The Simulator: Alpine-style FA on North Howser

Posted on: August 19, 2010


The Simulator (5.11 C2, 19 pitches, 3,000'), with new terrain marked in red, on the west face of North Howser Tower, Bugaboos Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. Over 42 hours August 11-13, in bitter wet and cold conditions, Chad Kellogg and Dylan Johnson established this direct start that connects into the upper half of the Southwest Face route. [Photo] John Scurlock

On August 11, Americans Chad Kellogg and Dylan Johnson abandoned plans to climb All Along the Watchtower, the revered Grade VI on the west face of North Howser Tower in the Bugaboos of British Columbia. Inspired by Alpinist 14's Mountain Profile on the Howser Towers, they instead picked out an unclimbed line on the same face, just right of Young Men on Fire (VI 5.11- A4). In less than 42 hours, car to car, they climbed The Simulator (5.11 C2, 19 pitches, 3,000'), which ascends 12 new pitches (1,500') of high-quality granite into the Southwest Face (V 5.7 A2).

Going light, with just one rope and no bivy gear, Kellogg and Johnson rappelled to the base of the west face on the morning of August 11 and began climbing. More than 1,000' of excellent 5.10-5.11 dihedrals were tempered by the need to aid through waterlogged rock, moss and the occasional loose block or expanding flake. Pitch 3 was the superlative, Johnson said: "excellent 5.10+ fingers in a corner on perfect white granite."

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Their first chance to rest was 2 a.m., at the end of Pitch 10, where they found "grim wet ledges in the back of a shallow chimney." Here they brewed and recharged for four hours, the weather deteriorating as the sun rose. After two pitches they escaped the dark chimney. Wind, thunder and a snow squall did not turn the pair around but convinced them to follow the Southwest Face route rather than continue their independent line.

At 7 p.m. they crested the summit ridge, topping out soon after. Almost.

"On the way home, looking at photos we realized that in the complete white out we had been standing on the wrong side of the summit gendarme (some 20 feet shy)," Johnson said. "So I suppose it was merely an attempt!"

Kellogg following high on The Simulator. Johnson reported that the weather forecast "called for blue skies and zero percent chance of precip." [Photo] Dylan Johnson

They left no fixed gear aside from a bit of tat on Pitch 11, used to lower out. The pair returned to their car around 1 a.m. on August 13.

This September, Kellogg and Johnson are hoping to make the first ascent of Seerdengpu (5592m), in China's Sichuan Province. Since neither partner had climbed North Howser Tower previously, and with this upcoming expedition on their minds, Johnson explained: "We thought attempting a new line would be more appropriate than reading a topo."

Sources: Dylan Johnson, Chad Kellogg

Chad Kellogg lowering out on Pitch 11 of The Simulator. [Photo] Dylan Johnson

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