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North Howser Tower
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The Seventh Rifle 

YDS: 5.11- French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C1 PG13

   
Type:  Trad, Aid, Alpine, 30 pitches, 3000', Grade VI
Original:  YDS: 5.11- French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C1 PG13 [details]
FA: Chris Jones, Galen Rowell, Tony Qamar, July 1971
Season: Summer
Page Views: 833
Submitted By: Steven Lucarelli on Aug 10, 2014

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BETA PHOTO: Upper gully

Description 

The Seventh Rifle was the first route established on the west face of North Howser Tower and is rarely climbed even today. It follows a line of weakness up the center of the wall trending slightly right and back left before gaining the summit ridge. By todays standards this route is not to difficult technically but it is a VERY serious undertaking with tons of loose rock and dire consequences if caught in the wrong place by a storm. Many of the pitches follow low 5th class gullies that are natural funnels for falling rock and require extreme care by the leader to not knock anything on their belayer.

Pitch counts will vary from party to party but we were able to climb the route in 24 pitches to the summit using 60m ropes. This involved a lot of full rope length pitches as well as a little bit of simul-climbing and a few short pitches where the route wandered to much.

Pitch one right off the glacier starts with a sweet hand crack on the right wall to an awkward bulge and an ok belay in a stembox. (5.10 60m)

Pitch two exits the stembox through a small roof with a good hand crack on the right side. Continue up easier terrain till you run out of rope (5.9 60m)

The next several pitches follow the right side of the gully and trend right to a bivouac ledge almost halfway up the wall on a blunt buttress. We were unable to find the right trending route (I think we started looking to late and had already passed it?) and ended up continuing up the gully on "The Real Mescalito" route until we were able to traverse right on a sparsely protected slab almost at the same height as the bivy ledge. It took us ten pitches to reach this ledge but it would probably be a pitch or two less if you can stay on route. This ledge is out of the fall line for the majority of potential rockfall making it a safe spot to bivy. It will comfortably sleep two individuals but be aware that there is a packrat living up there that will probably harass you in the night. Watch your food!

From the bivy ledge continue straight up the wall and enter another gully for several pitches. I initially stayed on the left side of the gully passing a steep wet section via a strenuous wide crack on the left wall that went at about 10/10+.

The next couple pitches get progressively looser and wetter and everything needed to be tested before trusting it. Your partner can belay off to the left keeping them out of the main fall line if you accidently knock anything loose.

Another steep wet section is bypassed by escaping left out of the gully for two or three short pitches. The first pitch climbs up and left out of view of the belayer into a short overhanging corner. Pull through the corner on the right and wander left and then straight up to a belay stance, this pitch is real short. (10-, 10m)

Continue up a strenuous wide flaring crack (crux) to a nice finger crack in a right facing corner. (11-)

Next climb easier terrain to a clean big hands to fist crack in a right facing corner that's about 30' high and ends on a flat ledge. From the ledge a widening crack in the corner and a narrowing hand crack on the right wall continue up an overhanging section of wall for about 15+'. Or another easier option is to escape right off the ledge and back into the gully for another pitch or two.

At this point you should be just below an obvious chimney with ice in the back. Escape left again out of the gully and climb a shallow right facing corner that gets steeper and thinner about 40' to 50' up. This looked possible to free but it was also covered in lichen and not very inspiring. Most parties will probably opt to aid through it with micro cams and RP's. At the top of the aid section pull left into a left facing corner and continue for another 80' or so to a good belay.

Stay in this crack system for two more pitched of easy to mid fifth class climbing and then take the path of least resistance for a final pitch to the summit ridge. Simul-climbing to the summit is a good option but I would recommend tying in short to reduce rope drag.

Location 

This route is best accessed from the East Creek Basin approach. Our strategy which worked out well and I would recommend is to bivy at the Howser Bivy Boulder below Middle Howser the first night. Rappel down to the base of North Howser the following morning (nice bolted anchors on the rappel) and climb up to the bivy ledge for a second bivy. Top out the next day and wander back to Applebee. Starting early and skipping the Howser Boulder Bivy would be pretty easy to do as well. If a party is REAL fast it would be possible to climb this in a day but keep in mind that the climbing to the bivy ledge is much easier than the climbing to the summit and due to the loose rock in the gullies even the easier pitches go slower that usual.

The route starts just left of the lowest point of the West face, just look for a wide crack in a corner with a splitter hand crack on the right wall. There was an old anchor fixed just above the snow line and no ledges to start from. We hacked a ledge on the top of the snow and hung from an anchor we built to shoe up.

To descend we rapped the east face just below the summit. Four 60m rappels got us below the bergschrund and a short down climb got us on the glacier. As mentioned on other routes, the east face is incredibly loose so use caution. Also bring extra webbing to replace the old rap anchors and keep your fingers crossed that your ropes don't get stuck!

Protection 

A double set of Camalots up to #4 with a single set of micro cams and stoppers. A 00 and 000 C3 are nice to have for the short aid section high on the route. There are no fixed anchors on this route.


Photos of The Seventh Rifle Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Upper half of the Seventh Rifle.
BETA PHOTO: Upper half of the Seventh Rifle.
Rock Climbing Photo: A couple pitches below the summit ridge.
A couple pitches below the summit ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Top of the crux pitch.
Top of the crux pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Lots of loose rock!
Lots of loose rock!
Rock Climbing Photo: Bivy ledge
Bivy ledge
Rock Climbing Photo: Lower gully
Lower gully
Rock Climbing Photo: Megan following the first pitch.
Megan following the first pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Howser Boulder Bivy.  Watch out for the pack rat!
BETA PHOTO: Howser Boulder Bivy. Watch out for the pack rat!

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