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Tower 1 Gully

WI3+, Ice, Alpine, 1000 ft (303 m), 10 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.1 from 10 votes
FA: Ray Jacquot and Bill Lindberg, 1971
Wyoming > Wind River Range > Titcomb Basin Area > Mt Helen

Description

The Tower 1 Gully on Mt. Helen is a beautiful ten-pitch moderate ice route up an ever-narrowing couloir. The top 300 feet provide the crux; the climb steepens up to 60 degrees until the climb tops out in a notch. Climbers will find more snow in the early season (i.e. June/July) and ice later in the season (Aug/early Sept). A final pitch of rock (about 5.5) will take climbers to the top of Tower One. The view from the top-out is breathtaking.

The first five pitches of the climb are quite moderate; when the route is about half way completed it gradually begins to steepen.

Location

Descent can be accomplished via judicious routefinding and rappelling down the backside (south facing) broken slabs to reach a couloir. There are rappel slings every so often; prudent climbers might consider bringing sling material to replace the old webbing. Downclimb or rappel the south-facing couloir and return to the base.

Protection

For me this is a two ice-tool route. Some might me comfortable using just one, but those people are not me.

A rack of 6-8 ice screws, 8 stoppers, and 8 cams should suffice. Most anchors can be plugged into rock on the sides of the gully.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Tower 1 Gully from Dinwoody Pass in Sept 1980
[Hide Photo] Tower 1 Gully from Dinwoody Pass in Sept 1980
[[105879394]] and [[105955758]] from Dinwoody Pass with Titcomb Basin below.
[Hide Photo] Mt. Helen and Tower 1 Gully from Dinwoody Pass with Titcomb Basin below.
About midway up, as the snow field begins to steepen.
[Hide Photo] About midway up, as the snow field begins to steepen.
Mt Helen from Bonney Pass
[Hide Photo] Mt Helen from Bonney Pass
Last pitch business
[Hide Photo] Last pitch business
Mid-way through the climb
[Hide Photo] Mid-way through the climb
The crux pitch of Tower 1 Gully
[Hide Photo] The crux pitch of Tower 1 Gully
Up in the gully.
[Hide Photo] Up in the gully.
Bonney Pass with Gannett in the background from the top of the notch.
[Hide Photo] Bonney Pass with Gannett in the background from the top of the notch.
Higher up, where the snow transitions to ice.  There were about two pitches of this, plus one rock move, to get to the notch.
[Hide Photo] Higher up, where the snow transitions to ice. There were about two pitches of this, plus one rock move, to get to the notch.
Guy Johnson near the top of the gully. August 1990
[Hide Photo] Guy Johnson near the top of the gully. August 1990

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Larry
SoAZ
[Hide Comment] Of course, one could continue to the summit of Mt. Helen in addition to, or instead of, Tower 1. Jan 30, 2008
Josh Tapp
Leadville
[Hide Comment] Hi there,
I climbed this route early september, and it is one of the most beautiful moderate ice routes I have ever climbed. The reason I am posting this, is because the descent info should be updated. My climbing partner and I started at around 12:00 and did not top out until around 8:00. Let me back track a little here! When you actually do get to the gully, be sure when you take the right to go up the gully, that you climb the left side of it. The protection on the right is almost non-existent for nut or cam placement. I would recommend you follow this left wall all the way up. Back to the descent. So, we finally top out, and we are getting ready to rappel. There was no sling at the top, no worries, there must be some down a bit further we thought. It turns out there were no rap slings anywhere. We were rapping off of prusicks rapped around chicken heads, snow bollards etc. We did bring extra webbing slings, but eventually ran out, and there are super sketchy rappells going down the south couloir. Here is what I suggest. Rap down the north gully (the climb itself), using Abolokov v threads, and sling some of the pinches. This route is much safer, with rock fall hazards being pretty low, and no overhanging rappells (opposite side I counted 3 free hanging rappells). This is, in my opinion, a much safer way to descend, especially if you are tired and have had a long day on the climb. I hope this helps, oh yeah if you find a 22cm BD turbo express ice screw please mail it to me, I will give you an address. Oct 12, 2008
[Hide Comment] This is a great climb. Just enough adventure to keep you focused but not enough to be desperate. My partner and I did it many, many moons ago. He broke a rigid Chouinard crampon in the middle of the crux and had to finish out with it hanging from his ankle. We walked off the North face with no raps. A lot of work and a little chossy but in those days raps were last resort. Feb 2, 2009
dfrancom Francom
Palmer, AK
[Hide Comment] Tried climbing this in early october 2012. I tried to do this route in 3 days from Elk Heart Park, bad idea! I was out of shape for sure! We ended up climbing the main couloir on Mt Helen. But the ice was fantastic. When I looked up the Tower 1 ice gully I could see a rock band around the second pitch. Looks like part of the ice is melted out. Who knows what the top is like. Here is a link to a video of our trip.
vimeo.com/51018862 Oct 22, 2012
Kai Larson
Sandy, Utah
  WI3-
[Hide Comment] Climbed Sept 27, 2014.

Conditions were mostly perfect neve, with consolidated snow and a bit of water ice here and there.

2 screws and a rock rack would be adequate, as there is plenty of rock protection on the margins of the climb.

We rapped down the route. Ice wasn't good for V-Threads, so we left gear (mostly nuts welded into cracks with our picks) for our rappel stations.

Ice climbing difficulty is very conditions dependent, and in the conditions we found it (mostly thunker neve and very good water ice) it was no harder than WI3-

We had 60 meter ropes and did it in 7 pitches, with the last pitch only a half pitch. First 4 pitches are very casual. Doesn't start to get steep until the top.

Fun route.

Trip report (September 27, 2014) can be found, HERE:

larsonweb.com/blog/?p=1264 Sep 29, 2014