The River Road climbing area of Moab refers to the incredible stretch of Utah Highway 128 that runs from Moab, up the Colorado River, to Castle Valley. For anyone who is familiar with this stretch of road, the climbing potential is no doubt endless. If these walls were located most anywhere else in North America, they would be fully developed. But since Moab offers an endless array of climbing objectives, from Indian Creek to Canyonlands, to Castle Valley to Fisher Towers, only a handful of routes have been developed along River Road.
The walls on both sides of the Colorado River themselves are quite towering, however, there are two distinctive towers located at the big bend in the river to the southeast, Dolomite and Lighthouse Towers. Dolomite resembles a “mini Castleton” on the left. Lighthouse narrows towards the summit as though the very summit would resemble the rotating light of a lighthouse. Six route have been established on Lighthouse Tower as of 2010: Iron Maiden, 5.12a R, four to five pitches; Poseidon Adventure, 5.10, five pitches and Lonely Vigil, 5.10a, four pitches, Jamaroni, 5.10, three pitches, Northeast Route, 5.9+, five pithes and Are You Experienced, 5.10c, one pitch. The position of Lighthouse and Dolomite Towers overlooking the big bend in the Colorado River makes for a fantastic scenic adventure, albeit, not near the remote experience that Canyonlands National Park, Fisher Towers or Castleton Valley objectives offer.
The first published ascent of Lighthouse Tower was made by Ed Webster and Jeff Achey in 1984 via the Poseidon Adventure route, 5.10, on the river side of the tower (west). Lonely Vigil is perhaps the most popular route on Lighthouse Tower (backside-east). It requires scrambling or climbing up a short 5.7 section of rock to reach the small col on the south end of the tower. Ed Webster and Jeff Achey put Lonely Vigil up in 1985. In my opinion either of these routes are underrated objectives and make for a fantastic day of climbing when combined with each other or cragging at River Road dihedrals.
Head out on River Road (Utah 128) from Moab and park at a turn off on the left side right at the big bend in the Colorado River (7.5 miles). Lighthouse is the smaller of the two towers up and to the right overlooking the bend. Locate a decent marked trail that makes switchbacks up to the base of the tower (west of where you parked; to the right of the drainage). In the morning you get good shade on this approach and therefore the sun hits the same area in the afternoon.
Lonely Vigil was my first climb on Lighthouse Tower and offers a fantastic stem box pitch on the back side (from the road) of the tower. Poseidon Adventure is rated at a softer grade (Webster-1984), but offers a much more challenging crux pitch up a sustained flaring slick wall chimney. Stewart Green’s beta suggest that you “stem up flared off width crack”. Good luck with that. Of the few features the steep walls of the flared chimney give up are the infamous white crystallized quartz nubbins which are extremely slick. I utilized pure chimney technique until the crack narrowed to a fist jam for the upper third of the route. This flared chimney will test the best skilled chimney climbers. Consider this pitch much more difficult than the chimney pitches on Epinephrine in Red Rocks. I brought double gear through 6” and used all the large stuff on this pitch except for one 6” which I did use for the gear belay at top. The first and third pitches involved relaxed 5.8 climbing for the most part. The last two pitches are the same as they are for Lonely Vigil: The easy ledge walk and the tedious summit block finish, which requires down climbing the final 5.9 move to return to rap anchors. Dow
Lonely Vigil is the only route on the backside (east) of the Lighthouse Tower. It requires scrambling or climbing up a short 5.7 section of rock to reach the small col on the south end of the tower. The first two pitches up the east face are really good and long 5.10a pitches that contain the majority of the climbing up the tower. The stem box in the 2nd pitch offers one of the better pitches of tower climbing for the grade. The 3rd and 4th pitches are short mud pitches reminiscent of climbing the last two pitches of Ancient Art at the Fisher Towers, kind of run out and scary, but not hard. The summit is just a tad larger than the summit of Ancient Art. The main difference is that there is not an anchor on the summit of Lighthouse Tower, requiring you to down climb back to the fixed anchors at the top of the third pitch. Dow
Iron Maiden- 4-5 Pitches- 5.12aR/
Jamaroni- 3 Pitches- 5.10/
Northeast Route- 5 Pitches- 5.9+/
Are You Experienced- Single Pitch- 5.10c/
The most common rap off from the descent is just above the western notch. From the summit, rap back from the top of the 4th pitch to the foot ledge. Walk left to rap anchors. Take one double rope rap (60m) down to the col. Take a single rope rap back to the base of the route.
You will need double 60m ropes for the preferred descent but there is a 70m rope descent as well if you search the beta out there. The road side can be chilly in the morning. There is at least one topo of the tower in Stewart Green's “Rock Climbing Utah” put out by Falcon Guide.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""