Sunday, October 17, 2010

Castle Valley Cheeseburger Enchainment

In spite of what my delusional little sister thinks, the happiest place on earth is located in Castle Valley, Utah. It is a magic kingdom of sand, wind, towers, and incredible climbing. Last Thursday, I joined up with new partner Matt, and we took off after work down I-15. If you've been following my shenanigans over the last year, the idea of concluding a good day with some McDonald's is nothing new. But, recent months have seen a maturation of my taste buds and I've been avoiding the fine fast cuisine. That was until new partner Matt introduced me to a worldwide movement to eat a cheeseburger on the summit of every peak in the world. That meant we had to stop at Wendy's at 11:30 PM where we bought eight 99 cent cheeseburgers with the goal of climbing four desert towers and choking down the burgers on each summit in an effort to do our part.

Low grade beef aside, I'd been thinking about linking up the major Castle Valley towers for some time. The intended routes were Fine Jade (5.11, 4 pitches) on the Rectory, The Honeymoon Chimney (5.11a or A0, 4 pitches) on the Priest, Jah Man (5.10+, 5 pitches) on Sister Superior, and The North Chimney (5.9, 4 pitches) on Castleton Tower. I thought these four would make for the most challenging enchainment that we just might be able to pull off. Especially with the days getting shorter and the perfect fall weather bringing out the crowds, we'd have to be efficient.

With a 6:00 AM wake up, we shuffled up to the base of the Rectory just as the sun was peaking over the La Sals.

Castleton Tower

Base of the Rectory, Fine Jade follows the obvious crack up the middle of the face.

The off width that protects the upper pitches proved to be a stiff warm up, resulting in a couple falls before breaking through to easier ground. Then my lead through the reported crux was also tainted by a fall before figuring out the finger locks though a tough bulge. Otherwise, the route was *****, cinco estrellas, 5 stars.

Here's Matt cruising pitch 4.

MS coming around the corner on the adventurous traversing 4th original pitch.

Just doing my part - choking down a burger on the summit of the Rectory.

A few quick raps, and a short hike led us to the base of the Honeymoon Chimney on the Priest.

A party grunting their way up the 5.9+ squeeze.

Rather than cramp those fine folks from Colorado (who seemed like they might make a rather prolonged ascent), we ran along toward the Sister Superior group, planning on climbing the ultra classic Jah Man.

The ridge between the Priest and Sister Superior is loose, infrequently traveled, and takes around 45 minutes. It's also a wild scenic place between the two towers.

Approaching Sister Superior

Looking back at the Priest, Rectory, and Castleton.

A fun 5.8 chimney makes up the first part of Jah Man.

Looking up toward the crux.

Matt enjoying the thin hands of the 4th pitch.

2nd tower of the day meant it was time to pull out the cheeseburgers again. This time I was kind enough to share with some fine folks from Jackson. I warned them the burgers were purchased the night before. They didn't care. Everyone was just having a good time.

Sister Superior

Matt negotiating a fixed line through some rubble with the ridge to SS in the background.

On to part III, Castleton Tower.

We decided to pass on the Priest a second time since it was still a cluster of parties and ropes. Plus, the day was fading and the sun had taken a toll as I was already just about out of water. No worries though, it was a beautiful all day affair filled with fun movement and gorgeous scenery.

The sun sending tower shadows to the east.

MS heading up the North Chimney.

Desert Alpenglow

Summit of Castleton Tower. Happiest Place on Earth.

I skipped my burger and readied the rappel, already reflecting on the day and missing out on the fourth tower. Given the heat, crowds, unfamiliarity with the approaches and climbs, and mainly the limited daylight, I think we did well. Catching the tower bug, I'll be back to the magic kingdom...without the beef, but with even bigger plans.

That may have to wait till next year as the days lengthen. Until then...where's the snow?

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