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[TR] Big Four- Direct Tower Route 7/30/2005


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Climb: Big Four-Direct Tower Route


Date of Climb: 7/30/2005


Trip Report:

For about a decade, I have wondered what the most prominent Big Four Tower would be like to climb. During a bit of thrashing about looking for Ron Miller's 1971 line up the feature, I was drawn to a steep slab on the north face. Only a few years ago, it seemed to be wet almost all summer. Due to the last parched few years, however, the place dries out after a few hot days. In May 2004, Stephen Packard, James Lescantz, and I started what would become many trips up this fine wall. Last weekend, myself and Eric Gamage topped out after dragging a bivy to 1/2 way the previous day. Gear should include tiny widgets to 4", and many extendable slings. When dry enough to climb, there is no water on the route. As the lower portion of this face is in the shade most of the day, it is perfect for those days where Darrington or Static Point are entirely too warm.


Generally, the climbing is on extremely hard conglomerate, with excellent face climbing in equal ratio to sinker hand/fist cracks. Overall, 2500 feet of climbing is required to reach the summit of the tower. As in other areas of Big Four, brush in gullies can be abundant and "vigorous". In the middle of the tower there is perhaps 300 feet of hellwhacking to overcome. The route likely shares upper pitches with the Miller/Guydelkon 1971 route.


Approach via Ice Caves Trail, contouring east until reaching a chasm seperating the first and second towers. Go down hill about 200 feet, and look to access a bench below obvious steep slabs above. 200 feet of 4th class zigzags gains the start of the first pitch.


Pitch 1: Somewhat flared but fun chimney/fist crack. 150', 5.8, gear to 4". Nice belay ledge.


Pitch 2: Steep and grooved headwall with consistent 5.8+ moves for nearly 155', draws. Semi hanging belay @ 2 bolts.


Pitch 3: More steep slab with interesting huecos and strangeness @ 5.9+ or .10a, 150', small tcu's + pinky tricam+ draws. Belay at good ledge.


Pitch 4: Work up and right over a bulging slab with bolts (5.7). Runout 5.5 leads to a cedar tree ledge at the base of a thin fingers dihedral. #2 LoweBall protects the initial moves well. 70'.


Pitch 5: Nice 5.8 dihedral steps right to the arete after crack runs out. Bolts and thin gear lead to a prominent OW pillar crack (5.7+). Belay @ 2 bolt station on sloping ledge. 145', gear to 4".


Pitch 6: Amazing 5.8 hand crack for 75 feet. Belay @ large cedar with slings.


Pitch 7: 4th class up and left through blueberries to reach an easy chimney notch. Belay at tree with slings. This is "1 acre ledge". Move belay up and right (100') to a cave. It is advisable to rope packs up here, rather than spelunking. Once through the cave, go up the vegetated, yet delightful gully (3rd/4th) ~ 300 feet.


Pitch 8:Blocky face and chimney climbing accesses the spacious ledge below the upper slabs (5.7). 4" gear helpful.


Pitch 9: A few unprotected face moves reach another great handcrack. Move left to a 2 bolt belay when crack runs out. 150'


Pitch 10: Staying near crest, low to mid 5th arete is climbed to a cedar bush with slings some 150' out.


Pitch 11: Working right, follow features to a unique 5.4 wide crack complete with chockstones. Step left, and over small roof to belay at a nice ledge with cedar. 150'


Pitch 12: Follow white slabs within 30 feet of chasm view. Belay at small tree with slings 150' up. Hike up into the fields, or step left for great views of Sloan Peak. Scrable for about 10 minutes, using ramps to access the area below the summit spire.


Pitch 13: On the west face of the spire is an excellent and somewhat hidden 5.8 hand crack. Rap sling in place.


Descend the route. Slings/anchors in place.




Mark Hanna



Gear Notes:

Med to large rack to 4", many extendable slings, lotza H20


Approach Notes:

ce Caves Trail-Mountain Loop Hwy

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Unique for sure. I climbed the first six pitches as a crag climb with one of the newlyweds yesterday, and I gotta say it was scary as hell but fun. It is not badly run out (those first six pitches, anyway), but it sure feels that way when you are standing on and pinching pebbles, some of which are slick little things and others which just make you worry that they're going to blow any minute. In actuality, it all seems to hold together OK, but we found it unnerving. Those six pitches contained an excellent variety of crack and face climbing up to 5.9 / .10a, with a moderate amount of bush involved on the approach and a treeclimb on the last pitch.

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John- you are so right about the magnitude of the complete traverse to the BF summit- from the top of the first tower, it appears to go on forever. Anyone here ever done the Miller/Guydelkon route to the summit via the towers? Seems like quite an undertaking... cantfocus.gif



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once again...right the hell on mark! wish i had accepted your offer wednesday...no wait, i forgot you guys hauled.


and others which just make you worry that they're going to blow any minute. In actuality, it all seems to hold together OK, but we found it unnerving


my thoughts exactly. i'd never climbed any rock quite like this before and had a lot of apprehension as to it's compactness. the more i trusted the 'pebbles' the more they worked, and none ever blew on me.


other thoughts though slightly faded from last year;

p 1 - good intro to what's higher, adequate gear

p 2 - bolts...like the bolts/'is this shit gonna hold?' belay couldna been 2" higher (on a 50m)

p 3 - crux pitch,(did only 5 p's) glad it was marks. maybe another bolt??

p 4&5 - fun, good gear everywhere. long as all p's before


look forward to seeing what pitch 6 through higher is like especially that rad ass lookin 'tipeteetop'...wow!


nice pics mark/good climbing eric bigdrink.gif

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  • 11 months later...

Jeff Hansel and I climbed this to the top yesterday. Some comments:


As others have said, the first six pitches are a good crag route. I'll even go so far to say that they make an EXCELLENT crag route. p's 1-3 and p5 are really cool. P's 1 and 5 are excellent crack climbing and p-s 2-3 are improbably steep face climbing on pebbles and huecos.


After p-6 it changes into more of a Klenke-type climb. Easier rock but with bushwhacking and route-finding the main challenges.


It's sorta like climbing Outer Space then from the top of that heading up the North Ridge of Mt. Index tongue.gif .


A couple notes on the "pitch 7" route description above. The "chimney notch" looks pretty daunting from below (climbing up under a dirt cornice) but turns out to be pretty easy. With respect to the cave, find it by skirting along the headwall to the right until you find the hole. It was a pretty tight squeeze and I'm pretty skinny. There is at least one way around it.


The "delightful" vegetated gully was pretty hairball at one spot, steep exposed dirt with only blueberry bushes for handholds. Quite unnerving in rock shoes! We stayed right where it was initially less steep, but we soon ran out of options. It may be better staying left where, though steeper, there are more dependable handholds in the form of small trees. The scary stuff only lasted about 50 feet, then it's just steep hiking though bush.


Once it's looking like your vegetated gulley is turning into a vegetated ledge (with the chasm on the right) look for the weakness on the left wall. That is the "pitch 8" in the description.


The approach to the base through the bushes is pretty damn bushy bush right now. I might suggest traversing low in a talus field until you can look straight up the approach gully to minimize your bush thrash.


It took us a fairly long day. Trailhead ~9am, top 4:30 pm, Sparks stashed in snow ~9pm.


Getting down the upper section was probably more difficult than ascending it. This is definitely one of those climbs where you are only halfway there when you top out. Between this and the fact that you would NOT want to fall on that pebble-studded rock, this is a fairly serious climb. The 10a crux section is relatively short and has a bolt at your waist, but otherwise there are some runs between the bolts on the face pitches.


Highly recommended!!! thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif

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