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Tower Rock
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Caver's Route 

YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a

   
Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 200'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a [details]
FA: Unknown, 1950s
Page Views: 3,459
Submitted By: Chris Chaney on Nov 2, 2006

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Making my way through the cave portion

Description 

Caver's Route is probably the oldest roped route in the RRG. No one knows for sure, but it dates back at least to the 1950s when a group of cavers were practicing their rope skills on the cliffs that towered over the Red River. The route ascends a gigantic fracture that splits the south end of Tower Rock from the rest of the monolith. The route is clean, fun and will leave you worn out.

Caver's Route can be done in various ways, but for optimum communication between leader and second, four short pitches is the way to go.

P1 - Starting at an obvious off-width crack, climb to a spacious ledge and belay. 5.3, 25'
P2 - From the ledge, work your way up into the first chimney and climb to another ledge, clipping a single bolt in the chimney about 30' up. 5.3, 50'
P3 - The cave pitch. From the belay, scramble up on blocks into the cave, then crawl slightly downward to a passage where you can see through to the other side of the tower. Worm your way through the passage into a narrow corridor, where you can stand and bring your partner(s) through. 50'
P4 - From the corridor, move up into the squeeze chimney above and climb past large blocks to a tree ledge. Climb a short flake feature to a spacious corridor topped by a bombay chimney. Find a way to gain the chimney (possibly the trickiest move of the whole route), then continue up to the top of the tower. 5.4, 100'

After enjoying the view and photo opportunities from the top, look for a pine tree with slings and rap rings on the west side of the tower. A short rap from here will bring you to a ledge and another slung tree; from here, a 60-meter rope will barely reach the ground for the final rap.

Location 

Starts on the west side of Tower Rock at an obvious off-width crack, about 20' right of Razor's Edge/Curving Crack.

Protection 

Minimal to none. Nuts and/or tricams can be used for belay anchors; a Big Bro is handy but not vital to protect the chimney moves.


Photos of Caver's Route Slideshow Add Photo
Huong sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
Huong sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
Final chimney
Final chimney
Scrambling through the cavers route
Scrambling through the cavers route
Chloe doing some yoga between pitches
Chloe doing some yoga between pitches
Alex Orkwis pulling the top of the first chimney.
Alex Orkwis pulling the top of the first chimney.
Huong makes the tight squeeze on Caver's Route.
Huong makes the tight squeeze on Caver's Route.
Resting on a ledge, enjoying the view
Resting on a ledge, enjoying the view
Starting the first chimney
Starting the first chimney
Chloe determined to use that crimp
Chloe determined to use that crimp
Kevin Baker midway
Kevin Baker midway
Aaron and Cameron taking in the view of the Caver'...
Aaron and Cameron taking in the view of the Caver'...
The rap chains at the very top of the tower on the...
BETA PHOTO: The rap chains at the very top of the tower on the...

Comments on Caver's Route Add Comment
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By Matt Thorum
From: Urbana, IL
Jun 14, 2009

This route is a ton of fun and not technically difficult, but, even if you take gear there are places where the leader or a follower can not fall without risking injury. So use caution if you are planing to take less experienced partners.

Detailed beta of what we did follows (there are other variations). Stop reading now if you want the full adventure.

Take very little gear, it gets stuck in the chimneys and makes them even more awkward. I would take a set of smaller tricams, a blue big bro (#4), a quickdraw, and a sling or two over the shoulder.

Start on the west side in a short offwidth with good face holds and climb 25ft to a large ledge. A #4 big bro can be used as pro for the leader, otherwise plan on soloing. A belay can be established on the ledge if you want to stay close to your second.

Continue up into the chimney. The bottom is pretty mellow and then a single bolt at about 20-30ft up on the climber's left side protects the more difficult moves towards the top. Squeeze up and onto another ledge and scramble up some blocks into the now larger chimney. We tied the rope around a horn to belay, there may be other options.

Now, crawl and squirm into the cave/chimney. Once you get inside you can see through the hole to the other side. After a few feet of crawling you can stand up and inch out along a ledge towards the east side of the rock as the tight squeeze chimney opens up above and below you (but doesn't get any wider). Once you get to the end the big bro can be used to anchor the belay for the next vertical pitch.

Climb up the tight (for me) squeeze chimney weaving around several large chockstones. If you're carrying cams you'll be sorry on this pitch. The leader could place tricams or other small gear, but it is probably more hassle than it is worth because the chimney is too tight to maneuver your arms/gear around easily. Once you mantel up onto the next ledge head back west through the now wide chimney onto a very large vegetated ledge. The tree with rappel slings is located here.

For the final pitch use a ledge system to work your way back-up into the wide chimney. There is an exposed high-step move that the leader can protect with a small tricam. Traverse back along the chimney (for the third time now) as you work your way up and out onto the top on the easy eastern end of the chimney. Once the second cleans the tricam, they are exposed to a pendulum fall onto the ledge below in the unlikely event that they were to fall.

Enjoy the view. Do a short rap back to the large ledge on the west side and then do a long rap off of a large tree with slings. A 60m rope is just long enough to get you to the ground near the start of the route.
By saxfiend
Administrator
From: Decatur, GA
Oct 27, 2009
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

This is a memorable adventure that anyone should thoroughly enjoy, no matter what your lead level! The chimney moves are tight and thought-provoking but fun, and the squeeze tunnel has to be seen to be believed.

As already mentioned, gear is pretty much superfluous; other than clipping the bolt on P2, I essentially free-soloed the route and felt safe doing so. I did place a solid nut for a belay anchor at the top of P1, and a black tricam performed the same function for the P3 belay.

For the sake of good communication with your partner, I'd recommend against linking pitches.
By cjdrover
From: Somerville, MA
Aug 24, 2010
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a R

This route is really fun, but the page should have an "R" rating added to it, if for no other reason that it would be very unfortunate for a novice climber to tackle this route because of the easy technical grade (as one particular climber did a few years ago...). Gear is useful only for belay anchors and getting stuck in the various chimneys and the cave.
By Dave Goodell
Oct 26, 2011

We did Caver's but didn't bring a copy of the route description up with us, so we accidentally got off of the "main" route and onto the main variation instead. This is basically the same as Matt Thorum's Jun 14 description for the first two pitches. But we didn't see the hole to enter the cave/chimney at the start of P3, so we continued straight upwards into a very narrow squeeze chimney and out through a rectangular hole about 2 feet high by 2 feet wide.

Pick your route carefully through the squeeze chimney (I had success moving higher earlier than the direct route would have taken me). I was unable to take a full breath in a couple of spots and I am a fairly small guy (31" waist, slender-ish chest). If your shoulders are especially broad you may also have trouble getting through the opening. The climbing is pretty chill for the most part, with the hardest and most exposed part depending on how you actually start up into the chimney.

Once through the hole you will be on a large ledge system near the top of the tower where you can easily rig a belay to bring up the second while watching them climb P3. I'm unsure what the "right" P4 is, but you can take your pick of a handful of options to finish out the last 15 or so feet to the very top of Tower Rock. We walked north-ish along the west side of the tower until we found a spot with easy looking climbing.

We rapped from a large tree with lots of slings on it already midway along the west edge of the tower at the P3-P4 ledge system level. You come down very close to the start of Caver's. Our 60 meter rope just barely got us down. A 70m rope could probably get you down from the very top as long as you carefully choose your spot for rope retrieval.
By Alex Mitchell
From: Cincinnati, OH
May 22, 2012

One of those routes you do once and think that was fun but I don't really want to ever do it again. Like others said gear is worthless except to build anchors. You can rap off the top with a 70m rope.

On a side note this is a bad climb to do with 5 friends who have not showered in two days. The tight chimneys and caves do not seem to vent very well.
By Casey the "Renaissance Man"
Jul 11, 2012

Fun route but it is nice to know where it goes. The bolt in the 2nd pitch is mankey, i would not suggest clipping it (or at least backing it up) as its a mixed metal set up (aluminum hanger + steel bolt = corrosion). However you can put a #4 cam in the hole just below it, its better than nothing. Headlamps are never a bad thing...lets just say that if you get off route and it gets dark and snows that it's an entertaining time.
By Kevin DB
Apr 2, 2013

I don't think bringing a rope does much does much for this route. We soloed it, but I didn't see anywhere to place gear while doing it. It's easier to down-solo than go up and probably safer than rapping off some suspect weathered slings. The only reason I could see to bring a rope would be to belay a very inexperienced climber up to give them the experience.

On a side note it is a rad and unique experience.
By Mark O'Neal
From: Nicholson, GA
Oct 15, 2013
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c PG13

The bolt on P2 is fine. Clip with confidence

There are permanent SS rap chains now on the road side of the top out directly above the rap tree. You can get to the ground just barely with a 60m rope from the tree below the rap chains. Two raps total.

There is more pro available for climbing and building anchors than the other comments would lead you to believe. You just have to look around. We built solid 3 piece anchors on P1 and P2 with small cams/nuts. We built a P3 belay right after the tunnel in a nice crack that takes medium size cams if you brought any.
By Jay Collins
Jun 4, 2014

Has anyone been here in awhile, what are the conditions since the area was dropped from the guide book (per info from the Tower Rock main page).
By Jay Collins
Jun 5, 2014

Did this today, its a real lot of fun.

P1 is very much as described, an off-width 5.3. On trad I have only lead 5.8 and I found soloing this to be very easy. In fact I ended up leaving my pack at the top of P1 and had to up and down climb it after the rap.

P2 is as a fairly standard chimney, but a bit tight. Its difficult to get through with gear on, but pushing my gear sling off to one side made it tolerable. The bolt is intact, but I wouldn't call a rusty button bolt bomber. The bolt is the only 'piece' I had on this climb and I was fine with that.

P3 as described here isn't really a pitch, I see no reason to belay anyone from the P2 ledge though this section. When you get up there you will find there are multiple places you can try and get through this tight squeeze corridor, we found the easiest was to scramble up the boulders until you cant scramble any longer, then drop down a couple feet to the tiny opening you worm through. At first we try to squeeze through the entire corridor... that didn't work out great.

P4 as described is a bit too long. Once you get to the ledge at the end of P3 look up and you'll see a chockstone. It appears you can go left or right of this chockstone, we chose to go left which sort of makes you weave through a couple other chockstones, this worked out well. The ledge with the tree is about 30' up from the belay ledge. We chose to end the pitch there. I soloed this pitch as well. It is much tighter than P2 and was very difficult to get through with a gear sling, I had cams getting stuck everywhere. What you cant see from here is that the chimney you just finished actually continues on, but its about 15' above you and is obscured from view, you will finish it later.

At this point you can climb out on a flake to get to the rest of the chimney like the description says, or you can just walk through the very large corridor back towards the other side of the cliff, from there you can easily walk up some ledges to get to the chimney. I believe this is the path that one of the other commentators said to do.

This last chimney was probably the most difficult, I was able to place a couple of small cams (<0.75) about half way up. I dont know if it really helped me, but it did protect the second from a swinging fall since this last section was a bit wandering.

The leader has nearly 0 protection, but you probably don't need it. The follower will get plenty of protection, it isn't too hard to make belay anchors.

The hardest part was finding the place, which is going to be real easy once I give you the coordinates to the trail head on RT715: N37 49.706' W83 35.921'

At the very top of the tower the rap chains are very nice, but they only get you down about 30' to the general area where you started the last chimney. We rapped a tree from this ledge back down to where the climb started. We had plenty of rope with a 70m.