Trip Report
Rowell Tower - First Ascent of Full Nelson (IV - 1,200 ft, 5.10+ R)
Saturday December 12, 2015 7:08pm
Largest of the Hamilton Towers, I suspect it was the one described as the most difficult and climbed by Greg Henzie, Chris Jones and Galen Rowell in 1970 (R.J. Secor's High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails). Although the North Face of the formation looks challenging from the High Sierra Trail, the view of the striking South Face surrounded by impressive spires forced me to demand a week long vacation as soon as I was back to work. It allowed Brian Prince and I to return five days after the initial sighting from the Eagle Scout Creek Dome. Other than the original route from the North, prior to our ascent the peak had no other routes we were aware of and no specific name. While enjoying the stunning views from the summit after climbing the peak, we decided to think of a fitting name for such a proud peak. To honor one of the first ascentionists, we named it The Rowell Tower. In memory of a renowned climber, photographer and writer, who made the adventure accessible to the masses through numerous stories and photographs. His spirit is well alive here in the Sierra Nevada, where dozens of worthy un-climbed faces and untraveled canyons allow a life-time of exploration.

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The Rowell Tower. Red is our route, arrows are rappells and yellow ...

The Rowell Tower. Red is our route, arrows are rappells and yellow is the scramble off
Credit: Vitaliy M.
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Brian on the approach from Hamilton Lake to Eagle Scout Creek. Not a bad spot to take it all in.


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Formation we climbed is the prominent one on the left. The route of FA is *likely* the arete on the left. Hamilton Dome is the big thing on the right.


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Second pitch

During the prior outing, we found heinous bushwhacking approaching the neighboring spires through the Granite Creek drainage, so we decided to set a basecamp at Hamilton Lake, which would allow us to attempt several peaks in the surrounding area. Without assistance from pack mules, we hiked in nine days of food and climbed a new route on the Cherubim Dome day following the 16 (or 17) mile approach. On the third day we crossed over the ridge that drops down from the Eagle Scout Peak and forms some of the Hamilton Towers. We gained about two thousand feet and crossed the ridge at the notch east of the spire we dubbed The Serpent's Tooth. We brought four days of food and set up camp next to a stream, only fifteen minutes west of a beautiful lake.


As striking as this tower looked from across, the route we found was not something I would recommend to a friend. There may be better options up the central part of the South Face, but we didn't see continuous crack systems. The eastern part of the South Face looked too straight forward to be challenging to us, but may be a great adventure for someone who wants to do a moderate new route on a gorgeous rock monolith.


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Brian on the 4th pitch


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The other climbing was sh#t, so here is Brian on one of the summit pinnacles! :)


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Brian on the true summit


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View of the Angel Wings, Cherubim Dome to the right. The Globe can be seen to the left in the backround, on the same ridge with the Saber Ridge.


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Brian prior to rappell.

We begun by climbing un-roped up a pitch that did not look too bad from the base. It turned out to have a 5.8ish crux, which was plenty challenging in hiking boots, with a heavy load of gear and a death fall potential far away from any sort of help. If there is anyone who want to do a second ascent of this route, I would advise to rope up at the base, put on your climbing shoes, or better climb one of the other routes we have done in the area. From the top of the initial pitch, we took the left leaning weakness on the west side of the south face. Three more long, at times dirty, difficult and plenty runout pitches took us to a large ledge on the western flanks. By than, we were fairly worked by the approach from Hamilton Lake and the burly climbing we encountered. The continuous steep crack systems above had a vertical section that would likely involve a bolt ladder, so we discussed bailing. After a 30 meter rappell, we traversed further left, where we found a system that allowed us to continue bailing upwards. We climbed another five pitches (actually four, but we simul-climbed for about 400 feet), which were not much less scary or loose than the initial pitches. The final pitch involved negotiating around stacked flakes that could have killed Brian if I looked at them too hard. Fortunately they remained fixed to the mountain for a little longer and bombarded down as Brian applied pressure from a safe stance. It was a great show, but nothing new, as we had at least four of those by than.


The top of the formation was spectacular, with exposed twin summits and a sharp knife edge that led to the high point. Neither of us two could believe that it is possible we were the second group to enjoy the views from this peak. For those willing to walk a little further, a whole world of exploration is available in the local hills. A lifetime of climbing with no signs of humans anywhere in sight. Eagle Scout Creek in particular may see one or two hikers a year, or in ten years. The only other person I have met who has gone out there was a worker from the Bearpaw Meadow Campground who went up the valley to see it for himself and camp in solitude. He hiked from Bearpaw via the trail leading towards Redwood Meadow and cut cross country up the creek. It may be an easier way in, but I personally have no experience with that approach.


From the summit, we rappelled east with a 60 M rope. On one of the rappells we used a chicken head for an anchor. Anchor which was easy to recover with a flick of a rope. On the next rappell our sixty meter rope did not reach the ledge, which was awfully close. Fortunately, we were able to down-climb scary and exposed 5th class vegetation to reach it. From there we continued to scramble towards the notch and the base of the mountain. All the other routes we climbed in this valley during the following three days were much more enjoyable and better in quality. Personally I would give those four to five stars, while this would get two. As far as the adventure and the views, it would get five as well, but it is safe to say our route is not the most enjoyable way to the summit. We called it Full Nelson for a reason, not only because we enjoy the sound of Limp Bizkit as we hike.


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Second rappell anchor :) Bomber brah!


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Didn't think I would ever have a chance to see a bear take a dump in the wild. Fresh and warm!


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The Beautiful Lake up stream from us


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Another day in the books


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A little outline of the area. The Black Kaweah is a little west, out of view. The Darth Vader Tower is a little more south, out of view. The Globe, Prism and Saber Ridge are all slightly more north. Hope this is a good outline of the area...

Other Climbs done in the area during the summer:

FA on The Globe
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-globe-fa-of-standing-ovation-1000.html

FA on the Prism
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/08/valhalla-diary-pt-3-prism-fa-monkeys-in.html

FA on The Serpent's Tooth
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-serpents-tooth-fa-of-wild-west.html

Angel Wings-Valkyrie, 1st attempts on the Golden Pillar and Saber Ridge
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/08/valhalla-diary-pt-2-angel-wings.html
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/08/valhalla-diary-pt-1-fa-attempt-on-angel.html

FA on the Angel Wings
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/10/angel-wings-first-ascent-on-golden.html

Two FAs on The Cherubim Dome
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/10/cherubim-dome-two-new-routes.html

Two FAs on Hamilton Dome
(coming soon)

FA on the Eagle Scout Creek Dome
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/09/eagle-scout-creek-dome-fa-of-direct.html

FA of the Darth Vader Tower (or Granite Creek Tower)
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2015/08/first-ascent-of-granite-creek-spire.html


  Trip Report Views: 4,310
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is an annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
  Dec 12, 2015 - 07:11pm PT
here's to well-fed bears and badasz climbers!!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Dec 12, 2015 - 07:17pm PT
Illgobackandread this/;)
A SarurdayNight special
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Dec 12, 2015 - 07:24pm PT
Sometimes they are less than stellar. But in your quest to climb every remaining line in the High Sierra they all have to be done.

When do you sleep anyway?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Dec 12, 2015 - 07:25pm PT
That rappel Knob is righteous man! You guys must have laughed at the providence of it all.

You are finding some choice Sierra lines Vitaly!

Thanks for sharing your fun with us.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Dec 12, 2015 - 07:31pm PT
Vitaly-do you ever sleep?
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
  Dec 12, 2015 - 08:10pm PT
Screw the climbs... How big are the Golden's in Beautiful Lake?

PS: If ya'll really had a big pair, you'd of rapped off a shoe string slung off that knob.... 5/10+ at best.

;}
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Dec 12, 2015 - 08:11pm PT
Amazing! Thanks for yet another wonderful trip report.

John
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Dec 12, 2015 - 09:46pm PT
Ok, this is just getting ridiculous ;)
johntp

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
  Dec 13, 2015 - 09:58am PT
Nice tribute to Galen.
H

Mountain climber
there and back again
  Dec 13, 2015 - 10:33am PT
Vitaliy 5.10+R, hemmm. 10+ has always been a dubious distinction. I'll go by my axiom I never underestimate climbing advice from a 5.12 climber.

Your going after it Dude. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your reports and your enthusiasm. Our tribe benefits tremendously from all your hard work. Your actual vocation must seem like a vacation from what you do with your time off.

Keep up the good work man, and stay conscious out there.
H

Mountain climber
there and back again
  Dec 13, 2015 - 11:55am PT
What is that formation behind Brian in the second picture?

Thanks again.
limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Dec 13, 2015 - 01:16pm PT
"Hey Vitaliy, next summer we should head out to those domes by Granite Creek"

"Ya, I won't have time for another long trip this season so let's do it next year."

TR
TR
TR
TR
TR
TR
TR

I hate you

In a good way
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Dec 13, 2015 - 02:13pm PT
H, the Angel Wings and Cherubim Dome. I don't think there was R on 5.10+, but I think there was a bit on 5.10, at least low 5.10. And I am not a 5.12 climber. I can redpoint 12a or b, but to be a 5.12 climber, I would have to be onsighting at least half the time...I would think.

The Chief, there is a lot of trout there. I actually caught a small one with my hands in the stream next to our camp. No joke!

Daniel, I got really lucky with being able to take the time off at work. :)
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Feb 23, 2016 - 04:37pm PT
bump
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  May 4, 2016 - 12:15pm PT
bump for another great tr
great photos, map, text, effort.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 4, 2016 - 12:38pm PT
Don't take this as sh!t-slinging but I'm curious why you didn't do this.
Do you take binos?

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 4, 2016 - 01:05pm PT
That was the goal after we saw it from across. When we got to the base, we saw that the feature you see is a giant flake which forms a big bridge than the terrain above completely blanks out in a featureless headwall. This peak in particular had a lot of discontinuous cracks with blank sections between them. SOmeone COULD try that. But I think it would be a more than a day because lots of drilling would be involved. I think...who knows.

You can see the blank headwall on the right. It is very steep up there. Also, there is a big horizontal roof on the bottom of the formation, out of view.



BUT, one of the reasons why I post these reports is so that others see opportunities to do own FAs...so I hope someone goes out there and bags a bunch more. Id love to hear all about it!


Why didn't we climb up the middle of those other two formations?!
-We packed only 4 days of food, so after 4 FAs in 4 days went back to the camp at Hamilton Lake...There is MORE potential!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  May 4, 2016 - 01:42pm PT
Proud line Bro. These TR's and photos are a seriously cool resource for others who will follow in your footsteps. Thanks for the effort to post up and spray some beta our way. I'm glad I live in an age where you kids can go out there, get rad, and post up killer photos immediately rather than the old days where men would go out, do 1000 foot line, call it The West Buttress and write it up as .....

"Climbed the West Buttress of Hamilton Dome. 1000 Feet. 5.8" With an arrow pointing "up" on a blurry photo. I love the internet age! Keeps me stoked while at work and when in the gym planning for my own adventures this summer!



Jett
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 4, 2016 - 01:57pm PT
I figured you had good reasons to do what you did.
You know, does a bear in the woods hear a Bosch way up in Eagle Scout Creek?
Sound attenuates with the square of the distance. Jess sayin'... :-)
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 4, 2016 - 03:20pm PT
You know, does a bear in the woods hear a Bosch way up in Eagle Scout Creek?

Bringing a power drill an a load of bolts 20 miles in sounds great....IF WE HAD PORTERS! lol

U R TRASH ONLY 4 FAS IN 4 DAYS WHY NOT MORE BRAJ?

Actually we did 5 grade IVs in 5 days, cuz we climbed Cherubim prior to hiking over the pass into Eagle Scout Creek. So SUk it braja! And than we climbed Black Kaweah on the 'REST' day. Than we decided to take an actual rest day. And did another route on the Globe and hiked out in the same day. I think I took a day off before going to the gym again... and did not hike for a while.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  May 4, 2016 - 05:38pm PT
When are you gonna change your name to Clyde Beckey, son?
Go