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. The approach itself is not straight forward unless you have done it before. The first pitch offers sustained finger crack climbing at the grade (5.10+). The last pitch is scenic and airy up into what they term the “belfry” of the tower. The summit is tall and sticks out into the canyon offering incredible views. I climbed Long Dong in August and we not only enjoyed full shade on the route but even on return up canyon back to the road which makes this route a top choice during warm weather.
The first pitch will take as many finger pieces as you want to place. I essentially had a triple rack (including off sets) from .3 to .5 and sunk them all. A hand crack gives you reprieve before making the 5.11- traverse left past the lone protection bolt on the route. All the belays are on comfortable ledges. The 2nd and 3rd pitches are easily combined. The 4th pitch starts out on chossy rock but ends up climbing beautifully stacked blocks into the shaded belfry. The 5th pitch read (from other beta sites) much worse than it actually climbed. After a piton protected face move (5.9) off the belay, it was mellow ground (past bird shit) up to a squeeze out the top to yet another very comfortable belay just below the summit. We rapped the route with a single 60m rope no worries, but I would have preferred to use a 70m for the first rap to bypass the top of pitch four. Less competent teams could (and have) get their ropes stuck on that rap.
Available beta (guidebooks and on line) was all over the place regarding the approach when I climbed it in 2018, featuring completely different descriptions and options. In retrospect, the approach is real simple. Stop at the Grand View pullout on the paved park road. Walk out to the view plank. You are starring at Grandview Spire directly below you. To your right is the Kissing Couple and Dirty Old Man. Beware, the next tower up canyon from Kissing Couple also looks just like a couple kissing, in fact more so. You are clearly starring at the north face of Kissing Couple from the Grand View pullout. If you look to the far right of the short canyon separating Grandview Spire and Kissing Couple, you will see one vegetated gully (among otherwise steep ground) break to the bottom of the canyon. That is your descent (approach) . There is a legal (2018) one car gravel pull out as soon as your clear the bend of that side of the canyon on drivers left. That is the start of the climbers/sheep trail that descends that vegetated gully. It is best to do this is the morning light on your first trip out to the tower as it is difficult in the dark to see your way down one of the overhangs. Descend skiers left down the gully and when you get cliffed out by the before mentioned dry waterfall overhang, go to skiers left and descend through a break (4th class step). Angle back skiers right and do not descend the gully all the way to valley bottom. Rather start traversing rightward to the objective. There is a faint cairned trail as of 2018. Staying at the right level with the tower, you can make this approach in 30 to 40 minutes from the car. Traverse east over the red soil at the base of the multiple towers and scramble up the 2nd narrow (but larger than the first) passage in the towers. Scramble up a chock stone (5th class) to the well shaded alcove at the base of the obvious first pitch represented by dual finger cracks leading to a singular hand crack.
1st Pitch- 110’-5.11-/ Significantly more sustained than Fast Draw’s 5.10 pitch on the Sentinel Spire. Start up fingers with good gear. Another crack appears up and right behind a flake giving twin cracks to climb for a bit. Mostly small gear through the first 3/4ers of the pitch. Eventually you hit a hand crack that leads to a C4#3 pod. Clip the face bolt to your left and either tension across (A1) or make a move at the grade via edges to access a mantle into the base of a flared chimney. You can sew this pitch up with finger pieces.
2nd-3rd Pitches-145’- 5.8/ Climb up the easy flared chimney (5.6) and enter a true chimney (5.8) above it. After turning around a time or two, pull out of this chimney atop a ledge. Continue past the rap chains up and right for another 50’ (3rd class) to the base of a chossy pedestal sandwiched in another chimney with a left and right option, both of which lead to the wide chimney/window area they name the "belfry".
4th Pitch- 80’-5.8/ There was discussion in one of the guides that this might be the "best 5.8 in Colorado" or something to that effect, but the actual climbing is nothing spectacular. The position of course (in the “bell tower”) was great. I climbed the right side of the before mentioned pedestal, hands and fingers up choss with the crux move off the deck. The rock improves rapidly on the stacked blocks above. Climb the blocks up to a fixed rap ledge inside the actual "befry".
5th Pitch- 50’- 5.9/ I believe the guide has this move as 5.9 but MP.com has it at 5.10. I don’t see the 5.10 move here. Face climb up through a lone piton. Place small gear in intermittent cracks past bird crap on the left wall. No need to do a full body stem as some beta suggests, this last pitch is a causal finish to the route as you poke through a hole at the cap rock with a fixed rap ledge. Easy chimney move up (and easy on return to the rap) to the summit to explore. No summit log book as of 2018.
Most of the beta (2018) discusses a 70m rope or doubles required for descent. We descended it with a single 60m rope no worries. So you have choices. I recommend a 70m rope so as to skip the top of pitch 4 which has rope snag potential. A single 70m rap back to the top of pitch 3 (this fixed rap you did not pass when climbing, it is out on the edge of the ledge atop pitch 3). Then back to the top of pitch 2. Then top of pitch 1 where a true 60m makes it down despite beta to the contrary. A 70m is needed to skip the fixed station atop pitch four but a 60m works for the competent party (know how to pull a rope) if they stop at the top of pitch 4.
Single from .2 to #4. Double from .3 to #1. Offset cams or wires recommended. With off-set cams, I essentially had triple finger sizes and used them on the first pitch along with the #3 and #4. You can unload all you want on that pitch. Shoulder length slings. Route gets good morning shade until noon in August.