An unusual view of South Howser Tower near sunset....
South Howser Tower is home to the mega-classic Beckey-Chouinard which is the most traveled route by far on the Howser Towers. The west face is approximately 2000' tall with good quality rock but still only holds a handful of routes.
Of the three towers South Howser is the easiest to get to but still takes about a 2-3 hour approch from the Kain hut or Applebee campgound. All routes on the west face are accessed via the Pigeon-Howser Col. If starting from the Kain hut or Applebee campground, take the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col up to the Upper Vowell Glacier. Walk west across the Glacier to its high point, just north of the Pigeon Spire and drop down into the Pigeon-Howser Col. Near the top of the col scramble down through some large bolders continuing down a steep loose slope till another glacier is reached. Keep heading down the glacier avoiding some large crevasses and taking the path of least resistance. As you drop farther below South Howser circle north and look for the East Creek Bivy site. From the Bivy site you should be able to see most of the Tower and the routes.
HISTORYJon Krakauer soloed this super-direct ice gully on his way up to do the first solo ascent of the Devils Thumb in Alaska. First done in May, but I've heard reports of later ascents.APPROACHHike in via Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col and the Vowell Neve. Use the map in the photos section below to help with planning. ROUTE DESCRIPTIONThe first pitch crosses the 'schrund. About five more to the summit. A couple of eighty-degree bulges on the lower pitches lead to a chockstone/ver...[more]Browse More Classics in International
I climbed the B-C over Labor Day weekend. My partner and I found the descent topos posted at the parking lot, Kain Hut, and Appleby campground to be good but misleading in a couple of key regards, namely several raps seemed longer than 30 meters, and describing a rappel as "horizontal" does not convey the right impression. Below is the beta we scraped together from a couple other sources and our own experience.
SOUTH HOWSER DESCENT BETA:
The descent follows the North Face Ridge for 5 rappels before heading back toward the East Ridge for another 5. All rap anchors you want to use are newer two-bolt, rap-style anchors with chains and steel rings. If you come across a slung block (on first rap), you should skip it and look for chains a little lower.
1) Scramble down and skier's right about 20 feet N. of the summit block to find bolted anchor on a vertical cube. The anchor is on the side of the "cube" that faces Central Howser Tower. Rap over lower angle terrain towards Central Howser. (28M)
2) Make a very short rappel (or scramble) over low angled terrain along the ridge crest in the same direction. There was a cairn here. (15-20M)
3) Rappel NW along a low angled, narrow ridge (still basically heading for Central Howser). Do not rappel on to the N. Face. This rappel was weird (especially since the ridge was covered with snow and ice) since it was like walking backward down a diving board. It was hard to not rap right or left of the ridge since it is so low-angled, but the trick is to stay on the ridge to a tent-sized ledge below a short vertical drop. If you get to this ledge/anchor, you are almost home free since the remaining anchors are pretty easy to find. (30M)
4) Rappel a steep NW facing corner (toward Central Howser, more or less plumb line) to station just slightly climbers left of center of this corner system. (25M)
5) Continue down the steep wall to an obvious large ledge. This ledge is large enough that if you rap off the end of your 60M, you'll probably be OK. (35M)
6) Hugging the wall, rappel down a diagonal ledge system climber's left to a gully. This rap is taking you away from Central Howser towards the East Ridge. (32M)
(The remaining raps are basically plumb line down a steep face)
7) Rappel the steep NE facing buttress (slabby face) staying just climbers right of gully. (32M)
8) Stay on buttress crest and make a short rap to a very small stance (semi-hanging). Although billed as "hard to find"- the anchors are below a flake- the anchor is directly below the one above. (20M)
9) Make another shorter rap just like #8. (20M)
10) Rap to anchor just above the 'schrund. Billed as "slightly climber's right", it felt plumb again. (30M)
11) Rap over 'schrund and keep going to the end of your rope onto the Vowell Glacier. 35M took us to lower angled snow which was easy to walk off in approach shoes.
Bottom line is just use a light 70M single for both up (lots of 60M or longer pitches) and down. Taking two skinny 50M or 60M ropes would be a nightmare of stuck knots or arm fulls of rat's nests on the lower angle rap ridges.
I wanted to add to the above excellent description that a 60m rope is sufficient for the new rappel route. A party of two climbers, who probably each weighed 130 pounds soaking wet, rapped the route with us with one 60m, and another party behind us was doing tandem rappels with a slightly shortened 60m. If there's any doubt, do a tandem rappel to stretch the rope a bit. (Just not on the third rap described above, heh.)