Soul Asylum was first discovered by Kelly Oldrid and Mike Call, looking to expand the Gorilla Cliffs area in Utah Hills west of Saint George. Lee Logston and Jeff Baldwin were the two who actually put in the sharp and pocketed limestone routes of the Watch Tower
at the west end of Soul Asylum. Unlike the brittle and hot sandstone related to most of the Saint George Crags, the limestone in Utah Hills can be hard, jagged and cold. It is actually so hard and textured in places that your shoes have more sticking capabilities allowing you to climb at a slightly higher grade. However Soul Asylum, due to the sharp and unforgiving rock, is not the crag in which to push your leading skills.
Red Cloud, 5.10a
At several thousand feet higher than Saint George, you can always count on a 5F to 15F degree temperature differential. My first trip here in winter had me attempting a 5.10d with gloves on! What is even more special about Soul Asylum during 100F temp days down in the desert is that most of its routes seem to be folded into shade for the belayer and climber in a unique line up of hanging alcoves.
Soul Asylum receives more sun during the morning in winter and offers good shade in the afternoon during spring and summer. The Watch Tower
itself sports five very long bolted routes, all of which are fairly moderate (5.10 range) and thus offers the best climbing at Soul Asylum.
Turn left on Sunset Blvd off of Bluff Street in Saint George. Drive 11 miles west through the town of Santa Clara and into the Shivwits Indian Reservation. Pass the Gunlock turnoff and stay left on old route 91 for another 8-9 miles. Pass a communications tower on your left and take the next left over a yellow cattle guard.
This rough road leads to an active mine therefore is somewhat maintained. Travel approximately 2 miles and you will see Gorilla Cliffs on your left. Turn left off of the mine road onto a much more primitive road. Drive past the Gorilla Cliffs through several dips and up a hill. Stay left at a fork and pull out right at a gate. Continue past the gate on foot and follow the road left crossing a dry creek bed and continue east up the road past a fenced in station of some sort. The road becomes more faint, but a trail emerges that curves back northwest as the walls of Soul Asylum come into clear view.
We have run the Tri State Marathon on old route 91 and it can make for a scenic run or bike before or after your climb.
WallsListed as you Face Soul Asylum Left to Right
Ren and Stimpy Wall, 5.9-5.11d
/These routes don’t look too swift to me.
Arch Wall, 5.7-5.11a
/ I really enjoyed the Arch Rival route (5.10c). It heads right up to right beneath the cool arch at the top of the crag. It is best used as a warm up to those longer routes on Watch Tower. It meanders over a couple of shallow caves/holes creating some fun overhang problems. One of the best routes here no doubt. A 70m rope makes the rappel no worries. The Incubus and other routes to the right are not so hot in my opinion. Typical Todd Goss garbage (somebody please take his bolt guns away!).
Watch Tower, 5.9-5.10d
/ I have done most of these routes and this is some of the best moderate sport climbing in Utah Hills if not the St. George area
Double ropes make for one rap versus two on the longer routes. They are all sport routes, so no trad gear needed. You will need 17 draws for Red Cloud!
A 4-wheel drive with high clearance will get you much closer to Soul Asylum. A low clearance vehicle will add an hour to the approach.
Remember, you are several thousand feet higher than Saint George, so if you are visiting Utah Hills in the early spring, late fall or winter, bring a decent jacket.
Soul Asylum is actually now (2007) owned by the Teck Cominco Mining Company out of Spokane, WA. Our local climbing coalition (Southern Utah Climbers Coalition) negotiates with Teck Cominco to keep the area open to climbers. Access is granted to climbers as of May, 2007. Much of the surrounding area is still BLM lands. The BLM manages nearly 22.9 million acres of public lands in Utah, representing about 42 percent of the state. The regulations regarding most BLM land are fairly wide open compared to State and Federal parks. Unlike most of the rock back in the St. George area, the limestone of Utah Hills is quite solid. The main difference is the effect of rain. I would not hesitate to climb at Utah Hills after a rain.
When to Climb
I have climbed in St. George for years during the winter months and have always found any south facing walls inviting places to climb. However, I froze up in Utah Hills during one winter visit. There can be a dramatic difference in temperatures between Utah Hills and Saint George, particularly during the winter. If you are climbing anywhere in southwestern Utah during the summer months, you more than likely better get up early and finish your climb early. The walls can get brutally hot. Solstice Wall
further down US 91 is your best bet during sunny winter days.
There are no official facilities although evidence of camping exists. Where mining land starts and ends versus BLM land is not definitive, thus I would avoid camping back here. There are three campgrounds within the city limits of St. George none of which I have experienced.
Temple View RV Resort at 975 South Main Street; Settlers RV Park at 1333 East 100 South; St. George Campground at 2100 East Middleton Drive.
Of course my druthers would be to stay at the campground in Snow Canyon State Park
. This has to be one of the finest State campgrounds anywhere with direct access to tons of climbing routes.
The campground is open all year, no holiday closures. There is a limit on your stay of 5 days. They have 33 total units, 17 of which are reserved for the big boys (RV’s) with utility hookups. The tent sites were $14 in 2005. Drinking water is available on site along with vault toilets and even showers. The running/hiking/equestrian trail system is pretty cool and as long as you don’t run into the occasional Segway group, the whole park is usually very quiet, particularly during winter months.