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Angel Arch is arguably the most beautiful landform in the Needles district. Its size and position is unrivaled and it is truly the monarch of arches in the region. It is composed of very good Cedar Mesa Sandstone and can now be done entirely hammerless and much of it goes free. At the time of its first ascent it was the largest unclimbed arch on the planet.
The first ascent of Angel Arch in 1991 followed the obvious wide crack on the east side of the formation. A rope was fixed over the hump to the north so that they could climb over the hump on the descent. There is a large flat ledge above the center of the arch. The fourth pitch followed a drilled pin ladder to the summit. The descent follows the route. All anchors are hidden from view.
It must be noted that the NPS looks down on climbing named features in these particular national parks. "Named features" translates in NPS speak to "arches." They don't seem to mind people climbing the towers and various formations, but for whatever reason they do not like climbers on the arches. If you are caught climbing Angel, Castle, or Druid arch, you will likely be issued a compulsory "arch climbing permit", which cost $25 in 1993. As always, practice sound and environmentally-minded judgement in the desert. It is particulary important that the "leave no visible trace" philosophy be exercised here.
Once upon a time you could drive a 4wd high clearance vehicle down Salt Creek to within a mile of the arch. The environmental groups sued the NPS and closed the road. The battles have been in and out of court, and the road has been closed, reopened, and closed again over the years. Currently the road down Salt Creek is closed to mechanized vehicles. One can park at the Peekaboo campsite and backpack the 10 miles in to the arch down Salt Creek. The approach is easy hiking along the old road, and there is "at large" camping allowed in this section of the canyon. A permit is required. This is a fantastic hike and comes extremely well recommended. Plan on three days for this adventure. A day for the hike in, a day for exploring and bouldering, and a day for the hike out.
Some wide stuff for the first pitch. Some nerve for the second. An extra rope for the third. Drilled anchors are where you need them.
The first and second pitch. The chimney is unprot...
14 miles down the road, now only a 1/2 mile stroll...
3/4 of the first ascent team, April 3, 1991
Looking NW under the span the morning of the FA.