November, 02



Utah Road Tripping with Jason



    Road Trips...  Sometimes you have to make them happen, and sometimes your company runs out of money and can't pay you. Unfortunately, the latter was the impetus for this trip. I've been living in denial for over a year about the fate of my company. This month, things took a turn for the worse and I stopped getting paychecks. That's the kind of reality check that makes it hard to stay in denial. Obviously the solution was to go climb sandstone towers in the Utah desert.

        Thursday afternoon, Jason and I set out in my truck with a desire to climb desert towers and splitter hand cracks, a huge load of gear, and no heater core. I would like to state for the record that both Vail and Loveland pass, get quite cold at night in November! Undeterred, we layered up drove to a campsite near Grand Junction.

    Our first objective was Otto's Route on Independence Monument. Located in Colorado National Monument, this 500-foot, sandstone spire had first been climbed in 1911 by John Otto. In fact, Otto's desire was to create a "trail" to the summit. In his quest, he carved steps into the soft sandstone in places and drilled 2" holes into the rock to install pipes which could be climbed like a ladder. Today, the pipes have been removed but the drilled  holes remain and allow the spire to be climbed at a reasonable grade. (5.8+) Otto was also responsible for getting the Department of the Interior to declare this land a National Monument.

    I had a really great time on this route. The sandy nature of the rock was not as reassuring as the granite I normally climb, but the protection was good and the climbing was not too hard. It also reminded me that I need to make more of an effort to climb in new areas. For Jason, this was coming home to climb. Having grown up south of the Monument, he was stoked to climb one of the areas most prominent features. 

    The next morning found us at Newspaper Rock near Indian Creek. We got a fairly late start but eventually dragged ourselves to Supercrack Buttress. We just jumped on a crack that looked good and I took off on lead. 30 feet off the ground, I was aiding. The climbing was quite strenuous. We didn't climb a lot or routes but we spent some time working on technique. I did get a chance to toprope Incredible Hand Crack and I must say that it truly earns its name. I fell off turning the lip of the roof a couple times but I still felt good about it. We also climbed 3AM crack and some others that I can't remember. 

    The last day we woke up in Castle Valley at the trailhead for Castleton Tower. The offwidth pitch of the Kor-Ingalls (5.9) route had been looming in my mind all night and now I was going to get the chance to confront my fears. Jason had hurt his arm in an incident at the river the night before so his plan was to get up this thing by any means. The offwidth section turned out to be fairly easy after I started aiding on the bolts Kor placed in 1961. Thanks Layton. :) Overall, I don't think this route deserves its reputation as a desert classic. It has a great history, and it is a striking line from a distance, but I only really enjoyed the second and last pitches. Still, it was a sweet summit to visit! We signed our names to the register and sat on top for half an hour before starting the rappels. All that remained of our trip was the hike back to the truck and the cold drive back to Fort Collins.

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A wide angle View of Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument. This picture was take by Guillaume.  Click Here  to see more of his truly spectacular photography.

A closer view of Independence Monument on our approach to Otto's Route.

Jason feeling exuberant after smoothly pulling through the crux overhang of the second pitch.

Jason approaching the summit. In this photo, the steps that Otto carved into the rock in 1911.

Jason pulling through the last overhanging moves to reach the summit.

Enjoying the view we worked for on the flat summit of Independence Monument.

Jason rappelling from the summit. Our gear is visible on a ledge below.

An evening shot of Grand Junction from within Colorado National Monument

Our Desert Rack

Jason trying to perfect his jamming technique on 3AM Crack in Indian Creek.

Castleton Tower, the Rectory and The Priest as seen from the Fisher Towers parking lot.

Jason approaching Castleton Tower.

The Kor-Ingalls route follows the prominent corner system up the south face. Click Here to see a close up view of this picture.

Looking down at Jason as on the first pitch.

This is me exiting the chimney on the second pitch, Above me looms the crux offwidth pitch.

Above the offwidth and into the chimney on the third pitch.

A view of the La Sal mountains from the summit of Castleton Tower.

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