(Dow leading the first pitch in above Photo)
There are three “classic” tower free climbs located in Colorado National Monument: Otto’s Route, 5.9, on Independence Monument; Fast Draw, 5.10, on Sentinel Spire; and the Long Dong Route, 5.11-, on Kissing Couple. There are other towers in the park, most of which require aid climbing at some level. I climbed these three classics back to back and the Long Dong Route (Kor, Carter and Auld) on Kissing Couple Spire (aka Bell Tower) was by far the most intriguing and challenging of the three. However, Sentinel Spire’s Fast Draw (also Kor, Carter and Auld) is not to be missed. It can be done in two pitches vs three as the various guides might have it and the first pitch is a stellar hand crack lead at the grade.
There are two unique aspects to this climb. The shortest approach option is to fix a rope and rap in from what the park labels the “Book Cliffs View” which is an elaborately constructed view platform overlooking the north end of the canyon. You rap off a few small trees to the south of this platform and must jug your fixed rope back up on return via ascenders. The second unique point to this climb is the scenic natural platform in a notch at the base of the northwest face of the tower where you start the first pitch. The first pitch is comprised of an outstanding splitter, mostly hands, that leads to a three piton (2018) traverse left into a small chimney. You can continue directly up through loose blocks and avoid the traverse, but the climbing is not near as good. I have done it both ways. The second and third pitches make sense to combine for the competent leader. The second pitch starts out stemming and then clips several modern bolts (2018) on the right wall as you climb to the summit. The route is well shaded in August and makes for a good summer climb.
As before mentioned, park at the Book Cliffs View (much of the beta out there in 2018 is confusing this view point with the visitor center itself, however, you turn down the campground road before the visitor center and drive to the terminus of that road which is Book Cliffs View). Walk south to the very edge of the mesa looking straight down at Sentinel Spire. Fix a 50m rope onto two small trees and rap down to the broad contoured slick rock slope. Follow a faint climbers trail of switchbacks down skiers left and then traverse right to the upper base of the northwest face, which is a large flat clean platform of sandstone at a notch between the rim and the tower, below an obvious hands splitter crack.
1st Pitch- 85’-5.10/ Great pitch. Good fingers to ring locks off the deck with a bomber C4 #.5. You are very quickly into a solid hand sized crack. At the top it peters out into choss. You can continue straight up but the climbing and rock are not worthy. Instead, traverse left through three pins (2018) to the base of a narrow chimney. Belay on small gear low or large gear high.
2nd/3rd Pitches- 115’-5.9/ Stem up and out to the outside of the chimney, a C4#5 or #6 can protect the first few meters which are exposed. Clip through several old pins and/or place wide gear. You quickly come to a fixed rap ledge. Continue up the wide crack/chasm/corner which was bolted on the right in 2018, to the summit rap.
Two single 70m rope raps which essentially rap the route. Short rap back down to the large ledge. Full value 70m single rope rap back to the base of the route.
70m rope. Single from C4 #.3 to #6 although I did not use the #5. Doubles from #1 to #2. Pure north facing, great summer objective. Take ascenders if you are going to rap in on a fixed line (recommended) for the approach. Of course you can hike all the way in from Independence Monument if you preferred.