Ferns Nipple From Grand Wash, Capital Reef Utah

  • Updated: November 26, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 26th, 2016
Ferns Nipple (7,065')

This was the 4th day of the 2016 Turktacular and the day we were hitting the main attraction.  When we'd looked up Capital Reef National Park Fern's Nipple and Georges BM had jumped out as things we had to climb while we were out there.  We had grand plans of hitting both today but found the southern part of the scenic road was closed due to recent rain damage limiting our options.  And as it turned out Ferns Nipple was more significant (and more fun!) than advertised so it worked out.

Google Earth view of our GPS track

The cold weather and heavy frost made for another slow start.  We'd camped in a spot Jen found  online which was beside a creek with some nice sand and a fire pit but did mean we had a drive to get back to the campground near Fruita.

The trailhead for Ferns Nipple we used was the Grand Wash / Cassidy Arch parking area accessible from the scenic drive south of the visitors center.

The nipple itself is rather noticeable from the road.

The parking area was shaded from the sun and damn cold until we got moving.  The wash itself was filled with tourists and screaming kids who were doing hikes out to the main road or just exploring.

At first we missed the route up the cliffside and had to backtrack.  It's actually just about opposite the trail junction to Cassidy Arch.

We were actually supposed to go up this

Once on it there were clear use trails but we stayed a little too low at first.

The move around the corner wasn't bad but from there it ended in a rappel station that looked like someone used to get back down the canyon.  We could see where we needed to go but we'd have to backtrack.

So we backtracked and did some light 3rd class scrambling to make it to the top lighter colored band you can see in the pictures above.

On the correct route

We could look across at Cassiday Arch which some friends had recently rappelled.

The route is kind of amazing.  It follows a long shelf past numerous canyons before climbing up towards the nipple...

...which is rather prominent.

There were ducks but not all of them seemed to lead to the Nipple making the route finding occasionally difficult.

The scenery was spectacular but the days are short this time of year and it was starting to look like the return was going to be via headlamps.

Once we got up to the nipple it was straight friction slabs.

This was the 4th class bit.  Which doesn't look too bad from this angle...

But there's actually a fair sized drop below.

The summit was heavily visited and had the expected comments...

And spectacular views in every direction.

Reversing the 4th class took some care and we knew we wouldn't make it down in daylight now.

As it got dark we could see headlamps from people coming down the trail to Cassidy Arch and hear them exclaiming at our lights far up the cliff.

The route down was tricky in the dark and even when the GPS we had to backtrack more than once.

We made it down to the cars well after dark and decided to head back to Notom Road where we knew we could have a fire and wouldn't have to sleep in the snow.

The plan for the last day was to pick up Elsies Nipple which we'd skipped on the second day due to the bad weather.  And then of course we had the long drive home which required fighting our way through the Vegas.

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