Mythic Tower (Townsend Traverse)

Trip Category: 
SC - Scrambling
Interesting Facts: 

In 1993, John Martin completed a traverse of two towers along the ridge running between Mount Townsend and Fable in the Fairholme Range and named them, "Epic Tower" and "Mythic Tower". In a quest to uncover more information on these peaks, Bob Spirko did a recon mission up Fable Creek in early July of 2008, reaching another minor summit along the ridge which he dubbed, "Little Mythic".

Technical Difficulty Level: 
7
Endurance Level: 
High
YDS Class: 
4th Class
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Yes
Trip Date: 
Thursday, August 30, 2018

After the easy to moderate ascents of both Mount Townsend and Epic Tower, I turned my attention towards the much more involved traverse and ascent of Mystic Tower - located further south along the ridge running over impressive east-facing cliffs from Mount Townsend to Mount Fable high over Exshaw Creek below. As I indicated already in my Townsend preamble, I was not about to take Mythic Tower lightly after hearing from Cornelius that it was one of his most difficult ascents. But first I had to get there from Epic Tower and this didn't look like a very straightforward traverse to me!

 


[The traverse from Epic to Mythic Tower doesn't look that straightforward but thank goodness it's easier than it appears. Mount Fable at right distance.]

 

The only reason I even attempted the traverse was that Cornelius mentioned a game trail between the towers that was supposed to be easy to moderate scrambling with stunning views. He's not wrong. Once I found the trail I managed to follow it for the most part across scree, exposed slabs and some pretty fun terrain. I have to caution strongly that you attempt to stay on this track as much as possible. If you lose it on slabby ground, spend the time to find it back afterward. The route reminded me a lot of the terrain on Abraham Mountain. Very fast and efficient if one is on route but very slow and scary as soon as one deviates off it! The local ungulates have done a marvelous job carving a track over slabs and scree over decades of attempts and it behooves the scrambler to take full advantage of all this effort. I have to say that the part of my day traversing from Townsend to Little Mythic was extremely pleasant, with great views, great weather and fun, involved routefinding, scrambling and hiking. Despite being pretty close to both Exshaw and Canmore, this place has a very remote and wild feel to it and experiencing it all solo was very special.

 


[Yikes! That's a heckuva scary view of Mythic Tower's north ridge (not the scramble ascent route).]

 
[The terrain between the Mythic Towers is convoluted but made much easier by a sheep trail. Descending the bowl in front of me here is likely not a great idea. Cougar Peak at mid right.]

 
[There's some crazy views on the traverse between the Mythic Towers including this one down into Exshaw Creek past the east face of Mythic Tower. ++]

 
[The traverse goes along the base of Mythic Tower's west face at lower right.]


[Looking back up Epic Tower from the traverse.]


[I would rate the traverse moderate simply due to routefinding and some slabby sections. It felt easier than it looked!]

 
[The sheep trail is easily lost on the slabs, this is looking back along the route where I came from.]


[Reaching the end of the traverse, looking up at the scree sidewalk and crux chimney at upper left.]

 

As I finished the traverse from Epic Tower, I realized that I had to leave the trail and take loose scree and slabs up to the base of the crack in Mythic Tower's summit block. I was tiring a bit at this point, but also feeling pretty darn good about my day's efforts so far. I was 'only' around 6 hours into my day and already tackling my 3rd peak - far quicker than I'd originally estimated this would take. Already from Cougar Creek, I'd spotted the wonderful landmark / route that Cornelius found to crack Mythic Tower's summit;

 

The keys to the tower, so to speak, are to be found in the main crack that runs horizontally across the middle of the flat east wall.

 

As I finished the short, tiring scramble to the start of the crack, I decided that in the interests of keeping things as easy and pleasant as possible I should drop my pack and only continue along the crack with my camera, my Spot X, my hiking poles and some granola bars in my pocket. This would allow freer movements up the difficult terrain and still allow a break on the summit and a rescue device if things went sideways. The "crack" is actually a scree sidewalk from up close. I easily followed it before arriving at the crux of my day - a very steep crack with two chockstones blocking any easy exit about 10 feet above me.

 


[A loose scramble to access the scree sidewalk. The crux visible at center top here.]

 
[The interesting scree sidewalk / crack on Mythic Tower. Cougar Peak at left and Cougar Creek at lower center. ++]

 

I've dealt with chockstones more than once in difficult terrain. You might think that the challenge is climbing over top of them, but it's not really. I find the main challenge is putting enough trust into their position to fully weight them from below. I always think that they're probably ready to come loose and crash down on my head as I heave on them so I try to avoid doing that at all costs which of course means more difficult moves to get around them without weighting them fully. In this particular case, I practiced a series of moves that involved stemming off my back before doing a turn, pull and heave up and around the boulders chocking the chimney from above. I felt pretty comfortable with everything except the last few moves which I suspected might be more difficult in reverse when downclimbing. The terrain was less exposed than I expected, which helped boost my confidence and kept me going up and over the first crux.

 

 
[Looking back along the crack at left from below the crux towards Little Mythic and Fable Mountain.]


[The crux from below.]


[The two suspect chockstones - will they support my full weight? Hmmm.]


[Looking down the crux after climbing it. Exposed but not SUPER exposed.]


[It's bloody steep but it's a chimney which means a 6ft tall person can do a full body stem in here. :)]

 

The second difficult section was also interesting and quite different from the first. It was a slab wall with an overhanging rocky cliff up the opposite side, allowing for some interesting stemming and leaning across before tiptoeing off the wall and onto scree. I wondered if this might be the harder terrain on return, but it wasn't. I must warn the reader that being 6ft tall or taller (Cornelius is 6' 4") definitely helps immensely on both ! If you want absolute confidence that you'll make the summit of Mystic Tower you should bring a 30m rope with requisite climbing gear (minimal). I agree 100% with Cornelius when he states that this is not scrambling terrain when icy or snowy or likely even when wet.

 


[The stitch makes the slab wall seem less steep than it is - it's too steep to scramble directly up - I used the flaring wall at left to stem this difficulty too. The difference is that this is truly a full body stem but it's also less exposed.]

 

From the top of the slab wall the terrain remained loose, slabby, somewhat exposed and a solid 'moderate' on the scrambling scale. I first went to the north summit but then realized the south one was slightly higher and traversed over there. Views from the top were incredible! I felt really lucky to be enjoying such a great day in the hills after all the previous smoky views earlier in August.

 


[Looking down at the crux terrain on Mythic Tower - not a place to fool around more than necessary.]

 
[Views north from the north summit towards Epic Tower and Mount Townsend are awesome! Cougar Creek at left and upper Exshaw Creek at right. ++]

 
[The south peak is higher so I traversed over there - very exposed terrain and loose.]


[Old Fort Peak at left with Goat Mountain right of center.]


[Morrowmount.]


[Looking past the impressive east face of Little Mythic Tower and Mount Fable down Exshaw Creek.]

 
[More great views south down Exshaw Creek and the summits lining it. The easy route to Little Mythic Tower visible at mid right. ++]

 

The sky was clouding up to the west with some rain looking to be falling, so I didn't linger long before climbing back down to the top of the slab wall and descending it. It was easier than expected, I simply leaned all the way over to the opposite side and did a whole body stem move before stepping down and out of the crack! Being tall is awesome on most difficult scrambles.  The crux chimney was also easier than expected to downclimb, but again - being tall certainly helped here! It also helped that I'd rehearsed several key moves on the ascent so I knew where to put my feet and when to turn around and stem my body.

 

 
[Ready to cross the scree sidewalk again with Little Mythic Tower at center and Mount Fable rising beyond.]


[Old Fort Peak looks cool from the end of the sidewalk.]


[The sidewalk is easy but fairly exposed. Certainly don't want snow or ice here!]


[Looking back up at the very impressive south end of Mythic Tower's summit block with the crack / sidewalk feature running left.]


[One more glance back at the summit block of Mythic Tower. The crux chimney visible at the end of the scree sidewalk feature now.]

 

It felt great to be done my crux of the day as I walked back along the exposed scree sidewalk to my pack! The only things remaining were an easy hike up "Little Mythic Tower" and then what was looking like another easy hike down to the creek below on scree.

Summit Elevation (m): 
2,670
Summit Elevation (ft): 
8,760
Elevation Gain (m): 
1900
Round Trip Time: 
11.50
Total Distance (km): 
30.00
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 4 : you fall, you are almost dead
Difficulty Notes: 

A very long creek approach with minor bushwhacking, some routefinding and some sheep trails. The traverse is difficult when an ascent of Mystic Tower is included, which involves two short 4th class sections.