy ledge and continue on to the original route, you have to rappel or down climb 30m 5.7 to meet back up with the original route.  The party behind us did the dyke route and we did the original route.  After talking to the party who did the dyke route, it's very safe to say that the dyke is better way to go.  The Mountaineer's guidebook (the green book) topo shows both the original route and also the dyke route options, but the High Col topo shows only the original route.  The High Col topo is not accurate at all, so be careful.  Keep a copy of Jenny's and the Mountaineer's topo on you.  

Bivy sites:

-We didn't see any good bivy sites until atop Pitch 7 (flat, walled, snow in early season).  Some descriptions said there was one atop Pitch 3, but it's more of a sitting bivy.

-Another good bivy site is out-of-the-way, about 20m left of the base of the Dihedral (flat, walled, no snow).  Some descriptions said this was 4-person, but it fit the two of us pretty snug.  To get from here back to the base of the dihedral, you have to down-climb 10m (5.7) then ascend 10m (5.7) to the base of the Dihedral.

-Some bivy options along the ridge (four of us stayed at one, very snugly, about halfway on the summit ridge above the seventh rifle gully).  

-A flat, walled bivy spot on the summit (lots of snow throughout the season).  When we saw it, it had thick snow/ice on it, so you'd be sleeping on top of snow.


Photo Credit above: Tim Banfield


Descending down to East Creek from the Pigeon-Howser Col.


Left to Right: North, Central, South Howser Towers, Minaret.  Priti is just below the Beckey-Chouinard Route


From East Creek descend until you can scramble up to the ridge.  Stay low on ledges if you want to cross over into the gully ("B" in picture, not recommended, loose scree and hard ice).  Recommend staying on the ridge (climber's right side, "A" in picture) as if approaching for Beckey-Chouinard on South Howser Tower.  From the base of Beckey-Chouinard, it is easy to scramble down to the snow to traverse high over to the North Howser Bivy Rock.  This is a big, obvious boulder just at the next ridgeline.  There is a luxurious, sheltered, covered bivy cave here (recommended instead of East Creek if you only have bivy gear and you want to get an early start for the route in a push).  Four rappels  (two hangers, chains, rap rings) take you to the snow below.  The first rappel is heavily cairned and easy to find (even in the dark), requiring a bit of down-scrambling to get to the lip of the ridge.  The rappel line is straight down.  Each rappel is easy to find and on obvious ledges.  You'll want crampons and ice axe for the snow below, on the way to the base of Watchtower.  We used a Beal Escaper for the rappels which worked like a charm... we did not bring a pull cord on this trip.  Note: rappels shown in picture above are approximate (just use cairns to find the first one, then take the plumb line).  The picture is not intended to help you find the rappels.


The first rappel.


Crossing the moat.  Another party of rappelers above.


The approach snow after the approach rappels.  You're committed now!


Looking up North Howser Tower.  Approach at the base all the way left to big ledges just before the large, obvious gully.  Take ledges all the way left to dihedrals.










Pitch 4 (above), 5.10, full 60m: a striking dihedral (protect on the face on the right) which starts as an easy stem/chimney and ends in an overhanging, difficult off width.




Photo credit: Dane Steadman





















Bivy site along ridge.





Looking down the ridge from the summit.  Photo credit: Dane Steadman


"Hand crack on the right side of crest".  Party on the summit.




Photo credit: Dane Steadman






Simul Rappelling over the bergshrund.  Photo credit: Dane Steadman


Joining up with the Beckey-Chouinard steps.  Photo credit: Dane Steadman

Gear Notes:
Double Rack to #3. Single #4. Triples in finger sizes for dihedral. Offset nuts, brassies. Did not bring offset cams (did not think they were necessary).  No aid gear.  1 sleeping bag to share.  1 bivy sac to share.  1 Jetboil.  Beal Escaper for rappels.  We did not bring a pull cord.  Recommend a pull cord to 1:1 haul packs in the Dihedral.

Approach Notes:
Started from Kain Hut, ended at car.


Edited by JeffreyW
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Thanks to Jenny Abegg and Sarah Hart for the amazing beta sheet! Thanks to Mark Westman for great beta! Thanks to Tim Banfield for the amazing aerial shots of the Howser towers. It was a pleasure to get to climb such an incredible route, with great company (Dane, Allie who we met on route and my great partner Jeff).

I'm thankful for the wonderful weather, and an understanding team at work. :)

Edited by Priti
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Ward Robinson and Jim Walseth did the first ascent of this route.


“On the third day cigarettes and coffee were all we had left. On the summit ridge we found snow patches and we brewed up a couple of times to keep ourselves going. During one such break we named the route All Along the Watchtower. For the record, it's the Jimi Hendrix version” - Jim 


Kennan Harvey did the first free ascent of the route. 

“Not only was the traverse virtually featureless, it was wet. Determined to climb it free, Harvey started by aiding across the sweeping arch, using his tee shirt and chalk ball to dry key footholds. Once the pitch was “prepared,” he lowered back to the beginning for a free attempt. He almost got through the crux on his first try, but fell when a small nubbin broke. He succeeded- just barely - on his third try, “grunting and thrutching” the entire way.” - Fifty Favorite Climbs


Edited by Priti
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On 8/25/2019 at 6:07 PM, JasonG said:

An incredible amount of work in that beta, wow!  I have to say that I'm surprised that you ran into another party on it, I guess the Bugs really are getting that busy now?

I was so surprised to see other people on it too! I thought we would be totally alone, not two other parties on route! I think maybe more people get on it than I thought. 

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