Arches National Park is an amazing place to climb. The area has everything - serious multipitch towers, easy one pitch towers, and hard cracks on long buttresses. Best of all, routes in Arches are usually only a few hundred feet from the road so the approaches are casual.
Most of the routes here are on Entrada sandstone, which is much softer than the Wingate found at Indian Creek. It often fractures vertically so there are a lot of splitters, but they are much sandier than in other parts of the desert. On aid routes, avoid nailing whenever possible as the incredibly soft stone doesn't hold up well to abuse.
This area sees a lot of tourists, and since most of the routes are very near the road climbers must maintain as low a profile as possible. As always in the desert, approach climbs via washes to avoid trampling cryptobiotic soil. Some areas are closed seasonally for nesting, so check in at the visitors center before climbing. Finally, this is a national park, so be prepared for the entrance fee.
Water is available at the visitors center. Moab is only a few miles south, and there is lots of camping on BLM land along River Road or near Moab. There is a national park campground in Arches, but I've never stayed there so I can't vouch for it.
Your Input Needed
Arches National Park has been working for some time on a plan for climbing and canyoneering in Arches National Park. The final plan will essentially be the rules that all climbers must obey when in the Park.
Obviously, how this turns out will be very important to climbers who enjoy the towers of Arches, but it is actually even more significant than one might think. Arches is just one of four parks in what the Park Service refers to as the South East Utah Group (the others being Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Canyonlands). In all likelihood the Park Service would use this climbing plan as a base to build the rules we climbers would abide by in Canyonlands. In other words, this plan could affect Owl Rock and The Three Gossips, but also Moses and Standing Rock.
The fact that the Park Service has asked for our input in this, the preliminary study, is a very good sign that they want to make sure climbing is a part of the Park's future. They have given us four alternative plans, but it is likely that the final plan will include components from each of the alternatives. We will hopefully have the chance to vote on the final plan later this spring.
The options so far presented to us are, in a very broad overview, as follows:
Option A = No action. We don't think this is correct as the lack of clear and well defined rules has led to trouble in the past.
Option B = More limiting in what climbers can do and would require a check in and check out process. Also requires a permit to do a new climb.
Option C = We could call this the Hueco Scenario... it puts strong limitations on climbers in the Park, including our numbers, where we can go based on other visitors being able to see us, etc. All climbing would require a permit that costs an as yet undetermined amount.
The plan which the Friends of Indian Creek endorses is Alternative D. This plan is very similar to the plan used in Zion. It focuses on educating climbers on their impact and how we might mitigate problems with trails, rope grooves, etc. It will, of course, make room for seasonal closures due to nesting raptors and such. In other words, this plan allows us to climb in the Park much as we have for the last 50 years.
Please take the time to write them a short letter detailing your feelings on how climbing should be managed. Here are a few points to think about when composing your letter:
1. Thank them for taking the time to get us involved in the preliminary planning process. It is an extra step that the Park Service does not have to take.
2. Again, the Friends of Indian Creek believes Alternative D is the best option as it focuses on education and allows us to climb under the rules that have existed for much of the time the Park has been in existence. The fact is that most climbers want to follow the rules but do not know what the rules are. If we were educated as to what is expected I'm sure the majority of us would abide.
3. If you feel there are problems with all the alternatives then say so. However, try to be polite. Remember that the Park Service employees are just people doing a job and have rules they must abide by. This is them giving us, the climbing public, the chance to state our idea of what those rules should be.
Here is how to find the page where the letters are to be written:
Go to parkplanning.nps.gov. Scroll down, click on "Climbing" and "Canyoneering Management Plan". Click on the “open for comment” project link on the left to view the Preliminary Alternative newsletter and provide a comment. Please provide all comments by March 13, 2011.
From Moab, drive north along US 191 to the turn off for Arches National Park. Arches is only a few miles out of town. All climbs are accessed from this entrance - pick up a map at the visitors center. The map has most of the formations marked on it.
The West Face climbs the most obvious dihedral on the west(away from the road) face of the three gossips, and climbs to the head nearest the road. The correct dihedral is a stellar looking handcrack with no visible fixed anchors from the base. Be careful to find washes to reach the base-there is a lot of crypto soil and not much of a trail.Pitch 1 - climb fingers and hands through some bulges to a big bulge just before the anchor. There are some fixed pins at a ledge halfway up the pitch. 5....[more]Browse More Classics in UT
I find this a scary place to climb, due to the sandy rock. I've never seen very many climbers in the Park. When you do see climbers, they are usually on the Three Penguins, Heart of the Desert, or Owl Rock. I find it more relaxing to wander around and marvel at all the arches.
the northeast arete of Argon tower is an excelant climb that is a little stiff.weird and possibly dangerous first entry pitch.the best part is the exposed tips layback on the second(real) pitch after the off-width pitch.
Has anyone done the aid route about 50 feet right of Heart of the Desert? I and a friend, Baker Bent, did it in the spring of '94, there was no evidence anyone had done it before (we drilled the baby angle anchors). There were some significant sections of very thin pins, a few beaks, and a hook move, and since then I believe park policy has changed so that all aid must be hammerless. It's a great line, really splitter cracks up to about finger size(we aided, but sections would certainly go free) and some spicy thin sections. Unfortunately, we stopped after the third pitch, as I had to be back at work, or something lame like that. At any rate, I think it might go clean with some thin cam hooks and some of the smaller micro cams/tiny wires, but would certainly have some pucker-factor. It awaits a full ascent, to my knowlege. I told Crusher about it a few years ago, but I didn't detect much interest from him at the time. Anyone done it, or care to? I'd love to hear, as i always wondered what's become of it.
Inside Arches what are some good bouldering routes? thanks. FYI - I'm not really an anoymous coward, I just signed up and my name won't be in the database until tomorrow :)
By Andrew Gram Administrator From: Salt Lake City, UT Sep 28, 2004
There really aren't any inside the park, and if you explore keep in mind that chalk is a no no in the park. There are some decent boulders along 191 near Arches, and lots of good bouldering at Big Bend along River Road.
Arches National Park is asking for comments on future climbing acccess.
For several years now, the park has banned all hammered aid. It's banned all new fixed anchors, of any and every kind.
Existing (non-piton) climbs are grandfathered in, and open. New climbs are now a real challenge, unless you can walk off or use an existing rappel anchor. Also established aid climbs requiring hammering are banned.
We have an opportunity to tell the Park what we'd like to see. Maybe we don't need to open up hammering again? But maybe we should advocate for giving future climbers the opportunity to find and climb new routes? See Access Fund link below for more details and ideas.
Either way, by August 10, comments please (The Access Fund has made this easy):