12 September 2015
This mountain will be remembered for mostly two things: 1. the beautifully scenic upper valley around Rummel Lake and two other pretty little lakes, complete with grizzly bear, and 2. very loose and miserable scrambling on the steep slopes leading up to the summit of The Tower. The confusing description lacking much detail in Kane’s scramble guidebook added to the sentiment that this wasn’t going to be my favourite scramble in the area (I enjoyed Mounts Galatea and Engadine much more, even Gusty Peak is higher on the list). Among the few people that have done The Tower, quite a few seem to have had problems finding the correct route up this mountain. Fortunately, routefinding turned out to be no issue for us on this day.
We parked in a small pull-out right by Mount Engadine Lodge and found the trailhead to Rummel Lake just across the road on the east side of Smith Dorrien Trail. It’s an excellent trail that gently rises mostly through forest in a few lazy switchbacks and leads you directly to the lake – all you have to do is stay on the main path, so there’s practically no chance you could go off-route anywhere here. Rummel Lake welcomed us with a superbly glistening mirror image of the stunning mountains in the background – a serene sight that we had all to ourselves in the soft morning light. It pays to get up early to witness this!
The path continued on the left side of the lake up a small rise to a broad, open valley where we left the forest behind us. It’s a beautiful place here and we dreamily wandered along, almost failing to notice the big brown grizzly bear about 50 m in front of us… But as soon as we saw the beast and slowly walked backwards, it started running… fortunately away from us, and quite fast! It stopped at the other side of the valley poking about and digging around the soil, probably looking for bugs to eat. We made a wide berth around it and continued up to the 2nd lake from where you could clearly see the ascent slope to the left. It’s basically a huge pile of scree in a wide bowl that narrows towards the steep south face almost directly below the summit. It was a pretty miserable trudge up this pile, followed by more trudging on loose but now very steep rock on a broad rib that got steeper and steeper the higher we went. We aimed for the ridgeline just left of a distinctive overhanging break in the ridge. Just before reaching the ridge (perhaps 10-15 m) we traversed left over some cliffs which involved mostly moderate scrambling (with perhaps a few difficult moves due to the snow and loose nature of the rock – check all holds carefully!). More loose rock followed and we finally made it to the pointy summit of The Tower, where absolutely gorgeous views in all directions opened up. Galatea Lakes in particular were a real eye candy from this unique vantage point high up, but Mount Engadine and Mount Galatea were equally beautiful to look at.
After a well-deserved lunch, we headed back down, which to our surprise took almost as long as going up. The terrain is tricky to negotiate with all the loose rock strewn over steep slabs of rock, and the soft snow patches didn’t help but only made things more slippery. We made it back to the car 11 hours after setting off in the morning, although several hours of that was spent ambling around the lakes and taking breaks. It had turned out to be a long day with fantastic scenery along the way, but half of it was spent on pretty unpleasant terrain and had to be earned the hard way.
DISCLAIMER: Use at your own risk for general guidance only! Do not follow this GPX track blindly but use your own judgement in assessing terrain and choosing the safest route.