Elpoca Tower South Ridge, 5.8
FA- O.Miskiw and partners, 1997
The Objective by Orvel:
What we call Elpoca Tower is a striking outlier peak of Mt. Elpoca rising out of Elpoca’s east slopes. I first contemplated its climbing potential during a climb of Elpoca in 1994, as the standard route on Elpoca is approached by traversing the scree slopes above the tower.
After that, I visited the tower once briefly during a group camping/canoeing trip at Elbow Lake, to consider possible climbing routes. I decided a direct attack up the south buttress along the general N-S line of the tower seemed most reasonable, though challenging and likely not the easiest.
In 1997 I returned to attempt this route with two friends; it was a bold first try, as a morning business commitment prevented an early start, but the weather was fine. We started up the trail toward Elbow Lake after 3 pm, and summitted at dark. Unfortunately we found a cairn on top, but they didn’t climb it our way — most likely via flake chimneys on the west face.
This is a fun alpine rock climb of modest commitment, suitable for intermediate climbers. The rock is reasonable, with adequate potential for traditional protection. The crux is airy and thin but bolted, as is the corresponding rappel.
After about a half hour of hiking from Elbow Lake parking lot north of Highwood Pass, turn left at Elbow Lake, and continue northward along the good trail that follows the tiny Elbow River below the south ridge of Mt. Elpoca. Within a half hour from Elbow Lake, Elpoca Tower comes in to view ahead as the trees drop away into the valley beyond — it’s the obvious peak protruding from the east slopes of Mt. Elpoca. Stay on the road/trail for a while as it descends, but then as it bends eastward closer to the tower, go over the left shoulder and drop NW through open forest. Cross channels of the creek (Elbow R.) and pick the easiest way up onto the south shoulder of the tower. Scramble up easily until beside the south face of the first buttress.
Rope up and climb easily a few meters up right onto a large sloping block that’s a good belay platform with a view for the first (crux) pitch–either belay position works for 50m ropes, 2 ropes needed for the rappel.
1. 35m, 5.8: From the lower edge of the platform, traverse a crack a few metres right to the obvious groove at centre of the south wall of the buttress. Easily up the crack with reasonable trad. pro — eg., medium wires — until the wall steepens; move up and right over big blocks (sling), then up to a faint ledge line below the vertical top wall (piton crack, possibly piton in place). Traverse left on the ledge to the chimney (bolt and trad. pro.), then make an awkward move (crux) and a couple metres up the narrow chimney to the top — bolt and piton above.
2. 100m, 5.5: Scramble up along the crest of the buttress to the base of the second buttress; traverse a ledge for 30m ahead along the left side of the buttress until the ledge ends, climb a shallow groove 3m up the wall on your right to gain the crest of the second buttress.
3. 100m, 5.3: Scramble up along the crest of the buttress to the base of the summit block and climb easily to the summit.
Two 50m ropes, medium rack: a few medium to large wires, 3 cams, eg., 1, 2, 3, runners including couple of long slings, and recommend 3-4 pitons including short and medium knife blades.
Scramble and downclimb along the ascent route as far as the top of the first pitch, then rappel the crux buttress from bolt and piton in place — a bit awkward at the bottom to get back onto the belay platform well to one side of vertical — experienced person should go first and control rope tails while second comes down. Walk off the south ridge via scree gullies, then descend forest slopes and cross the stream to regain the trail.