This small group of unusual peaks, also known as the “Fry Pinnacles”, lift their sharp wedges W of the main Purcell watershed. Visible from many points in the S Purcells, the towers are situated along the upper course ofFry Creek, some 12 mi E of Kootenay Lake between the heads ofCampbell and Dewar Creeks. The S terminal forks ofFry Creek embrace the group, the W branch being known as Pinnacle Creek. There are several small hanging glaciers on the E side of the group. The Leaning Towers are sculptured from a medium to coarse grained, massively joined granite on the eastern border of the Fry Creek batholith. This granite is substantially equivalent to that of the Horsethief Creek stock from which the Bugaboo and Vowell Groups rise, and offers similar climbing. The writing desk or scissor-like profile the group presents from a distance is attributable to the master joint sets in the granite-°both striking N, one vertical and the other dipping about 45 to the W.
The peaks at the S end of the group (The Molars and those S) have more closely spaced jointing than the N peaks of the Leaning Towers. Also included in this section are various isolated summits in the same general area.
ACCESS. Whichever of the approaches described below is ultimately chosen, one must expect to backpack and bushwhack a minimum of 2 days, gaining and losing consider able elevation in the process. The arduous but only direct approach is from Kaslo, crossing Kootenay Lake (1765) by boat and following Campbell Creek. The BC Forest Service maintains a fire road about 5 mi up Campbell Creek (extended and regraded in 1971 and 1972) to a point just below the unburned timber (4100); 5 hr pack from Kootenay Lake. Continue E either on game trails close to the creek or on higher, burned over slopes to the creek branch which drains Pinnacle Pass (6700) at the E head of the valley. Stay on N side of this stream until talus slopes are reached, crossing then to S side. Ascend to pass (beautiful but marshy campsites); 9 hr from end of road. Drop down due E about 1000′ to top of large talus slide, then angle NE to more slides leading toward floor of Pinnacle Creek valley.
Another approach from Kootenay Lake, via Powder Creek, has a distinct advantage over the Campbell Creek route. The road extending N from Riondel along the E shore of the lake goes up Powder Creek a distance of roughly 5 mi, so it is possible to drive to the end of the road. However, this is counterbalanced by the necessity to cross the divide above Powder Creek into the Campbell Creek drainage in order then to cross Pinnacle Pass, the only easy pass to Pinnacle Creek.
Travel in the Pinnacle Creek valley is tedious and comfortable campsites hard to find because it is littered with huge boulders and blocks. Customarily, 2 different bases have been used to climb peaks at opposite ends of the group. To reach the S peaks, camps have been placed at tree line near the stream draining W from below the Wisdom Tooth; 4½ hr from Pinnacle Pass. To climb the higher N peaks, a camp at approx 8000′ in the NW cirque beneath Hall Peak is advantageous; a half day from either Pinnacle Pass or camp at S end of group.
Peaks along the ridges which run perpendicular to the main N-S axis, at the S end of the group, have been climbed from a camp S of that E-W ridge, beside an aquamarine lake in a cirque above headwaters of the St Mary River. Although this spot was reached from the W via Pinnacle Creek, a direct approach from the S up St Mary River bears investigation. Climbs on the E side of the massif have been made from the great E cirque at the head of the SE terminal fork of Fry Creek. The best approach appears to be from the end of the road on Dewar Creek and over the 7200′ pass immediately NW of that stream’s acute bend to the E; about 10 mi of fearsome BC bush.
Maps: 82F/15 Kaslo, 82K/2 Lardeau
WALL TOWER 2941m 9650′
Northernmost of group.
From camp in NW cirque of group, ascend snow and/or talus slopes to couloir between objective and Block Tower to S, taking it to col between them (3¾ hr). Climb friction slabs to reach a minor eminence above col. Descend slightly and tackle more big slabs which lead to a fairly level stretch of ridge. Work along narrow, very exposed crest (a cheval on FA) which seems to be blocked by a huge granite monolith. Turn it by traversing right and climb a 70′ chimney, one wall of which is the monolith, to the summit (3 hr). Ascent about 7 hr; descent by same route, 4 hr.
FA B. Blanchard, A. A. McCoubrey, R. Neave. S Ridge, 6/1933
BLOCK TOWER 2941m 9650′
On main ridge next S of Wall Tower.
Via easy W slabs from NW cirque.
FA P. Morrow, C. Perry, 8/1973
HALL PEAK (Leaning Tower) 3040m 997,5′
Highest summit of group.
1. From camp in NW cirque, gain upper basin and ascend headwall (sometimes a narrow ribbon of snow to facilitate this) to col (9000) just N of objective (4½ hr). Ascend slabby rock on ridge to summit in l½ hr. Good but moderate climbing. Ascent 6 hr; descent by same route, 3¼ hr.
FA B. Blanchard, A. A. McCoubrey, R. Neave. N Ridge, 6/1933
2. NW Face. This route could be considered a variant of the above, but it is a more difficult and interesting alternative. Follow Rte 1 to col (1½ hr). Thereafter the route keeps several hundred feet W of the N ridge. For 2 pitches above col, climb steep friction slabs using layback holds on wall to right. Slope eases off for a few hundred feet. Final summit wall (500′) consists of 45° slabs on which layback technique is repeatedly utilized. Toward top holds become smaller and less obvious. 1½ hr col to summit. Many variations of detail possible.
J. & P. Crosby, 8/1955
3. E Face. The route begins in the smaller open book right (N) of the prominent S-facing dihedral in centre of this impressive 1500′ wall. About midway up face, traverse left into main dihedral, following it to upper bowl several hundred feet beneath summit. The line then angles diagonally left to top. 2½ days; IV F9 A2
J. McComb, J. Myers, A. Twomey, 8/1975
THE PULPIT 3002m 9850′
Fingerlike S shoulder of Hall Peak.
Via easy W slabs (CAJ 59-9)
FA J. Boyd, B. Ehmann, 8/1975
THE PEW 2819m 9250′
Bump S of the Pulpit; presumably climbed.
SHARKSHEAD TOWER 2911m 9550′
Above head of E fork of Pinnacle Creek.
From same camp as for other southern peaks, cross to base of couloir on N side of peak, ascending it to col (3½ hr). N ridge to summit provides good, varied and easy climbing (¾ hr). A second summit, about 2′ lower but much more spectacular, consists of a single sheer pyramid of granite 20′ high and is reached by a thin, curving edge of rock (a cheval on FA).
Ascent 4¼ hr; descent 2 hr.
FA R. G. Cairns, A. A. McCoubrey, Jr., R. Neave, 6/1933
2-SE Ridge. Jul 1972, G. Kuiken, P. & S. Morrow. Gain high col to S of objective and take ridge to summit, passing over spectacular S summit (above). One pitch ofF7 (CAJ 59-9).
CONSOLATION POINT 2880m 9450′
Gentle summit S of Sharkshead.
Via rotten couloir S of Sharkshead to summit ridge. l¼ hr up.
FA S. Kragh, C. Wagner, 8/1972
BIVOUAC TOWER 3002m 9850′
Highest of peaks at S end of group.
From camp below southern peaks, ascend to base of big, snow-filled couloir on NW side of objective (2 hr). Climb steep snow and rock above to gain summit ridge which is followed over slabs and blocks to top. Ascent 6 hr. Descend by same route (1 rappel at top of couloir on FA) in 3 hr.
FA R. G. Cairns, A. A. McCoubrey, R. Neave, 6/1933
WISDOM TOOTH 2972m 9750′
Next S of Bivouac Tower.
1. N Ridge. FA Jul 1972, Bergenske, S. McElroy. Route unknown but likely by steep couloir between objective and Bivouac Tower, the line taken by the 1933 party on their attempt. From col at head of couloir via N ridge.
2. SE Face. Gain col im mediately S of peak by rotten couloir (2¼ hr from camp). 6 pitches on steep but broken granite lead to base of final summit ridge. To avoid 10′ overhanging jamcrack, traverse right onto E face. A delicate exposed F4 pitch leads to easy summit rocks (l½ hr from col). One rappel on descent.
S. Kragh, C. Wagner, 8/1972
THE MOLARS 2941m 9650′, 9650, 2880m 9450, 2850m 9350′
A group of pinnacles between Wisdom Tooth and Eagle Crest.
A pleasant traverse in either direction, difficulties rarely exceeding a scramble (CAJ 56-76; 59-9).
FA J. Bergenske, S. McElroy.Eagle Crest, 7/1972
EAGLE CREST 2850m 9350′
At S end of main axis of group
From camp for southern peaks, angle up S across snow and/or talus slopes to base of wide shallow couloir on SW side. Ascend couloir part way and then take to broken rocks, easy scrambling along ridge leading to top. As cent, 5 hr; descent 3 hr.
FA B. Blanchard, R. G. Cairns, A. A. & A. A. Jr. McCoubrey, R. Neave, 6/1933
At the S extremity of the Leaning Towers Group, there are numerous minor summits on ridges which extend perpendicular to the main axis of the massif. One such, bearing the main Purcell watershed, runs E from near Wisdom Tooth and separates the SE terminal fork of Fry Creek from lower branches of Dewar Creek. There are a few peaks in the 9000′ class on this divide.
1½ mi farther S, another E ridge, comprising several 8000′ peaks, separates the headwaters of St Mary River and tributaries of Dewar Creek. The rock of both ridges is mainly gneiss and schist.
Ascents (all rated I, F3) of six peaks on these ridges were made in Jul 1975 by A. J. Kearney, C. Sink from camp by lake S of main axis (see intro).
A more important ridge, again constituting the main water parting, runs in a SW direction across the S head of Pinnacle Creek. Three peaks almost 9000′ in elevation, and composed of sound granite, rise from this ridge and offer good climbing. FA’s of all three were made by the above-mentioned party, as described below.
Peak 8650 At head ofSE terminal fork of Pinnacle Creek. Via NE ridge; II F7.
Peak 8950 ¼ mi W of above. Via E face to crest of NE ridge, passing left of a huge gendarme to regain crest beyond; II F9.
Peak 8950 At head of SW terminal fork of Pinnacle Creek. Mountain’s NW ridge separates latter from S terminal fork of Campbell Creek. Approach from Pinnacle Creek and ascend snow on NW side to gain W ridge. A short rappel from false summit and one more pitch to top; II F5.
MT TYRELL 2819m 9250′
Isolated summit 5½ mi E of Kootenay Lake in SW angle between Fry and Gillis Creeks; glaciers on E slope.
UNNAMED (Neave) 2819m 9250′
On Campbell-Gillis Creek divide. Closely jointed granite of Fry Creek batholith, locally loose.
DEVIL’S HORN 2637m 8650′
Minor peak at head of Powder Creek, popular as a practice crag.
MT LOKI 2771m 9090′
5 mi E of Kootenay Lake on divide separating Bernard and Loki Creeks.
1. Follow undulating W ridge from mouth of Loki Creek to summit; 8 hr up.
FRA J. & P. Crosby, 8/1955
2. NE Ridge. Approach via road on Bernard Creek which extends approx 7 mi E from Kootenay Lake. Ascend avalanche chute some 2500′ vertical to ridge which is followed to summit. Ascent 7 hr
K. Langhalle, D. Parfitt, M. Stein, 8/1971