April, '07



Joe Wilson Canyon

Written by Matt Pickren 



    I had never climbed with Brad before. Once we had driven out to meet Ben with our eye's set on Sundevil Chimney, but it rained.... a lot.

    Around 6 am, Brad and I left Durango for  Moab with a number of possible objectives ranging from Moses and/ or The Thracian Mare to Disappearing Angel and Devil on the Moab rim; needless to say nothing in Joe Wilson Canyon was part of the objectives. We were a caravan of two, each in our own car as Brad was out there for the week and myself only 4 days. This was the beginning of Brad's birthday week in the desert with friends joining him from all over.

    Around Cortez Brad called me and asked if Joe Wilson sounded good as he had wanted to climb there. I, being the young clueless one, had no idea where that was or what it consisted of. "Sounds good to me" I replied. The drive off 191 was a cruiser road compared to a lot of desert roads which require high clearance and 4 wheel drive. The Suby rallied away and my truck ate Brad's dust. We racked up, for the first time together and began walking toward Tranquility, the first goal, in a beautiful setting with a remote feel.

    Upon reaching the base of Feeding The Rat, our route up Tranquility Tower , Brad agreed to the first pitch, 5.7 C1+, and took off free climbing. The free climbing lasted for about 8 feet when the rock making up a small pillar guarding the climb began to disintegrate. Pitch 1 continued with a very interesting traverse capped with a roof forcing Brad stick his head roughly between his legs and his butt straight outward. It was amusing to watch, but once the traverse ended the pitch was complete and it was quickly my turn. It typical B team fashion, Brad's pitch only gained us about 30 vertical feet up the tower.  :)

    Pitch 2 left the awkward, semi-hanging, natural belay immediately with a black - blue alien seam for about 20 feet to a short fixed traverse about 5 feet left and then to a stud, pin, bolt repeating pattern with occasional gear placements. I was entertained with Brad's singing and finished the pitch on a sloping ledge with two pins for an anchor. Brad quickly cleaned the pitch and left on pitch 3, the final one. He raced up this pitch and then stopped for awhile. "Tie into the tag line and reaid the pitch!" he yelled down. I had no idea as to why he told me to do this, but I did, and eventually reached the final stair step design of the last 25 feet. Once I saw Brad, he told me there was no anchor. Awesome........

    The book had told us to belay at the bush. We assumed either a decent bush was on the summit, or that the bush was simply a landmark for an anchor. Neither was the fact. Luckily it was a very large summit and we comfortably searched for anything to back up the Thanksgiving diner table sized poinsettia from which we were about to rappel 200 feet. All we could do was tie another cord to a small subsidiary appendage of the bush that was not yet incorporated into the anchor. I went first.

    Just as I was leaning over the edge, Brad yelled WAIT! My heart dropped and I think I peed a little. "Let me take a picture." Who is this guy; he literally scared the piss out of me to get a picture. To Brad's credit, I was a little apprehensive to begin with but  have since appreciated the pictures.

    Obviously I made it down alive, as did Brad. The ropes gave us some trouble, but once my fat ass tied in and pulled, they came down. We exchanged smiles, returned to our packs and moved on to own next tower; Queen's View.

    It was getting pretty hot now, we wined a little about our heavy packs and that it was hot, ate in the shade and re-racked. I took the first pitch this time (it was the free climbing pitch). Pitch 1 consisted of a 5.8 slab with crap for gear so I started up it while Brad set up the tripod for time-lapse photos. Pitch 1 ended on a splendid large ledge with a double anchor and Brad came up. Pitch 2 began as a bolt ladder to an incipient seam which the guidebook called A2+. Brad nailed two baby angles, clipped some fixed gear, and free climbed the final 25 feet out of his aiders to the summit. I jugged the line, constructively cleaned the angles and joined Brad on the summit. At least there was an anchor this time.

    For anyone who is planning on climbing Queen's view via this route, Brad and I agree it might go clean with some difficulty. With a long stick clip, one could probably clip the pin above the seam and batman up.

    The view was one of the best I've seen out of about 35 towers I had done at the time. Joe Wilson Canyon is a pristine, vacant area with strange, fun looking formations including King Arthur's Throne and Moby Dick. We rapped, returned to our vehicles, and drove to Moab for beers with Eric. All in all, an outstanding first time climbing together and a successful day one of an extended climbing trip.


Tranquility Tower PIctures

A panoramic shot of Joe Wilson Canyon showing Tranquility Tower, Queen's View, and King Arthur's Thrown.

Tranquility Tower from our approach. Feeding the Rat starts on the prow facing the camera, then goes out of sight to the left and finishes back on the prow.
Matt on our first approach together.
The base of the route.
Looking out the mouth of the canyon from the base of Tranquility Tower.
Nearing the horizontal crack that leads left to the belay.
I'm pretty sure that I could have ripped that "pillar" off with my hands where I placed the piece with the screamer.
With a good piece in the bedding seam it's all fun, easy and awkward.
A series of Matt on the bedding seam.



There is a small ledge at this gear belay.
Matt at the belay.
A large shot of Matt on the crux.
Don't you just love black and blue aliens in entrada?
Good Stuff!
Arriving at the top of pitch two. That stud sticking out is typical for the route, though there are also some bolts and pins.
Shadow belay.
Starting pitch three.
This pitch is back on the prow of the tower.
Matt nearing the top.
And laughing at my butt-friction directional anchor.
Summit shot.
Matt reworking the anchor in the half-dead bush.
Leaving the summit.
Too bad this beautiful face isn't made of harder rock.
Back to terra firma.




Queen's View PIctures

Queen's View
Matt on the first pitch.
These pictures were taken with a time-lapse function.
Matt standing on the nice ledge below pitch two.
Looking up from the base.
Seconding pitch one.
"I don't know man, I just grabbed that piece to clean it and it fell out..."
Starting the second pitch.
A few shots looking up at the second pitch.
There will be a couple tricky placements to get this pitch clean.
    And I'm not talking about this kind of tricky... :)
Looking down the second pitch.
Matt cleaning pitch two.




Matt rapping off of Queen's View.
King Arthur's Thrown.

Back to Top