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Fisher Towers

Utah > Moab Area
Access Issue: RAIN, WET ROCK and RAPTOR CLOSURES: The sandstone around Moab is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Also please ask and be aware of Raptor Closures in areas such as CAT WALL and RESERVOIR WALL in Indian Creek Details

Description

The Fisher Towers is one of the most difficult places in the desert to climb, but also one of the most spectacular. The towers are huge soaring fins of mud up to 1000 feet high. Nearly all the routes on the major towers are at least Grade IVs, and there is more than one Grade VI here.

The Fishers have a lot of history. Shortly after making the first ascent of Castleton, Layton Kor came here to climb the largest tower, the Titan. The extremely difficult ascent of the Finger of Fate route was the subject of a National Geographic article, and is one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. After Kor climbed the Titan, Harvey Carter dominated the scene by making first ascents of every other major tower and most of the smaller ones.

The Cutler sandstone is actually very hard, but doesn't fracture into continuous crack systems like most other sandstone. The rock is also covered with a thick layer of mud, which makes the climbing dirty, loose, difficult, and sometimes very dangerous. The caprock for the towers is Moenkopi.

Stolen Chimney on the corkscrew summit of Ancient Art is by far the most popular route here, and at 5.9 A1 the only real moderate route. The Colorado NE Ridge of the Kingfisher, Phantom Spirit on Echo Tower, and the Finger of Fate route on the Titan are all fairly popular and increasingly difficult. Some of the hardest routes in the desert are here, many put up solo by Jim Beyer. Stevie Haston has freed Echo Tower as a long scary 5.12 and nearly freed the Titan.

Getting There

From Moab, drive north on the River Road(SH 128) past Castle Valley to the Fisher Towers turnoff sign(about 27 miles). Drive to the parking lot at the end of the road.

All routes are accessed via the Titan Trail, which is quite good and well marked, though it can be hard to follow in the dark.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Fisher Towers base perspective
[Hide Photo] Fisher Towers base perspective
Storm over the Fisher Towers
[Hide Photo] Storm over the Fisher Towers
oh yea.
[Hide Photo] oh yea.
Shadows cast by the Titan and the Oracle
[Hide Photo] Shadows cast by the Titan and the Oracle
A painting done from a photo taken from the Titan.  Artist: Willis Randall.
[Hide Photo] A painting done from a photo taken from the Titan. Artist: Willis Randall.
Looking down at the Fisher's from the Titan's summit.
[Hide Photo] Looking down at the Fisher's from the Titan's summit.
Travis Coster rappeling the Colorado Northeast Ridge.
[Hide Photo] Travis Coster rappeling the Colorado Northeast Ridge.
View of the Fishers from near the Colorado River
[Hide Photo] View of the Fishers from near the Colorado River
The Fishers and La Sals
[Hide Photo] The Fishers and La Sals
Midget faded rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus concolor) at the end of the path. August 2012
[Hide Photo] Midget faded rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus concolor) at the end of the path. August 2012
The beginning of the pitch 5 bolt ladder of West Side Story on Cottontail Tower.
[Hide Photo] The beginning of the pitch 5 bolt ladder of West Side Story on Cottontail Tower.
500 vertical feet of Cutler sandstone. August 2012
[Hide Photo] 500 vertical feet of Cutler sandstone. August 2012

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Brad Schildt
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Don't keep putting it off. Get out there, climb Ancient Art, and understand that the rock is not so bad. Do the Colorado Arete of King Fisher and realize, these towers can be climbed. Gaze East from the summit of King Fisher towards the Titan and know, it can be done. And from the summit of the Titan, retire from Fisher Tower climbing, content. May 28, 2002
[Hide Comment] The Fisher Tower trade aid routes all suffer from serious rock abuse, the result of nailing.To the best of my knowledge, the following routes have all gone hammerless (some have even gone free!) without excessive trickery, yet continue to be nailed:Phantom Spirit (Echo Tower)Colorado Northeast (Kingfisher)West Side Story (Cottontail)Finger of Fate, Sundevil Chimney (Titan)

When I climbed these routes in the mid 90's, they all suffered from significant rock scarring, much worse than anything on The Nose or Salathe; I'm sure it's worse now. Desert sandstone is a very soft medium that simply doesn't stand up to repeated piton placements. I feel that we desert climbers should adopt the Yosemite ethos that once a route has gone hammerless, subsequent ascenders should make every effort to avoid nailing. This seems to be happening in Zion.

What do others think about this subject? Nov 7, 2002
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
[Hide Comment] Has the Finger of Fate on the Titan gone hammerless? I didn't think it had yet. Does anyone carry a hammer on the Kingfisher anymore? That route goes clean really easily, though I'd buy someone a bunch of bolts and beer if they wanted to do a public service on the bolt ladder pitches. Maverick on the Hindu on Onion Creek is the same way - I was never even remotely tempted to bring out the hammer on that one.

I haven't done any of the other routes you mentioned, but I do think most people try to leave the hammer in the bag if at all possible. Nov 8, 2002
[Hide Comment] I just climbed the Finger last week and was appalled by the scarring. Perhaps Fisher climbers should adopt the Olevsky technique and constructively sculpt some nut placements out of those boxy pin scars. After all, nailing is chiselling, too- just less deliberate in its effects on the rock. Any thoughts? Mar 12, 2003
[Hide Comment] "Creatively sculpt nut placements..."? All a pin scar is, is a chance to cratively place a nut. Or better yet, a tricam. Just like in hard sport, if you don't have the skill (in this case, gear), don't make the route bend (or break) to fit your needs by altering the rock. Go buy some better gear (e.g. tricams-esp. small ones, tapered nuts, off-set cams...). These routes are amazing to climb clean, somewhat scary, but amazing none the less. A climber skilled in variable placements shouldn't be exposed to more than a 10 foot fall at just about any time on the Finger of Fate, and imagine it is the same on many of the other moderates in the fishers. Mar 31, 2003
George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Anybody know who or what these towers were named after? Fred Knapp claims "Fisher" is a modification of "fissure". I don't believe this as cracks are not evident on most of these towers, at least they are certainly not their most striking features. Bjornstadt told me he thought they were named after a local rancher, but he didn't know for sure. Apr 24, 2003
[Hide Comment] I am 99% sure that the Fishers were named after either a rancher or a miner the used to live around the towers. Jun 2, 2003
[Hide Comment] Quoting "Desert Rock III" p. 169:

"The Fisher Towers are named for a miner who, in the 1880s, lived near them..." Sep 8, 2003
Stiles
the Mountains
[Hide Comment] Finger of Fate can be done hammerless almost "easily". Even Sundevil Chimney has gone clean. Just bring LOTS of tricams and healthy appetite for some fear...Each new pin that is placed increases the size of the scars; if you can't do a trade route clean, don't do it. If you want to hammer, get on something A4. Apr 19, 2004
[Hide Comment] Brad, Bill, and I did Fantasia on the Oracle this last weekend. In case anyone is interested the final bolt ladder either needs to be rebolted or bring a really long stick clip. I took a fall and ripped a screamer when one of the bolts pulled under my weight.(and i am not even that fat!) then after batmaning back up i pulled two more out of muck with my finger tips. Just letting you know in case anyone was planning an ascent. Also we did it hammerless so don't bring one unless you are replacing bolts.
ben Sep 11, 2006
[Hide Comment] I have a sense that many routes in the Mystery Towers and Fisher Towers suffered the consequences of huge rains this past month in Moab. I would approach alot of the routes where3 mud is known to flow, more cautiously. though you climbed it in September, I bet much more time bombs have erupted out there since! Oct 22, 2006

[Hide Comment] Actually, It's Phantom Sprint.On Echo. Weird route.
Weird frickin' place, but great fun too. Mar 5, 2009
Brian Boyd
Kowloon, Hong Kong
[Hide Comment] The Fisher Tower turnoff is actually by milepost 21, not 27 as listed in the description. And, as of October 2009, the sign is missing on the side coming from Moab. We ended up driving all the way until we crossed the Colorado before turning around. Oct 27, 2009
[Hide Comment] As of Tuesday, April 27th, 2010, every single bolt has been replaced on Fantasia on The Oracle by me and Darren Knezek including a new bolt or two at each anchor. The anchors at the top of the very last pitch and the pitch before that have been completely replaced. Enjoy either a hefty glue-in or a half inch bolt in place of the old, scary manky bolts on the pitches that had bolts. May 1, 2010
David A
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Just heard a rumor that Ben Kiessel and Matt Pickren recently climbed the Oracle, Titan, Cottontail, Echo, Kingfisher, and Ancient Art in a sub-24 hour push. If this is true, then HOLY f*&kballs! Mar 24, 2016
[Hide Comment] Correct, who did you hear this from? Mar 25, 2016
David A
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Hi Matt, I saw it mentioned in comments on Ben's instagram feed. I can't even comprehend this....what order did you guys do them in? Short fixing mostly? Simuling? My mind is blown. Mar 28, 2016
[Hide Comment] Ok, I always forget about social media. It's like wild fire.
Yes, we short-fixed almost every pitch, swapping once per tower. KF and AA we just did in a single block. The order was Oracle, Titan, Echo, KF, AA, Cottontail. It was a very fun, albeit long, day out. Mar 29, 2016
Garrett Foster Green
Salt Lake, UT
[Hide Comment] Lost a roll of color Kodak film Saturday. If I lost it anywhere I lost it in the parking lot. If anyone finds it I'd be eternally grateful. I'll repay you kindly for your troubles. Jun 4, 2018