Trip Report
Washer Woman, In Search of Suds (III, 5.10+ C0 or 5.11-)
Thursday February 7, 2013 1:14pm
2012-11-15 - Rappel 2, rappelling the arch!
2012-11-15 - Rappel 2, rappelling the arch!
Credit: Dirk Summers

November 13-15, 2012

Dirk and I drove a long ways out on the White Rim Trail to climb a wacky, semi-remote tower called Washer Woman (3 hrs of dirt road driving in a high clearance, 4WD truck). The drive was beautiful and the climbing was great and in a spectacular setting. Dirk managed to lead the 5.11- final pitch clean while I yarded on a few bolts to get through. The summit register had some very interesting entries with some famous climbers signing in. Finishing with a rappel through the arch in the tower was a unique way to end a desert climb.

November 13-14 - The Long Drive In

Night skies over the Shafer Canyon campsite. Can you see Orion?

Shafer Canyon campsite.

Sunrise at the Shafer Canyon campsite, looking up the canyon we will be driving through today.

United Nations Tablet (by Dirk Summers)

White Rim Trail views of the Colorado River.

White Rim Trail views of the Colorado River.

Chip & Dale Towers (by Dirk Summers)

White Rim Trail views.

White Rim Trail views of the La Sal Mountains. (by Dirk Summers).

Bighorn sheep on the White Rim Trail. (by Dirk Summers)

Bighorn sheep on the White Rim Trail. (by Dirk Summers)

Miniature Ancient Art.

Chip & Dale towers.

Chip & Dale towers. (by Dirk Summers)

At last, after several hours of slow dirt road driving, we caught our first glimpse of Washer Woman.

Washer Woman seen from the East, along the White Rim Trail. (by Dirk Summers)

Islet in the Sky & Blocktop Tower, seen from the East.

Mesa Arch. (by Dirk Summers)

At least we reached the turn in the road where one parks to approach Washer Woman and Monster Tower. Unfortunately it took us longer than expected to make the drive out here, and the days were very short this time of year, so we decided to relax, hike around, and head up to the tower early the next morning.

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW.

So after some lounging we headed up a river wash and ridge to the south to get some nice views of the formations. It was nice being back in this area, as I had mountain biked out to this very spot when I was in high school. Although I had no idea what these formations were, looking back through old photos I found that I had indeed photographed Washer Woman some 12 years ago.

As we headed up the ridge, Dirk and admired some of the interesting rock features in the area, like the sandstone imprints of riverbed textures.

Sandstone water imprints. (by Dirk Summers)

Sandstone water imprints.

Islet in the Sky & Blocktop Tower, seen from the East. (by Dirk Summers)

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the West.

Washer Woman seen from the West.

In Search of Suds, the aim for the next day, ascends the thin slanting dark line on the right side of the formation. In fact, one of the pitches goes right trough the tiny triangular arch.

Unfortunately the cold had sapped the remaining battery power from my camera, and I had left my spare back at the car, so I missed out on some of the best shots of the day. Fortunately Dirk also has an eye for photography.

Washer Woman & Monster Tower from the West. (by Dirk Summers)

Washer Woman from the West. (by Dirk Summers)

Monster Tower from the West. I had wanted to take this shot, but my camera was out of batteries. So I'm at least taking credit for the idea :-) (by Dirk Summers)

Sunset silhouette of Islet in the Sky and Blocktop Tower. (by Dirk Summers)

We made it back to the truck just before dark, and enjoyed dinner and beer as the sun set and I played around with taking some night shots.

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW at evening with the first few stars showing. (30 sec exposure)

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW at evening with the first few stars showing. (30 sec exposure)

Clouds and tower after sunset, with first stars showing. (30 sec exposure)

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW under a 30 minute exposure.

Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW under a 30 minute exposure.

November 15 - In Search of Suds

The next morning we were up and ready to go much earlier. With the short days it turned out that we had just enough time to do the approach, climb, and descent before dark.

Shadows of Sand Castle Tower, Washer Woman, & Monster Tower seen from the SW at sunrise. These shadows remind me of the Three Wise Men. (by Dirk Summers)

SW side of Monster Tower on the approach.

Washer Woman from the base.

In Search of Suds from the base. The route ascends this corner all the way to the top.
Pitch 0 is a loose cl. 4-5 pitch that some people rope up for. As it looked loose and it was hard to tell just how tricky it would be, we decided to rope up. I led this pitch, then P1 & P2 as a block, then Dirk led the last 3 pitches to the summit.

Starting approach pitch 0 of "In Search of Suds" (cl. 5). (by Dirk Summers)

Pitch 0 really isn't that bad. The toughest part is the first 40 ft, and a rope would not save you from hitting ledges. After that I didn't have any need to place pro, keeping things easy by traversing far right to Monster Tower and then walking back along the ridge crest to Washer Woman.

Monster Tower N Ridge from the start of "In Search of Suds".

The first pitch is a really fun 5.9+ to 5.10- corner, with one crux being passing a small roof in the beginning.

Leading first 5.9-5.10 section of P1.

Leading the first 5.9-5.10 crux of P1. (by Dirk Summers)

Leading the first 5.9-5.10 crux of P1. (by Dirk Summers)

Leading the first 5.9-5.10 crux of P1. (by Dirk Summers)

The roof went easily, but there was another tougher crux next that I was not expecting. A very sandy OW in a flaring corner! I got up as far as I could with my #5 but just could not make the final reach into the hand crack. I backed down and did a combination of liebacking, stemming, and chimneying farther out.

The second 5.9-5.10 crux of P1 of "In Search of Suds". I had to back down this to re-evaluate my strategy before I could get past this strange corner.

Above the wide, the terrain quickly eased to 5.7 climbing. There are a lot of loose blocks on this section, so the leader should take care to stem and chimney up most of this pitch and NOT grab or stand on the blocks.

Looking down the 5.7 corner and loose blocks of P1.

I set up a belay on a comfy ledge just beneath the mini-arch.

P2 "Eye of the Needle". (by Dirk Summers)

I set off on P2, which requires climbing into the arch, and stemming up it until it is easy to enter the chimney inside of it.

P2 looking down as I am threading the "Eye of the Needle".

P2 5.7 chimney, full of loose chockstones. I did a lot of different techniques to avoid pulling on these, as they would have fallen on Dirk!

P2 entering the 5.7 chimney after passing through the little arch. I'm stemming the arch to avoid the loose chockstones in the chimney. (by Dirk Summers)

P2 looking down the "Eye of the Needle" and onto Dirk as I am in the 5.7 chimney.

The next crack was very strange, but clean and interesting. This steep section gradually transitions into a corner, which widens into an OW, and finishes with a 5.9+ to 5.10- mantle onto the belay ledge.

P2 5.7-5.8 cracks.

Leading the P2 5.7-5.8 cracks, with the 5.9 OW seen above. (by Dirk Summers)

Leading the P2 5.9 OW. (by Dirk Summers)

The OW is a squeeze lower down, so I dealt with this feature by crawling inside to place a large cam, then shimmied back out to lieback the rest, as there is a good edge and good feet features to use.

I finished by perhaps being the first person to do the P2 mantle with my belly facing up! (Or at least I sure hope I am. It was not pretty). I really didn't like the exposure, lack of feet, and a sandy, flat mantling ledge with nothing to pull on, so I just kept stemming until it got too wide, then I pressed my shoulder into the ledge as I walked my feet up and slid my torso onto the ledge, where I then rolled over and did the beached whale dance to the anchors.

Looking down P2.

Dirk following P2, nearing the 5.9 OW.

Dirk following P2, at the 5.9+ mantle finish. On lead I didn't dare finish this as Dirk is doing (feet are poor for this and the ledge is sandy). Instead I did a full-body stem and mantled onto my back before flipping into 'beached whale' position.

The White Rim seen from atop P2 of "In Search of Suds".

Finally it was Dirk's turn, and not a moment too soon. This beast needed to be unleashed!

P3 seen from P2 belay.

Dirk starting into P3 (5.10+).

Dirk leading P3 (5.10+). Monster Tower is behind.

The pitch takes good gear, and the 5.10+ section is a one-move wonder. However, the move is very awkward, physical, and committing as you transition from the crack to some strange crimping and face climbing around and over a small roof.

Following P3 (5.10+). (by Dirk Summers)

Tower shadows from atop P3.

Airport Tower and the LaSal Mountains seen from atop P3.

The White Rim from atop P3.

P4 tower traverse.

The next pitch was a 4th class scramble along a knife-edge ridge, with a short 5.9 finger crack in a step to overcome at the end.

Following the P4 traverse (cl. 4).

Following the P4 tower traverse. Monster Tower and the White Rim are behind. (by Dirk Summers)

5.9 headwall at the end of P4.

Dirk atop P4 with Monster Tower & the White Rim behind.

The last pitch is the crux of the climb. Depending on who you ask, it is either a very hard 5.10+ (much harder than the other 5.10+ pitch), or a 5.11- face climb protected by some drilled angles and bolts. The first 5.9 bit to reach the first bolt was said to be runout on loose rock.

P5 Washer Woman head (5.11-).

There was some loose rock, but apart from ledges to hit, the section didn't seem 'R' rated as you were never that far out from pro. Dirk made it looks pretty leisurely.

Dirk casually placing pro on P5.

Dirk leading the P5 5.11- face finish.

Dirk leading the P5 5.11- face finish, taking a hands free rest after the difficulties.

Dirk leading the P5 5.11- face finish, happy to have done it clean!

Dirk was psyched to get an onsight for this pitch.

Dirk atop Washer Woman.

Next it was my turn, and I was eager to share those summit views!

Drilled angle seen while following P5.

Following P5 (5.11-). I'm not much of a face climber so I yarded on the bolts. This face was very steep, thin, and slick.

Following the P5 crux. (by Dirk Summers)

On the summit there were a lot of ancient star bolts and an old green ammo box on a leash that contained the summit register.

Dirk giving a thumbs up to the 'ol star bolt atop Washer Woman. Fortunately there are newer bolts for the rappel anchor! (by Dirk Summers).

This trip looked so awesome! I wonder if I can find their account somewhere? It definitely has given me some ideas on how to come back to do some other towers in the area :-)

The summit register was also very fun to look through. There were a lot of interesting entries, including some celebrities and some friends.

Summit Register - The Charlie Fowler Tower Tour map. This looks like a really awesome trip!

Summit Register - The Charlie Fowler Tower Tour signing. This looks like a really awesome trip!

Summit Register - Layton Kor quote.

Summit Register - Charlie Fowler & Steph Davis.

Summit Register - Susan Nott (RIP).

Summit Register - Cam Burns

Summit Register - Interesting cartoon.

Summit Register - Mike Dahlquist.

Summit Register - Gil Wiess (RIP), Wayne Wallace, Mark Westman, Joe Puryear (RIP).

Summit Register - Anyone care to answer this one?

Dirk N' Mark atop the summit of Washer Woman, with Monster Tower behind. (by Dirk Summers)

Of course, the views were incredible as well!

Monster Tower seen from atop Washer Woman.

Dirk after rappel 1. The rappel 2 anchors are very exposed and awkward to access and can be seen below (blue tat).

The first rappel is very exposed and awkward to get to. Basically you have to lower off tat attached to bolts on the ridge to get to a microledge and bolts out on the face. From this semi-hanging anchor one then sets up to rappel the arch.

Rappel 2, Dirk rappelling the arch! (by Dirk Summers)

Rappel 2, arch profile on rappel. (by Dirk Summers)

Rappel 2, rappelling the arch! (by Dirk Summers)

I have done a number of long free hanging rappels, but rappelling an arch feels very different being out in space.

Rappel 2, after rappelling the arch!

From here we had 3 more short rappels to the ground. Don't do it in 2 or else your rope will get stuck. Ours got stuck on 2 of the rappels, and with a bit of climbing back up we managed to free it We also carried out a new 60m rope that was stuck and abandoned on the last rappel.

Rappel 3 anchor.

Dirk freeing the stuck rope on rappel 3.

Washer Woman seen from the West. (by Dirk Summers)

While Washer Woman takes some time to get to, it is a great desert tower in a beautiful setting, containing some very nice climbing! I think I like it more than Castleton Tower.

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About the Author
PellucidWombat is a mountain climber from Berkeley, CA.

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Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Feb 7, 2013 - 01:17pm PT
Another hit! TFPU!

  Feb 7, 2013 - 01:32pm PT

You've done it again!


Trad climber
Costa Mesa, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 01:50pm PT

Social climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Dammit PW you do up a fabulous trip report. WOw, wow & wow. Thanks.

Social climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 02:12pm PT

Great photos. Loved seeing the register pages...I wonder just what did Rob Slater have to say.....??

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Feb 7, 2013 - 02:53pm PT
Sweet pictures and tr. tfpu

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Feb 7, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
damn fine TR!!!

some great shots, the long exposure and wildlife were killer.


Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 03:51pm PT
Very Nice!
Thank you..

San Jose, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 03:59pm PT
Exceptional report, and photos! One can visualize climbing all route from the sofa.
Pellucid, your face looks very familiar, and than I realize that I just met you at Arch 5 days ago... cheers
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:01pm PT
Again! Another well-described couple of days in the realm of adventure. Very Berkeley, too, with the cam batteries. Oh, it's all good...

Kor's quote is so perfect in the register.

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:17pm PT
Hey Alexey, I was wondering later if that was you at Arch Rock. LOL. Nice to meet you in person at last! Gripper was a great lead. We didn't have time for Midterm after doing all 3 pitches, but I'll be curious to see how it compares, especially doing the hard, thin climbing first. The Gripper crux had me 'gripped' as the climbing leading up to it left me pretty tired. :-)


Careful now. Mastering beta from online climbing pr0n can become an addiction. ;-)

Along those lines, in some of the forum threads, couldn't you call some of the most fervent posters Master-Debators?

Oakland, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:27pm PT
Great stuff, Mark. Thanks for posting.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:31pm PT
Super bitchin' Awesomeness!!!

This is the kind of TR that we live for.

Thanks for doing this.

  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:42pm PT


Thanks Wombat.

Beatrix Kiddo

Mountain climber
Durango ColoRADo
  Feb 7, 2013 - 04:47pm PT
That was awesome!!!!

Andrzej Citkowicz far away from Poland
  Feb 7, 2013 - 05:03pm PT


Trad climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 06:05pm PT

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 06:36pm PT
Way cool. Great photos!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 7, 2013 - 06:53pm PT

Trad climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 09:30pm PT
,,the notch shot I would hang on my wall,,snow on one side barren soil the other,,desert tempraments,,clarity if you can see it,, also the castleton tower referance is apprecated,,gotta get back there soon,,thanks for the kick in the ass,,

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Feb 7, 2013 - 09:38pm PT
I want to do that route-thanks for the inspiration, excellent photos!
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Feb 7, 2013 - 09:40pm PT
Kicking ass as usual. Thanks!


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Feb 7, 2013 - 10:06pm PT
Nice.....great route isn't it. Now the N.Face of Monster Tower awaits you. Continue to take your supplements.

Oakland, CA
  Feb 7, 2013 - 10:24pm PT
This pic really hit me. Love the dark tones in it.


Trad climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
Such a great trip report...thank you! Now I need to go to the desert!

Social climber
  Feb 8, 2013 - 12:50am PT
Well that made my night. Thanks.

Sport climber
Made in California, living in The Old Pueblo
  Feb 8, 2013 - 12:53am PT
Stunning... just stunning.

J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Feb 9, 2013 - 11:49am PT
Excellent! Nice send.

Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Feb 9, 2013 - 11:58am PT
I can't believe all the work you put into these TR's !! This one is fantastic as usual. Makes ST a great place to get the stoke going.

You sure are getting after it out there! I feel lucky you take the time to share it!

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Feb 9, 2013 - 12:22pm PT

photo by Janez Ales
The Larry

  Feb 9, 2013 - 12:34pm PT
Nice job fellas!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Feb 9, 2013 - 05:34pm PT
That's a lot of OK pictures and a few really good ones. i can't help but think that the good ones would have more impact if they weren't dumped in there with a hundred OK ones. Thanks for posting up.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 9, 2013 - 10:56pm PT
Mark, you set the standard for TRs!!!!

Thanks for ALL your pics bro!!!!

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Feb 9, 2013 - 11:53pm PT
Like! Desert towers, yum.
Double D

  Feb 10, 2013 - 10:13am PT

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Feb 11, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
That's a lot of OK

Aah, I guess I'm biased when it comes to desert scenery, especially on the White Rim Trail. Too hard to trim it down enough! Next report should be more controlled :-)

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Feb 11, 2013 - 12:44pm PT
Yeah, I love the desert. But I don't like feeling like I'm scrolling through for the good's not respectful of the subject matter, or the person who put it all together.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Feb 11, 2013 - 01:59pm PT
EDIT YER PICS. You could cut 80% of those photos and have a tighter, better, more readable TR. Fun route, nice job.

Trad climber
  Feb 12, 2013 - 01:05pm PT
Great pics! Brought back some positive memories of 2005 when we rap'd in from near Mesa Arch traversed over to WW, climbed In Search of Suds then jugged back to the car. thx for sharing.

  Feb 13, 2013 - 05:18pm PT
Awesome trip report,

I couldn't believe that same ledger that Mark Hammond, Dave Penquite and myself signed nearly 15 yrs ago!..Your pics brought back great memories, I remember getting my head stuck in the offwidth and having to take my helmet off and leave in the crack for either Dave or Mark to collect when the seconded.


Pees on beard to seek mates.
  Feb 13, 2013 - 07:43pm PT
Incredible trip report! All time!!!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Feb 13, 2013 - 07:57pm PT
Really nice TR. I like all the pictures. Reading is over rater and a picture is worth a thousand thats like a million
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