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North Howser Tower
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All Along the Watchtower T 
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All Along the Watchtower 

YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c C2- R

Type:  Trad, Aid, Alpine, 32 pitches, 3000', Grade VI
Original:  YDS: 5.11 French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E4 5c C2- R [details]
FA: Ward Robinson, Jim Walseth, 8/81
Season: Summer
Page Views: 19,863
Submitted By: Sam Lightner, Jr. on May 14, 2007

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Looking down the corner and the wall to the belay ...


The route is s serious undertaking and was cutting edge at the time of ist F.A. It ascends a prominent line up the left side of the west face. Start from ledges where the lower wall sticks furthest into the glacier.
P1-P9 Mostly 5.9 and 5.10, following cracks and dihedrals up the lower angle portion of the wall. The second will probably have to carry the bag in this section. There are very few substantial ledges here.
P10-p13 The climbing starts traversing slightly to the north and angling for the promenent, northwest facing, white dihedral. SOme descriptions have mentioned snow in this area and water seeps, but don't count on it. We found no water for the entire length of the route except in the crux!
A good bivy ledge (level for 4 people) exists just below and to the north of the dihedral. Its about 40 ft. left of the route and easy to get to.
P14-P22 This is the business. Climb the dihedral using mostly flaring finger size pieces. As the corner faces northwest, its not until mid afternoon that you are in the sun... in other words, if you want to free climb you better be real good at climbing in near freezing temps. Most of this corner is hard 5-10 to mid 5.11. Belays are where you choose to put them. The crux (C2), which goes free at 5.12, is where the corner jogs left and makes for and underclingy/roof sequence. Watch the drag. After this the conrner continues at 5.10 for a few more pitches. There are no ledges, and really no stances, in this section of the wall.
P23-32 The angle drops off and you follow the summit ridge. The climbing is usually 4th class with the odd 5.8 move, making hauling impossible and ropeless climbing dangerous. THere can be snow up here (adding wet feet to your woes). Bivy ledges abound, but are mostly uncomfy. We ended up sleeping just under the summit.
Rap a series of 5 or 6 rope the nghts down the east face. Lots of incredibly lose rock here. Then just walk out on the glacier... dont fall in a crevasse.


The route is on the west face of North Howser Tower, It ascends the lower apron to a prominent dihedral, then the summit ridge.
We accessed it via the East Basin Camp. Hike up the ridge towards the middle tower, traversing a snowfield to the higher ridge that looks down to the base of the North Tower. We built rappels here and did 4 full length raps to reach the glacier. Once there you have to traverse across the cirque to the base of the wall. There is a lot of rockfall on the rappels and then a lot of rock coming down into the cirque from the portion of the North face that is above... go fast. The route starts from ledges above the glacier below the most prominent portion of the lower apron.
Rappel the east face route. The stations vary from pins to slung horns and move periodically. Good luck.


Two sets of friends .5 to #4, 1 set of stoppers with extra mid size (offsets are good), a few sets of mid size tcu's or offset aliens would be useful in the dihedrals, a few micro cams for the crux.
Bring lots of slings for the lower portion. Bivy gear, snow gear to get to and from the route, two 60 meter ropes.

Photos of All Along the Watchtower Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Hans Johnstone on the summit ridge of North Howser...
Hans Johnstone on the summit ridge of North Howser...
Rock Climbing Photo: THE corner, in the setting sun.
THE corner, in the setting sun.
Rock Climbing Photo:  Truly amazing position and climbing. One of the b...
Truly amazing position and climbing. One of the b...
Rock Climbing Photo: picture of topo from Green & Bensen guide
BETA PHOTO: picture of topo from Green & Bensen guide
Rock Climbing Photo: All Along the Watchtower, North Howser Tower Photo...
BETA PHOTO: All Along the Watchtower, North Howser Tower Photo...
Rock Climbing Photo: All Along The Watchtower  Red - Bugaboo-Snowpatch ...
BETA PHOTO: All Along The Watchtower Red - Bugaboo-Snowpatch ...

Comments on All Along the Watchtower Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 17, 2017
By Nate Furman
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
May 14, 2007


Thanks for posting this route! I'm so inspired by it. It looks incredibly challenging and difficult. Maybe one day, when the stars are right...
By Victor Lawson
From: Bishop, CA
Mar 5, 2008

When did you do the route? You said you found no water...did you find any snow? In your summit ridge photo there is snow, any below that? We want to take a jetboil stove to melt snow. What doya think? We intend to do it in three days (two bivies) free climbing all that we can...obviously I'd love to save some water weight.
By chuck claude
From: Flagstaff, Az
Sep 11, 2008

So on what pitch warrants the R rating. Is it the .11c traverse? or down below. I was hoping to do it this last summer but knee surgery precluded it so I'm hoping for next summer.

Any info would be greatly appreciated
By hanshan
From: Canada Mofuga
Aug 13, 2009

There is no R rated climbing on this route.
Although I didn't climb the bottom portion (came in from Spicy Red Beans), its nothing but stellar climbing.
By Ken Trout
From: Golden, CO
Feb 26, 2010

Ward and I tried All Along the Watchtower in 1980, but I lost the haul sack six pitches up. (Ward is very patient with bonehead friends!) Ward had fixed an "escape line" during the second ascent of Rowell-Jones-Quamr, which we used, avoiding the long northern exit.

I had a map posted here, but moved it to up to the photo gallery, simplified. The red dots that Doug is referring to are old color pencil marks from copying glacier travel routes from the Kain Hut maps onto my own.
By doug haller
From: Boulder, Colorado
Mar 2, 2010

Ken, thanks for the map. I assume that the red dots represent the approach to S. Howser from the Kain Hut. If so, what might change seasonally? I intend to head there this summer. Thanks in advance.

By doug haller
From: Boulder, Colorado
Mar 2, 2010

Sam,thanks for the route description. You mention cold temps, suggesting that these are the norm. Is that because of the aspect, (north west corner of the tower) or are the temps equally low in the sun? Also, what was your ascent time? Thanks, Doug
By Max Tepfer
From: Bend, OR
Aug 29, 2012

Just climbed this a few days ago. Here are my thoughts:
-Sam is spot on with the rockfall. There was consistent, large rockfall every 10-20 minutes as we crossed to the base of the line.
-Ditto with off-set gear. We brought 1 set of off-set aliens and they were key.
-We climbed it in late August and found it mostly warm and dry. Cold temps weren't really an issue.
-Route finding is tricky in the first couple pitches and there are compelling crack systems that tempt you too far left.
-Maybe it's because we were climbing short (100' max.) pitches, but the corner felt straight soft for "11+" as it's graded in the guidebook. I can't speak for the crux as the french free started as the sun set, but if you are at all used to stemming and lie-backing, expect an easy time of it up to the crux. (if it's warm and dry like it was for us)
-If I were to/when I go back to this climb, I'd approach, rap, climb the first third of the route in day 1 and bivy at the ledges below Armageddon. (200' higher than you want to be, but worth it for the convenience of the location) The next day I'd rap back to the line (there's a fixed pin anchor) and climb up and over. This schedule seemed too ambitious to me to plan on, but in hindsight is totally reasonable.
By Nate Farr
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 21, 2013

Out of curiosity, did you find water below Armageddon or were you planning on climbing with 1.5 days of water on the first day?
By DoubleA
Sep 5, 2013

The schedule that Max lines out is pretty reasonable if you can climb fast in the corner.

We ended up approaching from Applebee and bivying on the ledges below Armageddon (about pitch 10 or 11), which are spacious. We then did one rap back down to the ramps leading left into the corner. The two pin anchor mentioned above (which is about 50 feet below the ledges) was super jingus - rotten tat and I pulled one of the sawed-off angles out with zero effort. We left one pin and backed it up with new cord and a fixed nut.

We bivied a second night on top of the technical difficulties before climbing the ridge, which is really not that convoluted or difficult -pretty good climbing actually - we did it in our approach shoes.

Zero water or snow on the entire route until snow patches were encountered on the summit ridge.

The 4 raps into the North Howser basin are all bolted chain anchors (deluxe!) and are marked by a giant cairn. We didn't encounter any rockfall on crossing the snowfield, but it was apparent some very large shit had come down recently. Move quickly.

As Max stated, a single set of offsets was clutch to have, although you could get by without them I'm sure.

What a route!
By Ben Kiessel
Jul 30, 2015

Matt and I climbed this last week. Below are some answers to questions we had before our climb and other thoughts
-First off we camped at east creek and left camp at 03:15. We were at the base of the route at 05:45. On the summit at 19:15 and back at east creek camp at 21:45. 18.5 hrs camp to camp.
-We got off route on the way to the approach rappels. We also traversed on top of pitch 7 instead of pitch 9 and got off route.(this required a lot of down climbing in addition to a 200' rappel). Finally we got a little confused and off route on top of pitch 11.
-We brought 3 liters of water(there was no snow or drinkable water on the route even on the summit ridge), crampons and axes no bivy gear, one 70m lead line and a 60m tag line.
-We did the whole route bottom to summit in 13 pitches(obviously we simul climbed a fair bit). We pitched out all the dihedral pitches and aided the roof crux on micro cams. We did the whole summit ridge in one giant "pitch".
-The approach rappels require both ropes.
-We were worried about the descent rappels which were super chill. They were single rope rappels on easy to find slings until the last rappel which is a full double rope rappel over the bergschrund.
-Navigating the crevasses on the descent was also much easier than expected.(they look scary as hell while hiking from the Bugaboo/snowpatch col to east creek)
-Offset aliens were handy. We had 2xblue/green and green/yellow.
-We each carried a small pack and hauled only on the dihedral pitches.
By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
Jun 21, 2016
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c C2- R

Why doesn't anyone use the bivy ledges at the top of pitch 13?
By Sam Lightner, Jr.
From: Lander, WY
Jun 22, 2016

We used them. Comfortable. No water.
By Jenny Abegg
Aug 13, 2017

I drew a topo and did a bit of a writeup after our climb in July of 2017. You can find it here:
By Ethan Berman
Aug 17, 2017

Climbed North Howser last week. What a day. We ended up climbing the prominent dihedral climber's left of Watchtower (not on purpose). I have been in touch with Marc Piche who informed me that it is Eye of Providence. I have added it to Mountain Project. An easy mistake, but still an amazing line!

The only other comment I'll make is that we also got off route down low, following cracks too far to the left. We were able to get back on route by down climbing ledge systems to the good bivy at about pitch 4. We knew we were back on track because there were two bolts with a wide chimney/off-width crack above. The only bolts we saw all day.

Have a blast out there.

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