All Around the Watchtower Epic

Keen and optimistic

Keen and optimistic

Lilla Molnar and I have been planning to climb All Along the Watchtower on the North Howser in the Bugaboos for the past couple summers…. We finally put together the time, training, logistics and (we thought) weather window!

Making the weather check via radio

Making the weather check via radio

We felt the stars were aligning when we finally got ourselves to East Creek Bivy and had to wait just one day for ‘bomber’ weather in order to do this climb. Its very committing once you rappel into the base of the route from the East Creek bivy, there is no easy way to reverse these rappels with the alternative being a very long and arduous hike out over the north shoulder of North Howser, or an extra leg by going the scenic route by juniper lake!

This video is of a very minor thundershower the day before our climb… That evening we got the Environment Canada stamp of approval (sunny side up egg) for the weather the following day. So we got up at midnight and embarked on our journey.

waiting out a 2 hour rain/thunderstorm

waiting out a 2 hour rain/thunderstorm

We arrived at the base of the route in good time, only to be welcomed by what we thought MUST be the END of the systems, so we sat at the base of the route for 2 hours waiting for the rain, thunder and lightening to stop. Then we started up the route. After about 5 pitches the weather around us was looking grim, with big cumulonimbus clouds forming all around, so we called for a weather update…. only to be told that Environment Canada had changed their forecast from sunny side up to  EXTREME WEATHER Warning for Thundershowers, in less than 12 hours. We climbed until the base of the headwall, where we came to terms with our situation. The disappointment was palapable, we couldn’t make sense of the fact that finishing this route was not a good idea with the given conditions. With hesitation and regret we started to descend the route, knowing that we were in for a VERY long day.

Great rock, shit weather

Great rock, shit weather

We rappelled in a torrent of water from the thunderstorm, had lightening crackling overhead as we crossed over loose talus fields for hours, climbed choss filled ledges, felt like a human Jenga stick in boulder fields, descended icy rocky gullies, literally crawled over glacier ice sans crampons, belayed in crevasses, got icy, slush filled shoes accross the Vowell glacier and  made it back to Applebee camp 30 hours after leaving our safe haven in East Creek.

disappointment, relief and exhaustion after a 30 hour epic

disappointment, relief and exhaustion after a 30 hour epic

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Filed under Alpine Climbing, Friends, Multi-pitch climbing

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