I (Cori) climbed Owl Rock with my friends Larry and Mike to warm up for a climb up Castleton Tower the following day. Owl Rock is located in Arches National Park whereas Castleton Tower is outside the park in Moab. Owl Rock, along with Castleton Tower, had been featured in the previous month's issue of a popular climbing magazine. We had been planning our trip to climb out in Moab for months, and now we feared that the place would be swarming with climbers. We were delighted to find that there were only a couple other people either completing the climb or lining up to climb Owl Rock.
The approach to Owl Rock is very simple. You can see the rock from the parking lot. You can follow a hiking path to the rock.
The common route is a 5.8 and is one pitch in length. I found most of the climb to have good friction for the feet and good crack and sizable chunks for the hands. I began the climb with a lot of stemming, then worked my way over a short bulge and continued to stem to the top. I believe that the tricky move over the bulge was the crux. Though it is really awesome to stand on the top of the pillar, the climb to get to that point was really fun, too.
After taking turns standing on the top (the anchors to the climb are below the summit at a more comfortable resting place), we were able to set up an easy rappel off to the side of the climb. Be careful when pulling the rope - we saw signs of groves where ropes had burnt through the rock over time.
While discussing the climb with a park ranger, he noted that this climb is the most popular in the park. With a moderate rating, easy access, and such an interesting feature, I can see why I saw hardly any other climbers in the park except for at Owl Rock.
If you go, expect to find a group of climbers in line before you. Since the climb is short, and the rappel does not have to go directly over the climb, the wait is not necessarily bad.
While in the area, if you like committed climbing, we enjoyed Climbing Castleton Tower.
Desert Rock - Rock Climbs in the National Parks by Eric Bjornstad (published by Chockstone Press).