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North Chimney Castleton tower Route Beta


Original Post
Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 250

I'm heading down to Moab in a few weeks and have a few questions about the North Chimney on castleton tower.  

1. I've seen it rated as a both a 5.8 and 5.9.  How does it compare in difficulty to 5.8-5.9 in little cottonwood?

2. The guide I have says to use 2 ropes for the descent. Is it possible to get down with a single 70m?

3. I am planning on  taking a double rack .4-#3 with an extra #2 and #3 plus a set of nuts.  Also, a #6 for pitch 2.  Is that enough to sew it up?  Would it be useful to bring another #2 or #3 for the first pitch?

Any info would be great.  Thanks.

Thomas G. · · SLC, UT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 150

Hey Thumer,

1. I've seen it rated as a both a 5.8 and 5.9.  How does it compare in difficulty to 5.8-5.9 in little cottonwood?

If you feel confident on climbs like Satan's Corner, you'll be fine on the North Chimney. P1 has plenty of rests, great gear, and a relatively short (and direct) crux. P2 is thuggish for a minute, but you can walk your #6 up most of it.

2. The guide I have says to use 2 ropes for the descent. Is it possible to get down with a single 70m?

I've always used two ropes on descent. Two ropes = two quick rappels. Comments on the North Face's page indicate that a single 70 works on the final rappel, but I've never done it before.

3. I am planning on  taking a double rack .4-#3 with an extra #2 and #3 plus a set of nuts.  Also, a #6 for pitch 2.  Is that enough to sew it up?  Would it be useful to bring another #2 or #3 for the first pitch?

I think that rack is perfect. Maybe an extra #1 if you want to sew it up, but I don't think it's necessary.


Good luck and have fun! N. Chimney is a blast!

j sittler · · Carbondale, CO · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 0
  • 1. I have not climbed in little cottonwood, but 5.8  seems fair, 5.9 if you haven't done a lot of crack climbing. There are definitely some physical sections 

2. Doing a double strand rappel with a 70m will not get you down the standard rap route, it's probably 38m+. The last time I was up there we didn't want to bring a second rope so we did a biner block and extended the short end with most of our rack. Not necessarily recommend, but it worked. 

3. You can leave the nuts behind, otherwise that rack sounds good. Triples of 2-3 will let you sew it up, I wouldn't bring quads. If you're that worried about climbing a hand crack maybe this isn't a great route at this time. You won't be able to place something every 4 ft with that rack, but you'll be safe. 

Have fun!

tradvlad · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 5

1. Don't have much to add other then what's already been stated.

2. I got down the North Face with one 70 meter rope. On the first rappel, make sure you go/look climbers left for the next rap anchor. It is easy to miss. Once you finish all the rappels, you'll be on a nice big ledge. From here you'll need to down climb a few moves of easy 5th class. You could down lead, or place some cams to aid your way down.

3. I did not carry a C4 #6, but had a C4 #5 instead. I think that worked fine, and I think I used it on every pitch, just because I had it, maybe not on the first one. Can't really remember. I linked the last 2 pitches.

It's an excellent route. Have fun!

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5

Gear list sounds good. Keep the #6 on there. Better than the #5 on P2. I would say the hardest moves are in line with 5.8-5.9 in LCC. Mostly in the 5.7-5.8 range. Have fun. Great route to do when it's hot out. Stays nice and cool in the chimney. 

grog m · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

Ah good ol’ bird-shit chimney. Make sure you take the big gear for pitch 2 (5? 6? Idk remember which the beta specifies). First pitch is awesome, if you can hand jam it is cruiser. Second pitch is really interesting but fun. Don’t even remember the rest of the pitches. Recommend you travel light as possible – clip a Nalgene to you and take some cliff bars in your pocket, trail your second rope. Rap the northface. Kor-Ingall is a good back up. People wake up early as fuck to do this thing so its hard to be first.

Stan Pitcher · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 205

not sure how it is these days but last time I went up there was still lots of loose rock on the third pitch so watch where your rope runs...

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,423

I think crack climbing at the 5.8 level in LCC and in the desert on parallel sided cracks are two different ballgames.

If you haven't climbed at Indian Creek, or, any other desert splitter cracks...I'd say get that experience first before climbing Castleton.  Sussin' out your jams isn't what you want to be doing especially if you're climbing above your pro.

Advice from Sam in the comments section of the route description:

In my opinion, if you find 10- desert pretty hard, your rack should be a double set of cams with a couple extra wide hands pieces and maybe cut down on the finger pieces, four slings with biners, and perhaps a small set of nuts. One number five will work...

I'd amend that excellent advice to say, if you have no experience on 5.8 or 5.9 desert climbing...maybe get a few single pitch routes in and get a feel for that terrain prior to taking on a classic multi pitch tower.


Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 250

Wow.  Thanks for all the responses.  This is great info.

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,283

North Chimney is straightforward as far as desert towers go.  If you can climb Satan's Corner you can climb this.  The first pitch is vertical but has double cracks in a dihedral and plenty of hand jams, features and stances.  Crux is a short pull just before the belay.  Second pitch is also a short pull through steep blocks and then a cruise to the top.  

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5

This thread is reminding me of what a fun route this is. Take the very slight detour to stand on the big chockstone near the top, get a picture. As mentioned above, be mindful of your rope and the loose rocks there. 

cdec · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 540

Comparing the 1st pitch of this and Satan's Corner is slightly misleading. There is about 20-25' of Satan's Corner that climbs like the entire first pitch of the N. Chimney. So imagine the hardest part of Satans that is below the ledge going for 130'. 

trailridge · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 20

Stay left, but not too far left.  If you feel like you are too far left, trend right.  Consult the Moab visitor center for parking regulations.  Good luck

garrett knorr · · fort collins · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 60

A 70M WILL NOT MAKE IT. I had a group rappel in front of us try on a 70m and they ended up rappelling on our rope after one guy from their party got stranded on the bottom of their rope. There is a chockstone with a sling around it (as of spring 2017) about 10 ft above the anchor for the next rappel but i would not suggest using it. Bring the extra rope!

If you can climb hand cracks you can do the north chimney. The offwidth section was very short and there was a crimp out left to help you through the section. I only brought a #5 and thought that it was more than sufficient but if offwidth is scary to you bring the 6 for down lower, right after you climb away from the belay. Don't trust the bolt. 

Jordan Gans · · Laramie, WY · Joined May 2012 · Points: 25

You can 100% make it rapping the North Face with an uncut 70M.  The first rap is short (~50ft) and takes you left of the rap line to a ledge - don't miss this one or you will be unhappy.  The 2nd rap swings climbers right.  The last 2 are straight forward and require no shenanigans.

knowbuddy Buddy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 225

Rap with one 70 down the north face. Wake up early there will be a crowd and you don't want to be below another group. Take the 6 for the wide section, it'll work better than a 5. 

trailridge · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 20

Will two 50 meter ropes work?

Dave Alie · · Golden, CO · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 75

All good info in this thread- you'll love the route: it's safe, the summit is outstanding, and I think the climbing is fun for all ability levels. I feel compelled to jump in about the descent: It is 100% possible to descend the North Face with a single 70m line. That having been said, doing so is not as intuitive as the double rope descent beta, especially if you've never been on the tower. It involves hitting intermediate anchors that are not on the plumb line below the rings on the summit, and it's easy to bypass them if you've never been there. 

I'm not jumping in here to dissuade people or gatekeep or anything like that, but Castleton in general and the North Chimney in particular have become Meccas for dangerously under-prepared climbers. If you decide to descend that way, definitely don't wing it- do the research and have a print-out (or beta easily accessible on your phone). In the past few years I have seen several of the scariest things I've ever witnessed on either that route or on the descent. As has been mentioned above, it is totally possible to rap the north face with one 70, but anecdotally about 1/3 of the teams who try it for the first time screw it up, at best creating a serious traffic jam and at worst find themselves in a dangerous situation because they're unsure how to proceed. Just look at the evidence in this thread: several people saying it's totally possible, several others saying it's not possible or don't try it. That should tell you all you need to know about how straight-forward it is for first-timers. 

For what it's worth, I think a #5 C4 provides just as much cover as a #6 for the second pitch (the difficulties of which are frequently overstated anyway; the wide section is super short). Have a great time, the North Chimney is a really great route, one of the truly classic moderates. 

TL;DR the North Chimney is threatening to become a category 3 shitshow, show up over-prepared and over-researched; Be safe out there! If you decide to rap the North Face with one 70, do plenty of research and keep a keen eye on the way down. Consider bringing a tag or joining forces with another group to combine ropes. 

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5
trailridge wrote:

Will two 50 meter ropes work?

I think 2 50s will put you below the intermediate anchors, but not all the way to the regular anchors. The standard double rope rappel is really smooth and easy and logical. I simul-rapped it with my brother. Good memory. 

Thumer · · SLC, UT · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 250
cdec wrote:

Comparing the 1st pitch of this and Satan's Corner is slightly misleading. There is about 20-25' of Satan's Corner that climbs like the entire first pitch of the N. Chimney. So imagine the hardest part of Satans that is below the ledge going for 130'. 

So I think I am going to hold off on the N Chimney until I get a little more crack climbing experience.  I went and climbed Satans Corner last night, and I felt a bit worked on this part and it took me forever.  The second pitch was fine.  I'm sure I could climb the N Chimney, but I don't want climb it in that style.  Any other hand cracks around here that take #2 and 3's that would be good practice?  I would go to the creek, but it's too hot right now for me.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,423

Go do some laps on Goodros and the Coffin.  Hand Jive.  Sensimilla.  Hand Eater to Bongeater.  Callitwhatyouplease.  Bushwack.  Lazarus.

Go to the Swell and hit Private Pizza and a few other cracks in the area.

Good times...hone those crack skills!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Northern Utah & Idaho
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