|Castle Valley. Parriot Mesa in foreground; The Rectory and Castleton Tower in the background.|
Fine Jade is considered by many desert crack climbers to be one of the best offerings in the Moab desert. Perfect cracks splitting a steep face of Wingate Sandstone on the south face of The Rectory make this a highly desirable climb in the cooler months like October, November and even December. David Appelhans and I found ourselves at the base of this route after a long night of driving from Boulder and Zion, respectively. I had heard of the routes notoriety while climbing a route in Zion called Smash Mouth and those who had climbed this route had compared it in quality to Fine Jade. While the two routes do share some similarities like length, style of climbing and sunny exposure, I wouldn't say that Smash Mouth is nearly as good as FJ. This route offers 3-5 pitches of excellent, sustained and varied climbing and deposits you on a truly marvelous summit.
Pitch 1: 115' 5.10+ Head up the obvious steep hand and fist crack through a pod. This is the crux of the first pitch and, if your wide crack climbing isn't refined, could potentially be the crux of the entire route. This leads to a rest stance and more 5.10 crack climbing to an anchor. Climb past this to the next set of chains on a good ledge. Stiff 5.10+ climbing.
Pitch 2: 115' 5.11- Make some tricky moves off the belay through some steep terrain to reach a splitter crack slicing through a bulge. This provides the crux climbing of the route and is rather stiff however quite short. Excellent crankin' finger jams lead to a rest and some more awkward yet fun 5.10 climbing leads to another set of chains on a good ledge.
Pitch 3: 100' 5.11- (or 5.9 to a P4 5.7) Move right from the belay through some friable rock into a neat 5.9 undercling/lieback roof thingy. This leads to a bolt and a belay shortly after. We did this in two pitches but the following climbing can feasibly be linked into this pitch. Move up and right to a large ledge and a bolted calcite face. 4 bolts and some tricky 5.11- face climbing leads to the awesome summit!
Descent: Rap the route with 2 60m ropes or 1 70m rope.
|The iconic Castleton Tower in Castle Valley.|
I don't know if there's a route I've thought about more than this one. It's been etched onto my brain for as long as I can remember. My first memory of the route was stirred by seeing a photograph of Ines Papert onsighting the crux first-pitch of the route. From that moment forward I thought about how glorious it would feel to onsight a difficult route like that on an iconic tower. Two days ago I was fortunate enough to endure the windy, frigid fall conditions presented to me on the tower and onsight the crux pitch without too much deliberation or hesitation.
Pitch 1: 130' 5.11b The line is striking, elegant and simple. Cupped hands in a flare for 100' lead to an awkward rest and the crux undercling sequence through a steep flake. The climbing is sustained but rests are easily attained by "flare bossing" wherever you so please. This allowed me to save some energy to punch through the undercling and long reach to a hand jam and finally a glorious jug at the belay ledge. Bolt anchors on a sizable ledge.
Pitch 2: 80' 5.10 Athletic 5.10 climbing right off the belay leads to some tricky right trending underclinging into another tricky spot involving a mantle into a large pod. Move up through the roof above your head with more athletic movement and then fire into a body size "vector traverse"style slot and then gain the anchor easily. This was the most athletic pitch of the route with the roof pull being the most strenuous and most fun. Bolt anchors on a ledge.
Pitch 3: 115' 5.10 Move right off the belay up an easy ramp to gain an offwidth crack/flake. Be sure to place some gear here (a #3 or #4 Camalot works great) as a fall would put you on a ledge. I fell (mysteriously) onto a tipped out #5 Camalot I had placed in order to merely bump up when I got situated. I unfortunately spoiled my onsight and in the process thonged my "bean bag" if you catch my drift. The climbing isn't too difficult if you go RIGHT SIDE IN but I am dumb and went left side in because I think I'm a true OW BOSS. Anyway, this pitch involves a lot of thrutching, huffing, puffing and exhaustive resolve to finally reach the sunny and warm summit. Belay from gear at the top.
Descent: Rap the route with 2 60's in 3 rappels. This route is absolutely incredible and onsighting the crux pitch was a lifetime dream of mine. Unfortunately I fell unexpectedly ruining my route onsight... But nonetheless I can, facetiously, say I am in the same league as Ines Papert... what a babe!
|Sister Superior from the approach trail. Jah Man climbs the obvious left-facing corner/chimney to start.|
Of the three classic routes we did on this short jaunt in the desert, this was my least favorite. And I use that expression very precisely. I'd say that of all the routes I've ever done this one falls into the "favorites" category but is on the low end of that spectrum. Comparing this route to The North Face would only be a disservice to this wonderful, popular tower route. Some might say that it's my least favorite because it was the least difficult but that, my friends, is not true. I thought the climbing was incredible!
Pitch 1: 100' 5.8 The route begins with a little bit of funk. From left of the chimney at the base of the tower and the broken strata, climb up and move significantly right. There are a couple of difficult moves but they protect well enough in slightly questionable rock. A mantle onto a large ledge puts you just below the gaping maw. I belayed David up at this ledge and then continued up through the chimney which is Grade A FUN! It's definitely squirmy in there with little pro so, heads up! Chimney up for 75 feet to some pro and good foot ledges. Mantle out of the chimney onto an exposed yet comfortable ledge. Belay at two bolts.
|David moving through the crux face climbing moves of the route on pitch two.|
Pitch Three: 100' 5.10a Straight-forward and fun crack climbing up and left. I thought this was going to be more difficult than it looked but turned out to be rather relaxed and sporty. The crack climbs like a sport climb in a weird way with a lot of leaning and changing body positions. This is a really enjoyable pitch and takes pro well. Gain another large ledge at two bolts or...
Pitch Four: 40' 5.9+ This pitch can be linked with the previous. Move around the corner to the right to an exposed ledge and clip some relic bolts on the arete. The exposure here is sick! Pull some funky moves on weird face holds and gain the summit. This pitch is only cool because of historical value otherwise the climbing is just dumb and weird.
Descent: Four single rope rappels down the route. The last rappel does not rappel into the chimney, obviously.
|Just the two of us.|