A Charlie Fowler desert route rarely disappoints and Crack Wars is no exception. Less than 100’ to the south of the Nuns and Priest (huge right facing corner spitting them from the Rectory) is an obvious splitter running up the Rectory. This is Crack Wars. It is also easily identified by a sub set of rocks that lead to the base of it about 30’ off the ground running along the wall. The only fixed pro on the entire route is the bolted first station and a single bolt in the small cave below the crux roof on the final pitch. Charlie established Crack Wars with Glen Randall in 1982.
This first pitch offers the cleanest and most sustained climbing on the route and is possibly the best 5.10 trad lead in Castle Valley. Although Mountain Project has this pitch (2014) at 5.10+ and the second pitch at 5.10, the first pitch is less awkward and easier for the grade. It starts at C4#.75 and takes a good variety of gear all the way to the fixed anchor on great rock. The second pitch starts out with C4#4 off-width that gets a bit awkward as it jogs left and stays large and sloppy fists as you pull the bulge. Eventually it eases up to hands to a small ledge. The third pitch offers chimney and relatively easy off-width climbing with an awkward horizontal full body finish into a small cave with a single bolt in the floor and C4#3 placements in the roof. This is an excellent setting for the belay. The fourth pitch is the crux (albeit short) of the day (5.11), pulling out the C4#3 roof crack into a vertical C4#4 crack with a high step up. The next section of the fourth pitch is straight forward up the crack to reach a chossy finish which climbs easy ground out right and then reconnects with the right facing corner (fingers) right below the summit on a ledge. The last few meters involve a heady squeeze chimney/off-width lead with consequences. I have a 28” waist and I thought it was tight on lead. I did place a small off-set cam in a pod on the right wall, but would not count on it to hold a fall. Fight and squirm several meters until you land the summit!
From the Castle Valley free (2014) camping area below Castleton Tower, head up the trail for Castleton and cross north below it heading for the Rectory. Follow the trail below the west face of the Rectory until almost at the Nuns and Priest at the north end. About 100’ before the north end (huge right facing corner marking where the nuns and rectory meet), scout the wall above for an obvious splitter that starts above a short scramble up the wall. This splitter starts out .75 and goes to chimney size just below a roof that jogs left (easy to spot from below) and then up again to the summit. This is Crack Wars. Scramble up the left side to the base of the route.
Route DescriptionCrack Wars, 400’+/-, 5.11
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.10/ The crux of this pitch is probably the C4#.75 start off the deck. Use finger locks to get good feet and great gear. After several meters it turns to small hands. The rest of the pitch offers plenty of rests between good climbing and eventually widens to a few fist jams below the fixed anchor. Most of your rack can be placed on this pitch (plug and go type of lead) but I do not remember placing anything smaller than C4#.75. I did place three #3’s since I had them and maybe one #4 at the end. There is another fixed rap out left and three newer (2014) bolts set up for portable ledge training? just left of the fixed anchor.
2nd Pitch- 75’- 5.10+/ MP.com calls this pitch 5.10 and the first pitch 5.10+. These first two pitches felt opposite of that. Continue up the 4”-5” crack using triple C4#4’s. The crux again is the first few meters off the belay via stacked hands and/or arm bars and loose feet. Once you get to the small roof bend left, you get a fist or two that will get you to a stance where it widens up for another meter or two, then back down to fist and hands to a sloping ledge with a medium gear belay below the chimney.
3rd Pitch- 75’- 5.10-/ Head up the chimney via a few chimney, then off-width moves. It bites down to a fist sized crack again just below the major jog left under the roof. Through that slot I basically got my whole body going horizontal as I felt more secure that way on lead and only a C4#6 (which we did not take) would have protected this traverse (which you might consider bringing to protect this traverse as well as the final squeeze to the summit). Set up a belay with at least one C4#3 in the roof. There is a bolt in the floor as well. This is a memorable small cave belay with stellar position high up on the Rectory.
4th Pitch- 100’- 5.11/ The crux of the route is pulling out of this roof. Obviously you get a fist by the #3, but then the crack widens considerably. A high left foot step is critical to nailing this move in my opinion. Once balanced on the outside wall, the rest of the crack was fairly tame up to a chossy section. Climb up and right to avoid the worst of it and reconnect back left with the right facing corner below the final squeeze chimney. Climb up the finger crack to a ledge. The final squeeze is perhaps the second crux of the route. There is one small offset placement in a pod on the right wall or if you brought the C4#6 it might fit in the off-width. Placing a C4#3 inside the rotten crack will do more harm than good (your body might jam the rope). Face south and inch up via a tight chicken wing until you can step your right foot up on a feature. That feature allowed me at 5’11” just enough to reach the positive hold on the summit and exit. It is a burly couple meters with consequences below.