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Watchtower, new routes

By Dan Merrick

While planning a trip to remote Tower Peak (11,755′), on the northern border of Yosemite National Park, my interest shifted to an unnamed subpeak ¾-mile north, locally called the Watchtower or Watchtower Peak (10,820′). My research found no record of climbing, beyond the 2nd-class route from the saddle between Watchtower and Tower Peak.

In August Alyse Bertenthal, Jay Kumar, Bob Steed, Paul Tieslau, and I hiked 15 miles from Leavitt Meadows on the Sonora Pass highway, up the West Walker River to the base of the north face, which rises 1,500′ above an avalanche meadow. Over 10 days our group established four routes. While we were there, a second party, whose research had also unearthed no climbing history, arrived and established one route. All five routes lead to the north summit.

We found no evidence of previous climbers on the routes or the summit. This is not the highest of the peak’s three summits, but it is the hardest to reach and to descend from. (We left rappel anchors.) At an obvious ledge on the Beacon we found a 30+-year-old pilot’s distress beacon that we think was accidentally dropped, since it was still in its pouch…. (read more)