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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Tower Mountain & Golden Horn

Gorgeous overnight climb of Tower Mountain and Golden Horn via the PCT. This climb had it all: fun scrambling, a wee bit of fifth class climbing, alpine lake swimming, huckleberries galore, and even a hula hooping competition in a cave.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • We ascended to Snowy Lakes via the PCT from Rainy Pass. It's the PCT; it's in great shape. Huckleberries galore. Larches have not yet turned; perhaps 3-4 more weeks and they'll be in prime season. Lower Snowy Lake is shallow and warm (for an alpine lake). The rockfall risk on Tower and Golden Horn is manageable by keeping the team together in most parts and going one-at-a-time through any terrain traps.

We departed the Rainy Pass trailhead at around 8:30 AM on Saturday. There were still a few parking spaces left. We went at a moderate pace, stopping once per hour for a 5 minute break, and arrived at Lower Snowy Lake at just after 1 PM. 

We took a break to set up camp before ascending to Tower Mountain. It was hard to believe from the lake that the main gully was a simple 3rd class scramble. We ascended to toward the prominent cave, noting that rain was quickly approaching. None of us were excited to scramble wet slabs, so we decided to go check out the cave and turn around. In the back of the cave, we found 2 old hula hoops and had a little competition while we waited out the rain storm.

To our surprise, the rain ended quickly and was followed by blue skies. The rock did not get soaked, so we decided to continue to ascend and check out the gully. The gully had loose rock in places, but it was manageable by staying close together, keeping our hands and feet on solid rock and slabs as much as possible, and going one-at-a-time through individual terrain traps. Cairns mark what appears to be the easiest route up. We found ourselves on fourth class terrain at one point, but were able to avoid that on the way down by staying climber's right in the gully. We reached the giant summit cairn at around 4 PM.

We arrived back at camp at around 6 PM, with plenty of time to swim in the lake, eat dinner, and listen to Harry Potter on audiobook before turning in for the night. 

The next morning we departed camp just after 6:30 for Golden Horn. Unlike our Tower Mountain trip, there was already one party aiming for the peak. We leapfrogged them for a while and told them to go ahead of us for the final summit push, since we were a group of 7 and were planning to get belayed up to the summit and rappel down. We followed them up the final gully, trending right. Unfortunately, this was to a false scramble summit, which was where they ended up staying since they didn't have a rope. We traversed downward and into the left gully, were we were able to reach the summit block. We all dropped our packs and put on harnesses below the summit block webbing. There we ascended rightward and up, to a large ledge, where I was belayed out on lead. The mantle move to gain the summit was indeed tricky; on lead there really is no protecting it beyond placing a nut or cam at your feet and going for it. The summit block anchor is a big boulder resting on the ridge that is smaller than a refrigerator. It is probably the smallest monolith I would be comfortable rappelling off of. I reinforced the existing anchor comprised of 1" webbing with my own cordelette, wrapping it down and underneath a lip of the cliff itself. I belayed each follower up, one at a time. There was room for all seven of us at the summit.


For the rappel, I asked everyone to sit still untethered to the rock anchor, since it almost certainly would not hold the weight of seven people if there was a slip. On our way down, we started to notice even more climbers coming up, waiting for us to get out of the gully before they ascended. It was significantly more crowded than Tower Mountain and we were happy to be first to summit for the day.

We got back to camp at around 11:30 AM, departed around 1:15 PM, and were back at the cars at 4:30 PM. 

 

 

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