Peaks Climbed: "Tom-Tom Tower" & "Tommy Knocker"

Peak Heights: 5,660' / 5,620'

Routes: The Reach Around / Tomfoolery

Difficulty: 5.10 / 5.10+

Location: Valley of the Gods, Utah

Trailhead: VOG Loop Road

Mileage & Gain: 1.2 mi & 750 ft RT

Date Climbed: October 19, 2019

Tommy Knocker is arguably the most serious of the Valley of the Gods towers, and the only one I'd never set foot on up to this point. I'd pretty much written it off and accepted I'd never complete the VOG project. The most sane route to the summit is convoluted and consists of first climbing to a sub-summit known as Tommy Knocker, rappelling into the notch between it and the main summit, and then climbing a few more chossy pitches to the tippy top, executing an infamous, exposed traverse (the reach around) in the process.

In 2015 Trevor Bowman and Emily Rinsel (now Bowman) pioneered a three pitch free route up Tommy Knocker that they reported was a bit cleaner than the old south face aid line. As far as I know Mark and I made the third ascent of this new route, after Derek Wolfe and Ryan Montoya's second ascent earlier this year. The first pitch was a little unneving in places, and I pulled off a couple of big chunks while following. Mark crushed the crux, a burly 5.10+ offwidth in good rock at the top of the second pitch. Unfortunately we ended up leaving a very overcammed #6 behind here, which the next party will likely appreciate clipping!

After reaching the top of Tommy Knocker you're merely a stone's throw from Tom-Tom but only halfway there. The reach around avoids the initial X-rated pitches of the original north face route on Tom-Tom, joining it only for the final well-protected chimney. Although this variation is the safest path to the top of mighty Tom-Tom, it is still a serious undertaking with an abundance of terrible rock.

Given my aversion to leading into the unknown, especially on scary terrain, Mark valiantly rope gunned the entire climb. I suspect he was the first one to ever lead all of the pitches on this tower, which had to have been quite mentally taxing. We summitted right at sunset and may or may not have drank copious amounts of whiskey up there. Three single rope rappels with a 70m rope down the south face make for a very straighforward descent after the ordeal.


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