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“Jah Man,” Classic Desert Tower Route, Falls Down! (Well, the First Pitch at Least)

On January 3, a massive flake that abutted the base of the tower came crashing down.

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Photos: Sean Illis (left); Jason Ringenberg (right).

Pour one out, folks: Jah Man (5.10c), the moderate classic multi-pitch route up the southwest face of Sister Superior, Castle Valley, Utah, is no more!

Well, at least the first pitch (or two pitches, as some guidebooks break it down): On January 3, a massive flake that abutted the base of the tower—the space between the two comprising the classic chimney pitch—came crashing down.

[Also Read Jonathan Thesenga’s Favorite 5.10: Jah Man]

The one and only George Lowe on the first pitch of Jah Man several years ago. The flake that fell is visible to his right. Photo: Duane Raleigh.

In a report on Moab Gear Trader’s website, Jason Ringenberg, supplied more background information: “Local climber Doug Mcdonald was the first to report the incident when he spotted a plume under the ongoing temperature inversion in the area. Doug and Farland Fish went up Ida Gulch to confirm the event yesterday, January 12th. However, the visibility due to the temperature inversion concealed the Sister Superior formation. That inversion has since cleared out, exposing the giant rock scar that was once the Jah Man route.”

No one was hurt by the rockfall.

Back in 2011, for his installment of the now-defunct Rock and Ice print department “My Favorite 5.10,” Jonathan Thesenga chose Jah Man as his favorite climb of the grade. He described the the first pitch—listed on most topos as 5.8, or thereabouts—as “a fearsome-looking chimney that, once you get into it, turns out to be quite tame due to plentiful foot edges and a hidden small crack for gear.”

Kirk Miller and Ken Miller made the first ascent of Jah Man back in 1984, and it quickly became a desert classic, what with the the combination of the moderate grade, the airy summit and the quality climbing.

[Also Read Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall]

George Lowe and partners on Jah Man. Photo: Duane Raleigh.

Perhaps the biggest deterrent to would-be summiters of Sister Superior via Jah Man? The approach. Though reasonable and short by most metrics, getting to the tower requires a bit more determination than getting to the other towers in Castle Valley.

Steph Davis famously free soloed Jah Man and base jumped off the summit.

This is not the first time and won’t be the last time that rockfall has permanently changed a desert classic. Back in 2014, the Cobra, a classic 40-foot tower in the Fisher Towers, was beheaded—the summit-block (the “head” of the cobra) simply slid off one day.

For more on famous climbs that have fallen down, read “Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall.”

No word yet on anyone nabbing a first post-break ascent. It’s there for the taking!