Climbing ‘Fine Jade’ (5.11a) on The Rectory – Castle Valley, Utah.
‘Fine Jade’ is a CLASSIC desert tower climb that follows the obvious weakness up the 400 ft southern prow of The Rectory. The difficulties start right off the ground and are intermittently dispersed amongst excellent moderate climbing, giving you just enough rest to punch through the 5.11 cruxes. All of the climbing is on very high quality rock with many options for protection. What really sets this desert climb apart from so many, is its position. The climbing is consistently exposed, the view is spectacular, and the route is in the sunshine all day long! As you ascend ‘Fine Jade’, the famous Castleton Tower stands behind you with the snow capped La Sal mountains tucked just behind it and ahead in the distance is the Fisher Towers, home to the infamous ‘Titan’ and its more friendly ‘Ancient Art’.
There are two top out options on ‘Fine Jade’; the original 1984 finish, which traverses out left and is rumored to be quite adventurous and even wild, or the ‘Coyote Calling’ direct finish which goes up the obvious face at bolted 5.11 face climbing. We opted for the 5.11 finish, as the original finish looked less attractive. All of the belays are bolted, with the exception of an optional intermediate belay just below the ‘Coyote Calling’ finish.
Fine Jade (5.11a/6b+, III, 3-5 pitches)
APPROACH: From Moab, head N on 191 exiting onto UT-128 Eastbound (River Road). Take the ‘Castle Valley’ turn-off onto La Sal Loop Rd and continue for 4.7 miles on Castle Valley Rd, where you will see an obvious dirt road on your left for which you will find parking. The trailhead for the Rectory, Priest and Castleton Tower is at the road terminus.
P1 (5.10+/6b) – Thin hands to a beastly overhung OW crack which makes you grovel for about ten feet before letting back up into solid hand jams and then fingers. Climb up to a ledge with anchors (rap station), pass them and continue thin hands to fingers to a ledge with bolts and belay. We found this pitch to be the hardest but maybe it just made for a tough start to the day.
P2 (5.11a/6b+) – Continue up the crack to a finger crack through a bulge where tricky feet lead to the well protectable crux. Past the bulge climb a hand crack past a small awkward roof to a belay stance.
P3 (5.9/5b+) – Up and right from the belay, lieback a flake system, then pass a short, rotten section through a roof. Continue up the crack to a huge ledge and belay off gear or link in P4. Fun, easy and gym style climbing give a nice break from the hard stuff just in time to climb more hard stuff :)
P4 (5.11a/6b+) – Continue up the obvious 5.11 bolted face to the top of the Rectory. If climbing the original route, traverse left from the huge ledge below the top for ~ 30 feet climb the steep crack up a corner to top out. P3 and P4 can easily be linked.
DESCENT: Rap the route in three double rope rappels. If you topped out the route via the original 1984 finish, walk ~30-40′ to your right on the SE corner of the summit block and you will see the rap anchors on the ledge.
Castle Valley turnoff, Castle Valley, Utah
There is free, first come, first serve primitive camping at the trailhead (see map above). There are no toilets or water here, only wagbags (donation!) If that’s too primitive, there are countless camping options equipped with poopers along the 128 for a modest fee. If you’re into something a bit more high end, Moab is about 40 minutes away with a plethora of hotels.
- 60m, twin ropes
- small cams, doubles
- cams (#0.5-3), set of doubles or triples
- nuts, single set
- tape gloves, either homemade or rubbers
- extendable quick draws
- SNACKS :) Believe it or not, you burn quite a bit of fuel grunting up the first pitch. I was quite happy tearing into my GoMacro Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip bar at the top, giving me an excuse to enjoy the breathtaking scenery for that much longer.