Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pensive Tower

Pensive Tower and where we went, take this topo with a grain of salt

Bridget and I had another great climbing trip this past weekend (Oct. 1). We drove to the west fork of Rock Creek and camped at the trail head on a Friday night as the stars illuminated the trees and mountains around us. We awoke early (5:00am) and hiked the 9 or so miles to the base of the tower. Along our hike we encountered a small pine martin on the trail. The pine martin was inquisitive and kept poking it's head out from rocks at our feet. We continued hiking and turned our headlamps off at quinnebaugh meadows where we rounded a corner and saw two large moose grazing in the meadow.

From this point on the west face of Silver Run Peak dominated the view, as a series of walls drop down to the creek for nearly 3,000'. Pensive tower is a route I have always wanted to climb ever sense I had first wandered up the valley. It's a perfect line on a perfect piece of alpine granite. There is no real information on the route aside from a very brief mention in the Brunkhorst Guide. I had heard of a few people who had attempted the route. Most of the parties I knew ended up bailing on the route because the difficulties encountered were much harder than the guide book states, or the notorious Beartooth weather swept them off. For some reason I kind of had a stigma with this piece of rock...

Bridget crossing the creek

Bridget on the approach. Pensive tower looms above.

With this in mind Bridget and I crossed the creek then headed up to the base of the route. The fist "approach pitch" was composed of terrible loose choss and steep grass climbing. I was hoping the whole route wasn't going to be like this. After the approach pitch the rock got better, dare I say, good! Steep, short splitter cracks abounded and the rock took protection well.

Myself climbing up the prow

Bridget following one of the 5.10 pitches.

The guide book says the route should be 9-14 pitches of 5.8 climbing. On pitch 4 we hit a solid bit of beautiful 5.10 climbing, not hard, but hard enough in the mountains with a pack on. A few pitches later I looked up and saw some leaver gear at the base of a steep corner system. I climbed up to it, clipped the fixed gear, then tried to wiggle my way into a steep groove that lacked holds or a crack. The back of the rounded groove was composed of loose brick sized blocks. I down climbed and looked around, the fixed gear was obviously a rappel/bail anchor (as it wasn't in the least bit stuck). I peered up into the groove again and pulled off the #4 cam. I placed this between the loose blocks (so the blocks cammed on either side of the groove) and sketchly french freed at A0. A good #3 placement was just in reach now so I plugged and pulled on this piece as well. After that episode (and a few more A0 moves) we arrived at a large ledge. We continued climbing pitching the feature out until the terrain mellowed out and we could safely simul-climb. We topped out at 4:00pmish.

Bridget leads through a few roofs

Miles of easy simul-climbing near the top

A confused Asian man near the top, White tail peak in the background.

Bridget on zee summite

We packed our bags and hurried off the Silver Run Plateau under dark skies. We eventually hiked the 9 miles back down (Sundance Pass) to the car, 15 hours after leaving it.

Bridget doing a speedy descent off the plateau

Hiking out we stared at the golden aspen trees as they swayed in the breeze, then scarred a porky pine that was in the trail. The best part of the hike out was finding a lodge pole pine that had been mutilated by a cantankerous bear.

This climb coincided with my Birthday, and you know what? I couldn't have had a better present.

Cheers, Loren


  1. West Silver Run, excellent!

    Thanks for sharing your Beartooth alpine adventures.
    I really enjoy reading them.

  2. Thanks! You still in N.Z.? The mountains are all white here now.

  3. Yep, still in NZ! Back to the States next week though.

    Bring on the white landscape!