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1971: First Ascent of Castleton Tower's West Face

In late November 1971, I made the first ascent of the West Face of Castleton Tower near Moab with Jimmie Dunn and Billy Westbay. We had already had a successful desert climbing trip, doing the 3rd ascent of Standing Rock and the 5th or 6th ascent of North Sixshooter Peak. We set our hearts on doing a new route up Castleton and the obvious line was the wide crack system up the West Face. Base camp for the climb was a cheap motel, the only motel, in Moab, which offered hot showers and lumpy beds. The first day we humped loads to the base of the route and climbed the first pitch, with pitons gently tapped next to loose hanging blocks. On day two we jumared up a 9mm rope, which ended up being half cut through near the anchor where the wind had whipped it across a sharp edge. Scary! Above we climbed wide cracks, mostly protected with occasional bong pitons stacked against each other in the 6- to 8-inch wide cracks. Here's a photo I took at the final belay niche of Billy Westbay launching up the final pitch, a 5.10- off-width crack, in the late afternoon. After completing the 8th overall ascent of Castleton, we laughed on the summit, then celebrated by tossing off some of the timbers left behind by the crew of the 1964 Chevy car commercial. Earl Wiggins in his book Canyon Country Climbs (1989; co-authored with Katy Cassidy) called the West Face "one of the hardest desert climbs of the era." I know that all three of us felt privileged to climb that proud tower and stand alone on its sky-island summit, surrounded by the untrodden red rock desert, on a cold November day. Incidentally, Jimmie and I were the 12th and 13th people to climb Castleton, and Billy was the 15th. Kind of amazing when considering the 80,000 or more ascents that Castleton now has...

Billy Westbay leading the last pitch on the West Face of Castleton Tower. Jimmie Dunn and I sat in the belay cave looking out across Castle Valley. As Billy climbed the pitch, Jimmie and I watched a golden eagle riding the breeze, slowly wheeling around the tower, its wings a scant 60 feet from us. Photo @ Stewart M. Green

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