All Along the Watchtower – North Howser Tower

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On July 25-26, 2017, Sarah Hart and myself, alongside Josh and Delano Lavigne, ascended the North Howser Tower in the Bugaboos by way of All Along the Watchtower. We left from Applebee and returned to Applebee, taking two full days and camping at the bivy ledge at the top of pitch 7, as per the topo below.

We put together this topo after our climb, as Sarah and I struggled to find proper information on especially the first section of the route. Hopefully it’s helpful to others as well. We did not start on Spicy Red Beans as many seem to do, but rather climbed the lower section of All Along the Watchtower. The rock was great in some places, marginal in others, and all around the climbing was moderate and fun.

 

A few notes:

– The rappels to the base of the North Howser Tower are bolted and easy to spot – lots of cairns.
– There was a tiny bit of snow left on the bivy ledge – we ended up using all of it to melt water. We saw no other snow or good water source on the entire route until well along the ridge.
– We found that the “R” traverse protects quite well. The rock, however, is certainly of suspect quality.
– The corner pitches on the headwall are incredible. Belay stances are terrible. We recommend bringing triples of blue Metolius to #0.4 if you’re hoping to climb long pitches here. The climbing never felt like 11+, but it’s super sustained, wet in places, and the hauling/hanging belays get tiresome.
– It’s remarkable enough to say it again – the headwall pitches are out-of-this-world incredible – never have I climbed such amazing sustained fingers in such a breathtaking position.
– The ridge scrambling goes on for awhile, plan accordingly. In general, stay to the left of the crest, except where noted on the topo.
– Rappels from the summit are easy to spot and in great condition. We built a t-slot and rappelled after the bergschrund, as the slope was still rather steep and the snow was hard. Our strongest member then down-climbed with the rest of the group’s axes and crampons.

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