Sierra Mountain Center

California’s premier mountaineering school and guide service – Bishop, CA

The Walker Tower (5-6 pitches, 5.7)

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20090802:  DAY 2!  In R.J. Secor’s book, a multi-pitch climb is mentioned to exist in Bloody Canyon, just north of June Lake.  The first tower on the left supposedly had a route following the right side of a larger corner on the prow of the tower, up to 5.6.  The whole description took up three lines as a “wrinkle”, fitting for a route established in the early 1970’s:

“There is a II 5.6 route on the easternmost pinnacle.  Climb the face to the right of a black open book, and then the book itself for eight pitches to the top of the pinnacle.  This was first climbed October 1972 by Art Buck and Allan Fletcher.”

Secor, The High Sierra, 2nd. ed., pg 376

walker tower / the buck-fletcher route follows a corner 
system in the shade just right of the arete

Three previous attempts, as a solo, mock-guiding, and an actual guided trip (thanks Carlton!) had gotten me up the first three pitches, but two more were clearly needed to top out.  A 60-meter rope cut down on the number of pitches that Buck and Fletcher had established, but I’m still scratching my head over how an 8-pitch climb could be called a grade II.  I talked a good game to Heimei and Jay, so they bit the bait and signed up to go for an adventure.  Oh boy.

haimei and jay finishing pitch 3 / this could normally 
be pitch 2 with a 60-meter ropes / they’re smiling!

First, we were using 55m ropes (chopped 60m’s) and suddenly those great belay ledges on the right side were just out of reach, so we had to belay, and climb in and out of, the dirtier corner, and it took three pitches to climb the lower corner instead of two.  Then I climbed through the roof pitch instead of staying on the right wall:  The climbing through the roof was cool, but the remaining 100′ was un-inspiring.  The next pitch was the meat and potatoes – a steep corner requiring careful stemming.  Again, a 60-meter rope would have put us at a great belay stance instead of in a cramped corner.  And it didn’t let up!  The final corner was a squeeze chimney, complete with pack-hanging-off-the-waist before gaining some blessed 4th class terrain to the summit.

still smiling on the summit!

A quick bit of short roping gained us the notch behind the tower, and the descent.  We finished the hike to the car right after dark by the light of a full moon and two headlamps.  Jay won’t make that mistake again!

Now that a week has worn away the edges of my memory, the climb wasn’t so bad, but it needs an early start (plan for an 8-10 hour day), a 60-meter rope, some cleaning to make it worthwhile.  Its also stiff for the reported grade – my compromise is to call it a II/III 5.7.  Jay and Haimei still insist that it was the adventure they had been looking for.  Not sure if I’ll head back there anytime soon, but I can be talked into it…

Chris Simmons is an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and a Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guide for SMC.  More about his adventures can be found on his personal site, Climb.Ski.Run.Sleep.Repeat. 

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Written by Chris

August 20, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Rock Climbing

Tagged with , ,

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