All Locations > International > North America > Canada > British Columbia > Columbia Mountains > Purcell Mountains
Leaning Towers Rock Climbing
|GPS:||49.973, -116.591 Google Map · Climbing Area Map|
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|Shared By:||Ken Trout on Oct 28, 2015|
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Posting Routes for Leaning TowersThere are summaries for every known route on the page for each tower. Some of the historic routes are posted. The modern routes, like the Northeast Buttress of Hall Peak, are not posted so that the first ascent parties can still post their own routes.
The Leaning Towers are a tiny group of granitic peaks hidden in a remote corner of the Purcell Mountains - about 80 kilometers south of the Bugaboos, straight line distance. (Please see map up left for exact locating). To assist readers with prying partners away from the Bugaboos honest comparisons follow.
LEANING TOWERS VERSUS BUGABOOS
The Bugaboos don't appear to "lean" because vertical mega-fracturing makes them steep on all sides. The Leaning Towers have higher angle east faces and flatiron/hog back medium angled west faces that create the tilted tower look. Mainly though, nothing in the Bugaboos is as steep as the walls of the Pulpit - still unclimbed!!!
The difference between the Leaning Tower and the highest summits of the Purcell Mountains is only about 1,500 feet. The Leaning Towers have smaller glaciers than the Bugs - but there are hidden crevasses to rope up for and steep bare ice to avoid, especially below the mighty east faces. These glaciers are unnamed and not on the best maps!
The Bugaboos have the bigger walls, but the biggest ones face west (brrr!). Sunny wonderful Snowpatch is too hard. Bugaboo has too much rockfall under it's NE Ridge. All the steep stuff in the 'Towers faces east, the routes are not 5.12d, and there's probably no one above!
Like the Valhallas, the Leaning Towers have been proven to have rock climbing of better quality than Bugaboo granite. There are more holds, sometimes less dirt, and lots of good new routes to open.
The first climbing party to reach the Leaning Towers was the McCoubrey Expedition in 1933 (CAJ 39-61). They climbed Wall Tower (9,560'), Hall Peak (9,975'), Shark's Head Tower(9,500'), Bivouac Tower (9,500'), and a few other smaller summits of the southern Leaning Towers.
After the establishment of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy in 1974, the use of helicopters became illegal. Some have used choppers since but most of the big routes have been done without helicopter support. There is no guide book to these mountains so use the Canadian Alpine Journal to read about routes put up since 1933.
BETA FOR NEW ROUTES
Recently, there has been more interest in making history in the Leaning Towers. Since about 2010, expeditions to the east faces of Shark's Nose, Hall Peak, Block Tower, and Wall Tower are posting positive trip reports (CAJ, AAJ, and the web). Details and links are on the Mountain Project pages for each peak
Even though helicopters are not allowed to land in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, Justin Scurlock and Stephanie Abegg were able to fly by the Leaning Towers and photograph the walls, 2012. Justin Scurlock's photos are found at pbase.com. He takes his amazing aerial photographs with an eye towards big alpine first ascents. Steph Abegg's photos and trip reports are not to be missed either!
All this information indicates that the Leaning Towers are perfect for wild new routes in alpine mountains. Too bad then, that hiking into the Leaning Towers is ten times harder than for the Bugaboos!
BACKPACKING APPROACHES TO THE LEANING TOWERS:
CAMPBELL CREEK ROUTE
To get started, McCoubrey's pack horses and support team had to be ferried from Kaslo across Kootenay Lake (CAJ 1933). However, Campbell Creek leads to the wrong/west side of the Leaning Towers (blue route on map below).
DEWAR CREEK HOT SPRINGS APPROACH ROUTE
This way is the most often used. The 1972 Morrow-Kuiken, 1975 Twomey-McComb-Meyer, 1988 Enagonio-Mank, 1992 Preston-Bennet, 2013 Leary-Reimondo , 2014 Morris-Ramos, 2014 Bono-Kadatz-Preston, 2015 Patagonia ski mountaineering, and 2015 Bury-Mauthner expeditions have all approached via the Dewar Creek Hot Springs Trail and survived the subsequent brush fight to Halls Peak.
Horses can be hired for the first ten kilometers of good trail to the hot springs. Above the hot spring, climb the rugged mountainside above to the Hot Springs Pass* (2 hours cross-country). *my name for the pass
From the pass there are three ways to go. Firstly, Some have written about descending from the pass to Fry Creek and then bushwacking up the steep brushy creek to the cirque below the east face of Hall Peak. Alternatively, many have written that they contoured above Fry Creek and below the walls of Mount Twomey to reach the head of Fry creek. This way starts with a huge steep talus field and leads to steep trees and much difficulty. Sort of a toss-up between these two ways. The third way needs a separate name.
MOUNT TWOMEY EAST RIDGE ROUTE
The Quarter Life Crisis expedition admitted only to climbing the east ridge of Mount Twomey for the view, no mention of connecting to the south end of the Leaning Towers (CAJ 2015). In my mind, risky exposed ridges are better than either desperate cirque headwall brush or traversing and rappelling verical tree ribs. My idea that a ridge top route might exist, even though most report doing the mid-level traverse, springs from the recent naming of the ridge as Mount Twomey. Maybe someone has more information?
From Hot Spring Pass, a scruffy climb gains alpine terrain on the east ridge of Mount Twomey. Zooming in on good satellite imaging, the steep climb above the pass looks as good as one could hope for in wilderness alps. Traverse the long ridge of Mt Twomey to the south end of the Leaning Towers.
Might need a lightning proof tent for the bivouac spot marked with a purple triangle on the map above and photo below. Sharp things and boots for both glacier travel and blue ice are probably important for getting to the east faces of Hall Peak and the Pulpit from Mt Twomey.
FRY CREEK APPROACH ROUTE
The 2015 Caton-Rutherford team may have found a better way but don't actually say which way they went in their reports. However, there are hints given that prove that Fry Creek may the safest and fastest way in to the Leaning Towers.
The Alpinist magazine article by Chris Van Lueven about the 2015 Caton-Rutherford expedition just says: "For one-and-a-half days, they followed small trails, meandered through thick Rhodedendron(Alder?) and crossed long stretches of talus and loose moraines to reach their destination." Also, it was written that they hiked out with 60 pound packs in ten hours. Please be warned again that I'm just guessing for now but hiking out from the Wall Tower Tarn over Hot Spring Pass in ten hours does not seem doable with full packs.
William Putnam figured it to be about 18 miles. An attempt by McCoubrey in 1932 up Fry Creek was foiled by high water. The maps in Backroad Mapbooks show an un-maintained trail up most of Fry Creek.
To read about this trail in a BC Parks brochure: env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explo…
Teams of two end up in crazy country all the time because adventurous partners are hard to find, me included. But, imagine getting a compound fracture after slipping off a log or crushed while trying to escape the bushes by climbing a cannon ball spewing waterfall . Is being being left alone in grizzly country,, while your partner tries to hike out and get help, okay? Just finding a flat open spot, to either administer first aid or even build a fire, is not always an option in the brush choked valleys of the Columbia Mountains.
HAND HOLD GEOLOGY
The 45 degree joint plane that creates the unique lean of the towers strikes north and dips west. Hopefully, there are also parallel almost-micro-fractures found throughout the Leaning Tower's granite. If so, then the stupendous east faces should have an unusual abundance of in-cut holds.
To see an example of this fracture/shear geometry climb at Slocan Lake Bluffs . At Slocan, the plane of fracturing dips east and the myriad incut finger-buckets are found on the west faces.
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