Check out this classic black-and-white 1964 Chevrolet commercial featuring Castleton Tower. It has a nice retro feel with swelling music and a deep voice saying, "In a class of its own, it stands alone." And that car, what is it? A Chevy Impala?
Castleton Tower, a slender 400-foot pinnacle east of Moab, Utah, offers one of America’s classic rock climbs up its south face. The tower, perched atop an immense talus cone, was first climbed in September, 1961 by the ace Colorado team of Layton Kor and Huntley Ingalls.
The following year, 1962, the tower achieved fame when it was used in a Chevy TV commercial featuring Hollywood cutie Diedre Johnson. The stripped-down car, only its chassis and body, was deposited along with the nervous model atop the tower by helicopter. After the filming, however, a stiff wind came up and the helicopter was unable to land and whisk away Diedre, so she ended up spending a few extra hours huddled inside the car on the summit.
I saw that commercial on television when I was in grade school and it stuck in my head, but I wasn’t looking at the model…I was entranced by the sheer sandstone tower. Later a still photograph taken during the filming was used for a full-page ad in Life Magazine. I cut that ad out, mounted it on a piece of cardboard and hung it on my bedroom wall. I didn’t know what that rock was but I knew it was darn cool and I wanted to climb it.
My chance to climb it came a few years later when Jimmy Dunn and I did the sixth ascent of Castleton in September, 1971. We were amazed to be the 12th and 13th climbers to stand atop that island in the sky on that hot afternoon and sign into the summit register. All the names recorded in the little book left by Layton and Huntley were our climbing heroes. We didn’t realize then how special our ascent was of that still-pristine and unknown tower. Now Castleton has seen something like 40,000 ascents—so many that no one really knows how many folks have reached the summit.
And, of course, Castleton Tower has figured in other television commercials including one for a Chevy truck and another for a Toyota. Climbers have also done some wacky stuff atop Castleton over the years. People have parasailed and BASE jumped off the top, flown kites, hauled up a grill and barbecued burgers, been killed by lightning, bivouacked, and who knows what else.