Rowell's Sierra FAs


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tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 29, 2012 - 09:53pm PT
That link above does show the cyclorama wall. It's a ways back there, but dumbbell lakes are well worth a visit even if you don't climb the wall.

How about that Tyndall Route? Does it really overhang at the first pitch?
David Wilson

Feb 29, 2012 - 10:16pm PT
kevin, it would be great to see the pics of galen. i'll try to dig a few out as well, although i rarely carried a camera knowing he was on motor drive the whole time

tom, the first pitch was aided by steve brewer ( the same as with bridwell on cerro torre ). galen and i arrived with that pitch fixed. it's on exfoliated rock like you often find at a bergshrund and is quite steep. parts are certainly overhanging. steve had placed a bunch of blades and arrows as i recall from my memory of jugging by
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
Feb 29, 2012 - 11:18pm PT
Did someone say Tyndall? That wall looks good.
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 29, 2012 - 11:22pm PT
Thanks David. Me and a friend have been talking about that route. The legend was that the haul bags were swinging in space on the fist haul.

We were having trouble picturing something so steep on Tyndall, but a big remote wall certainly sounds interesting.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 1, 2012 - 12:51am PT
a quick search in the AAJ online (I didn't clean it up very much but I'm on to other things!)
Wapama Rock, South Face, Hetch Hetchy Valley, Hetch Hetchy Valley lies a scant 15 air miles from Yosemite Valley, still within the confines of the park, but until April, Hetch Hetchy had never heard the blow of a piton hammer
Stone House Buttress, first ascent of summit via south face, January 1970 (Faint, Rowell) NCCS IV, F8.
The Keystone, Tuttle Creek Crags, first ascent, March 1970 (Jones, Rowell) NCCS III, F8.
Lone Pine Peak, 12,944 feet, first ascent of south face, March 1970 (also first winter ascent of south face) (Jones, Rowell)NCCS IV, F8.
The Obelisk, first ascent of summit via east face, April 1970 (Jones, Rowell) NCCS III, F9.
Peak 13,016, first ascent of south face, May 1970 (Jones, Faint, Rowell) NCCS V, F8, A2.
Peak 12,880+, first ascent via west ridge, August 1970 (Rowell) Class 4.
Mount Corcoran, 13,600t feet, first traverse of the four major summits, including first ascent of the east face of "Sharkís Tooth Tower", August 1970 (Rowell) NCCS F7.
Mount LeConte, 13,960 feet, first ascent of southwest ridge, August, 1970 (Rowell) NCCS II, F6.
Mount Clarence King, Southeast Face. This 12,909-foot mountain dominates the upper watershed of the Kings Canyon region although it is surrounded by higher peaks
Mount Humphreys, Northeast Face. In May Joe Faint and I climbed the 1600-foot face in superb alpine conditions.
The Watchtower, Northeast Arete, Tokopah Valley. Hidden in a small dead-end valley, this huge granite prow has escaped the notice of most California climbers
Shaw Spire. This free-standing pinnacle at the head of George Creek, nestled under the east face of Mount Barnard, was ascended for the first time in March by Jerry Gregg and me.
Bear Creek Spire, South Face.
Fuller Buttes, Eagle Dihedral. In April Jerry Coe and I climbed a route on the southwest face of the eastern butte.
The Smokestack. This is the lefthand tower on a separate but obscure massif of the Wheeler Crest, marked as P 8400 on the map, above Wellís Meadow on the Owens Valley floor.
Kalona Rock, North Face. On Memorial Day weekend, Warren Harding and I made the first ascent of this 1800-foot face in Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Angel Wings, 10,252 feet, first ascent of summit and of south arete. NCCS V, F9, A3
Keeler Needle, 14,240+ feet, second ascent and first winter ascent of east face. NCCS V, F9, A3 (Harding, Auger, Rowell) March 5, 1972
Peak 13,680+, (east peak of Mount Barnard) first ascent of east face, NCCS IV, F9 (Auger, Rowell) April 1972
Charlotte Dome, Southwest Arete. Dave Lomba and I climbed 11 pitches of choice high-country granite along this narrow ridge.
Crystal Crag, East Face. Vern Clevenger and I climbed a three-pitch F9 route on the left side of this face in January.
Towers Below Wheeler Crest. In September Chris Vandiver and I climbed two virgin towers in this region, naming them Soaring Eagle Tower and Chicken of the Sea Tower.
Mount Hale Pinnacles and Mount Hale, East Face. On the ridge of Mount Hale that extends toward Mount Whitney, before ending above Arctic Lake, there are two very prominent towers separated by a gap of 100 feet.
Lone Pine Peak, South-Southeast Face. From the Stone House the south-southeast face of Lone Pine Peak presents the following features:
a large couloir starts to the right of the lowest point of the face and ends very high beneath a steep step through which the route finishes; to the right of the large couloir a huge ledge can be seen in the middle of the face; last, still on the right, the wall is limited by an ill-defined ridge with many pillars. On July 12 and 13, Tom Birtley and I climbed a new route.
The Juggernaut, Dihedral Route. This route follows the only prominent open-book on the face climbed and named by Beckey in 1973 above Crown Lake, near Rock Island Pass.
Coyote Cliffs. These cliffs are in Coyote Creek canyon about three miles above its junction with Bishop Creek, near Route #168.
Peak 12,160+, Peaklet Wall. This peak appears to be a smaller image of Mount Humphreys when viewed from the east. In August, Jay Jensen, Gordon Wiltsie, Helmut Kiene, and I climbed the 1800-foot northeast face, locally referred to as "Peaklet Wall."
Wheeler Crest, Big Gray Pinnacle. In November, I joined a visiting French climber, David Belden, in making the first ascent of this 1000 foot tower by a prominent dihedral on the east face.
Mount Humphreys, South Pillar of Southeast Face. On December 30, Jay Jensen and I made a one-day new route up this 1500-foot pillar.
Peak 11,440+. Spring Lake Wall, "Thatís a Sheer Cliff" Route. The north face of Peak 11,440+ in the Mineral King region drops sheerly into Spring Lake.
Mount Conness, 12,590 feet, first winter ascent of west face (Graber, Hennek, Rowell) March 6, 1976, NCCS V, FIO, A3.
Mount Conness, first all-free ascent of west face (Rowell, Vandiver) July I, 1976, NCCS V, Fl I.
Keeler Needle, 14,300 feet, first all-free ascent of east face (Rowell, Vandiver, Wiltsie) August 2 I, 1976, NCCS V, F IO.
Split Mountain, East Arete of South Summit. Once called Southeast Palisade, this mountain somehow escaped all of the technical climbing that has gone on in the true Palisade Group, a few miles to the north. From the east, 14,058-foot Split Mountain presents two narrow aretes dropping 2000 feet each into a basin.
Split Mountain, East Arete of North Summit. This long ridge is not as continuously steep as its neighbor that leads to the south summit, but the total climbing distance is greater, due to several gaps and a long knife edged section in the middle.
Hot Tuna Tower, Open-Book Route. This tower is located on the east side of Wheeler Crest and is visible from U.S. 395 at the beginning of Sherwin Grade, north of Bishop, California.
Mount Winchell, Southwest Arete. This beautiful knife-edge is pictured on page five of the Sierra Club book, Gentle Wilderness: The Sierra Nevada
Bear Creek Spire, South Face, British Chimney Route. On July 5, I took Nigel Gifford, a veteran of British Army expeditions to Nuptse and Everest, on a day climb in the gentle wilderness of the High Sierra
Mount Chamberlin, West Pillar. The 1400-foot vertical granite face of this peak is not fully visible from any road or major trail, and thus it escaped the recent heavy pressure of Sierra rock climbing until July when Mike Farrell and I made the round-trip in two days.
P 12,860, Cyclorama Wall. This obscure summit, located in the middle of a netherworld between the Palisades and Leconte Canyon, is a milewide, 1000-foot, vertical wall every bit as impressive as the Diamond on Longs Peak.
Tower a la Neptune, Wheeler Crest. This is the farthest left of the "Hot Tuna" towers, a row of pink granite spires about 3000 feet above the Owens Valley floor on the Wheeler Crest.
North Palisade, West face. The Palisade Range offers Californiaís most alpine climbing on 14,000-foot peaks fluted with ice gullies that rise above cirque glaciers.
Mount Tyndall, Direct East Face. In September Steve Brewer, David Wilson and I made the first ascent of this 1500-foot granite wall.
"Ruby Peak," South Arete. This is the unofficial name for the peak above Ruby Lake in the Little Lakes Valley region of the Eastern Sierra.
Mount Whitney, Direct East Face, Winter Ascent. In February Mike Graber, Ron Kauk, and I skied into the cirque under Mount Whitney to attempt the long Grade V route to the left of the normal east face
Twilight Pillar, Clyde Peak, Winter Ascent. In February, David Wilson and I made the first winter ascent of this classic Grade III summer route.
Disappointment Peak, West Face. In September, Dan Frankl and I lugged hardware over Southfork Pass and around the "back side" of the Palisades to a camp on a terrace below Middle Palisade
Consummate Corner, Patricia Bowl. While ski touring in Paticia Bowl, above the 10,000-foot road in Rock Creek Canyon, I spotted a wall of granite crags that were hidden from the road
Kevin Worral and I began directly beneath the prominent buttress that splits the face of Piscator Peak
Virginia Puss Crag, Left Crack (5.10a), a 200-foot overhanging hand-crack on a prominent triangular cliff between Virginia Lake and Purple Lake, climbed by Duane, Letemendia, Worrall and me on August 14
P 11,428, above Silver Pass, "Double Barrell Right" (5.9), 600 feet, right center of east face, by Duane and me;
Seven Gables, 13,075 feet, Second Gable, Chimney Route. Letemendia and I ascended this 1400-foot 5.9 route on the longest face up the northeast wall,
Mount Whitney, which I thought had been ascended from every possible direction, had a virgin northeast arete between easy chutes on the north and west sides that had no cairns on prominent gendarmes or loose rock moved away from critical handholds. On July 27, I climbed this 1200-foot, 5.7 pinnacled ridge, finding some of the finest rock anywhere in the Sierra Nevada.
Columbia Finger, a prominent spire near Cathedral Pass.
P 12,880 + on the map. Its dead vertical southeast face of white granite is split by straight cracks that run from base to summit.
Langille Peak. 11,991 feet, has the largest face anywhere along the Muir Trail. The left side of this 3000-foot northeast wall was climbed by Beckey and Jones in 1970. On July 14, David Wilson and I ascended a more direct, very prominent arete that leads to the south summit (IV, 5.10b).
The Hermit, which was first ascended by a party in July 1924 that included my mother. The final 20-foot summit block is so rarely climbed even today that the Sierra Club register is placed below it. My Momís party threw a hemp packerís rope over the pinnacle to get to the top. In July 1988, I thought I spotted a reasonable route up the steepest part of the east face, but when I began soloing in running shoes, I found myself on 5.8 and tried to traverse left to easier climbing. Unable to find a way, I did a second 5.8 pitch and then a third. The rock was very solid with each crux a quite similar short but steep hand-crack. The summit block itself is at least 5.7.
north arete of Vennacher Needle, a 12,996-foot peak just south of Mather Pass. On July 12, I soloed an 500-foot 5.8 route that ascends the skyline as seen from the trail,
Vern Clevenger and I ascended the north buttress of the west summit of Acrodectes Peak, a 13,183-foot peak near Baxter Pass.
Just south of Donohue Pass is a prominent ridge at the head of Rush Creek that forces the Muir Trail to detour east before continuing into the Minaret region. On July 1, Jim Jackson and I ascended a conspicuous crack on the steepest section of this 350-foot face (5.9).
Mount Whitney, East Face. On June 16, David Wilson and I ascended a new all-free route, Left Wing Extremist (V, 5.11a, 16 pitches) on this 2000-foot granite wall to the left of the old Direct East-Face route.
Evolution Peaks, Grand Traverse.
Mount Darwin, Southwest Arete. While camped at Evolution Lake in July, I noticed a surprisingly clean and well-defined granite arete on the 13,831-foot Mt. Darwinís jumbled and broken southern wall.


Boulder, CO
Mar 1, 2012 - 10:19am PT
I added the Direct East Face route on Tyndall to the list above. The fact that I missed it, makes me think there are others missing.

One of the great things about the routes that Rowell did, were the accounts and photos that document the time. For example, you read in the Secor book that he did a first ascent on the south face of Bear Creek Spire and his is the only name listed, so you think "hm...solo?". Then you find the book "High and Wild" where he recounts the experience and you learn that he did in fact solo the FA and then picked up his bike in Rock Creek and biked back to his car in Pine Creek. That book has been an inspiration.

Speaking of photos, David Wilson has some of the most amazing photos of the High Sierra I have ever seen. For example, if you want to see some amazing photos of the Whitney or Tydall east faces, check out the book "Above All".
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 10, 2012 - 01:35pm PT
Galen's 1,00 mile weekend. Bump this thread---please!

Another Galen thread...
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
May 31, 2012 - 05:43pm PT
The route Ed mentioned on Fuller Buttes, Eagle Dihedral, 1972.
I remember Jerry Coe telling me about it after he and Rowell completed it.
We were in the lodge cafeteria slamming Curry Hurry. He had been gone about a day and a half before anyone knew he was gone from his tent. He had a ranger flat hat, so I think he had gotten on as some sort of a freak naturalist or something. He and his wife Renee were good friends with me and mine.

Southern Yosemite? I was not listening. Until now, when Jerry Anderson emailed a shot showing Banner, Ritter, the Minarets, the Balls and Fresno Dome, as well as the Fuller Buttes, I had been under the impression that they lay somewhere up north in Lassen or just south of there.

Jerry was really jazzed. He swung leads with Galen, and they were done before they got warmed up. They were able to get back to the Valley easily by dark. Flash drive in the 1970s? Rowell always ran while others slogged. I think he was Harding's sedulous ape in that regard, because they both wasted no time travelling.

I don't remember how the climbing was as Jerry described it. Just that it was in a diedre.

Jerry Coe, everyone wants to know.....dormez vous?


Trad climber
SeKi, California
May 31, 2012 - 06:02pm PT
Galen seemed like a driven man. I went to one of his slide shows and he had everyone glued to every word. In that big crowd everyone was even scared to get up to go to the bathroom, for like hours it seemed. Then of course someone finally did and pretty soon Galen relized he had better pause for a break.
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
May 31, 2012 - 07:40pm PT
Cyclorama Wall pics please!
Jerry Dodrill

Topic Author's Reply - May 31, 2012 - 07:45pm PT
Great info.

When I posted this I was pondering which peak might bear his name.

August 11 marks 10 years since his departure to the next adventure. On that day I hope to be climbing one of his routes.

May 31, 2012 - 08:32pm PT
not mine, but a nice shot of the wall...
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
May 31, 2012 - 08:47pm PT
Holy sh!t. I'm going.

Grey Matter
May 31, 2012 - 09:16pm PT
I like this quote, talking about the east face of Mt. Bernard (1973):
"Timís last lead was a vertical corner with a touch of F9, a fitting ending to the finest all-free route I have ever done on the Sierra crest."
(at least as of 1973)

I think Eric Roed told me he freed the east face of Tyndall a few years ago. 5.11 R
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
May 31, 2012 - 09:36pm PT
I think Eric Roed told me he freed the east face of Tyndall a few years ago. 5.11 R

Id like to hear about that one.
Bob Harrington

Bishop, California
Jun 1, 2012 - 08:49pm PT
I've done that Rowell-Farrell route on Chamberlin. Really cool, thirteen pitches sounds about right. It follows a straight-up straight-in chimney line for a bunch of pitches, then when the way gets blocked by a big gory overhang, the route kicks out right, a bit of 5.9, and you're up. This route was the first on the N. face of Chamberlin and we did what was probably the second ascent as a recon to see what else was out there. There was lots more to be done: the buttress to the left is bigger and broader, so it's what you would consider to be the main feature of the peak. But the Rowell-Farrell is really an attractive route - long with a steep plumb-bob line, reasonable grade, decent rock (especially considering how trashy things can get in the Whitney area when you venture off the beaten path). You guys looking for unknown gems - this route should be more popular. Sort of a Steck-Salathe of the high country. If I can find a topo, I'll scan it.

It's got a long approach, which would be complicated by permit issues these days. I note above that Galen and Mike did it in two days round trip - that's bookin' - we probably took three.

Social climber
State of decay
Jun 1, 2012 - 10:13pm PT
East Face of the East Peak of Barnard. One of the finest back-country routes Galen did. Gets done more now than before do to the sheep closure.
Bob Harrington

Bishop, California
Jun 1, 2012 - 10:39pm PT
OK, here's my 30+ year old topo for the Rowell-Farrell on Chamberlin... Go do it you turkeys!

Bob Palais

Trad climber
May 4, 2013 - 03:47pm PT
Just came across this doing a web search for the great photo of David Wilson on Mt. Langille, Elliott Robinson and I repeated that in a long day from the car, including a hail storm.

I've asked a few people about a repeat of the Columbia Finger route that is mentioned in the AAJ list of 1989: "Columbia Finger, a prominent spire near Cathedral Pass."

It was my first longer excursion with Galen. It began with stashing packs at the Ahwahnee, driving up to the Meadows and sneaking with sleeping bags into the trees by the trailhead. "Galen Rowell does that too??" In the morning we biked down the the Valley and Galen politely tried to hide slowing his pace a bit to keep me in sight. On the mist trail the conversation turned to the possibilities of digital photography, Moore's law vs the density of film, and Stewart Brand's recent at the time Whole Earth Review piece on the end of photos as legal evidence:
Definitely seems ahead of the times in retrospect.

So after a night at Sunrise with lots of the guests (and me) enjoying a spontaneous sunset photo session/lesson with Galen, when we did a new route up a Finger crack on Columbia Finger that made our digits sore, the obvious name to record the experience and the conversation was Digital Manipulation.

No one I've spoken with about it has repeated it or heard of repeats. I was blown away by his lead on the crux. Onsight, steep tips layback corner, placing small wires, little granite flakes chipping off under his shoes. I barely followed without falling. The previous week I had followed Wayne Burleson on Arch Rival and Immaculate Deception (11bs?) in the Meadows and this seemed harder. He didn't seem to think much of it and asked if I thought it was difficult. I knew his reputation as a mountaineer, but was wondering if even he knew his ability on rock...He was almost 50 that year.

I clumsily led a little 10b overhang to just below the summit, knocking off a two-foot torpedo from the lip that nearly bonked him in the process. Ooooops, Sorry Galen, I'll try be more careful.

Then back to the truck at the trailhead for the legendary exciting drive back to the Bay Area with Galen at the wheel. `I know exactly how long it would take a car behind that curve to get to the point I get back in my lane...' We stopped and he showed me the spot where he'd almost gotten banned from the Park for reporting that the rangers weren't flying tranquilized bears to the backcountry as they said, they were dumping them off a cliff.

That was my introduction to Galen, and my admiration for him as a person only kept growing. I'll see if I can scan a picture of him at the base of the route. I'd be interested to hear if someone has done it again!
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
May 4, 2013 - 03:56pm PT
I did not see Mt. Powell in my speed read through here. My one and only climb with Galen was doing the East Face of Mt. Powell with him and Beckey in 69. I was only 17 and it was a pretty wild ride!
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