Technically, the north face route on Castleton (5.11)
is my favorite Moab desert tower climb
. However, from the perspective of a full desert alpine experience (read remote), my two favorite climbs include Primrose Dihedrals (5.11) on Moses and In Search of Suds (5.10) on Washer Woman, both located in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park west of Moab.
Canyonlands National Park is divided into four “districts” by the Colorado River and its tributaries: Island in the Sky
, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. Island in the Sky offers some of the finer and more remote crack climbing routes in north America. The other districts of Canyonlands offer little in the way of sustained climbing or quality of rock in comparison. Unlike the easy access to Castle Valley
or the River Road Towers
, the classic tower climbs located in Island in the Sky are quite remote, most requiring a 4x4 and a considerable amount of time to reach.
The remoteness makes these climbs much less traveled and thus the routes less clean than what most climbers are use to. But the size of these towers along with some of the incredible splitters that reside within their unique formations, make them classics among hard desert climbers.
Dow leading the Crux on the Road Less Taken
Island in the Sky is a 6000’
high mesa in Canyonlands National Park to the west of Moab, Utah towering over the Green and Colorado Rivers. This section of Canyonlands is home to the most infamous of desert towers, the most notable of which are Moses
, Zeus, Washer Woman, Monster Tower, Standing Rock and the Witch. The extreme temperature range in this region is one of the widest in the world at -25F to 115F
. My first climb there was In Search of Suds
, a stellar route up Washer Woman
. My second was the ultra classic Primrose Dihedrals
up the southeast face of Moses
, perhaps the most prominent of all towers in Canyonlands, located in Taylor Canyon
. Both of these climbs offer remote climbing experiences where on many occasions you are likely to have an entire tower to yourself and possibly an entire canyon as well.
There are two paved entrances into Canyonlands: Highway 313
leads to the Island in the Sky, while Highway 211 leads to the Needles. Roads to the Maze are a mixture of graded dirt and 4WD. These roads may become impassable when wet. To get to most any of the towers will involve 4WD. From Moab, there is actually a lesser known access road that runs through the Potash mine at the end of Potash road by Wallstreet.
The main entrance can be reached by heading north out of Moab on US 191, turning left on the paved road heading for Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky). A paved road (Highway 313) leads to the park’s visitor center.
The Towers and Routes of Canyonlands National Park
From North to South
The WitchSims-Hesse-Hanning Route- 4 Pitches- 5.11R/
Charlie Horse NeedleSims-Hesse-Hanning Route- 3 Pitches- 5.11b/
Primrose Dihedrals- 7 Pitches- 5.11d/ Primrose Dihedrals’ 7 pitches breaks down into five stout pitches at the 5.10 grade or more. Although Supertopo calls for eight pitches, it makes more sense to combine the final two pitches into one. A traverse first pitch can replace one of the 5.11 pitches making the entire route more of a moderate objective. This is a commonly used variation.
Pale Fire- 4 Pitches- 5.12c/Dunn Route- 5 Pitches- 5.11/ There is a huge drop in climbing difficulty from the crux 4th pitch (5.11) on Dunn in regards to the rest of the route. The first pitch offers an easy, albeit chossy, dihedral that moves right to left to the base of a prominent corner/chimney system. The 2nd-3rd pitches combined make for one solid and fun pitch with mostly 5.9 varied climbing. As before mentioned, the crux 4th pitch offers a stout C4#4 off-width section up a dirty and sandy crack that pulls a small roof. The climbing after the roof cleans up considerably and offers more options in dealing with the remainder of the wide crack (arm bars, etc). The 5th-6th pitches can be combined to the top via relatively easy 5.8 chimney and face climbing.
Zeus TowerSisyphus- 5 Pitches- 5.11R/Northeast Ridge- 2 Pitches- 5.7, A0/
AphroditeEast Ridge- 4 Pitches- 5.10c/
Hardscrabble TowerHardscrabble- 4 Pitches- 5.9, A3/
Chip TowerStuffing Nuts- 4 Pitches- 5.9R, C2/
Don Juan SpireDon Juan- 3 Pitches- 5.10R/Yesterday’s News- 3 Pitches- 5.9+, C2/
Luminous BeingLizard Action- 2 Pitches- 5.10+/
Candlestick TowerEast Face- 6 Pitches- 5.10/
In Search of Suds- 5 Pitches- 5.10+/ Remote, incredible tower and arch climb, fantastic route. First pitch had damn hard crux until I finally bounced off of a fist jam. 2nd pitch offered great exposure through a window, just incredible. Getting through the roof and the "burly" mantle on top were the cruxes on lead. The third pitch was enjoyable 5.10 vs just scaring the shit out of you. The final pitch was a piece of cake after the first 3 pitches. Wild rap through the arch window. Have only done two other raps to rival it. Approach and remoteness make this one hell of a climb. Almost stepped on a Midget Faded rattlesnake on the descent. We came in via Potash and left via the park entrance steep switchback road. The park entrance/exit is quicker and more interesting if dry. 2hrs vs 2.5hrs via Potash.
Monster TowerKor Route- 7 Pitches- 5.10R/North Ridge- 5 Pitches- 5.11/
Black Top TowerBlack Top- 4 Pitches- 5.9+, C2+/
Islet in the SkyRegular Route- 6 Pitches- 5.9+, C3+/
Standing RockOriginal Route- 4 Pitches- 5.11c/
Shark’s FinWiggins Route- 5 Pitches- 5.8, C4/
Staggering RockSobriety Test- 5 Pitches- 5.11aR/
MeemohiveMeemohive- 4 Pitches- 5.9+, C2/
Bruce Smith TowerSack Dance- 5 Pitches- 5.11aR/
Mock TurtleMud Wrestling- 5 Pitches- 5.10+/
Lost World Butte
The Road Not Taken, 4 Pitches, 5.10/ This route is aptly named. You will not find any socialites from Indian Creek climbing a route that takes this much effort and/or courage for that matter. Most of the route is made up of long traverses. The first pitch is short and nondescript. Then you move the belay west along a ledge approximately 300’ to a fixed station. Follow that by a second pitch traversing back right (5.7) at 200’ to another fixed station (2nd rap anchor). The third pitch involves an easy squeeze chimney (5.8) up to a ledge that you traverse right yet again to the base of what this route is all about. The fourth pitch involves a sweeping C4 #6 wide crack that you ride like a horse until it steepens to pure vertical bellows a stout 5.10 off width exit. C4#5’s protect deeper in this crack, but basically how well you sow it up depends on how much wide gear you have. For the rap, you traverse yet again back west a couple of hundred feet. Crazy and unique route with a wild rap as well.
External LinksTons of Moab Area Tower Climbs from Radek's and my first hand perspective as well as a few othersCanyonlands National ParkMoab