After completing a truncated version of the Cautley Traverse (missing Cascade Rock and Wonder Peak), I found myself a bit dissatisfied with the idea of simply heading back to my camp at Lake Magog. I was feeling disappointed with being turned back on Gibraltar Rock as well. It felt like I had over-complicated what should have been an easy traverse and on hindsight, I had indeed done just that! Cascade Rock was easy hiking on the north end of the traverse (not the south), and Wonder Peak could be accessed via a hidden chimney on climber's right of the seemingly impenetrable cliffs blocking the route from Ely's Dome.
I blame three things on my lapse of route-finding skills on this particular day. First of all, running into a male Grizzly first thing in the morning threw me off my game a bit. Secondly, I was bummed about the bad weather forecast, which had promised sun and delivered nothing but clouds. Thirdly, I underestimated the clarity of the route in the snowy conditions that I had. I thought I'd be following an obvious trail in scree all day, but the snow obscured some parts of it, especially around Wonder Peak. Oh well. These things happen in the mountains - and usually when least expected.
[The Towers loom in the distance as I complete my traverse to Wonder Pass after summiting Ely's Dome.]
To make up for my partial failure on the Cautley Traverse, I decided to go for the summit of The Towers. Originally I was going to stay in the area another day and attempt both The Towers and Naiset Point in one go, but based on the conditions I'd had on the Cautley Traverse, I didn't want to push the traverse from The Towers to Naiset Point anyway, so I decided to attempt The Towers and save Naiset Point for another day and another trip. I hiked up a shallow draw immediately north of Wonder Peak, towards Wonder Pass and was soon scouting the lower route up The Towers. Something I didn't realize at first, was that the skyline east ridge is not the scramble route. I followed a faint trail in scree to the east ridge. After scrambling up this ridge, I immediately noticed that the trail crossed a scree bowl to gain the south ridge which obviously led up to the summit.
[A great shot of The Towers from just east of Wonder Pass as I cross the lower NW ridge of Wonder Peak. The scramble route does not go up the skyline east ridge at left but rather the south ridge which is out of sight behind it.]
[The snow makes the faint trail in the scree easier to spot as I traverse to the lower east right.]
[The trail continues to show - leading from my current position on the lower east ridge towards the south ridge at far left.]
I broke trail to the south ridge, including a short stretch of fresh snow about 2 feet deep on the lee side where the winds had deposited it. I was cautious about any slides that would occur, but the snow seemed fairly stable. From the south ridge, I followed bits of trail and eventually cairns up towards a seemingly impenetrable line of cliffs high up on the summit block. It was here that I had the most fun of my trip, following cairns and even ribbons embedded in cairns up seemingly impassible terrain. Every time I couldn't figure out where a moderate scrambling route could possibly go, it would appear next to a line of cairns. I really enjoyed The Towers upper scrambling route. Eventually I crossed a final gully and scrambled my way up to the summit cairn and some pretty decent views considering the clouds. On a clear day, I think this would be an excellent summit view - probably one of the best in the area.
[Breaking trail in fresh snow up to the south ridge (R), looking back at the east ridge (L) with Wonder Peak in the background across Wonder Pass.]
[Looking towards hidden Eon and Aye with Terrapin at center and The Towers at upper right. ++]
[Marvel Pass and Cabin Lake in the foreground with Aurora Mountain rising beyond.]
[The larch island on Marvel Peak from a different angle.]
[Looking east (L) and south (R) down the south ridge of The Towers. Wonder Peak at left and Marvel / Currie at right.]
[There was a TON of helicopter traffic in the area this particular day. A popular thing to do seemed to be flying over the upper reaches of Lake Gloria under Eon and Aye's east faces before looping back again.]
[Looking down a snowy gully on the lower summit block where the scrambling starts to get interesting.]
[Higher on the summit block now, looking back along the south ridge towards Marvel (L) and Gloria (R) lakes. ++]
[More interesting scrambling.]
[Every time I thought I was hooped, there was another cairn beckoning me forward.]
[One more gully to cross before the last cliffs under the summit.]
[I didn't linger under this cliff very long!]
[The final defense of the summit is the strongest one but there is a clearly marked route that picks its way through the towers with only moderate scrambling required.]
[Looking down the steep, moderate scrambling step on the upper cliff band.]
[Great views from just below the summit (note the ribbon on the cairn in the foreground). ++]
[The final plod to the summit of The Towers.]
I enjoyed the summit of The Towers for about 30 minutes before heading back down, following my footprints in the snow and the lines of cairns back down the various crux sections on the south ridge.
[Summit views are once again, excellent, but obscured by low clouds. Assiniboine is buried in clouds at left. Naiset Point, Sunburst, Nestor, Nub Peak, Citadel, Fatigue, Golden, Nasswald, Windy Point, Og, Cave, Beersheba, Cautley, Allenby, Ely's Dome and Wonder Peak (L to R). ++ ]
[Looking over the Nublet at Nub Peak.]
[It's a long way down the north face of The Towers!]
[Good thing The Towers is a really fun scramble because the view towards Terrapin and Assiniboine would be stunning on a clear day - and I did NOT have that. ++]
[Looking east (L) south (C) and west (R). The Cautley Traverse at left, Gloria Lake area at center and Terrapin Mountain at right. ++]
[Looking over Lake Gloria to Marvel Pass at center left. Eon and Aye are buried in clouds right of center with Terrapin at right. ++]
[Golden Mountain to the north.]
[Nasswald Peak at left with Windy Point and Og Mountain to the right and the lower part of Cave Mountain in the foreground.]
[Looking down the south ridge as I start my descent.]
[Looking back at one of the crux sections.]
[Don't get lose up here - it's tricky terrain without the cairns / ribbons.]
[Great views of Terrapin (L) and Gloria Lakes beneath Marvel Pass.]
[More helicopter traffic over Lake Gloria - at one point there were three choppers thundering through this valley at the same time!]
[Great views over Marvel Lake (L), Terrapin Lake (C) and Lake Gloria (R). ++]
[A cool ramp on the east ridge at right, looking back over Wonder Pass.]
From Wonder Pass it was a pleasant hike back to my campsite at Lake Magog. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous due to my morning Grizzly encounter near the Assiniboine Lodge but I didn't see the bear.
In an interesting sidebar, I wasn't sure how I would sleep that night, knowing that there was a Grizzly nearby that had false charged me just that morning. I was fully prepared to be up the whole night, but to my surprise (and pride), I managed to squash any feelings of fear by simply being logical about the whole thing. Despite a very empty campground (many people had left), and being entirely alone in my section and my tent, I slept pretty well. Rather than make me more nervous about bears, having an encounter like the one I did turn out the way it did, only reinforces my opinion on Grizzlies. In normal circumstances, unless protecting a kill or their cubs, most bears simply don't want any trouble with humans and will go out of their way to avoid a confrontation. The feeling, for my part, is 100% mutual! ;)
[Looking back from Wonder Pass with Wonder Peak at left and The Towers rising on the right.]
[Back at Wonder Pass.]
[An amazing 'dwarf' larch forest on the way back towards Gog Lake. Naiset Point at left and Cautley at right. ++]
[A thin waterfall along Magog Creek on return to my campsite at Lake Magog along the Wonder Pass trail.]
[Amazing larch forest on descent.]
[Just past Gog Lake.]
[The Wonder Pass trail snakes alongside the forest as it winds its way back to Lake Magog.]