Tower sits next to Golden Horn behind Cutthroat north of Washington pass. It's beautiful, steep up top, and imposing. I tried it a couple of years ago and got scared off by low visibility. Went back and tagged it this weekend. Left from Rainy pass. You can leave from Cutthroat lake trailhead, which is shorter but lower. From Rainy it's 11 miles in on the PCT to Snowy Lakes, very easy grade, 2500 ft total gain.
Becky's description of the West Gulley route is uncharacteristically detailed and helpful. If you stay exactly on route, which zig-zags signifcantly back and forth from the west spur to the west gully and back to the west spur, then it's pretty easy class III. If you get off route at all things quickly get hairy. I took the direct variation up the gully and found myself going up stuff I wasn't sure i could get back down, mostly hoping I'd meet up with the main route and could come down that way. And that's what happenend in the end.
By far the most dangerous thing about this mountain is rockfall, so it's a good one for those of you who like soloing. There are lots of places where it's impossible not to send very big chuncks down, so even a party of 2 would have to move very carefully. Three or more would be, in Becky's classic understatment, discouraged.
There's a summit register on top with only about 40 parties in the last 8 years. The only WAC'er i recognized was Pat, who topped out solo on 9/4/99. If you want to go now, leave all ice and snow gear behind. no rap rope needed to get down the gulley. If you need it you're off route and you'd probably pull big rocks down on your head pulling the rope. The trail in is easy, though long, so hiking sneakers with scree gaitors work great. Definitely take a hard hat, even if you're soloing.
Performed two stupid boy tricks. first trick: i never carry a water filter. I usually just slurp up cascade water neat as long as i'm reasonbly sure there aren't people pooping directly upstream. Tastes great and i've never gotten sick. But for cases where the only water is downstream of human bung i carry a little liquid iodine. Snowy lakes turned out to be one of those places this time, so i decided to iodize. (Side note: the best water in the area is a tiny cold spring, right on the PCT, about 1/4 mile before the Snowy Lakes cut-off. Fill up there.)
Usually i dip a little stick in the iodine and measure out two drops per liter, but i was all settled into my comphy night spot, and couldn't lay my hands on any little sticks, and was feeling way too lazy to lumber off my ass, so i decided to pour a little iodine directly into my MSR bag, plump with manky lake water.
About half an hour later i filled my pot from the bag to make a last hot drink, and low and behold the water was blue! And I don't mean bluish. I mean full-on neon bright, tidy-bowl blue. WTF?!?
I pondered and pondered before i realized that the only thing blue in the equation was the purple dye of my MSR waterbag. Hmmmmm, I thought, I wonder how much iodine i put in there? I took a little taste. Yummmmmy: iodine, i thought, right before i spewed all over and nearly puked up dinner. Apparently iodine, in sufficient concentration, disolves MSR waterbags.
I bought that bag in 98 and have kicked it like coon dog that don't hunt for 5 years now and it's never leaked a drop. But pour a scooch too much iodine down its gullet and it weeps like a little girl watching bambi burn up. go figure. chemistry is a curious thing.
Stupid boy trick number two: No one knows who first climbed Tower, but whoever did built the king daddy of all summit carrins: a full seven foot tall, perfectly uniform monolith. When you first see the mountain from granite pass it looks like there's a person standing on top, but the person never moves: it's the carin.
When I got up top, I didn't feel like messing with my camera's self-timer thing, but I wanted some photographic evidence that I'd been there, so i took off my helmet, put it on top of the carin, and took a picture. Then i lounged around on the summit for a while (holy crap! the north face is huge and shere), and went down.
It wasn't till i'd downclimbed about 500 feet, past the crux, before i tapped myself on the head and felt only my bandana. Oh crap, I thought. No way. I considered long and hard just leaving the miserable plastic hunk up there and quietly sneaking away, in which case, gentle reader, you never would have heard this story. Then i remembered, with crushing defeat, that I'd written my ! NAME on the !! helmet.
CRAP!!! I couldn't bear to have some mountaineer call me up and offer to give it back, or worse, have Nate go find it and write it up on the WAC site. CRAP CRAP CRAP!!! So back up i went, much faster this time knowing where to go and all, grabbed it the hat, cursing it and stuffing it back on my head, and clambered all the way back down.
Moral of the story: if you must litter, don't sign it.