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Ancient Art has to be one of the most unique summits around. Easily recognized, it is often photographed. This is a climb you must do if you are looking for a unique and breathtaking moderate climbing experience.
Though the Cutler Sandstone that makes up the route is not known for its stellar free climbing, this route has been done enough to be quite clean and solid. That being said, this is a serious climb that requires trad climbing experience and judgment. There have been some accidents on the route from inexperienced climbs taking falls. The gear is decent if you have the skill to place it, but be solid on your placements before doing this route!
Head north out of Moab a couple of miles to State Highway 128 (just before the Colorado River). Follow highway 128 about 21 miles to a signed turn off on the right. Follow the good dirt road 2.2 miles to it's end at a small campground and parking lot.
September 14, 2007
Climbers: Ryan Cornia and Jim Schnepal
Written By: Ryan Cornia
Ancient Art is a tower I have obsessed about climbing for years. Three years ago my partner and I found a guided group of 16 at the base, and we're faced with either waiting many hours to get on the route or throwing in the towel. We threw in the towel. This time I enlisted Jim to come give it a go with me. We decided a Friday afternoon may give us the best chance of getting on the route, and started hiking in around 1 or 1:30 on a hot, cloudy Friday afternoon.
The approach takes 20-30 minutes, with the tower visible for much of the hike if you know where to look. It is impressive and intimidating. After admiring the Cobra on the approach trail, we soon began racking up at the base of the Stolen Chimney route. As an obsessive compulsive worrier, I was worried about wind, rain, and pretty much the whole endeavor. In typical fashion, Jim was rather casual about the whole affair.
I called the first and second pitches. Mostly because I had heard the second pitch was the technical crux, but at least in small part to defer the airy last lead to Jim.
The route starts with some broken, easy lower 5th class climbing to the base of the water groove and start of the chimney proper. I placed one red camalot (#1) in this section for piece of mind, but it was not really needed. Once at the bottom of the bolt ladder, it is 4 or 5 bolts to the anchor. The climbing looks pretty reasonable to free, but pulling on draws seemed even easier, so I simply pulled my way up it while Jim poked fun at my questionable free climbing ethics. The pitch feels fairly short, maybe 25 m).
In some ways, I would consider this the technical crux of the route, but certainly not the mental. From the belay, you head directly up the chimney. It is interesting climbing. In several spots you get under small overhangs and need to stem slightly out to get up and over them. There is a bolt (and another very poor old bolt) at one point in the chimney, right below the crux. I protected the crux bulge right above the bolts with a red camalot (#1). Above this, the climbing gets a fair bit easier. Protection throughout the chimney seems adequate. There are not a ton of placements, and the placements seem a little light, but overall it felt safe. At the top of the chimney, a small squeeze under a boulder ends the pitch at a large ledge. From this ledge, you can see the two upper pitches. Pitch length is a bit over 30 m.
Jim took this pitch. It is short. A couple of moves up a crack to a 3 or 4 bolt ladder and anchor. Maybe 8 m total takes you to the base of the sidewalk. Although I am sure Jim could have freed it, he pulled on bolts as I had done on pitch 1.
The money pitch. Jim's pitch again. I poked fun at him as he sat down to cross the sidewalk. What is he doing? The girlfriend method of crossing the sidewalk? Instead of the jump-and-hump method of surmounting the diving board, he approached it from the side and climbed it like getting on a horse. Very smooth and controlled. He styled the short bolted spire and was soon standing on top. Amazing. I lowered him to the diving board, and he reversed the sidewalk with some hesitation.
I began boldly walking the sidewalk only to sit immediately down and cautiously inch my way across as Jim had done. The exposure is IMMENSE. If the sidewalk were a foot off the ground, you could run across it without a second thought. With that exposure though, crawling seemed more prudent. Due to rope angles, being on top rope does not make the sidewalk much easier. I chose the jump-and-hump method of surmounting the diving board, with a chuckle at the ridiculous position it was and soon made my way to the summit. It is the smallest summit I have ever visited. Wow!
Lowering proved a bit problematic. Jim suggested I clip into the other side of the rope to get a guided lower back to him. Seemed like a great idea, so I did it, and he began lowering me. Instead of heading to the sidewalk, however, I was being lowered over the void just to the side of the sidewalk. Yikes!!!! We decided I should un-clip from the other side of the rope and reverse the sidewalk as he had done. Un-clipping causes several feet of slack to come out of the rope and me to drop a couple of feet unexpectedly. My heart has never raced so much in my life. It deposited me right on the diving board. I cautiously jumped down to the sidewalk and reversed back to safety. Jumping down from the diving board to the sidewalk is an intense experience.
From the sidewalk, it is a short rap down to the top of pitch 2. If you have a 70 m rope, you can rap from the top of pitch 2 to the top of pitch 1, then from the top of pitch 1 to the ground. With a 60 m you will need two ropes for both raps.
One set of cams, one set of nuts, and a bunch of draws (8-10). 70 m rope or 2-50 m.
12S 647007mE 4287597mN
N38° 43' 29" W109° 18' 32"
|Base of Climb||
12S 647445mE 4287217mN
N38° 43' 17" W109° 18' 14"