The Armstrong Summit TrollOn the summit of 4600-ft Armstrong Mountain in the Okanogan Mountains of Washington State lives a troll. This particular troll is a pretty emotionless creature. You might say he is stone-faced all of the time. His will is as strong as granite. He is granite.
One can drive rather easily with a high-clearance 2WD to the summit of Armstrong Mountain on the Colville Indian Reservation. It’s about four or five dirt miles off the highway. At the summit is a very tall steel lookout tower built some 50 years ago. The tower is now abandoned and the compartment at the top no longer has a roof.
The tower does not sit right on the summit. It’s pretty close. But not quite. Why doesn’t it sit on the summit? Because that’s where the summit troll sits…
In June 2010 Stefan Feller and I visited the summit at the end of a trip out that way. It was getting late and it was raining. We saw the troll in the woods and were scared off. I vowed to return with weaponry, if needed.
In July 2011 Jerry Daniels and I returned with weapons enough to slay the troll. Or at least smite it into submission. Or at least troll whisper it into obedience. Something. We got there and it began to rain. How nice. Luckily it stopped soon after it started. But it rained just enough to wet the rock and cause showery mini-waterfalls off the overhangs—especially above a section we would have to climb through.
In order to dominate the troll you have to climb up on top of its head and drill a spike into its skull. From the lookout tower the granitic blob does indeed have the appearance of a rock monster with shoulders and a head—the head itself being what looks like an avulsed block resting on a slant.
The easiest route up the 60-ft-high troll is Class 5. There are three or four route possibilities. They would need scrubbing to work into favor. The easiest route, and the one presumably done by others (there is some minor graffiti on the upper rocks), is on the south side—opposite the side of the lookout.
A Class 3 slab in a crease gets one up to a rightward ledge under an overhang. There is small alcove here. Just past the alcove by a couple of steps is a weakness—a wide crack with chickenheads—at a point where the ledge thins to the point one needs to worry about falling off and down 15 feet to the ground if one should peel off the crack. The crack would be awkward to protect…unless you have a #10 and/or #11 hex (the cowbell hexes). I used my cowbell hexes! I used my cowbell hexes! Anyway…the crack is about nine feet high. To the right of the crack are other features to aid the moves. At the top one exits left to a flat. This first 9-ft weakness we rated at Class 5.4 if dry, Class 5.5 if wet. The holds are great. Great for hands; thinner for feet. Jerry led it in rock shoes. I followed in boots (and a heavy pack full of “gear”) and if it weren’t for my wedding ring getting caught on the first move I might have done it gracefully.
After the first weakness and the flat shoulder there is another short step. Whereas the first section is largely a crack weakness, the second section is a face about ten feet high (more like a wall, then). The face is about 20 feet long and there is possibly another route at its right end. But we simply went up the middle of the face using more thin ledges and holds. It seemed a little harder—possibly due to the wetness on the lichen. We rated it 5.6 if wet, perhaps 5.4 if dry.
So, over all, we think this route (the easiest route) is Class 5.5. Other routes up it would range from 5.8 to 5.11+ but would need scrubbing. But this is Indian land, so you probably shouldn’t do too much of that.
To get off we found a bolt, a shiny new one, complete with a short chain. So if you climb it you won’t have to leave a rappel ‘biner. A rappel on our 30m rope got us back to the ledge by the alcove (a ten foot free-hanging rappel for the last part), then a second rappel on what was left of the rope down to the base to avoid having to downclimb the Class 3 crease. Either way. We rappelled because we had the rope for it.
And thus was smote the troll. The End (of this fairy tale).
Route Annotation [CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL SIZE IMAGE TO READ THE ANNOTATIONS]
Lookout Tower Climb
Other Potential Routes
Northeast Corner and West Face: