Bruce Miller and Chris Weidner of Boulder, Colorado, capped a superb visit to the Bugaboos with a new route on giant North Howser Tower, which they later repeated all-free in a day. The new line, Hey Kool-Aid, takes a crack system to the right of Young Men on Fire. After eight long pitches, Miller and Weidner joined Young Men, bivied after 13 pitches, and then did 10 more pitches to the top, with many variations to the existing route. The only aid on the first ascent was a tension traverse between cracks, and “Bruce toproped the crux free, planting the seed for a return visit,” Weidner wrote in an email.
The two then added a five-pitch direct start to the classic Beckey-Chouinard Route on South Howser Tower called Lost in the Talus (5.11-). They carried on to the summit and returned to camp after a 12-hour round trip. They also climbed two four-pitch, 5.11+ new routes on “Peek-A-Boo Pinnacle,” a 300-foot tower in the Pigeon Feather Group.
With time and good weather remaining, the pair headed back to North Howser Tower, hoping for a one-day free ascent of their new line on the 3,000-foot face. They brought lightweight ice gear this time, since ice on the summit ridge had given them a hard time in their approach shoes during the first ascent, but they carried no bivy gear. Miller led the crux traverse free with cold-numbed toes and fingers, and then they raced for the summit, reaching the top after 15 hours of climbing. Hey Kool-Aid is the second free route on North Howser (after All Along the Watchtower), and is the first to be done all-free in a day.
“The route now goes at VI 5.11+, with a very short but hard crux,” Weidner wrote. “The rest of the climbing is sustained 10 and 10+ with many time-consuming wide pitches. Several pitches at the beginning of the climb were quite wet, but in a different year or later in the season they may be dry. The rock quality is superb overall.”