Hiked in From Tipsoo summit
Arrived at Tipsoo trailhead just after 8am, made the pedestrian hike up to the cindery summit in about 75 minutes under beautiful clear skies. From the summit of Tipsoo the PCT is obvious just below the summit, so after a short break I headed down the meadows running off of Tipsoo's south face and met up with the PCT and followed it around to where the PCT meets up with the Howlock Mountain trail. From this junction I took off SE through a meadow, following it up to its head, then cut directly south through a band of trees to another meadow. From here I followed this meadow up to its origin and then scrambled up through the trees to the saddle on the south end of Howlock Mountain. If you stay in the trees its simpe to make the saddle, but if you stray to far north or south into the loose rock hiking gets much more difficult. Once at the saddle it was an easy enough little scramble to the rock-chuck infested east summit which is apparently the summit of Howlock Mountain, but the middle summit with its daunting spire was the true goal.
Below, looking at Howlock Mountain from Tipsoo Peak
Middle Summit / Pinnacle
Brian's not kidding about the state of this rock, it was immediately obvious I wouldnt be climbing the pinnacle from anywhere on its very loose east or south faces, so I edged out across the west face and scrambled about halfway up the spire before becoming concerned I wouldnt be able to climb back down this loose verticle mess of rock. My next thought was to check the north face, so I downclimbed and continued the slow traverse around the peak, being careful not to start any rockslides that might knock something above me loose. Once makeing the north ridge, I found that there was a band of blocky cascades basalt about 5-10 feet wide running up towards the summit. This rock provided the solid holds I needed to scramble up to the top. The summit itself was very small, with loose rock that threatens to crumble out from beneath you. With some fantastic exposure off the sides of this pinnacle, this was definitely one of the more tense summit experiences I've had.
Above, looking down from about halfway up the west face of the spire. This was not the safest route to the summit so I turned back here and circled around to the north end of the pinnacle.
The West Face
If you decide to climb this pinnacle, here is what the west face you'll need to traverse looks like. Not vertical, but very loose.
Below: Looking straight up about halfway up the west face, almost all of this rock was loose and made finding handholds difficult.
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