castleton tower - 6656' - north chimney Class 5.9
When we reached the saddle, we racked up and climbed the short moves to the base of the first pitch, which was in the shade but with the sun out the air temperature wasn't too bad. Another couple got to the saddle just as we were getting ready to climb and I offered for them to go ahead of us but they mistakenly declined. So I started leading up the first pitch and since I hadn't done too much climbing in awhile, I was taking my time and thinking every move through and taking a few times on one of the many bomber pieces the double cracks allowed. I was happy to have 4 number three cams as the pitch was long and sustained 5.8 grade.
I reached the bolted anchor and quickly set up the belay. Jamie began jugging up the rope (his foot was slightly injured so he opted to just belay me up) and upon arriving I began preparing for the off-width second pitch. Only a few feet above the belay I placed the number 5 we had lugged up and shortly after I placed the number 4. Some walking of the cams ensued and I wouldn't deny the possibility of some grabbing of the cams lol. I do not like off-widths but once about 20 feet up I was well inside the chimney and I continued up to a small vertical bulge where the crack was larger than my fist and I was forced to chimney up instead (which I fell and had to thrash up more than once) but above that it was easy climbing to the next belay anchor which was simply a few large pitons.
Jamie followed and at this point the chimney was very deep and it was cool and somewhat dark. Above us was a gigantic chockstone and when I started up the third pitch I reached the top of the chimney and for a few minutes was confused as to which way to traverse. After yelling through the huge pile of rocks I finally found the correct way and traversed right, stepping over the huge chimney below me and into a smaller chimney. Maybe 30 more feet of climbing brought me to the notch where the North Chimney and Kor Ingalls routes meet.
Rope drag issues slowed Jamie down but we both made it to the notch and took a drink break. We could hear a handful of parties on the Kor Ingalls below us. I made the leftward traversing final pitch which consisted of various small ledges and reached the final set of bolts on the rock a few feet below the summit. Jamie elected to climb this pitch since it moved so far leftward and we both topped out on the summit about an hour before sunset. Watching the sun go down from the summit was spectacular! The Rectory was glowing bright red in the moments shortly before we started to rappel down. The party behind us didn't hesitate to show their disgust for us going so slow but unfortunately many climbers are like that...simply put they are d-bags. I ignored them and politely allowed them to rappel first down the north face.
As twilight began fading away, we made the three double rope rappels down the very steep north face and got to the base just as it got dark. Amazingly enough we were not the last ones down though so we waited for the final pair to rappel down in case they needed help rappelling in the dark. I distinctly remember the second anchors being well off to the right when going down and I almost missed them. Once they made it down we talked for a few minutes and hiked down where we proceeded to go right to sleep in the cars.
Castleton tower information
Located just twenty miles outside of Moab Utah, Castleton tower is an imposing tower to say the least. One route on it, the Kor-Ingalls route, is listed in Roper and Steck's "50 classic climbs of North America". It is surely a common entry appearing on many people's tick lists. Because of its classic status, Kor-Ingalls receives the most traffic. It is important to note its historical significance. When it was first ascended in 1962 by geologist Huntley Ingalls and climber Layton Kor, it revised the pervasive paradigm of what was possible to climb in the desert. Thus, it was a catalyst for things to come. Although it marked the first ascent of the tower, it is not the easiest route to the top. Standing just around the corner lies the North Chimney with a YDS grade of 5.9- and characterized by shorter cruxes.
Though each face of Castleton is only about 40 feet wide, there are numerous high quality routes ranging from 5.10 to 5.12. The North Face (5.11a) is one such route which features good long cracks and a commanding position. The rock on Castleton Tower is Wingate Sandstone and is very solid, rivaling the quality of rock at Indian Creek. Part of this is due to a thin layer of calcite which covers sections of the tower. Climbers will find that it is reliable, but slick (especially on well traveled sections). It does however, produce some unique features for holds. Descending this tower from all routes utilizes the bobmer bolted anchors atop either the North Face or Kor-Ingalls. There should be only two sets of obvious rappel anchors. If the Kor-Ingalls is busy, don't be an ass and make sure you rappel down the North Face route.
From Denver - Driving Directions
If coming from the east on I-70, take the exit onto Utah Highway 128 (exit 214) and go south. Drive 38 miles along this windy road, passing by the historic Dewey Bridge and turn left (south) on the LaSal loop, where a sign points towards Castle Valley. Continue south on this road, over the hill and along the base of Parriott Mesa until Castleton Tower comes into view on the left. 4.5 miles from Highway 128, carefully watch for a big pullout on the left which is the undeveloped climbers campground and trailhead. From the climbers campground, head up the drainage and up the few small dryfalls. Reach a jeep road and descend leftward for about 50 feet and re-locate the trail. Follow the trail as it zig-zags up the large talus fan below Castleton Tower. Reach the narrow ridge between Castleton and The Rectory and walk towards the north face of Castleton.
From Salt Lake City - Driving Directions
If coming from the north in Salt Lake, head south on I-15 and just past Provo, exit and follow the signs for US Highway 6 towards Price. Continue through Price and reach I-70 a couple miles west of Green River. Head east on I-70 to Crescent Junction and continue south on Highway 191 to Moab. Just before entering Moab, cross the bridge over the Colorado River and take a left (north) onto Utah Highway 128 (River Road). Go 15 miles and turn right onto the La Sal Loop Road and turn into the climbers campground in 4.5 more miles on the left. Amazingly enough, whether you come from Salt Lake or Denver it is about the same time to drive here. It's about 4 hours from Salt Lake and 5 hours from Denver.
Most climbers simply camp in the climbers campground sitting just off the La Sal loop road. Locate a rather large pull-off just west of Castleton Tower 4.5 miles from Highway 128. This campground is quite big so there shouldn't be any problems, although if there are lots of people don't expect solitude. Supposedly you must register to camp here but I have never done that and it appears no one else does either.
There are no permits required to climb Castleton. People need to be extremely careful because the area surrounding Castleton tower is in danger of being developed. Climbers should tread lightly and don't give anyone a reason to shut down access. Don't litter and respect the trails and wildlife. That should go without saying.
When To Climb
There really is no specific season to climb Castleton. Summers can be very hot due to the fact that it is in the desert of southern Utah. Climbing can still be done in the shade though. Remember that after sandstone gets wet it loses much of it's strength so it's a smart idea to stay off of it for about 24 hours after it rains.
Widely regarded as the standard, and most popular route on the tower, this is one of the earliest desert routes put up by famous Huntley Ingalls and Layton Kor in September of 1961. Arriving in the valley before their friends Fred Beckey and Harvey Carter, they started up the route and over the course of two days, some aid climbing and lots of stemming, they made the summit. The second ascent was completed by Chuck Pratt and Steve Roper from California in 1963. In contrast to many of the other desert routes in the Indian Creek area or the Fishers, this climb has white, calcite coating on the Wingate sandstone for much of the route. Because of this, the rock seems to be stronger than average, however it's also slick in many spots due to the polishing the calcite gets after hundreds of dirtbags put their hands and feet on it. This route is 4 pitches long with excellent bolted belay stations. Pitches 2 and 3 are regarded as equally as difficult whereas pitches 1 and 4 are easier. If this route isn't busy (rarity) it can easily be rappelled with a 70 meter or double ropes. Note this route is on the sunny southeast side of the tower and is typically avoided in summer.
This route is the "other" standard route and people have argued for decades now whether it is easier than the Kor-Ingalls or not. For sanity purposes, they are the same in difficulty, and also features four pitches however the first pitch on this route is by far the best pitch. Being on the shaded north face, this is a good route to do in summer. The belay anchors are also all of great quality however at the top of the third pitch you will have to sling a horn as an anchor. This route shares the same finishing 4th pitch as the Kor Ingalls described above. Don't use the bolt that is seen at the beginning of the second pitch. Bring a C4 and a C5 instead.
This route is just to the right of the north chimney route and heads directly up the imposing north face of the tower. If you are planning to climb the north chimney don't get stoked out upon looking at this face. Rest assured the north chimney is slightly around the corner to the left after you scramble up to the base. For the climber (desert rat?) with a higher level of badassery, this route features three pitches of solid and sustained climbing. The first pitch is long and also holds the crux. Luckily the route weaves around the standard rappel lines that nearly everyone takes to descend the tower so climbers on this route will not need to worry about people rappelling on top of them. This is obviously a route few people do in winter.
For seasoned desert rats who probably do nothing but climb, this route is for you! Starting about 20 feet to the right of the classic north face route, this climb features 4 pitches of hard climbing. The second pitch shares with the North Face route and the forth pitch is mostly bolted. Lots of 5.11 and 5.12 calcite crimps, sidepulls, slabs, and finger cracks make this route a painful day for your fingers but an awesome day on a 4 star route.
Castleton Tower on Mountain Project
ClimbingMoab.com - This is a good page with about castleton wich has some climbers accounts of the route.
Castleton - Brief Report - This is a nice page for a few Utah climbs including Kor-Ingalls. Has a few photos of the route.
Kor-Ingals Climb Report - Short with nice photos.