Technically, the north face route on Castleton (5.11) is my favorite Moab desert tower climb. However, from the perspective of a full desert alpine experience (read remote), my two favorite climbs include Primrose Dihedrals (5.11) on Moses and In Search of Suds (5.10) on Washer Woman, both located in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park west of Moab. Canyonlands National Park is divided into four “districts” by the Colorado River and its tributaries: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. Island in the Sky offers some of the finer and more remote crack climbing routes in north America. The other districts of Canyonlands offer little in the way of sustained climbing or quality of rock in comparison. Unlike the easy access to Castle Valley or the River Road Towers, the classic tower climbs located in Island in the Sky are quite remote, most requiring a 4x4 and a considerable amount of time to reach. The remoteness makes these climbs much less traveled and thus the routes less clean than what most climbers are use to. But the size of these towers along with some of the incredible splitters that reside within their unique formations, make them classics among hard desert climbers.
Island in the Sky is a 6000’ high mesa in Canyonlands National Park to the west of Moab, Utah towering over the Green and Colorado Rivers. This section of Canyonlands is home to the most infamous of desert towers, the most notable of which are Moses, Zeus, Washer Woman, Monster Tower, Standing Rock and the Witch. The extreme temperature range in this region is one of the widest in the world at -25F to 115F. My first climb there was In Search of Suds, a stellar route up Washer Woman. My second was the ultra classic Primrose Dihedrals up the southeast face of Moses, perhaps the most prominent of all towers in Canyonlands, located in Taylor Canyon. Both of these climbs offer remote climbing experiences where on many occasions you are likely to have an entire tower to yourself and possibly an entire canyon as well.
There are two paved entrances into Canyonlands: Highway 313 leads to the Island in the Sky, while Highway 211 leads to the Needles. Roads to the Maze are a mixture of graded dirt and 4WD. These roads may become impassable when wet. To get to most any of the towers will involve 4WD. From Moab, there is actually a lesser known access road that runs through the Potash mine at the end of Potash road by Wallstreet. The main entrance can be reached by heading north out of Moab on US 191, turning left on the paved road heading for Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky). A paved road (Highway 313) leads to the park’s visitor center.
The Towers and Routes of Canyonlands National Park
From North to South
Charlie Horse Needle
Don Juan Spire
Black Top Tower
Islet in the Sky
Bruce Smith Tower