|Island In The Sky
Photo by Blitzo.
Located in the northern sector of Canyonlands National Park, this is one of the most breath-taking places on Earth. Island in the Sky offers adventure climbing in its purest sense on some of the most impressive towers anywhere in the desert. Add a long and involved drive on rough roads, strenous approaches, scary rappels, and sometimes rotten, hair-raising rock and you have an area that will humble even the crustiest of desert rats.
Climbing began in this otherwordly place in the early 60's with names like Layton Kor and Huntley Ingalls. Other noteworthy ascents were also made in the 60's by Larry Dalke and the Horn brothers. The 70's brought Fred Beckey, Eric Bjornstad, Jim Dunn, Ed Webster, Steve Hong, and many more. The 80's saw epic free ascents by Charlie Fowler, Chip Chace, Ken Sims, Webster, Dreiman, Olevsky and others. Standards of difficult and dangerous free climbing continue to be pushed in the area and many new lines await those with the ability and courage to try them.
The best times to go to Island in the Sky are Spring and Fall. Beware of snow and ice on the road in the Spring - it's a big drop in places! It is cold in the winter and very hot in the Summer, duh. Plan on early starts for everything here and don't underestimate any route. The drive out is long and can be difficult to follow in the dark.
Climbing in the Island is dangerous, so if you can not accept this fact do not go there. Loose rock abounds and every route will have some suspect stone on it. Wear a helmet if you enjoy the use of your brain. Plan on replacing worn webbing on rappels, don't skimp, it's your ass out there. Moab is the closest hospital.
This is a fragile environment and is a national park for everyone's enjoyment, so please leave no trace. Look for existing trails and stay in rocky washes whenever possible. National park rules apply here, so don't bring your dog and don't leave any new fixed gear unless it is an emergency. Clean aid only, no hammers!!!
Arrive at Island in the Sky via the White Rim Jeep Trail (do not try this in a low-clearance car). Head northwest out of Moab on 191, and turn left onto 313 after 9 miles. Drive 22 miles to the junction with the Shafer Trail and the ranger station. Follow the Shafer trail and descend for 4 miles to the White Rim trail. Continue for another 13 miles passing the Airport Towers to Buck Canyon and Monster Tower. Continue on for another 18 miles to reach Monument Basin. Allow at least 3 hours to reach Monument Basin from the ranger station. Buy a map but beware that Monster Tower, Washer Woman, and Sandcastle are incorrectly located on the map. A guide book is a good idea.
Browse More Classics in Island In The Sky
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Island In The Sky:
Featured Route For Island In The Sky
Green River on the West side of Island In The Sky....
Monster Tower (left) and Washer Woman stand like s...
Shafer Trail switchbacks.
Aerial view of Monster and Washer Women
Blocktop and Islet from the rim
Isle in the Sky Sunset.
Gooseneck of the Colorado as viewed from Dead Hors...
Ari sending the first pitch of Pale Fire, backside...
Early evening clouds from the Island in the Sk...
Moses and Zeus. Photo: Bob Horan
from the white rim road. what needle is that?!
La Sals and White Rim.
The crew to climb Islet and Block Top. The shorts ...
map of the area
|Comments on Island In The Sky
|By Anonymous Coward|
Feb 17, 2004
Washer Woman Arch is fantastic! LD and I did the first recorded tandem head stands on Monster Tower, a piece of stone that hadn't been climbed for 1 yr prior to our ascent. Top grade hand cracks, stout finger cracks, capped by a series of 5.12 face moves that had us trad boys pulling A1 onto the summit block....Come to think of it....the rock is crap, the climb is crap, and the view sucks. I discourage all suitors!
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Apr 13, 2007
What kind of Vehicle can make it down there?
|By Allen Hill|
From: FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Sep 25, 2009
I drove a 1978 Dodge Aspen wagon on the Shaffer Trail many times. In the early eighties. We got the wagon into Taylor Canyon at least twice. It's all in the technique.
|By Mike Rowley|
Oct 28, 2012
Does anyone know if this road is passable in a 2WD vehicle? Any road condition reports would be super helpful. Thanks.
|By Alexander Nees|
From: Grand Junction, CO
Oct 28, 2012
Depends on what part of the White Rim you are trying to get to. In general the road is in good shape... it's been a dry fall. Clearance is way more important than 4wd if the road is dry; a 2wd truck is a better choice than a Subaru or the like. 2wd truck will probably get you down Shaffer and as far as Chip and Dale, Airport, and Washer Woman/Monster Towers, or down the Mineral Bottom Road to Moses and Taylor Canyon. If you're trying to get to Monument Basin, I wouldn't go without a 4wd truck.
Mar 24, 2013
Does anyone know if you need to get a permit to climb any of the towers on the white rim? Or just to drive down the road?
|By Matt Pickren|
Mar 24, 2013
You do NOT need a permit to either climb or drive the road. You ONLY need a permit to spend the night, and that must be done in one of the estabvlished camping areas.