the Island Bushwahcker 18:4. Fall 1990.
Mt. Colonel Foster North Tower, SW Face Direct
This route came by chance after having made previous unsuccessful bids on climbing the "standard" route. As a result, a new route was established.
We packed up the Elk River Valley the previous day, past Landslide Lake and set camp next to the glacier below Foster's impressive East Face. An early morning hike up over the moraines and through a forested section brought us to the boulder strewn remnants of the havoc unleashed during the 1946 shakedown. A long scramble up the right hand, broken gully of the basin took us onto the N shoulder with just a short scramble to reach the base of the NW couloir. As expected, the couloir was now ice; we strapped on crampons and started up. The usual late season bergshrund in the couloir was worse than ever, requiring some tricky maneuvering into the moat, followed by a foray of ice-caving which brought us to the head of a 50', 5th class face. A deep moat disappeared into blackness directly below. Having climbed the face, a scramble over graveled slabs brought us to the first system of wide, scree-covered ledges above the 'schrund. In an earlier attempt, a chimney to the left was ascended for three pitches to within 80' of an upper section of second ledges. We scrambled past the first ledge system, following the NW couloir for about 300' to gain access on the left hand face to a short 35', 5th class chimney. Exposed ledges cut N and upward across the SW face terminating at the base of an overhanging chimney directly above the highest point of our past attempt. The real climbing started from this point.
A belay was established underneath an overhanging section within the chimney. From this point, a tricky boulder move was made to gain the grooves on the right-hand wall. Stepping out around an edge, we found a series of footholds traversed right across an exposed face and terminated at a vertical hand-crack of about 5.6 difficulty. After a 100' runout, but only 75' above the top ledge system, a small bomb-proof ledge was passed (rappel spike included.) More hand jamming, a few face moves and a belay was then set up on a second, almost identical, stance 40' higher.
The route from here shot straight up a system of parallel cracks and shallow off-width chimneys through the steep and sometimes over-hanging rock. A combination of bridging, stemming, face, and jamming of sustained 5.6-5.7 difficulty brought us to a vertical arête-like section where daylight came right through from the back of the cracks. Naming this section the "blades" seemed appropriate. A rather blank-looking section, dominated by an overhang cut right and up. Beyond appeared to be a possible stance; 150' had already been led out, but we were climbing on a 180' rope. An almost desperate and definitely 5.8+ finger traverse ensued. I cursed my pack and mountain books. With 7' to spare, a tiny, two-body stance was reached, again complete with a bomb proof belay and rappel spike. Leaving this airy perch, we climbed a 40' section of blocky face to a poorly-protected, short 5.8 flaring chimney which cut through an overhanging section of the face. The ground eased-off and some moderate slabs were climbed until the crest of a short, knife-like arête. A rightward traverse yielded a good belay at 150' among the blocks above the headwall of a deep gully. A short 3rd class scramble over blocks and easy slabs put us on the summit at 4:30 pm. With 3 ½ hours of daylight left, we had a short break and photo session. A decision was made to rap the same route, as anchors were guaranteed.
We scrambled down to the last belay point and located another perfect spike for a sling. Roping down went flawlessly; the steepness of the route prevented any hang-ups on the course rock. One last rappel into the moat and, by the time we started down the last remaining ice-slope of the couloir, alpenglow had the slopes and mountains bathed in fiery orange, pinks and deep purples.
Our descent down to Landslide Lake and camp was another story as my 'new' battery for my Petzl sputtered-out after an hour. At least we were home just before midnight.
FA: John Put and Fred Put, September 7, 1989.