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North America, United States, Utah, The Colossus of Cannonville, First Ascent, Nonplussed on Dust on Crust

The Colossus of Cannonville, first ascent, Nonplussed on Dust on Crust. This tower is located just outside Kodachrome Basin State Park, a few miles southeast of Bryce Canyon. Access is through the state park, where rock climbing is not allowed, but the tower itself is on BLM land. The rock is dusty shale, as soft as it can be and still be climbable with standard aid gear. It looks like early 1970s Yes record-cover album art rearing out of an overgrazed plain.

The first attempt, in January 2006 with Strappo Hughes, ended after two days and 220'. At a ledge 180' up, my old Bosch drilled belay bolt holes in the mud too fast; after finishing each hole, I let the drill run for longer in midair, so Strappo would assume the rock was more solid. Another 40' up we hit a “this is death, we can’t go this way” shoulder that had looked really easy from the ground.

On a second visit with Strappo, later that spring, my three-day hangover prevented us from leaving the ground.

I returned with my wife, Fran Bagenal, for a romantic Thanksgiving getaway in November 2006. Fran belayed me for three days on the 200' first pitch, lying in one pile of dust while being pelted with rocks and ordered to send up more gear. Atop the pitch I fixed ropes from three six-inch-long bolts, and we left.

Chip Wilson and I returned in March and spent five days finishing the route, which we called Nonplussed on Dust on Crust (450', 4 pitches, A3). I don’t think there was a single free move on it. The aid bolt count was 14 in the pitches, and belays are bolted, bringing the total to roughly 26 bolts. We called the tower The Colossus of Cannonville and reached the summit on March 9, after a total of 11 days of climbing spread over four visits to this little-explored area. A fuller account of this climb can be found here:

www.alpinist.com/doc/ALP19/newswire-bartlett-mud-tower-utah

Steve “Crusher” Bartlett, AAC