As I was nearing the end of finding any new towers to climb within my ability in the Moab area, I found this gem. Little was known about it and the only person I knew to climb it was Todd Gordon in the mid 80’s. He spoke of impending doom: “epic…. I thought I was going to perish. I really did. Not only was the climbing hard, scary, and unprotected…. I was all sweaty too from the heat that day, twas a nightmare of fear, sweat, sandstone and profanity. It was a day to remember.” After I read that, I was all in. Todd's ascent was considered to be the 2nd of North Marcher in 1984 and there likely have not been many since. Stewart Green and company established the route (the only route on the tower) in 1979.
The first pitch is really just setting you up for the climb. There is not much climbing or protection up a short chossy right to left corner entrance onto a ledge approximately 10 meters up the tower. This route is listed in Bjornstad’s first edition of Desert Rock. Although he discusses the first pitch which actually avoids a 5.4 chimney section below, he also included the 5.4 chimney section in his pitch 2 description. Not to confuse you, but once you traverse in on the first pitch, you are at the base of the start of the 5.10 climbing. The rock of course is all suspect. Regarding the 2nd pitch, the first few moves are committing off the deck on suspect rock. Then the route remains wide to the top. I slid a single C4# 4, and double #5's and #6's up the route. The squeeze chimney finish (5.9) does not protect, but was much easier climbing then the off-width sections below. There has been a bolt added to assist you in summiting the tower (above the rap anchor), but we did not partake (mud climbing). There is a fixed rap (two old pitons) atop the squeeze chimney. Take extra webbing.
The Marching Men are located in an area of Arches National Park known as Klondike Bluffs. Bjornstad's Desert Rock guide and Gordon’s account would have you believing this is a rough road (Salt Valley Road). And it use to be. However, as of 2017, you could drive 50 mph on this road with a two wheel drive vehicle without hesitation. It is well graded and maintained. They also upgraded the trail head with a brand new toilet and ample parking. It is a beautiful drive centered in a valley full of grasses and wildflowers in the spring. You drive approximately 16 miles beyond the park visitors center on the paved road and turn left on Salt Valley Road. It is a gravel road, and maybe not marked, but not gated either. After approximately 6 miles or so on Salt Valley Road, there is a left turn marked (2017) for Klondike Bluffs. Turn left and park at the dead end trail head. Most folks heading for this area are hikers looking for Tower Arch.
An easy to follow trail heads up the hill to the west. Follow it steeply up to a ridge and descend to the west into a wash. Soon (30 minutes) the Marching Men will come into clear view on the left ridge line above the wash: seven towers in marching formation. The first tower starting them off, east to west, is quite small. The second tower is home to the route North Marcher. The hiking trail will continue out of the wash and up the hill on the right. You want to stay in the wash and head for North Marcher which is the obvious crack on the northwest face of this second tower. It is easier to ascend to the ridge beyond the fourth tower and head back along the ridge, on the south side of the towers to the base of North Marcher.
Route Description1st Pitch- 30’- 5.7/ This is really not much of a pitch as it is to move the belay. You traverse in from the right to where the route starts 20’-30’ above the ground. The crack descends all the way to the ground, but the FA notes were directing us to traverse in. This short section of climbing is chossy and unprotectable but not over dramatic. In short order you are on a ledge that traverses left to the northwest face. A C4#3 builds a bomber belay.
2nd Pitch- 90’- 5.10+/ Todd Gordon’s infamous story is all about this business. His largest gear was two C4#4’s and I had double #5’s and #6’s. I am sure he was in a world of hurt. There is a hand jam/stem move right off the ledge into an awkward transition into off-width straight away. But a C4 #4 still comes in handy further up. I only brought one and it was easy to back clean. I placed two #5’s during this first section. Then got the two #6’s placed in the mid third and no gear used on the squeeze chimney at the top. The off width section is stout as it curves and steepens up the tower with a slight overhang thrown in. The squeeze chimney was a reprieve in comparison. Leading it, you will feel more secure actually going through it and squeezing up the other side. But I weigh 150 lbs and that would be the max who could fit through. Otherwise you have to climb the outside squeeze/off width unprotected. You land on a ledge below a fixed rap (pitons) with great views.