Hiamovi Tower Southeast Buttress: A Belated TR

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Hiamovi Tower (12,220 ft – CO Rank 1189) 6/28/2013
Route: SE Buttress (5.4-5.5 depending on route taken)
Trailhead: Roaring Fork (8,300 ft with a high camp in Hells Canyon/Stone Lake)

A belated TR here from one year ago.  With 2 young daughters, Floyd really has to plan out his trips and hope mother nature cooperates. I’ve witnessed, first hand, immense joy, as well as some frustration, with some unexpected masochistic outings thrown in to the mix (See : Mohling Traverse). One thing is always a common theme and that’s massive backcountry feasts, new amazing regions to explore, Gatorade and Waipiti’s Colorado Nachos.

Scot (Floyd) and his cousin Colin headed in to Hells Canyon earlier that friday afternoon to get a head start on the weekend, tag Mount Irving Hale and set up camp in anticipation for a 12er combo on saturday. I find it relevant to add that Colin has not climbed a 14er since moving to Colorado. What he has done is visit the Gores, IPW and RMNP, and feasted at some of the most gluttonous places west of the Mississippi, including the 7 pound burrito challenge at Jack-N-Grill.

Mike and I, unable to utilize enough PTO for the early pack in, met at the Granby Ranger office just before dusk, obtained camping permits for the weekend and were on the trail as light was quickly fading. Quick thing of note. The trail system from Roaring Fork can be a tad tricky at night, mainly cause the Watanga Lake/Hells Canyon trail junction sign is hidden behind a tree. We fell victim to this reality and didn’t realize it till I walked directly in to Watanga Lake (it was pitch black and the trail went from dry, to snow, to lake in a matter of 5 feet). It was too late to backtrack, so we pitched tent and decided to figure shit out in the morning.

Morning came, we confirmed we were lost and backtracked to the trail junction, which was obvious in the daylight. We switchbacked up the beautifully lush trail 1.5 miles to the Irving Hale saddle. Roaring Fork/Hells Canyon isn’t quite on the level of Lone Eagle Cirque and its approach, but its certainly a classic Western IPW area. The views from the saddle of the Cirque, Hells Canyon and the surrounding area were noteworthy to say the least. Mike and I dropped our heavy overnight packs and hiked the class 1 trail South to Irving Hale’s surprisingly cool summit.

For anyone making their way in to Hells Canyon, I highly recommend this easy, quick side trip to Irving Hale. The East Face looks like it could hold some interesting rock climbs as well.

We rejoined our packs and started down to Hells Canyon, which is around a 600 to 700 foot loss. The sun started popping out intermittently after an overcast morning, and the greenness of the area really began to shine. A good way to describe Hells Canyon is to take Ruby Basin in the Weminuche, shave off around 1500 feet off the top of all the peaks and put more trees and rivers in the valley and you’ve got yourself Hells Canyon.

We located Scot and company’s camp, located on a knoll above Stone’s Lake. Scot has an uncanny ability to find great camp sites, this was no exception. There was a tree to hang stuff, some willow cover from wind, plenty of water and great views in all directions. Nobody was at camp, so we decided to go on a recon up the valley to get a good look at the SE Buttress.

When we got back to camp, Floyd and Colin were soaking in the river. Not too long after, Kimo and Anna showed up, and then Colin Miller came limping out of the woods with tales of class 3 downclimbs with an overnight pack, almost losing his tent and the battle wounds to show for it. Brats we packed in, with all the fixins, Pringles, habanero mustard and god knows what else were enjoyed by all.

10 minutes after that last shot was taken – the camp looked something like this…..

After all the food was consumed, we called it a night. The best way to describe the feast was the Dwarf scene in The Hobbit at Bilbo’s house. Except there was no singing, just farting and chewing.

We had a nice weather window in the morning, so Scot, Mike and I made our way for the Tower, with the rest of the party members going their separate ways, with Colin Osbourne not moving an inch.

We climbed this almost a year ago, so I’m not about to try and remember everything about the climb. Fortunately, Mike was able to retrieve an old PM in response to someone asking about the climb. It went something like this :

“We did a modified version of the route that skipped a few pitches, our hardest pitch was the slab pitch, about a 5.3, that is listed as pitch 3. It was actually our first pitch. We climbed pitches 3, 4 – took the exposed class 3 bypass on 5, then climbed 6 and 7. Pitch 4 was basically freed, I was on belay but never set anything as it was short and mostly class 4 with a 20 foot 5.0 chimney to a very wide ledge at the very end of the pitch. Brian led 6 and 7.

The 5.7 is I think what is the direct on the 7th pitch, we angled across it at 5.2 on a ledge. Then we wrapped around the summit tower to the standard route to finish and avoided pitch 8, which I think is supposed to be 5.5?

Anyway, you were asking about gear. I don’t have much of a rack and its a hodgepodge of manufacturers, so the sizing varies. I generally used a #1, 2 and 3 Metolius Master Cam, a #2 BD C4 Camalot, and an older generation Wild Country Friend set 1-3. I have a Metolius Power Cam too, but I can’t remember the size. I basically used those, but there was a desire to have something smaller at one point on the slab pitch, so a set of nuts is probably a good idea. The Master Cams are smaller than the BD Camalots, the 1-3 on Master Cam are no bigger than a #1 C4 camalot. Not sure what brand of Cams you have, but hopefully that helps. I would think a set of cams up to a BD #2 equivalent and a few smaller nuts is probably plenty, but keep in mind we skipped a few pitches. 

Hope that is helpful, I am relatively new to leading alpine trad and I thought this was a nice step up from the 2 Flatirons I had led so far (Fat Iron, Icarus)”


That’s the technical aspect of it. Here’s the visual. This was one fun climb…..

Allow me to say that simul climbing with a 240 pound x-NFL player in Salomon trail shoes is a tricky process. It’s good practice when you have to set up a belay anchor as well, given that looping the rope around your waist probably won’t do. I used Scot as a foothold on the last pitch, which was awkward, but useful. He also stood under me as a makeshift crash pad, since I was stemming along a ledge and couldn’t find reasonable spots to place protection till 20 feet up.

I figured Mike could use a physical and mental rest from leading (pitch 1 was the toughest, I’d say our last pitch was the freakiest, given the lack of protection). Fortunately the hand holds held and I was able to find a nice spot to belay Scot and Mike. As mentioned in mike’s description, we had had enough of the climbing and an impending storm was rolling in, so we skipped the last pitch (5.5) and circled around to the left for some nice class 3/4 scrambling to the summit.

We didn’t linger for long, but just long enough to appreciate our accomplishment and climb. The views from the Hiamovi’s are among some of the finest in the Front Range.

I remember spending about 15 seconds on the summit of Hiamovi Mountain – just long enough to sign 3 signatures. The storm was now moving towards us, letting us know that our time is up and its time to go down. We were able to out hike the speed of the clouds and enjoyed a lush, waterfall riddled descent to camp, where we slugged some food and water in anticipation for the long hike out.

Just before we hit the saddle with Irving Hale, the hail brought the pain and we had to seek shelter.

We waited for a lull in the downpour and found one long enough to make it all the way to the other side of the saddle, where we enjoyed a lush forest descent all the way back to the car.

We didn’t have any extra Gatorade’s for our annual Western IPW post climb slugging contests, but we also weren’t prepared to end this trip. Scot, Colin and I – no fans of I-70, decided to take Trail Ridge Road over to Estes to enjoy some of Scot’s notorious Colorado Nachos from Waipiti Grille – which he was convinced was better than Ed’s Cantina. If I were to put percentages on each, I’d go somewhere around 30% Waipiti/70% Ed’s, but Waipiti’s is a noteworthy stop nonetheless (and they survived the floods!). It was a fitting end to the trip.

3 thoughts on “Hiamovi Tower Southeast Buttress: A Belated TR

  1. Floyd

    Short shorts aside, that was a very memorable weekend. The visual of Colin M. staggering into camp with half of his tent flapping in the wind still sticks with me. I believe this was the first time the habenero mustard made it into the backcountry and glow sticks need to play a more prominent role in future outings.
    Thanks for the kind words Brian but I still don’t know how I got up that first crack climb. 1-2-3 PULL!!!
    BTW, maybe it’s the Colorado Nachos, but I haven’t been a pound under 250 in 6 years.

  2. Kevin Bransfield

    That sounds like a fun one! Did you use a program to enhance the colors of the pics? Nice TR!


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