A few weeks back I visited Moab with the goal in mind to climb desert towers, accomplishing a dream of Sadie’s for her birthday. The Falcon Guide had some of the most popular climbs, but if I bought a guide book for the area again it would be the more recent and fully featured High On Moab book. Surprisingly it was actually this map from summit post that really lead me to discover the variety of towers in Moab. If you are a moderate climber who is comfortable trying some aid, these are the regions and climbs you must check out (in order of preference).
I climbed Castleton Tower via the Kor-Ingalls Route (5.9+) which is a four pitch climb up one of the most iconic towers you can find.
There is a free campsite right at the trailhead that cycles through campers in the early afternoon and fills up quickly. The climb really took it out of me with 150ft of consistent, strenuous 5.9 in form of either squeeze chimney or off width (P3+P4) combined with an unexpectedly cold wind from nearby snow capped mountains which left me shivering the whole day on belay. I brought two #4s and was happy for it. Even a #5 would have been awesome.
The feature is definitely deserving of the 50 classics status, but the climb itself wasn’t quite ‘classic’ for me. Other nearby climbs include North Chimney 5.8+ on Castleton which can be loose or Honeymoon Chimney on the Priest (which can be done as a 5.9 A0).
Just a little bit North of Castle Valley is a tower playground much different than Castle Valley. The Fisher Towers are long and thin where sketchy fixed gear meets sketchier rock quality with things like ‘mud chimneys’, fixed slings drilled through rock and bolts sticking out inches due to erosion. I climbed Ancient Art (5.8 AO or 5.10) here which is likely the other most iconic tower in Moab due to its finish of a 3ft wide, 20 ft long cat walk to a 5 ft wide, 20ft tall spire, surrounded on all sides by a 1000 ft drop.
The exposure was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. In fact, I bailed because the exposure really got to me and I couldn’t lead the last pitch.
We had higher sights of climbing Kingfisher NE Ridge (5.8 C2) the next day which is mostly bolt ladders and mud chimneys with a little clean aid, but we gave ourselves an easy day and climbed the resident tower 100 ft from the small first come first serve campsite at the Fisher Towers trailhead. Lizard Rock is a cool 5.9R 65 ft pinnacle. Read the comments, it doesn’t need to be R at all, just bring cams 1-4 and two quads for slinging.
The climbing in the Fishers didn’t seem as bad as all the beta suggested, but we didn’t take on any of the larger towers which include: Maverick (5.8 C2), the eight pitch Fantasia (5.10-, C2), the next best thing after Ancient Art, The Flow (5.8 C1 or 5.10 free) or beautiful and dicy Phantom Spirit (5.9 C2+).
We also did a fantastic canyoneering route in Moonflower Canyon (3A II) which involved trekking through (but not on!) biological desert crust which is some of the oldest forms of life. Using a fixed line to bypass a pool of muck and then rappelling 200ft! down into the canyon. Sure I spent 10 minutes hanging in space 50 ft above the ground untangling our two ropes, but it was still awesome!
Castleton really took it out of me so we weren’t as gung-ho on our short week in Moab, but if we had more time I would check out these areas (in order of interest).