American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

United States, New Mexico, "Leaning Tower," Jemez Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

“Leaning Tower,” Jemez Mountains. Though they appear relatively gentle from the distance, the Jemez Mountains have many canyons, towers and crags and offer many climbing possibilities. In the Las Conchas area, rhyolite crags rise as high as 200 feet. Their warped and convoluted walls present challenges of route finding and protection. In September, I made reconnaissance hikes from the road at Las Conchas along the east fork of the Jemez River. I found a 170-foot rhyolite tower, whose east face overhung for the entire height. In 1978, George Rinker and Chris Foster attempted this east face, but, according to Rinker, he made it to within a few feet of the top before he ran out of gear. He downclimbed on direct aid to a point halfway up the tower. From there he was lowered to the ground. In October, I returned to the tower with Mike Schillaci and Paul Fehlau and began climbing a thin crack on the east face. After two hours of awkward direct-aid climbing, in which I had gained only 80 feet, I lowered off the rock. I took a half-hour break. Realizing that the tower could be done in one pitch, I reascended to my high point and continued nailing. After passing Rinker’s old pins, I continued on to the top, pulling over the edge just before sundown. I came back two days later to clean the route. (III, A2.)

Cameron M. Burns, Los Alamos Mountaineers

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