Height: 200 feet
Climbing Style: crack, sport
Season: Fall through Spring (summer tends to be very hot, start early)
Land Status: BLM (Bureau of Land Management)
Road Access: good dirt road, regular vehicle
Gear Suggestion: sport gear (6 draws, some long runners) and for the 1st pitch small trad gear (small cams up to # 3 cam), one 60 meter rope sufficient
Approach Time: ~ 20 min (the tower is visible the whole time)
Length of climb: 3 (4 if you add Nameless Face) pitches, about 3 hrs
Difficulty: exposed 5.9+ climbing (Nameless Face is 5.11a)
Psycho Tower is a beautiful sandstone tower located in western Colorado, Big Gypsum Valley. The whole area has tons of climbing potential and many of the climbs are described in Charlie Fowler's book The Wild Wild West. And it is really wild here. This is a climbers paradise. When you reach the top of the tower and look around, there is no sign of human habitat other that the dirt road below.
Most of the famous sandstone towers are in Utah. Psycho Tower is relatively easy (rated as 5.9) when compared to most of the sandstone towers. The area is very secluded, so most likely you will be enjoying a solitude. Lately, this climb has become more popular, and it has been featured in several climbing magazines.
The tower was first climbed by its most popular and easiest route "Psycho-Path" by Charlie Fowler and Steve Johnson (Telluride's attorney) in 1996.
There are several climbs on this tower described in the guidebook.
Nameless Face 5.11 a/b - is fine 1 pitch bolted face which leads to the start of regular route Psycho-Path. The start is tough, and it is not the easiest warm up.
Psycho-Path 5.9 - 3 pitches (all about 5.9, and all slightly different in the climbing style, from face to crack, to traverse, and corner). This is the original route and the most popular route (also the easiest route).
The Bear 5.10+: is another variation, which joins the original route Psycho-Path about half way up the first pitch. It start as large hands to OW.
The isolated Big Gypsum Valley is northwest of Highway 141, about halfway between Naturita and Dove Creek, Colorado. Allow nearly two hours from the Telluride area or 2.5 hours from Moab, Utah. From Highway 145, just east of Naturita, follow Highway 141 south for about 22 miles (I believe my car was showing 22.8). Turn right (northwest) on Road 20 R and follow the gravel road about 12 miles (passenger cars should be fine). There is a sign at the turn off "Big Gypsum Valley". The tower is high on the right when you reach the Dolores River. Continue about a half-mile to a BLM parking area, and walk back along the road until you are directly below the tower; follow a faint path past a prominent boulder and up the hill for about 20 minutes. This approach crosses private land, so please park at the BLM lot to keep a low profile; although there is a small parking place for 2-3 vehicles right below the tower and the approach trail.
I would like to mention watch out for the deer on your way back. We drove back twice during twilight home and had as many as 12 very close deer/elk encounters on the road. I live in Colorado and am used to deer running on the roads, but this area was particularly more frequent.
Psycho-Path 5.9The approach to the tower is easy to follow. There is a small parking lot and trail marked with frequent cairns. You see the tower from the road and during the entire ascending hike. It takes about 20 min to reach the base of the tower. You are coming from the south, so first you encounter the optional pitch Nameless Face 5.11-, or you can just scramble on a steep patch along the western side of the tower to its north side and 4th class to the start of the regular route. I would like to mention that this 4th classing is probably lower 5th class exposed climbing, and during the warm month could be infested with rattlesnakes. My partner nearly got bit by a rattlesnake when placing his hand inside a crack. It was during our first trip to Psycho Tower in early November.
PITCH 1 (5.9, 75 feet) Scramble up to a big ledge on the northwest side of the tower and find a bolted anchor at the start of the climb. Face climb past two bolts, move right (airy step!) and continue up a corner and flake system, then trend up and right over ledges to a bolted belay. The corner system is protected with small trad gear (nuts and small cams).
PITCH 2 (5.9, 50 feet) Step up and right, around a corner, then edge along the lip past several bolts. The traverse starts very easy, but eventually you end up right above the giant overhang of the tower. Don't take a fall here, you would end up hanging in free air. Lowering is not an option here. The exposure here is wild. Crank up to a spacious belay ledge, and walk north about 20 feet to an anchor below the bolts of the final pitch. No trad gear needed on this pitch, generously bolted.
PITCH 3 (5.9+, 50 feet) Face climb past several bolts (some stemming moves in a shallow corner), with a bulge crux that’s likely 5.10 if you’re shorter than 5’10”. Above the last bolt, easier climbing protected by a few mid-sized cams gains the top.
VARIATION, PITCH 1: NAMELESS FACE (5.11a/b, 70 feet) Ascend the southwest face directly to reach the shoulder on the north side. It joins the start of the regular route "Psycho-Path" in the saddle. Climb a thin face past seven bolts, the first moves are hard (crux). You can easily avoid this pitch by walking above to the north side of the tower and scrambling to the saddle from the north side. It is a tough warm-up, but spices your adventure.
DESCENT: Rappel to the northwest. Two raps with a single rope. The 2nd rap station is slightly to the west - you have to swing to it a little bit. You can actually see the 2nd rappel station on your way up (look to your left while climbing 1st pitch, large ledge).
One double rope rappel from summit's north face can take you down.
Red TapeThere are no fees and no restrictions to climb this tower.
CampingThere is BLM campground located about 1/2 mile past Psycho Tower. The campground is typically busy during the boating season (Dolores river is popular with boaters).
External LinksClimbing magazine description
Mountain Project description