Castelton Tower is one of Utah’s most-climbed sandstone desert towers and a new study from the University of Utah has revealed the tower vibrates at the same rate that your heart beats. The results are published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

“We often view such grand and prominent landforms as permanent features of our landscape, when in reality, they are continuously moving and evolving,” says Riley Finnegan, a graduate student and co-author on the paper.

First climbed in 1961, it’s one of North America’s tallest freestanding towers. “Most people are in awe of its static stability, in its dramatic freestanding nature perched at the end of a ridge overlooking Castle Valley,” says geologist Jeff Moore. “It has a kind of stoic power in its appearance.”

To place the seismometer on top of Castelton, the researchers hired two climbers in March 2018. “Their skills provided us an opportunity to measure something we couldn’t just walk up to.”

Moore said, “While some forces humans create might appear minor, our research is addressing the long-term effects of these forces on the rate of erosion and structural degradation over time.” It appears that Castleton isn’t really affected by climbing traffic or small earthquakes.

“I hope that climbers and anyone who is fortunate enough to stand in the shadow of this stone giant will see it in a new light moving forward,” said grad student graduate student Paul Geimer. “As with the desert landscape in which it resides, Castleton Tower is dynamic and energetic, subtly responding to changes in the surrounding environment.”

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