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Classic Climbs: Castleton Tower and the Rectory

Author: Jason Nelson

November 19, 2012

Why settle for just one classic when there are two right next to each other? It’s no mystery why Castleton Tower is considered one of the classic desert climbs of the American Southwest. Mountain Project’s introduction says “Castleton Tower is probably the most famous desert tower in the world”. Well, there you have it. 

The Rectory, Castleton’s slightly lesser known, next-door neighbor, was likely a part of the same tower at one point, but erosion has since created a sizable gap between the two. If you are wondering what the Rectory is all about, you may already know more than you think. In 1990, Jon Bon Jovi made a video on the summit. 

Despite being such iconic summits, this place is a "classic" to our family for more personal reasons. Lisa and I climbed Fine Jade and the North Chimney one Easter weekend about ten years ago and I proposed to her on the summit, while warm evening light cast long shadows across the desert valley. Some years later, our son Zane was likely the youngest person to climb Castleton at the time at age nine. Since our engagement on Castleton Tower, climbing has taken us around the world and back, ten years rich in adventure and experiences. 

This desert is a special and spiritual place for us. There’s something about the deserts of the Colorado Plateau, with its winding canyons, soft red rock and sky-scraping pinnacles. Every time I return it is like arriving for the first time again, my eyes pinned to the windows, watching the red sandstone walls passing by, my soul is welcoming me home. 

It only seemed fitting to return to Castleton Tower and the Rectory to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. We climbed Castleton’s North Face route, a 5.11, this time and planned to spend the night on the summit. We’d been focusing on doing everything in a day for so long; why not enjoy the summit for more than a few minutes?

Jason Nelson

Artist, writer, route developer, guidebook author, and self-described Norse God, Jason’s climbing style is not exactly gentle. But if you need someone to check for loose holds, he just might be your guy. He’s a lousy boulderer, but a great spotter. He has limited patience for a redpoint project, but endless passion for an adventure. His fingers are too big for the little holds and thin cracks, but give him a pair of ice axes and watch gravity cease to exist. Jason’s wife Lisa is often nearby and has a fondness for desert cracks. You may have in fact seen or met this motley duo roaming the Southwest or at some of the climbing festivals where they often teach clinics and compete.