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Castleton Tower, Utah


 Castleton Tower, Utah
 

by Dan Russell

December 29, 2001

Castleton Tower is aesthetically the most appealing rock climb I've ever done. It shoots out of the top of the talus cone like a gravestone. This trip was the idea of my climbing partner, Ryan Sayers. At this time, I was working as a banquet server at a hotel and worked Fridays. So to fit in into the weekend, we left Colorado Springs late afternoon and completed the drive out to the Moab, Utah area at about 1:30 in the morning. At first we were intent on hiking in right away. I have a hard time waking up in the morning and we wanted to make sure we were the first on the tower the next morning. Finally, we decided that we needed a little sleep, but that we would get up just before dawn to begin the hike.

I slept restlessly, but at least I slept some. Ryan was up the whole time, psyched to get climbing. He got me up at about 5:30, we packed, and began hiking. As we headed up the talus cone, we somehow lost the trail. On the way down we couldn't figure out how we lost such an obvious trail, but somehow we did, and we ended up facing the steep talus cone head on. One section required a shoulder-stand to surmount a small cliff. We made it to the base of the tower eventually, however, and fortunately we were still the first ones up.

Ryan racked up and led the first pitch, a 5.7 combination of cracks and chimneys. I followed him up, feeling very cold in the November morning air. I led the second pitch, mostly a 5.8 chimney which was fantastic. Ryan quickly followed the pitch and led off on the crux third, a 5.9 offwidth. At first his progress went slow. We had no pro larger than a #5 tricam, and certainly no large cams, so finding placements was tricky. He found several devious nut placements, however, and soon found his way to the top of the pitch. Following the pitch was difficult. I'm hardly the crackmaster to begin with, and my task was all the harder by the fact that I was carrying our pack with 15 pounds of gear. Eventually, I took it off and hung it about 6 feet below me from my harness. That concept worked great until, right in the middle of the crux, I felt a tugging below. The pack had snagged on a chockstone, and I couldn't get it loose for anything. Desperately, I climbed down a few feet, hauled the pack up and climbed into the crux with the pack in one hand. Then I rested it on the chockstone and continued on. The pitch ended beautifully, swinging out of the offwidth onto the face for the last several feet before gaining a comfortable ledge. The fourth pitch was mine. I first was confused about exactly which line it followed. The crack on the left looked awkward, so I tried the one on the right. Ten feet up I reached an impass, so I went back to the left option. It went easier than it had looked, and soon I had gained the summit. It was flat, and approximately 30 feet by 40 feet.

I belayed Ryan up quickly and we basked in the sunlight for an hour on the summit. We found a hacky sack in the summit register and played for a few minutes. We rapelled down uneventfully, and followed the now obvious trail down. For anybody seeking a beautiful, varied climb on superb sandstone, I'd highly recommend it, as would Ryan I'm sure.



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