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North Howser Tower
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All Along the Watchtower 

YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c C2- R

   
Type:  Trad, Aid, Alpine, 32 pitches, 3000', Grade VI
Consensus:  YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c C2- [details]
FA: Ward Robinson, Jim Walseth, 8/81
Season: Summer
Page Views: 13,012
Submitted By: Sam Lightner, Jr. on May 14, 2007

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Looking down the corner and the wall to the belay ...

Description 

The route is s serious undertaking and was cutting edge at the time of ist F.A. It ascends a prominent line up the left side of the west face. Start from ledges where the lower wall sticks furthest into the glacier.
P1-P9 Mostly 5.9 and 5.10, following cracks and dihedrals up the lower angle portion of the wall. The second will probably have to carry the bag in this section. There are very few substantial ledges here.
P10-p13 The climbing starts traversing slightly to the north and angling for the promenent, northwest facing, white dihedral. SOme descriptions have mentioned snow in this area and water seeps, but don't count on it. We found no water for the entire length of the route except in the crux!
A good bivy ledge (level for 4 people) exists just below and to the north of the dihedral. Its about 40 ft. left of the route and easy to get to.
P14-P22 This is the business. Climb the dihedral using mostly flaring finger size pieces. As the corner faces northwest, its not until mid afternoon that you are in the sun... in other words, if you want to free climb you better be real good at climbing in near freezing temps. Most of this corner is hard 5-10 to mid 5.11. Belays are where you choose to put them. The crux (C2), which goes free at 5.12, is where the corner jogs left and makes for and underclingy/roof sequence. Watch the drag. After this the conrner continues at 5.10 for a few more pitches. There are no ledges, and really no stances, in this section of the wall.
P23-32 The angle drops off and you follow the summit ridge. The climbing is usually 4th class with the odd 5.8 move, making hauling impossible and ropeless climbing dangerous. THere can be snow up here (adding wet feet to your woes). Bivy ledges abound, but are mostly uncomfy. We ended up sleeping just under the summit.
Rap a series of 5 or 6 rope the nghts down the east face. Lots of incredibly lose rock here. Then just walk out on the glacier... dont fall in a crevasse.

Location 

The route is on the west face of North Howser Tower, It ascends the lower apron to a prominent dihedral, then the summit ridge.
We accessed it via the East Basin Camp. Hike up the ridge towards the middle tower, traversing a snowfield to the higher ridge that looks down to the base of the North Tower. We built rappels here and did 4 full length raps to reach the glacier. Once there you have to traverse across the cirque to the base of the wall. There is a lot of rockfall on the rappels and then a lot of rock coming down into the cirque from the portion of the North face that is above... go fast. The route starts from ledges above the glacier below the most prominent portion of the lower apron.
Rappel the east face route. The stations vary from pins to slung horns and move periodically. Good luck.

Protection 

Two sets of friends .5 to #4, 1 set of stoppers with extra mid size (offsets are good), a few sets of mid size tcu's or offset aliens would be useful in the dihedrals, a few micro cams for the crux.
Bring lots of slings for the lower portion. Bivy gear, snow gear to get to and from the route, two 60 meter ropes.


Photos of All Along the Watchtower Slideshow Add Photo
Hans Johnstone on the summit ridge of North Howser, All Along the Watchtower.
Hans Johnstone on the summit ridge of North Howser...
 Truly amazing position and climbing. One of the best alpine rock routes in North America.
Truly amazing position and climbing. One of the b...
THE corner, in the setting sun.
THE corner, in the setting sun.
All Along the Watchtower, North Howser Tower <br />Photo my MP contributor Timmy! Tormey <br /> <br />Red - Approach from Howser-Pigeon Col <br />Blue - West Face Access Rappels <br />Yellow - All Along the Watchtower
BETA PHOTO: All Along the Watchtower, North Howser Tower
Photo...
All Along The Watchtower <br /> <br />Red - Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col Approach <br />Blue - West Face Approach Rappels <br />Yellow - All Along the WatchTower <br />Green - How to escape, instead of re-climbing the rappels.
BETA PHOTO: All Along The Watchtower

Red - Bugaboo-Snowpatch ...
picture of topo from Green & Bensen guide
BETA PHOTO: picture of topo from Green & Bensen guide

Comments on All Along the Watchtower Add Comment
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By Nathan Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
May 14, 2007

Sam,

Thanks for posting this route! I'm so inspired by it. It looks incredibly challenging and difficult. Maybe one day, when the stars are right...
Cheers,
Nate
By Vic Lawson
From: Bishop, CA
Mar 5, 2008

When did you do the route? You said you found no water...did you find any snow? In your summit ridge photo there is snow, any below that? We want to take a jetboil stove to melt snow. What doya think? We intend to do it in three days (two bivies) free climbing all that we can...obviously I'd love to save some water weight.
By chuck claude
From: Flagstaff, Az
Sep 11, 2008

So on what pitch warrants the R rating. Is it the .11c traverse? or down below. I was hoping to do it this last summer but knee surgery precluded it so I'm hoping for next summer.

Any info would be greatly appreciated
By hanshan
From: Canada Mofuga
Aug 13, 2009

There is no R rated climbing on this route.
Although I didn't climb the bottom portion (came in from Spicy Red Beans), its nothing but stellar climbing.
By Ken Trout
From: Golden, CO
Feb 26, 2010

Ward and I tried All Along the Watchtower in 1980, but I lost the haul sack six pitches up. (Ward is very patient with bonehead friends!) Ward had fixed an "escape line" during the second ascent of Rowell-Jones-Quamr, which we used, avoiding the long northern exit.

I had a map posted here, but moved it to up to the photo gallery, simplified. The red dots that Doug is referring to are old color pencil marks from copying glacier travel routes from the Kain Hut maps onto my own.
By doug haller
From: Boulder, Colorado
Mar 2, 2010

Ken, thanks for the map. I assume that the red dots represent the approach to S. Howser from the Kain Hut. If so, what might change seasonally? I intend to head there this summer. Thanks in advance.

doug
By doug haller
From: Boulder, Colorado
Mar 2, 2010

Sam,thanks for the route description. You mention cold temps, suggesting that these are the norm. Is that because of the aspect, (north west corner of the tower) or are the temps equally low in the sun? Also, what was your ascent time? Thanks, Doug
By Max Tepfer
From: Bend, OR
Aug 29, 2012

Just climbed this a few days ago. Here are my thoughts:
-Sam is spot on with the rockfall. There was consistent, large rockfall every 10-20 minutes as we crossed to the base of the line.
-Ditto with off-set gear. We brought 1 set of off-set aliens and they were key.
-We climbed it in late August and found it mostly warm and dry. Cold temps weren't really an issue.
-Route finding is tricky in the first couple pitches and there are compelling crack systems that tempt you too far left.
-Maybe it's because we were climbing short (100' max.) pitches, but the corner felt straight soft for "11+" as it's graded in the guidebook. I can't speak for the crux as the french free started as the sun set, but if you are at all used to stemming and lie-backing, expect an easy time of it up to the crux. (if it's warm and dry like it was for us)
-If I were to/when I go back to this climb, I'd approach, rap, climb the first third of the route in day 1 and bivy at the ledges below Armageddon. (200' higher than you want to be, but worth it for the convenience of the location) The next day I'd rap back to the line (there's a fixed pin anchor) and climb up and over. This schedule seemed too ambitious to me to plan on, but in hindsight is totally reasonable.
By Nate Farr
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jan 21, 2013

Out of curiosity, did you find water below Armageddon or were you planning on climbing with 1.5 days of water on the first day?
By DoubleA
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 5, 2013

The schedule that Max lines out is pretty reasonable if you can climb fast in the corner.


We ended up approaching from Applebee and bivying on the ledges below Armageddon (about pitch 10 or 11), which are spacious. We then did one rap back down to the ramps leading left into the corner. The two pin anchor mentioned above (which is about 50 feet below the ledges) was super jingus - rotten tat and I pulled one of the sawed-off angles out with zero effort. We left one pin and backed it up with new cord and a fixed nut.

We bivied a second night on top of the technical difficulties before climbing the ridge, which is really not that convoluted or difficult -pretty good climbing actually - we did it in our approach shoes.

Zero water or snow on the entire route until snow patches were encountered on the summit ridge.

The 4 raps into the North Howser basin are all bolted chain anchors (deluxe!) and are marked by a giant cairn. We didn't encounter any rockfall on crossing the snowfield, but it was apparent some very large shit had come down recently. Move quickly.

As Max stated, a single set of offsets was clutch to have, although you could get by without them I'm sure.

What a route!