Washer Woman Tower is named so because it looks like a woman bent over an old fashion wash tub doing laundry. The route seeks suds up the Southwest face then climbs straight up the woman's head to one of the most spectacular summits in the desert.
In Search of Suds is a very high quality climb with good rock, wild exposure and an amazing view. The adventure has only begun once you reach the summit.
The route begins on the right side of the Southwest face, there are several ways to get there. It is best to begin the route from the saddle between Washer Woman and Monster Tower. The best approach is from the South via steep talus slopes.
Pitch 1: 5.10- 85" Scramble to the saddle and begin climbing off the left side of the ridge in a steep fist crack with difficult moves right off the deck. Continue up and pass an offwidth section and belay at a bolt anchor with slings. You should be able to see daylight through a small eye piercing the tower above. Beware of loose rock on this pitch.
Pitch 2: 5.10- 90" Climb up to an airy stance near the Eye and sling a chockstone for pro before moving into the crack left of the eye. Make some 5.9 moves and continue up to easier climbing in the crack above. Pass a squeeze chimney through a bulge and make scary moves on sandy sloping holds out of the chimney and onto the belay ledge. Belay at 3 bolt anchor with slings below a roof.
Pitch 3: 5.10+ 70" From the comfortable belay ledge move directly right and into a good hand/fist crack with a roof above. Power through the roof with several 5.10 moves and make a difficult move up and right above the roof (5.10+, TCU). Continue to the ridge on fun 5.9 crack climbing. Arrange a gear belay on the ridge.
Pitch 4: 5.6 70" Traverse along the ridge towards the summit and belay where it steepens. This can be combined with the next pitch.
Pitch 5: 5.9 20" Face climb a short steep section with an old pin, Belay at bolt anchor on large ledge below final headwall.
Pitch 6: 5.10+ 80" Face climb up past some loose rotten bands (5.9R) to a beautiful black varnished face with four drilled pitons. Face climb on small holds up and past the bolts to a mind blowing summit and belay at bolt anchor.
Descent: 3 or 4 two-rope rappels down the Kor Route
Rap 1: Rap back to the ledge at the base of the last pitch.
Rap 2: Rappel through the arch! Carefully thread anchors just over the edge of the South side and make a wild free hanging rappel down the face to a set of Metolius rap bolts. Getting over the edge to start this rappel is tricky and way spooky. This is one of the most incredible rappels in the world. Be very careful of loose rock when you pull the ropes after this rap.
Rap 3: If you have two 60 meter ropes you can hit the ground on this rappel. If not look for the best set of bolts (several exist) and make another rappel.
Double set of cams up to #3.5 Camalot, two ropes.
|By Brian Milhaupt|
From: Golden, CO
Apr 11, 2002
The view, the summit, the rap, the rock. I loved it all, soak it in. I thought pitch 2 was definately 5.10 pulling onto the belay ledge. End rappel #2 below all the scree by the large right facing corner with solid bolts.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Oct 31, 2003
Ben, it is your opinion that the moves on the face pitch are harder than those on SC, but far be it from you to downgrade SC. I personally have done both routes and thought that the face moves where very easy on In search of suds and far more difficult on SC, still I'm not going to go changing grades on either.
|By Rob Dillon|
Nov 20, 2003
We approached from the S, which entailed driving further than you perhaps need to, but allowed us to walk up a long, gradual ridgeline that began right at the parking spot and led to the base of Monster. Easy route-finding, minimal impact. Scrambling around the Monster the next day to the N. Ridge was probably the crux of this arrangement-- loose scree over steep mud cone-- but it beat figuring out a different approach.
|By John Stoddard|
May 4, 2004
This is a good route to take a helmet on - more for the rappels than the climb. The West Face route, which the rappel line follows, involves a deep corner with lots of loose blocks. We made two 200' rappels from the base of the arch, so there were fewer rope pulls, minimizing the danger - but we still pulled some small chunks loose.
I've approached Washer Woman and Monster from the south several times now, and it is a much better route than the north side. There's even a faint trail developing that can be followed starting from the ridge right above the parking area next to the wash.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Aug 18, 2004
What a cool and unique route. The first time I did this route there was nobody else on it. That adds to the experience a lot. Rapping through the arch is a truly surreal experience, the roof on the third pitch was exhilerating and well protected. So good!!!!
|By Max Schon|
Oct 10, 2004
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
Great route, though there is a fair amount of choss on it. The summit, however, is worth every bit. I don't think the final face moves are any harder then the face moves on Ancient Art. I think this route is comparable in difficulty to Jah Man. We approached from the south side. If approaching from this side head directly to your right up the ridge rather then follow the wash.
|By Charlie Fowler|
Mar 11, 2006
A couple of details corrected: The description says "...rappels down the Kor Route." Layton Kor never climbed the tower, there is no Kor Route. Instead, rappel down the original route of Pete Carmen and Rick and John Horn.
The old pin mentioned on Pitch 5 of the description was placed by these guys. Our route finished to the summit by the line of their first ascent. They bolted up the final headwall, which was lead free by Glenn (correct spelling) on our climb. Since then these old bolts have been replaced, as noted.
From: Joshua Tree, California
May 28, 2007
I did this climb with Tony Sartin in April of 1994. At one of the rap stations, there was a biner stamped HORN......from the first Ascent of the West Face Route in April 1967 By Rick Horn, Jim Horn, , and Pete Carmen. I switched biners with one of mine, and have it with my collection of odd junk I have found on various climbs over the years. That was cool.
From: flagstaff, AZ
Jun 3, 2007
it's too bad you took that biner, as cool as it is on your shelf it was more cool to find on the route. Of Course, if you hadn't taken it, someone else probably would have.
From: flagstaff, AZ
Jun 3, 2007
Trip Report 05/24/2007.
Washer Woman Tower is one of the most coveted summits in the desert. It’s been on my tick list for years.
Recently, I found myself with the time, a willing and capable partner, and a window of decent weather. What we didn’t have was an appropriate approach vehicle. The regular approach entails 17 mi of 4x4 and dirt road bouncing down the Shafer Trail to the White Rim above the Colorado River in Island of the Sky National Park. This is then followed by a grueling talus scramble. I don’t mind sweating a bit to get to a route; it keeps the masses out. It also makes the summit that much sweeter to put that extra effort into earning it.
I had a plan…..
Drive to Mesa Arch in the park, a casual walk along the rim, then a few raps down to the base of Washer Woman. It all sounded so simple.
My buddy “D” arrived about 1pm the day before our ascent. We decided to forego the warm-up climbing on Potash road and reconnoiter my plan. It started as I’d expected: an easy flat walk for about 20-30min. The terrain began to get a bit more complicated as we bouldered over and between petrified dunes. We then found it necessary to rap a short chimney. Scrambling down further ledges, making occasional 5th-class moves on sometimes very crumbly exposed “stone” -- if you can call it that! Another tough spot convinced us to fix a rope to an old juniper and rap a 50ft overhang. Then there was the 120ft overhang -- this had a nice big juniper for an anchor! Then we frictioned down a great bowl (perfect for the Extreme Skateboarder). A short exposed section which looked easy enough to climb but terrifying to contemplate down climbing caused us to retreat. We would need more ropes.
We returned the next morning leaving the car just after 7am. It was a perfect day: slightly overcast and without wind. We followed our tracks, now criss-crossed with those of coyote, jack rabbit and big horn. We down climbed the easy chimney we rapped the day before, only to find that its bottom was so narrow we had to walk sideways dragging our packs behind. We passed our first 2 fixed ropes. Then found a decent anchor for a third. The route down from here was pretty featureless so we tied 2 ropes together and rapped about 330ft to the talus below. The hard part was done and it only took about an hour.
We boulder hopped, tripped and recovered, slid, leaped and sweated as we crossed about a mile toward the tower. At times, absolutely nothing was trustworthy. At other times, it was like climbing at Fisher Towers, only we were walking! The solidified gravel was only solid at its angle of repose; the moment you weighted it, you’d slide. I found myself kicking steps as if I were mountaineering. The good news was that this also only took about and hour (2hr approach- not too bad!)
I’d read somewhere that pitch 2 was the best so I was a bit disappointed when my buddy suggested I take #1 and #3. I was not sad for long though as the steep hands and fists right off the belay on pitch one got me going. The mental crux of this pitch is passing a large chockstone which appears to be ready to go. I avoided it but it didn’t move as D pulled gingerly past it. The sweet belay ledge with its window to the north delighted me. D climbed the 2nd pitch past the cool “keyhole” and up through some wide cracks (a little loose here and there, but no too much grumbling from D). The crux: OW to hands to slopper ledge definitely gets your attention and appreciation. The following pitch starts out the same way -- in your face! Steep hands to small gear and a committing move then easier ground to the summit ridge. An easy 5th-class traverse reminds me of many alpine ridge walks: incredible views and exposure. A short boulder move pitch past a shallow driven pin gets you set up for the final pitch up the old woman’s head. Uninspiring rock with fair pro leads to a committing move past a bulge to some good pockets and excellent varnished rock and drilled pins. A few rodeo attempts allowed me to girth the second pin before pulling the crux move.
4 hours climb time to the summit. And what a summit it is! Teetering like some Dr Seuss drawing I found it larger than I imagined; flat, comfortable and nearly windless. We lounged a bit, taking it all in.
A short rap down, then to an intimidatingly placed anchor for the arch rap. We were rapping a lot today for someone who really doesn’t like rapping. As the rock fell away and the arch opened below and in front of me I felt and unusual pang of vertigo. Disoriented by the view which seemed mindblowing as space seemed to expand around you.
We pulled the ropes to thread the third rap while hiding in a cave to avoid rockfall. Then pulling a final time we frowned to find our tail rope snagged about 40ft up on the worst rock we’d seen all day. After a 30 min detainment from our exodus to reclaim the rope, we were back on the talus. The jugging was to begin, we would now climb about 800ft of rope and ledges while our packs swelled with the additional gear and ropes.
10.5 hours car to car it was an Epic Day. Not that we didn’t know it was coming; no we actually looked forward to the toil of it all. I’m not sure I would recommend it, but if you are set on doing Washer Woman, and you have no 4x4 it is possible. Be ready for big adventure, and hard work.
Our gear list: no 4x4 needed! 6 ropes, single set TCUs, single set stoppers, #8,10,12 Hexes, double set #1-#3 Camalots, 1 #3.5 & 1 #4 (not needed), assorted draws and slings. 3 quarts water per person was adequate for partly cloudy skies, high temps about 80F.
Oct 27, 2007
climbed this on 10/24/07. Good cairned trail leaving right from a switchback on White Rim road due S of the towers. Second pitch with the sandy slot was the spookiest unless you're a true desert rat. The last pitch had 3 not 4 bolts and it's stiff, i'd give it 11.a.
|By Spencer Weiler|
From: SLC, UT
Aug 8, 2009
Crux of route: Getting on rappel to lower through the arch. The bolts are at least 3 feet below the ledge! I thought the 10+ summit face pitch was harder than the 10+ 3rd pitch. One of my favorite towers. Worth the drive if you can get a couple towers in.
|By Sam Lightner, Jr.|
From: Lander, WY
Oct 20, 2009
The description above is incorrectly worded for the rappels. You DO NOT rap through the arch. You rap DOWN the arch or INTO the arch. If you go through it, as in from the west side pass through the notch to the east side, you are off the rappel route. There is an anchor at the base of the arch, but its best to continue, on double ropes, down about 60 more feet to a chain anchor on the left. From here double sixties reach a ledge just barely above the base .
|By rob pizem|
Nov 13, 2010
you can rap the route with one 70 meter rope.
you can also rap monster tower with one 70 meter rope.
leave the extras at the car and enjoy a light rack and great fun!
|By Chris Strouthopoulos|
From: Durango, Co
Oct 24, 2011
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Sweet route and worth doing! Every pitch has some enjoyable sections, especially the window on the 2nd pitch, the ridge line traverse, and the final head wall.
Lots of face climbing and only short sections of splitter cracks. The squeeze on P2 gives up the goods pretty easily because of a big face hold. The final head wall took me a while to figure out, but once you get the sequence right it's definitely not 11. Lots of sucker holds to the right threw me off, and if used I can see why folks would argue for the higher grade though.
Lowering down the arch is certainly one of the most memorable raps I've ever done! Watch for loose chunder when pulling the rope as a dislodged rock almost took one of us out. Luckily the rock just tagged my foot, doing a pretty good number on it.
From: Fort Collins, CO
Oct 21, 2012
The road is currently passable via Shafer Road with an all-wheel-drive Subaru Forrester, although its pretty bumpy in spots.
The approach trail takes off from the wash pretty early. There are currently several large cairns marking the start of the trail but we walked right past them in the dark with headlamps on.
The best approach is definitely to hike to the notch. There is a fixed line with two strands hanging down. One is knotted and we had no trouble using it to climb to the notch in running shoes and carrying packs. The other strand is unknotted and allowed a quick rappel down.
There is no pen or pencil in the summit log ammo box. There is a pencil in the 6 foot deep crack but we couldn't get it out with slings, tape and a nut tool. Better to just bring a new one.
The rap station that goes down the arch has a bolt with a sling with loops on it, which makes it safer to get over the edge to the chains. There is a small ledge to stand on too.
With double 60's it's easy to rap down the arch to the bomber chain anchors and then get down to the ground with one more rap. It took about 10 feet of easy down climbing. To get back to the notch, there is about 30 feet of 4th class scrambling along the left side, which we didn't have trouble climbing up without needing to belay.
We had doubles to #3 Camalot along with a 3.5 and 4 Camalot. The 3.5 and 4 were most helpful on pitch 2. Overall, this was a more than adequate rack.
The last pitch is not at all R rated. I got 3 good pieces in before easily getting up onto the upper ledge and clipping the 1st drilled angle. I'm 6'1" and I was able to just barely reach up and clip the 2nd drilled piton on my tip toes.
Also, the climbing is super fun, well protected and in an astounding setting. This tower is not to be missed.
|By Chad Lake|
Nov 17, 2012
To whomever got their yellow rope stuck on the final rappel sometime in late October- do not worry, there was *nothing* you could have done from the ground to free that thing. In fact, it was quite difficult to free from above when we rapped down, but we did get it free, coiled it up and took it home, where it will live out a hero's retirement with lots of other experienced ropes to swap stories of bravery and stone with. We will do right by him.
For the team that comes after us, please do the same with our green 60m, who likely got stuck in exactly the same spot. He will be missed.
|By Mark P Thomas|
Nov 22, 2012
We have your green rope. PM me and maybe we can get it back to you!
Also, the summit register is back in action with a fresh pen.
From: moab, utah
Mar 12, 2013
It seems like the final rappel is a rope eater, If double-rope rappelling the route, fight the urge to rap from the chain anchor mid descent to the ground. There's one more anchor station on climber's right that we used and it seems to keep the ropes clear of the constriction that collects ropes when making the final pull.
Apr 29, 2013
I second the rappel warning. The constriction can be avoided by pulling VERY slowly so the free rope doesn't swing and get pinched on its way up. It is nice getting down in two 60m raps from the top of the arch.
The bolt ladder is 5.11 but everyone just yards on the drilled angles anyway.