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.

Crag Q

Trad climber
Louisville, Colorado
Mar 30, 2007 - 03:55pm PT

Your pictures are definitely a cut above. What kind of camera were you using? It seems like my desert pictures always look washed out, but I'm just a point and shoot kind of photographer with a canon powershot sd450. Any good photog advice?

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 30, 2007 - 04:10pm PT
really great TR, thanks for putting the time in to post it here!

Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 05:19pm PT
That was a FANTASTIC TR!

Nice work getting all that climbing in and not losing the motivation to take such crisp, wonderful pictures. I really enjoyed it.

Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Mar 30, 2007 - 05:40pm PT

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Mar 30, 2007 - 08:58pm PT
Very nice TR. To say the least, I'm envious.

Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 09:31pm PT
WOW! I must certainly add my compliments to the report and pictures, both a big part what makes this forum great.

And it did not hurt that I will be landing in Salt Lake City on May 19th to climb there. My rope gun for this trip has climbed several of these routes and wants to get back to them. Likely, I'll lead a couple of pitches but mostly following. Never the less, I was already super charged about the upcoming trip but now even more so.


Social climber
The West
Mar 30, 2007 - 10:47pm PT
What a great tower tour! Any couple that can do that while staying in love has what it takes. Hats off to you guys!!

Oakland: what's not to love?
Mar 30, 2007 - 11:15pm PT

Loved it. Loved it!

That first photo is great. Took me minutes of sustained thought and frowning at the screen to figure out what was going on there with the shadow.

right here, right now
Mar 30, 2007 - 11:22pm PT
thanks for giving the forum a terrific shot in the arm.
i feel refreshed.

Trad climber
Mar 30, 2007 - 11:53pm PT
Absolutely Great. What a trip you had! Thanks.

Trad climber
Hell A
Mar 31, 2007 - 12:10am PT
really liked the pics, and the write up.
I climbed the Kor-Ingalls route back in '96 because it is a "classic". probably wouldn't climb it again

Mar 31, 2007 - 01:14am PT
What a productive two-week trip! Way to go. Super TR!

Trad climber
Durango, CO
Mar 31, 2007 - 02:00am PT

Leavenworth, WA and Talkeetna, AK
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 31, 2007 - 11:53am PT
For you photo people - I finally made the switch to all digital this year, although I still shoot the occasional roll of Velvia left over in my fridge. I drug a Canon digital SLR with a couple lenses up a couple of the climbs - I've got a nice 10-20mm for the wide angle shots. Otherwise I've got a great little Nikon point and shoot digital that seems to take pretty good shots. My advice for washed-out or marginal shots from a point-and-shoot? A little post image processing goes a long way.
J. Werlin

Mar 31, 2007 - 04:00pm PT
Hey-- ya'll TORE the desert up! Well done and A+ TR. Thanks for taking the effort to post.


Trad climber
Corona, CA
Apr 2, 2007 - 10:29am PT
I can't believe how awesome these pics are. I'm sitting in bed, 7:30am, I've spent every other week in Hamburg, Germany, which is FLAT, btw, and then I get THESE STELLAR pics, of STELLAR climbs ... makes me want to CRY. Can anybody hear me ? I NEED TO CLIMB ... THERE.

Thanks for getting me totally pumped for climbing season (this horrible schedule ends mid May)

Woo Hoo !

Gym climber
Apr 2, 2007 - 10:36am PT
Whoa, you hit all the classics I've heard so much about.

Nice photos, especially the DA sunset!

The Eye of the Snail
Apr 2, 2007 - 11:04am PT

Did you smooch out by Delicate?

And how did you solo Moonlight so fast?

Apr 2, 2007 - 11:46am PT
Ditto on practically every compliment already made, thanks for these photos, what a grat way to explore a possible climbing visit some day!!
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 2, 2007 - 01:33pm PT
That's a lot of towers for one trip! Most people climb one thing at the Fisher's and head on home feelin' pretty good.
You two crank!

Trad climber
Apr 2, 2007 - 01:44pm PT

Mountain climber
Dak side
Apr 2, 2007 - 01:49pm PT
cool TR great photos!

Trad climber
The Illuminati
Nov 2, 2010 - 12:17am PT
Bump (See the first post!)

Trad climber
Nov 2, 2010 - 12:43am PT
Absolutely stunning TR.......

Beautiful pictures, looks like a great trip
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Nov 2, 2010 - 12:53am PT
Awesome! R.I.P.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Nov 2, 2010 - 12:59am PT
Way cool pictures and TR! You guys were gettin' busy. Let's hear it for mud wrestlin'
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Nov 2, 2011 - 12:49pm PT
Man that guy really got out a lot.
The Larry

Moab, UT
Nov 2, 2011 - 01:06pm PT
Looks like you guys had a great trip! Nice work!
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