November , '07


Rainbow Tower and

Dirty Old Man Tower

Written by Matt Pickren  


    Friday afternoon Brad left work early. I was still packing when he arrived at my casa stoked for a great weekend. In typical tower fashion, the count of planned objectives had risen to somewhere around 7. By 5:30 we were driving to Colorado National Monument and called Ben who we were meeting up there. We assumed he had soloed some great number of towers during that day but actually, he had waiting outside the pay gate for some time so he wouldn't have to pay to get in. Good man

    Just before 11pm, Brad and I drove into the campground to find Ben asleep next to his car. Three of us said our “Hellos” and immediately got to figuring out what was up for tomorrow. We decided upon Rainbow, Airport, Dirty Ol' Man and Crack of Noon Towers. Racking up was the usual except for Brad and Ben making fun of the few pieces of gear I brought. My home made hammer, a pair of 20 ft, 10 step, home made, rainbow colored aiders… I hadn't thought we'd need all three racks and left mine at home that weekend.

    I love going to new climbing areas in the dark. All night you dream about what you'll wake up to, expecting all guide book covers to be miniature scales of what was really outside. And then it all comes true in the morning! Well, I don't know what I was thinking. So we woke up at 5, hiked into the canyon in the dark and passed right by Rainbow Tower on our "approach". Eventually we realized this, hiked back and scrambled to the base. By the time the sun came up I was racking up for pitch two.

    Brad's pitch 1 was a lot of thin camming. It started on black and blue aliens but eventually widened to gold Camalots. Ben remained on the ground while I led pitch 2 for photography sakes (I think he's scared of heights!) All I remembered from the route description the night before were the words “Torpedo Block, A2.” Turned out the crux was leaving the belay. This involved hard flared off-widthing and inch above Brad's head. The torpedo flake felt solid, just awkward. As Ben speed-jugged pitch 1 & 2, and Brad cleaned pitch 2, I started short fixing what I thought was pitch 3.

    So I was right about pith 3, because I made it as far as the crack made it, 10 feet. If Ben didn't lead anything, Brad and I would have made fun of him, so he said he would finish it. It ended up being spaced out, shallow pin holes without pins. Ben took his helmet off and ‘tapped' the angles in and tied them off. He did this for the first two, then, for photo purposes only, Brad asked Ben to use his helmet, but not take it off. Ben and I laughed, and he did it. Once on top, Ben told us the anchor was also holes without pins. Now we sent up the hammer and Ben nailed two solid angles into place. I still wonder how the FA team got down. We learned later that we had done the second ascent.

    Next we hiked to the Airport, Dirty Ol' Man and Crack of Noon group. Airport Tower had received the bomb rating (meaning bad) so we decided to leave it for last. Dirty Ol' Man it was. I wanted to eat a quick bight, so Ben racked up for the first pitch. Dirty, ugly, steep off width to chimney. Brad and I jugged simultaneously, I cleaned. Brad was racked for pitch 2 when I arrived to a nice spacious ledge. Brad's pitch started out looking like Incredible at he creek, but the crack turned out to be wider inside, making it awkward. He aided... we jugged.

    Once we all congregated on the summit I scrambled down the other side to look at the rappel. called it a nasty onsight rappel. It looked bad, and I could only see the top 30 feet. I ended up retying the summit ‘shapes' and we rapped our route in 1 62 meter rap. The fattest guy went first and made it, Ben and Brad had to fall 5 feet. I led the single 5.10+ pitch on Crack of Noon as the sun disappeared. It went at 5.9+ C1 pretty nicely in the dark. The anchor on top was a bolt so we added a slung hole and headed to town for diner.

    It was 9ish by the time we got to the car. We ended up begging a Chinese restaurant to sell us food, but they would only give us take-out so we had to eat it at Wendy's! We were in bed around 10:30 with Jolly, Oompah and Wal-mart towers in mind for tomorrow. The time change occurred that weekend, and Brad and I begged Ben for an extra hour for sleep so we got to sleep in till 5:30. Brad had the excuse of a crying newborn, I guess I was just a bit*h. Breakfast of champs at the Conoco and we were the daylight!

Rainbow Tower Pictures

Ben belaying on pitch one. It was pretty early, but not as early as this flash makes it seem.

A shot of me leading pitch one.

There were some pin scars on this pitch but it went clean with a lot of small gear.

Here comes the sun...

Moving right into the chimney and to the anchor.

It's dawn at the base of the route and we're already one pitch up. Good Stuff.

Matt arriving at the top of the first pitch.

Looking down pitch one.

"Would you mind putting down the camera and clipping me in?"

Matt getting started on pitch two. This start is pretty damn rowdy.

Ben took these shots before he jugged up.

Matt exiting the chimney up high as I belay.

Looking up at the second pitch from the belay.

Matt approaching the 'torpedo block' which is looming above.

Another distance shot.

Right side or left side?

A hi-res shot of Matt below the torpedo block. It's scary duty to have to climb past big, loose rocks on towers!

Matt fixing the start of the last pitch for Ben.

GO speed jugger....

Looking down the route.

That's the torpedo block on the left.

Ben nearing the belay.

Hmm... where did those jugs go?

Matt at the belay.

It gets a little dirty on towers that haven't seen a second ascent.

Ben surveying his options beyond the crack on the last pitch.

A small pano looking out from the belay.

Looks like a far reach?

Maybe not.

This picture says it all for the last pitch.

"I think it's good...I think it's good...I think it's good..."

Ben placing another bomber pin with a little help from Petzl.

Polishing his hammerless technique...

What a rockstar.

The summit shot.

Looking down canyon from the summit.


Dirty Old Man Tower Pictures

Ben at the base of Dirty Old Man Tower.


Matt giving Ben a spot at the start.


Looks relaxing...


It's getting more secure by the body length now...

An apparently ropeless Ben on pitch one.

It's a DEEP chimney.

Finally in the sun again...

A little closer...

It looks interesting to get from the chimney to the ledge don't you think?


Matt arriving at the belay.

If you want to get up shit, these are a couple of good guys to have on your team.

The last pitch.

This pitch looks easier than it climbs.

Arriving at the summit.

Approaching the summit.

Rearranging the summit "anchor".

Matt rappelling.

And just like that, the sun was gone for the day.

Matt grabbing a quick bite before leading Crack of Noon Tower in the dark.

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