April, '06


Texas Tower

Written by Ben Kiessel 




    Every Tower enthusiast looks at Texas tower in their guide book and drools. I had made quite the puddle over the years and after hearing that there was a new route on the back side that didn't involve 11+ off-widths, I packed my things.


Half-assed #1

    Bill and I left Durango on Friday night and drove to the mouth of the canyon. After driving about 10 minutes on a dirt road we took a wrong turn and the road dead ended. Knowing we were in the wrong spot and not knowing where to go we turned around and drove to Indian creek and climbed Vision Quest.


Bad Weather / Scared Partner #2

    About two weeks later my roommate Clay and I left Durango on Friday night and arrived at the Canyon Rim around dark. With clear skies above and a knot in our stomachs for what was to come, we fell asleep. Late that night we were awakened by the sound of rain drops, it poured for the rest of the night. We woke to puddles on the ground and decided it was best to leave the tower for another day. But having driven two and a half hours we thought it best to get our moneys worth and check out the canyon. We walked the rim and found the rappel point and spotted Texas tower, Lone Star, and many more that were in our guide. We drove to the mouth of the canyon and this time did not get off track, we drove all the way to where the road ends at the split of Arch Canyon and Texas Canyon . We hiked in to Texas tower and located the base of the route. I even climbed up to the first bolt in my flip flops for a better look. By the way around 10am the clouds had parted and the sun came out, it was a beautiful day. I wanted to stay and climb the next day but Clay remembered some homework that he had to do, so we drove back to Durango . (He went mountain biking the next day.)


Lucky #3

    Finally I enlist a quality partner known to some as Brad and to others as GOD. (That will be $5 please.) We both only had Sunday free, but I knew where we were going and we both had our eye on this tower. We left on Saturday afternoon and drove in no problem. The next morning we got up early and cruised to the base. I lead first and combined the first two pitches with out too much trouble. We were off to a good start.

    Then Brad started leading and everything went to hell. I guess that's not really fair. It's not his fault he went up the wrong crack system, the topo we had kind of led us in the wrong direction. Anyways I come up and after continuing up the rotten crack Brad was on I look down and out and see anchors. (Where he should have lead to.) After the inevitable down climb and scramble to where we should be.

    I am off again but on the right crack this time. The crack splits and I go to the cleaner of the two and end up in a chimney and scramble all the way through to the far side of the tower and look over at Lone star. We have to be in the right spot. What tower would have two separate chimneys that split it? Well apparently Texas does. Brad comes up, says this can't be right, looks down and left and see the anchors for the top of pitch 4 below us. DAMN! Off route two pitches in a row, we suck!

    More down climbing/lowering and once again we are back on route. Now, I have to mention that the second time was not the topo's fault; it was very clear where the route went we just failed to pay any attention. Pitch 5-Mixed free and aid gets me to the single bolt belay in the chimney. Brad jugs the line and decides to do the short squeeze chimney to the other side of the tower with all the gear/ backpack on. Bad idea. About 3-4 tries later after getting very frustrated and shedding all the gear he made it through. The 6th pitch was suppose to be an easy chimney with very little pro and it was, 150' with one bolt and one pin. WOW! Five minutes after getting to the belay the wind is blowing and I am freezing.

    I lead the last pitch fine but can't hear Brad at all, I thought I was belaying him up but end up hauling the extra gear instead, the whole time yelling against the wind trying to figure out what is going on. Brad the photographer wanted to take some summit photos but I am not in the mood. I just want to get out of the wind and warm up. Rappelling goes with out a hitch, and we are back at the base in no time. The sun was setting and most of the walk back to the truck, and all of the drive is in the dark. All in all it was an excellent trip, and I can't wait to climb some more towers in that awesome canyon.



Looking up at the original Toula route on Texas Tower. This shot was taken on Ben's first trip into the canyon.

Ben posing below Texas Tower. This is also from a previous trip.




A close-up of Dreamspeaker.


Babe the big, blue truck pulling her weight on the approach.  It's somewhat burly driving up Arch Canyon. Don't try it in your Subaru.


There are MANY incredible looking climbing objectives near the junction of Arch and Texas Canyons. CLICK HERE for a large version of this picture.


Arch Angel is one of the more beautiful formations. CLICK HERE for a large version of this picture.


Arch Tower is an impressive and difficult looking tower.


A nice reflection.


This is the cathedral like group that stands above the canyons junction. That's Cathedral Arch on the left.


El Cerro Del Perro is another objective that sits right above the campsites.


Lone Star and Texas Tower on our approach in the morning.


Ben gearing up at the base of our route.


Ben taking the lead on the first pitch... er and uhh virtually every pitch thereafter.


Ben looking down while we debate whether or not the first two pitches are linkable.


Into pitch two terrain.

A closer view of the action.


Having waited for the sun to reach the base, I I shot this vertical pano showing the start of the route.


Looking down at me jugging the first and second pitches.


Me starting the third pitch. The giant, overhung, man-eating crack up high is pitch five.


At this point I climbed up wide cracks into the back of this very deep chimney. The route actually follows the crack that is on the left near the mouth of the chimney... we think.


Self portrait of Ben at the belay.


We're fully off route here. I had been all the way to the back of the chimney and returned to this point to belay. Ben continued up this wide crack until he saw that were above and to the right of where we needed to be.



After down aiding, it was out to the mouth of the chimney for a spicy traverse around to an actual anchor.


Getting ready to commit to the traverse.


Starting the actual pitch four.


Looking up from the belay. We got off route again on this pitch due to our inability to follow a line on a picture.


A vertical pano looking back down Texas canyon to it's junction with Arch Canyon and our campsite.  CLICK HERE for a large version of this picture.


A pano of Ben on pitch 4. We ended up in the chimney to the right... not good.


This is Ben tunneling through the chimney to the opposite side of the tower.


This is me after he came back and we confirmed that we were totally off route again.


Ben retreating from our second off route excursion.


Once again a traverse takes us back to the route where we find an anchor.


A pano of Ben trying to get back on route.


Looking down from our improvised belay.


An actual anchor.


Starting the crux pitch.


This was definitely the wildest climbing on the route. Ben charged onward though and made it happen.


Looking up at Ben on the crux.


Another close-up.


Looking up at the crux pitch from the true belay. What an inviting vision eh?


Feeling the moment.


From the top of the crux, I tunneled through to a one bolt belay on the other side of the tower. Ben's look reflects the fact that I just got stuck three times and stopped to scream at the rock for being such a bitch.


Ben leading off on the POORLY protected chimney which our route shared with the Toula route.


Looking down the Toula route.


Lone Star from our belay.


Ben 20 feet out and still no protection in site. It's all good though because in another 30 feet there will be a fixed piton.


Looking back through the crack that brought us from the other side of the tower. It gets a little tight in there in places.


Looking up at salvation from deep within the chimney. I just cleaned the second piece of protection for this pitch and you're in the sun when you clip the next one.


Self portrait in the chimney. At this point I'm thinking life is good and the summit is within our grasp.


A chilly Ben at the last belay anchor. It's only a sketchy boulder problem to the summit from here.


On the summit... tired but happy as hell.



Texas Canyon with Texas Tower's shadow looking quite long.


We were happy to find solid and obvious raps that took us back to the route and then to the ground.

Back to Top