Montezuma's Tower: Need Exposure?Montezuma's Tower (6580') attempt
via North Ridge (5.7)
North Gateway Rock (6700') a.ka. Gate Rock on map
via Tourist's Gully (~5.0)
Garden of the Gods
June 10, 2009
Participants: Sarah Thompson, Dave "Hoot" Gibson, & Kevin Baker
Sarah's Pics with more of Montezuma's Tower
I've been wanting to climb in Garden of the Gods for a long time. I'm ashamed that it has taken me almost 6 years of living in C. Springs before I finally climbed something there! Montezuma's Tower is an intimidating fin of rock that rises over 100 feet right in the middle of the tourist sidewalks that weave through the park. The highly exposed north ridge is the easiest route up, which goes at 5.7. I'm pretty comfortable following 5.7, so the hunt was on for a lead!
Hoot had been up it before and agreed to lead it. Being the lead climber on this is alot spookier as there is a lot of runout between bolts. Sarah drove all the way down from Boulder to join us and I hoped that the weather held long enough for it to be worth the drive. A break in the clouds late in the afternoon gave us hope and the rain held out, although it was uncertain if the window was going to last.
We arrived at the base of Montezuma's Tower at around 5:30 and geared up. I couldn't wait to give it a shot!
Whoa nelly! Our route is the exposed ridge on the left.
Hoot did a great job leading, while I belayed him. There is a minor crux about 10 feet off the ground, but it wasn't bad at all. Hoot made it up to the small belay station about 3/4ths of the way up the ridge. There are 3 giant eyebolts along the ridge that provide bomber protection along with numerous cracks to place cams.
The exposed north ridge of Montezuma's Tower:
It was my turn now and just as I got off the ground we heard a rumble of thunder to the west. I looked over and it looked like we would not be able to summit this bad boy today. The ridge was a cool tightwire act, but there were plenty of holds on the conglomerate sandstone. The route has been climbed so much that there are chopped steps which make the ridge a lot easier. I left the gear for Sarah to clean on her way up. As Hoot belayed Sarah, we could see some lightning in the mountains to the west, which reinforced our decision to get the heck out of Dodge! We felt like we were in the circus as there were quite a few tourists taking pics. We quickly rapped down the west face from the belay station to safety. It began to rain lightly as we rappeled.
Sarah raps down the west face:
We were bummed to get shut out by the weather on such a classic climb, but it looked like the weather might improve. We decided to head over to North Gateway Rock and wait out the weather a bit. I'm pretty sure the easiest route up North Gateway is via the s.w. facing Tourist's Gully. Thankfully it didn't rain hard enough to soak the rock and in no time it was dry! I didn't do much research on the route, but was pretty sure the gully was no harder than low 5th class. I was unsure about the ridge though.
North Gateway via Tourist's Gully: A Scrambling ParadiseHeading up Tourist's Gully:
This is a fun scramble that went real quick. Most of it is 3rd class with a couple short, unexposed areas of ~5.0 to 5.2ish climbing. Many a tourist get in trouble on this route though, so it's not for a beginner!
A rarely seen view of the Garden from Tourist's Gully:
Hoot negotiates a tricky spot:
There was a cool little keyhole that you had to squeeze through near the top. We topped out on a notch, then traversed a wide ramp on the east side. The summit gully is seen at the head of this ramp.
Zoom of Montezuma's Tower. Our highpoint was the belay ledge about 3/4ths of the way up the ridge on right.
I wasn't sure where the true summit was at, so Hoot checked out the southern one. This is accessed via another ramp on the west side, but you must overcome a short low 5th class move to gain the ridge and descend the other side.
Hoot on the dramatic south summit of North Gateway. The ridge to the left contains the famous Kissing Camels formation.
Unique view from above of the Kissing Camels:
Garden of the Gods majesty. Notice the rainbow!
We reversed our tracks and headed over to the north summit. Sarah went up an exposed 3rd class line along the ridge while Hoot and I took the chicken exit stage right.
Sarah nears true summit of North Gateway:
The problem was Hoot and I now had to downclimb the short 5th class section, but it turned out to be easier than it looked from above. We then headed up the easy gully to the summit! I'm pretty sure this is the highest feature in the park, although the western edge of the park has higher spots.
Hoot on the summit of North Gateway:
I must say this was one of my favorite El Paso county named summits. It deserved multiple summit yells. Too bad it isn't ranked! We were hoping to take another shot at Montezuma, but we ran out of daylight. We left our rock shoes on for the descent, which made it feel easier than going up in trail runners. The downclimb was really fun and once again we had a few tourists watching us. One minute I'm crunching numbers in Excel at my job and an hour later I'm climbing a dramatic tower in Garden of the Gods. Only in Colorado!