American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, "Mystery Towers" and The Hindu

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1970

“Mystery Towers” and The Hindu. These “Mystery Towers”, hidden in a wild maze of red sandstone, are 3/4 mile east of the Fisher Towers, 20 miles northeast of Moab. George Hurley had seen one of them from the summit of the Titan. George and I returned to the “Mystery Towers” in April and climbed the most symmetrical of the three, which we named the “Doric Column”. Layton Kor and party had attempted to climb the 300-foot fluted tower but had been turned back by blankness after gaining 100 feet in two leads. They had followed incipient cracks on the east face that led to a vertical dirt-filled chimney. We followed those two short, difficult leads to the rappel bolts at the base of the crackless flute. Our third lead (55 feet) was on virgin rock; we used bat hooks, then a bolt, and so on. Occasionally we tied off a fold of the mud curtain that coated the sides of the rotten chimney. The fourth lead (100 feet) was fantastic; we found a crack! And there were even some free moves scattered here and there. This long lead got us out of the mud and onto the solid rock cap. Once on better rock, we had 50 feet of free climbing to the summit. The ascent took a day and a half. NCCS IV, F7, A4.

In October I returned to the “Mystery Towers” with Don Briggs. Our objective was the Citadel: the most imposing of the three towers. On our May reconnaissance of that splendid 400-foot spire we had climbed 120 feet up a system of incipient cracks on the southeast face. On that probe the use of knifeblades forced along quartz veins, bat hooks, and pitons driven tent-stake-style into the dirt let us limit our bolt placements to three. We knew we could climb the tower without resorting to bolt ladders. The first pitch starts 35 feet north of the southeast corner. Climb up and right to a small overhang. Nail over the overhang to a dirt ramp and traverse left to a belay bolt. Then climb up and right into a vertical flute, using pins in dirt holes. Use bat hooks, three bolts and an occasional piton to ascend 70 feet to bolts for a hanging belay. Follow a bad crack up and left to two bolts at the corner. Climb up and left, then up and right on bat hooks, bolts, etc. to a stance at the Dragon’s Head, a large sandstone gargoyle. Shinny along the Dragon’s Tail to the southeast arête and climb 90 feet up this terribly exposed and narrow vertical edge via bat hooks, shaky pins and bolts to a mantle onto the dirt-caked, one-foot-wide horizontal stance. From there climb up a dirt-filled crack and bat hook up and right to the wonderfully solid capstone and ten feet of splendid free climbing to the summit. We spent the better part of four days pushing to the summit of this beautifully sculptured, rotten spire. NCCS V, F7, A4.

The Hindu, a slender 250-foot spike of good red sandstone, became a “must” climb when Don Briggs and I first caught sight of it in March on our approach to the “Mystery Towers” via the Onion Creek road. It had first been climbed by Harvey Carter and Steve Miller by its south face, but it had a fine crack system on its virgin north side. In April, on our second trip to the towers, we stopped to try that north face. From the south shoulder we traversed to the northwest corner along a narrow ledge. From the corner we climbed up and left, mixed free and aid climbing, on fairly good rock for three exciting pitches. At the end of the third pitch our route joined the line of the first ascent at a stance on the northwest corner. The final lead followed a difficult crack to the summit. NCCS III, F8, A2.

William Forrest, Unaffiliated

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