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  1. Trip: I Love the Desert Date: 4/28/2008 Trip Report: This spring I was fortunate to make a really fun desert Southwest tour with my wife Michelle and a few other friends. We visited Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. During the trip I climbed 32 desert towers and a half dozen other routes. First stop was Colorado National Monument. It was pretty cold, but we managed to climb Independence Monument, Otto's Route (III, 5.9). Colorado National Monument, with Independence Monument on the right: A close up: The route was pretty "cool" with snow all over the ledges, But fun none-the-less. Love the history of the route with all the manufactured holds and staircases. You can see one of the staircases in the pic below, and Michelle is grabbing on to an old pipe hole: With temps dipping down to 10-degrees, we decided to head farther south to the Moab area. We did a quick climb of South Six Shooter, South Face (II, 5.8). On South Six Shooter Peak, with North Six Shooter in the distance. It snowed on us, so dreaming of warmer weather we decided to head farther south into Arizona. We had long wanted to climb in the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix. The Superstitions. The Hand, the Tower, and the Prong are the first three towers on the lower left. The larger Grandfather Hobgoblin Spire is on the right, but blends in a little with the cliff behind: The rock at the "Supes" is really interesting, some kind of crazy conglomerate. The protection is often sparse, and when there are bolts, well... One of those plant towers: The first day we did a collection of towers on the northwest side of the range. We climbed The Hand (5.6), The Tower (5.8 R), The Pickle (5.4), The Periscope (5.4R), and The Prong (5.6). All of them were unique little climbs and summits. Very cool. The Hand: Here is Michelle at a small belay on The Hand. The 3-pitch route we climbed was called the Razor's Edge and the climbing was on a 3-foot wide, steep ridge crest: The Tower had 25-feet of unprotected, overhanging 5.8 climbing to start the route, then a long and thoughtful 5.7R pitch above that. It felt good to get on top of that sucker. The Pickle was fun - it looks steep and hard from the base but it really is only 5.4. The climbing is on huge cemented together conglomerate rocks. Michelle rapping off the Pickle. The next day we woke up for two more climbs of Grandfather Hobgoblin (III, 5.9), and the really fun North Buttress, Spider Walk (III, 5.6). Here is Grandfather Hobgoblin, the 4-pitch route climbs up to the notch on the left, then right up to the summit: Looking down at Michelle atop the first pitch: View from the summit out towards the suburban sprawl: After rapping down we went directly over to the North Buttress. Spider Walk takes an improbable looking line (for 5.6), meandering up 4 pitches of run-out slabs, with hard to find bolts, then up a chimney/crack system up a very cool feature. Here's a shot of the North Buttress. The route starts on the left side, then works its way up to the chimney near the top: Michelle following the second pitch: At the end of the route, you can scramble up to a high spire that overlooks everything. A final sunset: Next stop was Red Rocks, Nevada. We spent a few days climbing Dark Shadows (5.8), Frogland (III, 5.8), Sour Mash (III, 5.10a), then met with our good friends Chin and Raleigh and climbed Eagle Dance (III, 5.10c A0) and then a twisted variation of The Gobbler and Yellow Brick Road (III, 5.10c) on Black Velvet Wall (this to bypass the cluster on Dream of Wild Turkey's and other routes). Hiking up to Eagle wall: Me leading the second pitch of The Gobbler, with Raleigh belaying: Michelle following Sour Mash: All in all we had a great week in Red Rocks, with splitter weather and pretty moderate crowds. Next stop: Zion. I really love Zion, and this is partly why: We only had a chance to spend two days here. The first day was a bit of a lazy day. We rode up canyon in the shuttle and climbed The Pulpit, Original Route (5.9, C1) - a cool little spire at the end of the road. Here's Michelle following the one and only pitch: Day 2 we climbed the Iron Messiah (III, 5.10) a 10-pitch route on the Spearhead. You gotta love chimneys to like this route: High on the route (see Michelle at bottom of crack and shuttle bus below), the second to the last pitch was a stellar 200-foot corner. It had been a few years since visiting Zion and I was really psyched to climb there again if only for a couple days. Michelle had to head back home and my buddy Jim flew down to meet me for some climbing around Moab. Our first stop was the Bridger Jack Towers in Indian Creek. In two days we climbed Sparkling Touch Tower (5.11-), Thumbelina Tower (5.11), Sunflower Tower, East Face (III, 5.10), Easter Island Tower (5.10), and King of Pain, Vision Quest (III, 5.10+). Shadow of the Bridger Jacks on the desert floor: Jim's picture of me leading Thumbelina, a great single pitch of 5.11, and a cool spire to boot! Jim's picture of me leading the first pitch of Sparkling Touch: The King of Pain. Vision Quest climbs the split between the two towers: Here's Jim in the 5.10 slot on Vision Quest. After this pitch, I won't disagree with the guidebook description calling the route "burly". Jim taking the lead on the last pitch of Sunflower Tower. South and North Sixshooter can be seen in the distance. I was psyched to finally climb on these towers. The ease of access, quality rock and routes, and relaxing atmosphere made for a great couple of days (and a great warm up for Jim!) Next we headed into Canyonlands National Park. We stopped by the ranger station and got a permit to camp down on the White Rim for a couple days, then later that afternoon we climbed Washer Woman, In Search of Suds (III, 5.10+). The route was super-classic just like everyone said it would be. Gotta be one of the most unique looking towers in the desert. Can't wait to see what it looks like when that chock stone falls out! Washer Woman and Monster Tower: Looking down from the last pitch, with Monster Tower behind: Jim's pic of me leading the final summit block: Gotta love that rappel! Next we headed into Monument Basin. Our first objective was the ultra-classic Standing Rock, Kor Route (III, 5.11). You can tell this route gets climbed a ton because there is no loose rock or mud typical of the area to speak of. I can only imagine what it must have been like on the first ascent. Jim's pic of me leading the great roof (way easier than it looks from below): Jim following the second pitch: That afternoon we climbed the Shark’s Fin, Fetish Arête (III, 5.10c R). This route doesn't seem to get as much traffic and one gets a taste for some more authentic Monument Basin climbing. This picture was taken from Island in the Sky. The route follows the lower angled right side for 5 fun pitches: Jim's pic of me starting up the first pitch: I thought the 1st and 3rd pitches were more R rated than the 5.10b R second pitch according to the guidebooks. Jim rappelling off of Shark's Fin - awesome rock striations: ....continued...