Best desert tower climbs
Updated: Sep 4, 2018
As the legendary desert climber and first ascent genius Huntley Ingalls put it "There is no place on earth like the colorado plateau, an area the size of Utah with a variety of landscapes far exceeding any other desert area in the world". A place of adventure and exploration. The Colorado river and it's tributaries have eroded deep and mysterious canyons, sheer faces of perfect Wingate sandstone...and also erect towers defying the laws of newton. Small gardens of lush green fight against the infinite dryness of the land, delicate arches and water etched structures of improbable architecture bridge the world of void and life. This garden of eden holds improbable mysteries in the heart of america where satellites, gps and massive roads have weakened the thill of exploration, the essence of climbing. Ingalls justly states that in the 60's some places on the Colorodo Plateau were still unexplored...
Caslteton towers: The honneymoon chimney
After many trips in the desert, there's just no getting tiered of these adventures. This time a new companion. Johanna has come from France to discover the desert. First stop the Ultra-famous Castleton towers. I've already climbed the classic Kor-Ingalls, North chimney, Sacred Grounds and Fine Jade so we're gonna go for an other route: Honey-moon chimney. This Beckey-Kor, 1961 route has it all...
After a beautiful hike at the early hours we rack up at the foot of the priest. For this climb little gear is needed...the climbing is or easy, or too wide or there's fixed gear. The two first pitches are nice but the third and last pitch is truly unique!! After an offwidth start you can squeeze into the chimney....witch you quickly bridge with classic foot/knee/ass wedging and squirming. After 20 meters with no pro you get to a fixed pin witch is useless ( a fall would have you ricocheing of the sides of the chimney in a Homer Simpson like style...doh!) but helps the head a the rope beneath your feet no longer dangles uselessly. The chimney gets wider and wider... and suddenly you realize the tower in your back has come to an end!
Now time for the epic 5.11- move: after clipping a 1960 8mm bolt and a loose pin, you grab two small crimps and swing your feet to the main tower, leaving the comfort of the chimney and suddenly finding yourself on a very expose ridge with a bouldery crux! Those first ascentionist were bold to say the least!!! Alone on the summit what a reward! As a lone crow flies by my thoughts go out to my brother Gregory who would have loved such a desert adventure.
The White Rim Road: Ultimate Adventure
With Johanna, Marcel and Jon we are off to the legendary White rim road, literally a harder layer of white sand stone which allows you to drive around the delta created by the Colorodo river and the Green river. Island in the sky...name full of meaning! The scenic route alone is worth the drive, but as a climber some of the most iconic towers are along the rim : Moses and the Primerose Dihedrals, Zeus, Monster tower, Standing Rock, Washer woman... just to name the most famous!
Better to have a good 4 wheel drive here if you don't want to end up stranded or worse, floating in the Colorodo river...
First stop at Moses and Zeus for my 33rd birthday! Some of the best desert climbing. In the evening a full moon rises over the towers.
From there were realize that our project to climb washer woman, standing rock and monster tower in the remaining two days is kinda hard since that's pretty much the time it takes to do the driving around the loop...we're fast climbers but not fast and furious... we'll be back!!!
An interesting fact: in the 60's and 70's a "beer bottle" rating was given to the tower in function of the ratio between it's height and it's size at the base and summit. The more slender the tower the better the climb!