American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, The Desert, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

The Desert, various activity. Significant new routes were established on the Navajo Sandstone of the Colorado Plateau in 2002. Paul Ross, age 65, has been extremely active on the long slabs of the imposing reef at the eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell, known as the San Rafael Reef. Ross writes of his activity, “Just too much unclimbed rock in the desert; it’s enough to tire an old guy out. My climbing mate, Layne Potter, added up the footage of the slabs we have climbed in the Swell area since March 2002, and it came to over 23,000'. No wonder I’m wearing out my Tricouni-nailed boots.” Some of his longer and better routes, established with a variety of partners, are Reefer Madness (1,780', 9 pitches, III 5.9R), Surfing the Swell (1,400', 7 pitches, III 5.9R), Slipnot Slab (1,400', 7 pitches, III 5.7R/X), Tsunami (1,200', 7 pitches, III 5.9R), Sinister Slab (1,200', 6 pitches, III 5.7R), Slab Happy (1,360', 5 pitches, III 5.8 R), Sunshine Slab (1,520', III 5.6R) the North Ridge route (2,000', III 5.6) on North Peak, and Hot Tin Slab (1,390', 6 pitches, III 5.8R). "The route was climbed in extreme heat, hence the name. The temperature in the shade at 2 p.m. was 105°”

In the northern San Rafael Swell, Ross and Paul Marshall (U.K.) established Brits in the Belfry (310', III 5.9 Cl) on Belfry Spire.

In April, in the Lost World Butte section (covered in the new Desert Rock IV, by Bjornstad) of the Island in the Sky area west of Moab, Paul Ross and Paul Marshall established The Gift (360', III 5.8 C2) on The Tombstone. The route ascends an open book 100' left of Keswick Lads’ Day Out.

In the Fisher Towers in May, Stevie Haston made the first free ascent of Sundevil Chimney (previously VI 5.9 A3) on The Titan. Haston’s impressive ascent included five pitches of 5.12 or 5.12+ and a crux 5.13-. As with his free ascents of Echo Tower, The Hindu, and The Mongoose, Haston climbed clean, with a basic free rack—no pins or hammer.

In the west desert, on the north face of Notch Peak, Jim Howe and Dave Shewell established an intimidating 20-pitch line which Paul Ross calls “The best effort in the Southwest in 2002.” The route was established ground-up and reportedly goes at run-out, loose 5.11+.

Two major new routes were established in Texas and Arch canyons of southern Utah. Cameron Burns describes the area as “a wildly remote area of spires, buttes, and mesas. It is easily one of the most beautiful areas in the desert southwest. The rock climbs are true wilderness experiences that require hard driving, long approaches, and difficult, sometimes scary, climbing.” In June Paul Ross and Jeff Pheasant put up a route on the east face of Texas Tower, the most popular of the dozen-plus towers in these remote canyons. In Arch Canyon, a new route was established on Dream Speaker via its north face (280', III 5.9 C2) by Paul Ross, Andy Ross, and Paul Marshall in October.

Compiled primarily by Eric Bjornstad

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.