This year has been awful. It seems like so much of my climbing ambition has gone down the toilet due to every factor out of my control. Feeling defeated on every front I was in need of one of those epic days. The kind your legs won’t soon forget. The kind that builds the confidence back up. So, I headed out for Tower Mountain and Golden Horn. I told myself I would get it done in one day.
I started off nice and early from the Cutthroat pass / Rainy Pass trailhead. The first few hours were dark and the only views I was getting were the shadows of mountains. They seemed like giants in the night standing over my head. Thanks to it being the Pacific Crest Trail it is easy to navigate in the dark. Before I knew it, I was exiting the trees into a sunrise flecked with the fall colors.
All the way to snowy lakes, the trail is very easy to follow and makes for an excellent view of the North Cascades.
From snowy lakes, the routes are easy to spot for both Tower Mountain and Golden Horn. If you have read other resources on them it will be obvious where to go and how to climb them. For that reason, this page won’t add much to the conversation about the peaks. As far as north cascades peaks go the routes are straightforward and any reasonable climber should be able to puzzle them out. Instead, the focus will be on the photos I took.
Climbing Notes for Golden Horn —
From the lake aim for the obvious ridge line. There is a trail around the upper lake. Once you leave the trail watch out for the small plants and step carefully. Once you reach the ridge the climbing route is easy to follow. The final summit block is nearly vertical and lacks many handholds. I heard that rope was optional. Being solo I took one for safety sake. But it is doable without one though the summit block is steep so i would suggest most parties have one on hand.
Climbing Notes for Tower Mountain —
I had heard there was the ability to stay high up in the snowy lakes basin instead of dropping all the way back down. While I was able to make a route high up work, I would not suggest it. The amount of time it took was not worth the elevation savings that I got out of it.
The hardest part of climbing Tower Mountain was the gulley. The rock is incredibly loose and no matter how hard I tried, I was sending rocks sailing down towards other climbers. They in turn were doing the same to me.
Move quickly and carefully through this section of Tower Mountain. To exit the gulley, follow the cairns. Tower mountain has them everywhere. Stay to the right of the gulley and don’t exit too early. You will be fine
Walking out in the sunset was a fantastic experience. The fall colors were lit up and the surrounding peaks seemed to be glowing. Doing all 23 miles in one day hurt but I feel like I got my outdoor confidence back. After arriving back at the trailhead, I cooked some dinner, had a brew, and climbed into my sleeping bag. I was in Winthrop for breakfast the next morning relishing the accomplishment.