Eros Tower

Elevation Gain: 921m
Distance: 10.54km
Total Time: 11 hours 21 minutes
Date: September 2nd, 2023

Eros Tower, also known as Vega North Tower, is a prominent, steep 1615m spire that hosts the ultra-popular climbing route: “Mile High Club”. The route climbs 7 pitches up the Mile High Buttress and goes at 5.10a with the bulk of the climbing in the 5.9 to 5.10a range. What makes this route a bit unique is that it’s a fully bolted; requiring no trad gear whatsoever. A few of my friends had recommended this route to Andrea and I in the past and we had it on the list ever since. We were primarily focused on trad for the season, but it’s always nice to fit less committing route into the mix. This long weekend the forecast was calling for rain on all days except Saturday and smoke continued to choke up the majority of our other alpine objectives. Washington was looking clear and when Andrea mentioned Eros Tower, it became the obvious pick.

We debated camping at the trail head to get an early start, but in the end decided to cross the border before 5am on Saturday to avoid the lines. The following day we crossed into the states without delay and made the 3 hour drive down to the Sunrise Mine trailhead. The parking lot was packed with cars and numerous climbing parties were gearing up for the approach. We could make some educated guesses about who was climbing what by spotting trad gear or not. Mostly everyone looked like they were headed for Vesper Peak (done last year), but I figured that might be some parties well on their way to our climb by now.

Starting our walk up the Sunrise Mine Trail

Andrea and I started the familiar, but short march down sunrise mine trail and up towards Headlee Pass. We passed one party on the way that was heading for Mile High Club, but it seemed they were the only other ones. The trek through the valley was straightforward, albeit humid, and before long we reached the long set of switchbacks up to Vesper Peak. Here the trail forks onto a faint, but cairn marked trail up to Eros Tower. We followed the talus trail for about 800m until we reached the base of the tower. Here a well described Mountain Project post guided us to a short scramble onto a ledge system where some bolts marked the start of the climbing. By now the party we had passed were hot on our tails, but it seemed they were in no rush to pass us.

Headless Pass at center in the distance
Morning Star Peak straight ahead
Navigating this talus field to the base of the climb
Mile High Buttress front and center!
Heading up the easy terrain at left to gain a ledge system
Sperry Peak across the valley
Andrea scrambling up. Trevor and Maris just behind

After a quick snack break and gear transition we were able to kick off the first lead of the day with no parties above! Andrea gave me the odd leads as pitch 5 was supposed to be the crux of the route and she preferred I lead it. I tied in, checked our gear and scrambled up to clip the first bolt. From there I found perfect jugs on a diagonal edge on a steep band of rock that took me out onto an awesome arete. A few tricky moves on the arete offered some challenge, but it was mostly fantastic edges and feet in a beautiful position above the valley below. Just before the top, I nearly ran it out climber’s right to an anchor but realized that was rappel anchor before it was too late. Andrea seconded up and that concluded the first 5.10a pitch. Overall, nothing too bad!

Myself leading pitch 1
Looking up the remainder of pitch 1
Looking down at the base of pitch 1 below
Andrea seconding up

Andrea took the next pitch at 5.9 and climbed up through a steep jagged section of edges before disappearing out of site. I followed up next and found one part required a bit of thinking to get the sequence down, but once you committed all the moves were there. Above, the grade eased off and I climbed up straightforward terrain to Andrea. I took pitch 3, another 5.9 which had a steep wall with a short overhanging roof to climb around. The belay station was awkwardly set up here with a 5m section of flat terrain between the anchor and the start of the climb. A fall here wouldn’t be great, so I’d recommend slinging a block beneath pitch 3 instead. I walked over to the wall and then found a few finger jams to get myself stemming up and to the base of the roof. There an easy hand traverse on jugs allowed me to exit out of the roof. The remaining climbing was low-5th/4th class climbing for another 25-30m to a set of anchors.

Looking up at pitch 2
On lead for pitch 3
Looking back at Andrea at the base of pitch 3
Easy terrain to the anchor from here

Now came the next 5.10a section and Andrea started the lead up. This was an interesting shallow corner with thin feet but Andrea cruised up. When I followed up I nearly climbed too high and had to make a tricky move to get out of an awkward off-balance position. Once out of the crux the climbing changed to jug slamming up a less steep wall to the base of pitch 5. This was the supposed crux for most people, with some saying it’s sandbagged and others saying it’s on grade. So it goes with popular routes! Given the great ease-of-mind bolting style and the 10a climbing we’d encountered so far I didn’t feel that it was going to be sand-bagged.

Andrea leading pitch 4
Looking down pitch 4
Capturing a moment of Andrea capturing the moment
At the base of pitch 5

From below it looked like a fun exercise in stemming, so I started up the first lower corner below a bulge. I clipped two bolts and then traversed out left on crimps and thin feet in an attempt to reach a juggy looking edge just above. Just as I started to reach out, my foot blew off and I fell a short distance below. I was a bit confused as the rock was ultra grippy, but I’d find out later the rubber on my sole had actually blown out, likely causing me to fall. With that fall out of the way, I made the moves again this time without issue and traversed back off the top of the bulge and into the dihedral. Now positioned in the “guts” of the pitch I realized there’s not much stemming to be had. Instead a think finger crack ran up the center and it turned into a fun dance of laybacking to various foot rests along the way. When the corner ran out a tricky roof had to be negotiated, but the holds were all there and I soon pulled myself out and up to the anchor. A highlight pitch for sure and while sustained, not overly challenging for the grade.

Here I am most of the way up the dihedral

Andrea seconded up and found the lower section to be the trickiest, but found the upper dihedral easy enough to navigate. Now came the last 5.10a pitch and Andrea geared up for the lead. She traversed out onto the south face, now under a vengeful sun and climbed on thin holds and a few loose flakes before reaching an awesome arete high above. On the follow, I found quite a few holds that sounded hollow and likely to blow off in the near future. I did my best to avoid them but one or two offered the only holds up.

Andrea climbing up now
Andrea traversing out of the dihedral
Looking up at pitch 6
Steep walls on the west side of this buttress
Traversing out to an arete now
Vesper Peak from part way up the pitch
Looking down at the exposure below
All smiles at pitch 7

Once I was rejoined with Andrea there was one final 5.8 pitch to the top. I lead this one and found the first section was a bit tricky, but a fun finger crack helped ease the transition onto the slab above. Finally a short ramp section lead me to the summit! Andrea joined me shortly after and we celebrated at the top. It appears there’s a contrived walk off through dense bush if one was so inclined or wanted the summit without the climb, but we came prepared with rappel beta and had no doubts about using it. The party behind us, Trevor and Maris, reached the summit shortly after and we devised a plan to leap frog rappels in an effort to save time.

The awkward start of pitch 7
Last ramp to the summit
Finishing the climb!
Andrea climbing up
Vesper Peak and Sperry Peak
Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan off in the distance
Lewis Peak and Del Campo Peak in the foreground. Monte Cristo Peak and Kyles Peak in the background
Sloan Peak is the tallest looking one and Glacier Peak in the distance
Standing on the summit
Team photo on the top!

I went first with with our rope coiled around me and accidentally went too far skiers left onto the south face. What followed was an awkward mess, exacerbated by my use of a new rappel device (Elderid Gigajul) and a rope coiled around me. I had realized I’d have to traverse 10m climber’s left, but a massive boulder blocked the rope from slide over. To my left a thin ledge seemed to offer a way out, so I lowered to that, then had to feed out a shit ton of slack to fling the rope over the massive boulder. If I slipped here I was going to go for a wild ride. Thankfully, all held and the rope was now freed. I climbed up the ledge and reached the anchor at last. I prepped the next rappel while everyone else came down.

Next, I lowered to the base of pitch 6 and thankfully this was less eventful. Although, my rappel device was exceptionally difficult to feed rope through smoothly and if I was any smarter I would have brought my normal setup on the “trial day” as a back up. Oh well! The rappel station below pitch 6 was a hanging one and now with 3 others on their way to join me this was going to be a bit of a circus. Thankfully, Trevor had coiled their rope above and immediately prepped the next rappel and lowered off to the station at the based of the dihedral.

Rappel #2
Andrea coming down
Looking down at rappel #3

I went last and this time we decided to tie our rope to ourselves and lower the other end to Trevor and Maris so that they could get the next rappel ready while Andrea and I reached them. This worked out nicely, but there’s some level of faff no matter what in this setup. Andrea lead the 4th rappel which was supposed to be to some tree a short ways down. She ended up going to far skiers left and simply lowered to a ledge where she climbed around the face and back to the anchors below our next set (skipped one set of anchors). Maris went next and found the correct anchor with Andrea’s help and then Trevor and I lowered. This one proved to be quite awkward and bushy and then another rappel was required to reach Andrea.

Andrea heading down after Maris and Trevor grabbed our rope
Rappel #5

From here two more rappels would be required, but I challenged that idea and asked if we could just join both 70m ropes to reach the bottom. Everyone was keen on that and a quick toss of the rope (after a long session of untangling 😀 ) proved the ropes reached! So with that, we made our final rappel to the scramble ledges below. I have to say that was one of the more contrived rappels I’ve had to do as of late. Trio Creek Spires and Mount Bardean still hold the top spot however.

Rappel #6
A final look at the route!

Andrea and I were feeling a bit sun-baked after the whole descent ordeal and personally I was feeling irate from the simplest things. We knew we needed to get some water and shade so packed up and headed for the nearest water source. Thankfully there’s a plentiful one near the base of the scramble and we filled up and recharged out of the sun. Now feeling a bit more normal we reversed course on the approach trail and made the descent down the rocky and tedious trail out of the valley. By 7pm or so we were back at the car and headed for Granite Falls to get some Mexican food. Once we had our fill I drove us the 2 hours back home for some much needed rest.

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