February 27-28, 2013
Totals: ~.3 miles, ~700 Gain.
TH: First pullout after the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint
Route: Zenyatta Entrada, 5.4/C2, IV, 7 pitches.
Despite the recent snow in the Front Range and cooler temperatures, the weather looked amazing for the Moab area. Highs in 40s and low 50s would be perfect for an early desert south facing tower route. Justin and I decided to climb The Tower of Babel in Arches over two days with a 3rd day for craggin in the local area.
We left Denver at 6 AM on the 27th and made the 5 ˝ hour drive to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint parking lot in Arches. Quickly, we geared up and made the super short approach to the base of The Tower of Babel. Best approach ever. Gazing upward, the route looked amazing. Justin took the first pitch and since it was a few years since Justin did a major aid route, he took a little bit of time getting back into the rhythm of aid climbing. Getting his rhythm back, he starting moving quicker on the second half of the pitch. Before I knew it, I was jugging up a fixed line to the top of the first pitch.
Justin approaching the Tower of Babel from the Courthouse Parking lot.
Making the short approach to the base of Zenyatta Entrada.
Flaking the rope with the route above.
Justin staring up the first pitch.
Swapping gear, I took the second pitch, C1. The quality of the rock was outstanding as I made my way up a thin seam. Way more solid than my previous aid experiences in the Fisher Towers. Freshly purchased tri-cams worked like a charm in the boxed out pin scars as I made good time finishing the second pitch. Due to the amount of daylight left, we decided to break pitch 3 into two pitches so I could fix lines from an intermediate belay station on pitch 3. I took the 3rd pitch, C2, and started up a smaller crack on pitch 3. Fine nutting and tri-cams made upward travel enjoyable. Offset nuts worked wonders and made my placements feel bomber.
Looking down at Justin as I aid up the second pitch.
Looking down from the top of the second pitch.
View from the second pitch.
Justin finishing his second pitch jug.
Leading the thin seam on pitch 3.
Leading the thin seam on pitch 3.
As I neared the top of the 3rd pitch, my heart sank. Nothing but a few sandy pin scars left me only 10-15 feet short of the chained anchor. This next 15 feet took me almost ˝ hour to climb. I should have used more nuts lower on the pitch saving some of my mid sized tri-cams. Sandy boxed out pin scars did not inspire confidence with regular cams. Normal cams had no chance of staying in place and there was no crack for any nut placements. I tried an offset cam and just about when I was going to put full body weight on the piece the cam blew. Good thing I didn't fully commit or that would have been an exciting ride.
The next trick was to try hooks. I tried placing several types of hooks but even with small amounts of weight they all just blew off of the rock. If I had just 1 more brown or blue tri-cam, this section would be a non-event or an “easy” aid. With some aid trickery, I was able to use two offset cams clipped together cross loading each other to get a placement. All it needed to hold was about 160 lbs. No bouncing or sudden movements on that piece. I slowly step upward and place a completely flared number 3 cam. Only 3 feet now from the chains. I move upwards on the number 3, I reach the chains and breathe. A little scary but super fun. I fixed the line and made the rappel back to the base of pitch 2.
Justin and I finished our rappels and enjoyed a beer at the car around 5:30 PM. Good progress for our first ˝ day of climbing. A little under halfway up the route with the crux pitches remaining we camped as close to the park as possible.
I set an alarm for 6:45 AM. Since we made decent progress up the route the day prior, we didn't need to get up super early and freeze on the wall. A short drive later, and even shorter approach, were jugging on our fixed lines around 8:45 AM just as the route began to bask in the sunlight. Without a doubt, we could tell it was still February. Brisk.
Jugging close to 250 feet we made it to our previous days high point and Justin started out on the 4th pitch. Lucky for him, right off the belay were some C2 moves up to a high bolt. A shady fixed pin helped ease the scariest part of the start of the pitch. A solid offset cam and tri-cam also made the C2 closer to C1. Once at the high bolt, I lowered him about 5 feet so he could pendulum left into a large crack system. Justin did an outstanding job of leaping cams in the large crack system leaving me an easy clean.
Lovely C2 on the 4th pitch the pendulum (taken on the descent).
Justin leading out on pitch 4. Just about to start the pendulum.
Within no time, he had the line fixed and I was doing a traversing upward jug. At the top of the 4th pitch, I peered upward at the roof crux pitch. My turn to lead again. From the belay ledge, climbing up the blank face with 2 bolts looked interesting. After the first bolt, a less than inspiring offset cam led to a nice hook move which allowed me to gain the second bolt. Once above the second bolt, I was in the dihedral climbing towards the roof where I passed the first minor roof without too much trouble.
Looking up the roof pitch from the top of pith 3 (taken on the descent).
Working the first small roof on pitch 5.
Overhanging dihedral climbing was a bit more physical than I expected. Once I reached the roof, I clipped the fixed pin and started through the crux section. With my troubles on pitch 3, I saved a majority of my tri-cams for this crux section. The first piece from the bolt was an “interesting” pink tri-cam placement. It felt solid. Once the pink tri-cam was placed, I blindly reached over the roof feeling for the next piece of pro. A less confident blind blue tri-cam placement allowed me to pull out from under the roof. Shortly after that piece was a stellar blue tri-cam. I am really glad I had a double set of tri-cams and thought the crux section was easier than the top of the 3rd pitch.
In the big roof.
Just about to start climbing out fo the big roof.
Making a blind tri-cam placement.
After pulling the roof, there was a horizontal fixed pin line leading to the anchors; however, there was one problem. There was no last fixed pin short of the anchors. Great, another sandy flared pin scar. Only 5 feet short of the chains, I placed a less than secure brown tri-cam. I debated on making the final move for about 15-20 minutes. Knowing that if my piece blew, it should be a clean fall on a solid fixed pin. Nothing but clean air. No ledges. Why was I having so much trouble with this last move?
Starting the fixed pin traverse.
Eventually, I mustered up the courage to weight and top step on the brown tri-cam. Whew, I reached the chains. These sketchy moves so close to anchors were teasing and testing me. As soon as I fix the line, the sideways pull blew the brown tri-cam.
View from the top of pitch 5. Sheep Rock.
Despite the roof, Justin did an outstanding job re-aiding through the roof for his clean. I was happy to pass the 6th pitch to Justin. A few bolts after the belay ledge, Justin was working his way up a beautiful seam, C2, leading to the cap rock. With some horizontal aid action and a widely spaced bolt ladder, he reached the top of the 6th pitch. I thoroughly enjoy watching tourists drive 500 feet below us.
Tourist taking photos. My car can also be seen.
Justin fixed the line and I jugged the 6th pitch. Only one short easy pitch to the tippy top. From the top of the 6th pitch, it was a class 3 scramble to a 2 bolt C0 bolt ladder. We arrived on the summit near 4:15 PM. The views were astonishing. Argon Tower, The Organ, Sheep Rock were amazing and the views of Elephant Butte and Ham Rock, to the north, are also outstanding. After a few photos, we start our descent. We did a single rope rappel back to the base of the 7th pitch and then 2 60 meter rope rappels to the base. We arrived back at the base of the tower at 5:30 PM. The setting sunlight shines on our route and all I can do is smile.
View of The Organ and the La Sals from the summit.
Summit ridge looking north.
Justin making the final moves to the summit.
Summit view of Park Avenue.
About to start the rappel from the top of the 6th pitch.
Justin on the final rappel.
Justin on the final rappel.
Done as 7 pitches. Pitch 3 and 4 can be combined.
Pitch 1: A few moves of 5.4 to the top of a block then aid up a thin seam to a ledge (25M, 5.4/C1). A right crack variation goes at 5.10 or C1 but contains some questionable blocks near the top. We stuck to the original route due to the loose blocks.
Pitch 2: From the belay ledge, continue up the seam above the chains to the next belay ledge (30M, C1)
Pitch 3: Continue up the seam on steeper terrain. Offset nuts and tri-cams work wonders. The hardest part is just 10-15 feet short of the chains. (20M, C2)
Pitch 4: The pendulum pitch. From the chains, aid through a fixed pin (don't depend on this pin being there, was there as of winter 2013) and 2 bolts (C2). From the upper bolt, do a short pendulum into a solid crack (C1) to the next belay ledge. (20M, C2).
Pitch 5: The roof pitch. Free stance, bolt, some hooking, bolt, lead to the dihedral (C2). Excellent nut placements leads through a minor roof to some bolts and a pin just before the exit of the roof (C1). Exit the roof on some inspiring hardware to a horizontal pin ladder (C2). Pin ladder leads to an exciting finish. (30M, C2)
Pitch 6: 3 bolts, 1 a stubby, leads into a beautiful seam. Aid up the seam to a pin, then traverse right on pins. A large block below the pin in a horizontal crack is loose. Follow spaced out bolts and pins to the top of the pitch below the capstone. A few free moves reach the anchor. (25M, 5.4/C2)
Pitch 7: 3rd class to the north side of the capstone. A 2 bolt ladder leads to the top of the capstone where some more class 3 scrambling is required to gain the summit. (15-20M, C0)
Quality aid climbing on thin seams with an outstanding roof. Can't beat the approach and every belay stance except the top of pitch 3 is on a comfy ledge. No free hanging belays.
Rappel 1: 1 single rope rappel from the anchors on the capstone. (15 feet)
Rappel 2: Double 60 M rope rappel to the top of pitch 3 (the intermediate pitch 3 anchors per original route). (180 feet)
Rappel 3: Double 60 M rope rappel to the ground. (190 feet)
The Recommended Rack:
1 full set of offset cams, 2 sets of tri-cams (.5 pink, 1.0 red, 1.5 brown, 2.0 blue), 1 full set of offset nuts (2 ideal), 1 set of nuts, 1 BD #4 and 3. 2 BD #2 and 3 BD #1, .75, .5 and .4. 1 set of TCUs. Small selection of hooks.
Did not use ball nuts or hexes.
Some people prefer aliens, I don't have aliens but would feel way better using tri-cams. Pink, Brown and Blue are crucial.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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