| Safety Rating
| Rock Quality
| Fun Factor
Good epic - 36 hours car to car
We had ideal weather, 25 degrees and sunny, and it was a good thing because we went off route, climbed unneccesary stuff, and had to spend the night atop the Big Step!
The sheer scale of this climb threw us off. We started at 4:30 a.m. and were a little sleep deprived, which maybe explains how we thought we had made it to the Big Step already at 7:00 a.m. We climbed a buttress (we later named it the "Fake Step") which loosely corresponded to Dow Williams' pitch descriptions in the Big Step.. we just assumed we were a little off route. It felt like about 5.9, with a few danger loose holds. We also saw the headlamps of a party in front of us apparently at the top of this step. (They probably took the gully right, scrambled up, then traversed left).
Near the top of the Fake Step, a couple climbers from New Hampshire caught up to us.. they were also confused. We scrambled, short-roped and traversed up the ridge, scanning left and right to figure out where the route was. It finally dawned on us that the Big Step was yet to come, and when we finally reached it, it was obvious and prominent. It offers great climbing at old school 5.7 in Pitch 1 - 3, then about 100m of scrambling up a gully to reach the chimney (pitch 4). It's also a great 5.7 pitch, but deteriorates into bad choss at the top. It's possible to climb out, find a block to the right that takes some pro and an adjacent slung block and build a good anchor out of all that. We exited the chimney around 7 p.m., found a bivy built by these guys:
.. and settled in for the night. It was cold but not brutal.
We awoke and started at sunrise the next morning, continued as high along the ridge as possible, at one point skirting a little right to ascend a shale buttress going back left, gaining some elevation in order to contour around towards the Black Towers. The detached fin that marks the start of the Black Towers low 5th class climbing slope is fairly obvious - there are two shiny bolts there - and we didn't have too much snow to deal with. It wasn't that hard to find; our route finding challenge was all the lower stuff, just so much scrambling to do before hitting the Big Step.
Black Towers is very garbage limestone and quite loose, so you really have to check every hold in places before committing to it. Strong PG13 here. Not much pro in the first half, but keep your eyes open and follows pitons, trend up and left, you will eventually see a few more bolts.
The summit glacier traverse is amazing, such a reward after all the trials below. The snow was firm but not icy, except in a couple spots. My partner did have a crampon pop off right at the steepest, iciest part, and I had to quickly fire in a couple screws for him to anchor to while he re-attached it, or it could've been really bad..
Overall, a solid 3/5 rating. It's not always a blast, but it is really memorable. Itís a huge climb and for us was a battle. The descent down the SW ridge to Moraine Lake sorta sucks though..
Other good topos to check: