Our first day in Moab was inside of Arches National Park. As it turned out entrance into the park was free so I met up with Zak and Erik after they had completed The Owl. I quickly ran to find them scouting a route near Balanced Rock. After a brief discussion I hustled back to Susie Blue, my subaru, and grabbed my climbing kit. Not long after I found them at the base of the Northeast Chimney of Off-Balanced Rock (5.7).
This route starts off with a sandy crack leading up and right over broken blocks, through some jams to a ledge and a bolted belay. Without expectation I was offered the lead of pitch two. At first with out any route beta, I started out body jamming the off-width straight above the belay stance. I led up with a poorly placed .1 X4 in a worn out piton scar. As I inched up Zak mentioned that off-width was "R" rated, or runout, while heading horizontally into the cavernous chimney would lead to a protectable chimney and crack climb. Even though I was prepared for some scrumping I returned to the ledge and headed left side into the chimney. Tossing the gear sling from side to side I wiggled into the widening chimney. After about 20' of burrowing in the darkness I located the crack on the left side chimney wall. Facing the left wall I alternated stems up, along the way I found stable rests with leg stems and hand and finger jams to place ample gear from #3 yellow master cam up to #3 C4 with a couple medium stoppers thrown in there. As the chimney widens you may find yourself jamming bomber hand to fingers up to the anchors on the left.
face rappel. This descent is the most direct line to the base of the tower. However this is not recommended for beginners or guided parties. While there are belay ledges and bolted anchors a client or novice would more easily be managed on the Kor-Ingalls rappel. In any case we prepared our double rope rappel, rigging with extended rappel slings and third hand back ups. Moreover with other climbers ascending the classic North Face Route, a slight breeze, and an opportunity for practice Erik saddle bagged the ropes. A safety check followed by a belly slide over the edge one by one we made the first of two double rope rappels down the north face of Castleton. Once at the second rappel ledge, or the top of the second pitch of the North Face, we pulled ropes, restacked saddle bags and descended a full 200', then scrambled down 4th class moves to the gear up slab. Running high on stoke we meandered back down the 1000' cone and back into a nearly empty camp for a cold beer cheers to a successful first day on the legendary North Chimney of Castleton.
After this we headed over for a quick hustle up to Delicate Arch. This Utah icon can be seen on license plates across the state. We boogied up the slab, past dozens of tourists, across swirling bands of sandstone, along chipped rock walkways, to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. People gathered around the sweeping amphitheater, vying for the best sunset photography spot. Finally we had enough and meandered back along the path to the trail head and cars. Back into Moab for a couple last minute supplies, and then up stream, along the Colorado River carved canyon, towards the mecca of desert tower climbing, Castle Valley.
We woke before sunrise and prepared for our 1,000 foot ascent to the base of the North Chimney (5.8). Even though many climbers had been rained out the previous couple days and there were only a couple parking spots left in the Castleton campground when we arrived, they didn't seem eager to be the first ones on route. Darkness gave way to rosy and golden hues of morning sun as we headed up the trail. The valley filled with towering shadows across to Porcupine Rim as we ascended up red sand trails, over broken talus blocks, and up to the base of the tower. It took a quick hour to reach the saddle between Castleton and another tower feature called the Rectory. After racking up we scrambled over broken ledges to the start of the sustained and steep first pitch. The route fires off with a long pitch, under a roof, up a right facing corner on hand jams and stems. Once through the dihedral flare and subsequent cracks there is another adequate rest before shooting up on hand jams and face holds into the slight bulge crux. Solid hands lead through the well protected crux to the cozy belay ledge. The fantastic first pitch is followed by a solid second pitch that involved the notorious off width. The climbing style contrasts but difficulty is not any harder. With many different styles of climbing this off width is not more difficult than the 5.8 rating.
The next pitch goes at 5.8 and this would be Erik's lead. He started out jamming on the left wall in the right crack to a stance before stepping over into a steep and wide flake. On this section gear beta recommended double #4 C4's and this is what we did. Consistent climbing allows left fist and foot jams along with right hand edges and side pulls while the right foot smears on sloped sandstone. The two #4's adequately protected this section with the option of a #5 C4 at the top before pulling left out of the flake and onto a ledge. Alternatively there are opportunities for smaller pro either to the right or left as you exit the flake. Next Erik climbed off the ledge through another chimney and onto the next belay ledge. At the same time while we managed the rope and belayed we saw three white parachutes float down to the approach trail. This was the other climbing party. After climbing Kor-Ingalls the three men base jumped off the tower. A moment later further up the ridge we saw two more parachutes slowly drift to the valley floor. After this I followed next as Zak finished cleaning the pitch. I thoroughly enjoyed this pitch and found plenty of calcite blobs inside the flake to fist jam on.
No doubt the Kor-Ingalls is much more sustained than the North Chimney with 4 full value and unique pitches. While climbing in a team of three has its challenges, it is an awesome way to climb. As the leader climbs the pitch focused on body movement, solid gear placements, and rope alignment, the other two climbers keep each other company as they belay and manage feeding out rope. Great days sending with these two crushers!
After a half day and two full days of sending we decided to go crag on the route concentrated area of Wall Street just outside Moab. We left Castle Valley headed downstream into Moab for water and breakfast at The Love Muffin, one of my favorites in town. In short order we left town, drove down Potash road, and started out on a right facing corner called Siebernetics (5.8+). We all lead this one, climbing past two bolts, one on the lower slab and one on a ledge. Climb the corner with rounded finger and hand jams, foot work allows you to push into the right facing corner, while I find myself stemming with my right hand as I work my feet up. The crux comes in the middle of the pitch as the crack thins then widens, before traversing right to a bolted anchor. Our next stop was three routes left namely El Cracko Diablo (5.10a). This great route climbs a flared slot a little right side in, on solid finger locks combined with toe in, heel toe bridging, and an occasional face hold on the left. Although I see the face holds as a distraction to the solid jamming. These stable moves end at the roof, then a hang on it all day thumb down left hand jam with a right hand side pull, as feet are worked up the left side of the v-slot. Solid left hand jams and right hand side pulls lead up the hanging block. Good rests prepare for alternating side to side hand jams that thin while feet remain solid. Then on flared jams, and foot work in the cracks, pull left into the corner adjacent to the anchors or reach out right to clip the bolted anchors. Erik climbed it second and also on sited while Zak climbed on top rope. This must be my style of climbing because this on sight felt soft at 5.10a. Next we headed down stream to 30 seconds over Potash (5.8). Not surprisingly this
Moab never disappoints, I have been coming to Moab for over a decade and love every minute of it. Unlimited, varied, diverse and unique climbing will keep someone occupied for a lifetime. While all the other adventures fill in off days. Mountain biking, hiking, sight seeing, and even ski mountaineering among this spectacular landscape keeps me coming back month after month and year after year.