Trip: Moab, Utah - Castleton North Chimney, Indian Creek, Ancient Art
Managed to put together a short desert trip from a whole variety of people sources, all under the unanimous banner of spring break. Our ever revolving party included up to 11 people but never at the same time. I traveled down to the desert in a Subaru Legacy with 4 other folks: Kevin, sisters Hannah and Rosie, and my girlfriend Alexis, plus of course gear shoved everywhere. We left pdx one Thursday night and drove straight through the night, arriving at the supermarket in Moab to load up on food on a groggy Friday afternoon. Met with friends Alison and Annie who had arrived at 2am that Friday morn after a late start involving a towed car. Seems to me cars are almost always the crux of a trip, though that belief probably is due to the state of my "car."
With river road being closed the next morning for a half marathon or something, we decided to jump right in and go for castleton tower the next morning, hoping the road closure might slow some of the roving bands of spring break climbers who would undoubtably attempt to bum rush the prize of this 50 classic. We camped in castle valley at the foot of the tower (well ok 2.4 miles from the foot), in a camping spot which was an absolute dream other than having to carry out all of one's feces. That trade off was enough of a deal for us to stay 5 of our 6 nights in Utah at this one spot.
The next morning seven of us set off for Castleton with hopes of Kor-Ingalls, three pairs of climbers and one just joining us for the approach. The approach, though usually I'm sure quite lovely, was made interesting by winds gusting up to 60, well it felt like that, it was really windy, I heard a guy in another party say up to 100 but that was just silly. We opted for the protected North Chimney route instead. After Alison lead the first pitch, she helped a party who had bailed from the top of pitch one get a stuck rope down; however her partner also had to bail so my partner Hannah and I roped up with Alison to form a party of three. The first pitch was a bit of a sucker punch for all of us, the grade seemed like it would be no problem but actually, it was the first pitch of the trip, sustained and pretty burly at times. Luckily for me I had a full dose of TR courage.
Background left to right- the Convent, Sister Superior Group, The Priest and the Rectory
Looking down pitch one
Our rope gun Alison again lead the second pitch, including what we agreed was our crux, a couple offwidth moves. I headed up the third pitch which I combined with the tiny forth pitch to top out. This pitch was amazing, up the chimney, under a chockstone boulder, across a ledge heading out of the chimney towards said boulder, step across the chimney and up to the hallway, where the tower splits into two, then finally a short fun face climb with plenty of exposure to the top.
Looking up at pitch 3
Hannah had decided to join her sister in the other group (Kevin and Rosie) so Alison followed me to the top. We hung out there for a long time waiting, eventually as it starts to get dark (with all the shenanigans and ppl it was late when we summitted) I downclimb and holler down to find that, thinking there were two full pitches left and on account of the time, the other group had bailed and rapped down. Alison and I rap down in the dark, three double rope raps off the sheer north face of the tower--great stuff.
After that interesting, inspiring, but occasionally tough day (I want to note that that was Hannah and Rosie's first multipitch!), we all take a rest day. The gf and I go hiking in the amazing Fiery Furnaces in Arches and the rest of the crew + three Colorado folks who joined us head to Kane creek road for some cragging. To hike in the Fiery Furnaces, the rangers have you watch a video saying don't be stupid in ten different ways, most importantly don't walk on the trails, really. Instead stay on washes and bare rock. This leads to a wonderful maze effect hopping from stone to stone and following washes here and there like the "the ground is lava" game we all played as children, at least all of us that were educated enough at 8 to know what lava was. I grew up in the south after all.
Early morning next day, I dropped my girlfriend off at the Moab airport which is the airport equivalent of a sunglasses hut in the mall. I rejoined the group and we all made our way down to Indian Creek, where rain and winds prevented us from doing much that day other than a single pitch; however we did meet Jim Donini at the crag who was, as expected, walking up walls (he's 68 and still killing it). Camped at Hamburger Rock, some of our folks resorted to whiskey and donuts for dinner until they realized actually we had plenty of food and fuel and they were just being lazy. Freezing and windy night but sheltered tents, puffys and hippie tv made the bad thoughts go away.
Awoke to a bluebird morning. My single wall tent broadside to the sun had a sweet greenhouse effect going on and though it was still a bit chilly outside it got to feeling like a sauna inside. Went to donnelly canyon and supercrack buttress where they were surprisingly little crowds and we managed, despite our large amorphous group, to get on lots of classics. Weather couldn't have been better. Generic crack and incredible hand crack were my favorites though supercrack of the desert has the best name for sure, even if it is only one of its three names.
Incredible Hand Crack
Supercrack of the Desert
After the world's best day of crack climbing, we slimmed to a four person group, Kevin Rosie Hannah and myself, and returned to Moab that night and our spot in Castle Valley so as to take a shot at Stolen Chimney on Ancient Art the next day (ah the desert--chimney route, crack route, chimney route, crack route, etc etc). Again bluebird weather. Kevin dropped Hannah Rosie and I off to climb while he got a day in mtn biking on slick rock. Fischer towers are unreal, they look as if Jackson Pollack did some godlike landscaping on Mars. Had a group ahead of us but they were fast and their dog at the base was kind and occasionally offered beta. Strung the first two pitches together and freed the end of the second pitch, a couple bolt-protected crimpy face moves which had us reminiscing about our local crag of Smith. The third pitch (our second) was a 140' dried mud chimney, total jungle gym, super fun, up to a belay ledge large enough for, say, a delightful picnic lunch--blanket, basket and all. The next pitch was short, again freeing the couple bolted crimpy moves to the anchors at the end of the gangway. Now for the money pitch. The summit pitch lived up to all its Tim Burton glory, some parts goofy, some parts scary, all parts beautiful. The 2ft wide gangway w 400' of exposure on either side, the demoralizing beach whale mantel onto the diving board, the glorious clamor up the corkscrew spire and the edgy stand on the serving plate sized summit just long enough to get a picture and nervously ask "Did you take it?" before ever so carefully sitting back down. Back to the large belay ledge, a double rope to our first belay station and another shorter rap to the ground. A double rope rap with 70s would make it to the ground from the upper ledge but the 60s just barely didn't make it.
Face moves at the end of the first pitch
The jungle gym second pitch
I had aspirations of making this look pretty, perhaps a bit of a run, hop, and mantel up, but alas, no, that exposure churning in my brain turned this into a standing flop, hump, and hug fest that bore no resemblance to modern rock climbing
"ok, ok..... did you take the picture? yea? ok, nice, coming down..." all said in slow and measured breaths
Our last day Kevin and I hiked back up to Castleton for his revenge but near the base we were turned around by ominous skies. We returned to camp in a sudden flurry of snow followed by a short downpour. We caught rides into town, got cell phone reception and met up with Hannah Rosie, did some hiking, broke camp and left that evening as Hannah and I had work the next day in the afternoon. Driving in the middle of the night through eastern Oregon on 84, just before Baker City, we came around a windy mtn curve to a semi slowly pulling out of a dead stop and across both lanes. Thought we had enough time to stop but upon hitting the brakes we began to skid, released brakes swerved into the shoulder and around the tail end and back onto the road, began to fishtail towards the divider, pulled out of it, begin to fishtail towards the ditch, pulled out and came to slow stop in the shoulder, everyone now fully awake and all wearing wtf styled faces. Like I said the car is always the crux. Subbies may have horrible gas mileage but someday that all wheel drive may make it all ok again. Returned to pdx and to work the next afternoon groggily belaying children at the gym, saying "nice job" and "get your feet up" over and over again.