Summit Elevation (m): 2830
Trip Date: September 25, 2016
Elevation Gain (m): 800
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 13.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break bones
Difficulty Notes: Mostly easy to moderate scrambling if on route. There are a lot of cairns and flagging but tricky terrain and exposure awaits you if you miss these markers.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
After completing a truncated version of the Cautley Traverse (missing Cascade Rock and Wonder Peak), I found myself a bit dissatisfied with the idea of simply heading back to my camp at Lake Magog. I was feeling disappointed with being turned back on Gibraltar Rock as well. It felt like I had over-complicated what should have been an easy traverse and on hindsight, I had indeed done just that! Cascade Rock was easy hiking on the north end of the traverse (not the south), and Wonder Peak could be accessed via a hidden chimney on climber’s right of the seemingly impenetrable cliffs blocking the route from Ely’s Dome.
I blame three things on my lapse of route-finding skills on this particular day. First of all, running into a male Grizzly first thing in the morning threw me off my game a bit. Secondly, I was bummed about the bad weather forecast, which had promised sun and delivered nothing but clouds. Thirdly, I underestimated the clarity of the route in the snowy conditions that I had. I thought I’d be following an obvious trail in scree all day, but the snow obscured some parts of it, especially around Wonder Peak. Oh well. These things happen in the mountains – and usually when least expected.
To make up for my partial failure on the Cautley Traverse, I decided to go for the summit of The Towers. Originally I was going to stay in the area another day and attempt both The Towers and Naiset Point in one go, but based on the conditions I’d had on the Cautley Traverse, I didn’t want to push the traverse from The Towers to Naiset Point anyway, so I decided to attempt The Towers and save Naiset Point for another day and another trip. I hiked up a shallow draw immediately north of Wonder Peak, towards Wonder Pass and was soon scouting the lower route up The Towers. Something I didn’t realize at first, was that the skyline east ridge is not the scramble route. I followed a faint trail in scree to the east ridge. After scrambling up this ridge, I immediately noticed that the trail crossed a scree bowl to gain the south ridge which obviously led up to the summit.
I broke trail to the south ridge, including a short stretch of fresh snow about 2 feet deep on the lee side where the winds had deposited it. I was cautious about any slides that would occur, but the snow seemed fairly stable. From the south ridge, I followed bits of trail and eventually cairns up towards a seemingly impenetrable line of cliffs high up on the summit block. It was here that I had the most fun of my trip, following cairns and even ribbons embedded in cairns up seemingly impassible terrain. Every time I couldn’t figure out where a moderate scrambling route could possibly go, it would appear next to a line of cairns. I really enjoyed The Towers upper scrambling route. Eventually I crossed a final gully and scrambled my way up to the summit cairn and some pretty decent views considering the clouds. On a clear day, I think this would be an excellent summit view – probably one of the best in the area.
I enjoyed the summit of The Towers for about 30 minutes before heading back down, following my footprints in the snow and the lines of cairns back down the various crux sections on the south ridge. From Wonder Pass it was a pleasant hike back to my campsite at Lake Magog. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous due to my morning Grizzly encounter near the Assiniboine Lodge but I didn’t see the bear.
In an interesting sidebar, I wasn’t sure how I would sleep that night, knowing that there was a Grizzly nearby that had false charged me just that morning. I was fully prepared to be up the whole night, but to my surprise (and pride), I managed to squash any feelings of fear by simply being logical about the whole thing. Despite a very empty campground (many people had left), and being entirely alone in my section and my tent, I slept pretty well. Rather than make me more nervous about bears, having an encounter like the one I did turn out the way it did, only reinforces my opinion on Grizzlies. In normal circumstances, unless protecting a kill or their cubs, most bears simply don’t want any trouble with humans and will go out of their way to avoid a confrontation. The feeling, for my part, is 100% mutual!