Climbing community (particularly those who enjoy the delicate sandstone adventure climbs in Arches NP) owes a debt of gratitude to Sam Lightener Jr. & friends (with support of the Access Fund and the ASCA) who have put in a great deal of work on Virgin Wool replacing belay & rap anchors (tat-free, rock colored, bomber hardware). They have also addressed the issue of rock destruction on the first pitch of this line from repeated nailings in soft sandstone.
Details of anchor replacement initiative in Arches National Park can be found here.
For the original formation and route beta page posted on mountainproject.com see here. This was the information that got us up Virgin Wool without issue. Our sincere thanks to the author.
At 440 feet tall (per Eric Bjornstad’s guidebook – see below), Sheep Rock is likely the third (after Tower Of Babel and The Organ) tallest tower in Arches National Park. It is also one of the most easily recognizable formations in the Park given its resemblance to the namesake animal and high visibility from the main park road. The tower’s footprint is elongated and oriented along a northeast-to-southwest heading. It is flanked by The Lamb tower on its north end and an unnamed “hump” at the opposite side. Rock here is (of course) Entrada sandstone. There are two published routes on the formation (see below) that climb opposite sides of the tower (both are aid lines).
From US 191 just north of Moab (3 minutes driving time to downtown), Utah turn into Arches National Park (on NE side of US 191) via the main park entrance (Visitors’ Center complex is right here as well). Drive about 3.5 miles from the visitors' center to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint pass it and park in one of the small pull-outs (just beyond) near the base of Zenyatta Entrada base on Tower Of Babel.
Sheep Rock is about 300 yards away but your approach should aim to minimize trampling the delicate crypto soil, so instead of heading directly for it, look for a wash (look for it past the prow that is Zenyatta Entrada just as the park road starts turning right) north/northeast of tower. The wash looks as though it’ll overshoot the tower too far to the north. Follow this wash and in 5 minutes you’ll see that it brings you right to base. Hike up to the base of the east/southeast face.
Virgin Wool starts on the right (north) end of the east/southeast face of the tower (Sheep’s hind legs at the notch next to The Lamb). Approach time <10 minutes.
Sheep Rock is located within Arches National Park. In addition to the entrance fees (see below) the usual backcountry behavior rules of the national parks apply here (no dogs in backcountry, no power drills, tread lightly, leave no trace etc….). Backcountry camping is allowed in designated areas only and you’ll need an overnight permit. New addition to the rules: CLEAN (HAMMERLESS) AID ONLY & NO NEW ANCHOR/LEAD BOLTS ALLOWED.
Entrance fees are as follows:
7-day pass (minimum required) is $10 per passenger vehicle. Entrance fee details can be found on the official NPS website here.
Car camping within Arches National Park will cost you $10 per night. Details of fees, reservations, regulations etc. can be found here (official NPS website). Backcountry camping information can be found here.
Unofficially, you can find very good camping at large on BLM land especially in Castle Valley. Good primitive camp sites can be found at the standard trailheads for Castleton Tower.
Guidebooks And Routes Overview
(1) Eric Bjornstad’s Desert Rock: Rock Climbs In The National Parks (ISBN 0-934641-92-7) gives a brief description only for Virgin Wool rating the climb as III 5.9 A2 (south-east or road side of tower).
(2) Eric Bjornstad’s classic Desert Rock (ISBN 0-934641-07-2) lists descriptions and topos for Virgin Wool (III 5.9 A2; Jim Bodenhamer & Sandy Fleming on November 30, 1986) and Bugger’s Banquet (III 5.9 A3; FA Charlie Fowler & Kyle Copeland on October 2, 1986; face opposite to park road) including a great B&W photo of a climber on the latter (typical of this classic guidebook). Bad news is that this book is out of print and hard (and $$) to find.
The NPS has a climbing page on their official park website. It gives good information about seasonal and other route and formation closures. It can be found here. For more up to date conditions, try calling the visitors center (NPS contact information can be found here) or better yet the local climbing climb shop, Pagan Mountaineering located in Moab, UT. Their number is 435-259-1117.
External LinksSee Overview section above.