There is something about Castleton Tower.
Maybe it’s the tower’s setting—sitting atop a thousand-foot cone of red-rock rubble and talus, it’s both grand and solitudinous. Maybe it’s the tower’s stone—the uber-solid Windgate sandstone white-washed with calcite is enough to make any climber salivate. Maybe it’s the tower’s iconic status—the fact that Castleton is the most photographed desert tower in the world, appearing in calendars, commercials, and movies, adds to the allure of getting to the top. Maybe it’s the tower’s wealth of climbing history—since Kor and Ingalls put up the first route 50 years ago, Castleton has been a centerpiece in desert tower climbing.
Whatever it is about Castleton, climbing to the top of the tower to cap off the first quarter-century of my wife’s life is what made it special for us this past weekend. Casteton had been on her bucket list for quite some time and there was no other place she’d rather celebrate her 25th birthday. So, despite the ominous forecast of high winds, Emily, Andy, and Neena and I decided to head to Castle Valley to hop on Castleton’s north chimney.
The long, yet beautiful slog to the tower.
The first pitch consists of a fun set of double hands cracks and eventually crescendos into cruxy bulge that makes you wonder how this route goes at 5.8 (gotta love those old-school stout desert ratings). Unfortunately, Andy took a spicy 20-foot whipper on this pitch, smacking his foot and rendering him unable to finish the route. Both Andy and Neena finished the first pitch and made the wise and prudent choice to rap off.
Andy getting a breath in after pulling the crux.
Em and I continued up the next three pitches, enjoying stretches of tricky off-width, perfect hands, and entertaining face and chimney climbing.
On the fourth and final pitch we felt the wrath of the winds. Sustained 30 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph can make walking on flat ground feel intense, let alone face climbing 1400 feet above the valley floor. Luckily, the climbing is fairly straight-forward, so the added intensity of the wind made for a far more interesting experience.
We reached the summit around 6 pm—exactly 3 hours and 25 years after Emily was born. The view was spectacular, the winds were whipping, Em was ecstatic, and the experience was second to none. Not only was it a fantastic way to celebrate Em’s first quarter century, but it was a perfect way to kick off the adventures that the next 25 years will bring.