Utah Desert Tower Tour (TR)


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Leavenworth, WA and Talkeetna, AK
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 30, 2007 - 01:08pm PT
I thought this would be a good trip report for SuperTopo, since we used the SuperTopo e-book SuperTopo: Desert Towers extensively. Great guide by the way, you all should get a copy. Okay enough for the shameless SuperTopo promotion.

My wife Michelle and I just returned from a two week trip climbing desert towers around Moab, Utah. Overall we had a great trip, climbing 11 routes on 10 towers (actually 9 towers and 1 mesa).

Our first stop was Arches National Park. We decided to warm up on Off Balanced Rock, North Chimney (5.7). The 100-foot runout on the second pitch was a little unnerving but luckily the chimney was fairly secure.
Here's a shot of me taking a picture of Michelle coming up the chimney:

On top of Off Balanced Rock:

Next stop was the obligatory Owl Rock, Olevsky Route (5.9), definitely a must do tower for anyone visiting Arches.

Michelle rapping off:

That evening we hiked out to Delicate Arch for the sunset.

Next it was time for the Fisher Towers.

It rained a little the night we got there, so climbing Ancient Art the next day was out, as climbing dry mud is bad enough. Instead we did the really cool hike through the towers and out to a viewpoint.

Later that evening it seemed to dry out enough to give Lizard Rock, Entry Fee (5.9) a go.

Leading up:

Michelle on top:

The next day we headed up to do Ancient Art, The Corkscrew Route (III 5.10d)

The route climbs up the central chimney then up the highest point on the left.

Following the first bolted crux:

The summit has to be one of the top five coolest spots in the world that I have been.

We came back down and I decided to give a go at The Cobra (5.11 R). I mean, how much longer is this thing going to be there? I had to get it while I still could.

Chalking up under the lip:

One more day in the Fisher Towers and we wanted a little bit more, so we climbed the Kingfisher, Colorado Northeast Ridge (IV 5.8 C2).

Kingfisher, the route ascends the left side of the tower:

This was actually Michelle's favorite route of the whole trip! Not because the climbing was that great - mostly a bolt ladder with a few very C2 mud placements and some good free-mudding. But the overall line, exposure, and summit were fantastic.

Looking straight down the Northeast Ridge:

Summit views - The Titan, Echo Tower, and Cottontail Tower:

Next stop was Castle Valley. We of course had to do the obligatory route on Castleton Tower- the Kor-Ingalls (III, 5.9).

Castleton Tower:

The route follows the central dihedral:

The line is good, but the climbing leaves a bit to be desired. The crux offwidth is only cruxy because they tell you to bring so much god-damned gear up the route and you have to squeeze up the thing with all this crap. In reality you only need a number three Camalot and 4 quickdraws to lead the crux pitch. Anyways, cool summit.

Michelle coming up the crux OW/Chimney:

The Rectory came with many recommendations, and although it is a mesa and not a tower, it still has a tower feel and is a really cool desert formation.

The Rectory is the mesa in the foreground, the route climbs directly up the facing wall:

We climbed Fine Jade on the Rectory (III, 5.11a). The first two pitches are the crux and are both interesting and sustained. The warm up pitch is a steep but short 5.10d hand-OW-hand crux.

Michelle following the first pitch:

We hiked across the Rectory to watch some climbers on the Honeymoon Chimney of The Priest.

Climbers on Fine Jade, The Rectory:

Later that afternoon we decided to climb the North Chimney of Castleton Tower (III, 5.9), as many people consider it the better of the two moderate routes. The first pitch was ultimately classic. Two parallel cracks, mostly hand jamming, and interesting moves for an entire 150 feet. The second pitch, however, was mostly junk and I linked all the way to the notch in exactly 200 feet.

Michelle following the first pitch:

The next mission was Sister Superior, Jah Man (III, 5.10c). Another fine desert route, with a stout but short crux on the 3rd pitch. And one of the finer chimneys in the area - the Sister Squeeze chimney on the 2nd pitch.

Sister Superior:

Up close:

Looking down the 3rd pitch:

On the summit looking toward Castleton and the Rectory:

And for the final hurrah we took the long drive out and climbed Moses, Primrose Dihedrals (IV, 5.11d).

Moses is the tallest tower:

The route is everything it's cracked up to be - short but sustained pitches, interesting climbing, and an awesome position.

Michelle coming up the 4th pitch:

Pitch 5:

Summit success:

Mar 30, 2007 - 01:25pm PT
nicely done! I think Fine Jade and Primrose are two of my favorite routes ever. Is that big loose spike/flake still in the dihedral, maybe around pitch 4? That thing scared the crap out of me, even following the pitch.

Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:27pm PT



Beatrix Kiddo

Mountain climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:30pm PT
As if I wasn't already missing the desert! Now I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY miss the desert. Fantastic photos. Looks like you 2 had a fantastic time with much success.

Mar 30, 2007 - 01:30pm PT

TR's like this keep me coming back!
Crag Q

Trad climber
Louisville, Colorado
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:32pm PT
Way to get 'er done. Sounds like you had a blast. Thanks for the TR.

The Rebel L Gang
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:33pm PT
Joe & Michelle--Excellent TR and unbelieveably gorgeous photos! The pix of Delicate Arch is one of the best I've ever seen. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Trad climber
the blighted lands of hatu
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:33pm PT
niiice !
sweet pics...
sweet climbs...

Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:37pm PT
really nice stuff - photo work way up there - many thanks for posting

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:48pm PT
Nice tick list. Plus you got to lead everything...



B loop site 15
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:52pm PT
I am very impressed. You two must chug coffee on a Croftian* scale to send that many hard routes in a single trip. Well done!

*to do as Peter Croft would
handsome B

Gym climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 01:58pm PT
Great TR!

You've been very busy.

Leavenworth, WA and Talkeetna, AK
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 30, 2007 - 02:12pm PT
Cool thanks guys. wilcox510 - I think I remember what you are talking about with that loose spike thing, i.e. I think it is still there. If I remember right, I tried not to touch it, but Michelle wailed on it - of course, she doesn't weigh very much :).

Trad climber
devil's lake, wi
Mar 30, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
Nice report. Cripes!!!

Off Balanced rock chimney is fun. Isn't there a drill angle near the top, on the exit moves to the summit? I remember feeling happy when clipping it.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Mar 30, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
Very, very cool. Nice job.

Social climber
Hercules, CA
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:01pm PT
Very cool TR!


Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:10pm PT
These pics are great. Just wondering what kind of camera gear you use. Small???


Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:19pm PT

bay area
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:35pm PT

really great pics and TR!

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:54pm PT
Wow. Great photos and a nice summary report. I'm jealous on many levels.

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