|The Needles District
Castle Arch is absolutely beautiful in its position and character. It is perched on a very thin fin of rock which is not apparent until you stand at the very base of the arch itself. From here you realize that it is possible to see light through three places in the arch. The base of the arch is also extremely narrow on the west side and it is offset, so that when you peer through any of the holes on the summit all that you can see is space. It is a very exhilarating experience to stand on this arch! It is also an adventure to climb. The route never exceeds about 5.5 in difficulty, but the climbing is airy in nature and there is little protection.
The route on Castle Arch ascended the south face and then the east buttress of the arch. From the western side of the south face, one traversed right on a bedding seam for roughly 15-20 feet (4.5-6 m), and then climbed up to the next bedding seam. The FA party continued to traverse on this seam until they attained the next bedding seam up. They followed the path of least resistance (up and right) until they gained the ledge at the base of the arch. You can see how narrow the base of the arch is in the photo below. From this ledge, they followed the low-angle chimney to the east to gain the buttress next to the arch. They fixed a line from the tree so they could lower themselves down into the notch between the buttress and the arch. It is only 10-12 feet (3 m) or so down to the arch.
Castle Arch is located in a branch of Horse Canyon in the Needles District. Fortunately, the environmental group that sued to have Salt Creek Canyon closed to vehicles, failed in their efforts to close Horse Canyon. This is an unusual stroke of luck for us because Horse Canyon is the adjacent drainage to the east from Salt Creek. It is strange that it remains open while Salt Creek is closed, but the courts are often inconsistent in their logic. To find Castle Arch, take a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle down Horse Canyon almost to its end (after you secure a backcountry permit from the NPS). There should be a small sign pointing to the drainage and trail leading to the arch. Follow this trail for ½ mile (1 km) to reach the arch; some scrambling will be involved.
The descent was done by downclimbing to the base of the arch and using large cams to anchor the rappel line. Rappel to the north. One individual down climbed the route after everyone else rappelled. Hats off to Mr. Peddy.
X means X, but some big bros and large cams were useful, at least for psychological protection.
Castle Arch at dusk
View of Castle Arch from a distance
Looking down on the arch from above. It's wild bei...
Looking up through the holes in the arch. It is T...