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North America, United States, Arizona, Spider Rock

Spider Rock. In March 1956 Mark Powell, Don Wilson and Jerry Gallwas, all Sierra Club members, made the first ascent of Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire in the northeastern corner of Arizona in the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Although it is difficult to compare it with Yosemite granite climbs, it would be proper to classify it as more difficult than Castle Rock Spire and easier than the Lost Arrow Chimney or the north wall of Sentinel Rock. The actual ascent involved nearly 600 feet of climbing on relatively sound sandstone and involved about nine pitches of mixed fifth- and sixth-class climbing. The route lies on the east side of the spire and proceeds for 120 feet up the great chimney which separates its two summits. At this point a bolt was placed to enable the leader to make a short traverse onto the main spire. About 125 feet higher the route leads into a shallow, dark cave. In a large overhang above this cave were placed approximately ten bolts. More sixth-class climbing and two short chimneys brought the party to a large ledge at the 400-foot level on which a rather cool bivouac was passed. The following day the route led up three more pitches, mostly fifth class, in a wide crack bisecting the east face. We reached the summit at 1:40 P.M., March 30, 1956. About 25 to 30 bolts were placed, most of which were left in place. Future parties should find these useful, but should not count on finding them all as solidly fixed as we left them. Hardware in sandstone weathers fast. Parts of six days were spent in making the climb, but much of the time was passed in sitting out what the weatherman chose to call “damaging winds.” Actually about 30 hours of climbing were involved, which included Prusik time to the high points. It is quite possible that the ascent can be made by a strong party in a day’s time, but weather and season will play an important part.

Jerry Gallwas