August 2013 Black Hills, Spearfish, Devil's Tower, Grand Tetons, and Ten Sleep Climbing Trip

  • Thursday, January 16, 2014 1:34 AM
    Message # 1476040
    For the last several years I have gone on climbing trips solo, which limits what climbs I can do, but also give me a great deal of freedom.  In 2012 I went to the Dolomites in Italy and in 2013 I went to South Dakota and Wyoming.  I have wanted to visit the Needles in South Dakota for some time and after meeting Jan Conn in 2012 I was even more interested in climbing at the Needles, particularly the Conn routes, many of which are not climbed that much today.

    The Conn routes are very bold since they put up the climbs without leaving fixed protection except for on a very few.  Not only did they climb up, solely protecting by the few pitons they had, but they then down climbed each route.  This means that many of the climbs are somewhat runout or poorly protected.

    The following are recommended guidebooks for the areas I climbed at:

    South Dakota Needles:  The Adventure Climbs of Herb & Jan Conn Lindsay Stephens, Sharp End Publishing, 2009

    The Needles:  A Climber's Guide To The Black Hill Needles, Zach Orenczak and Rachael Lynn, Extreme Angles Publishing, 2006

    The Needles Of Rushmore:  Climbing In South Dakota's Mt Rushmore National Memorial, Andrew Busse and Andrew Burr, Fixed Pin Publishing, 2012

    Spearfish Canyon, The VC & Other Black Hills Limestone, Mikel Cronin, Sharp End Publishing, 2011

    Devils Tower Climbing, Rachael Lynn and Zach Orenczak, Extreme Angles Publishing, 2006, (selected climbs)

    Devils Tower National Monument Climbing Handbook, Richard Guilmette, Steve Gardiner, Chuck Lindsay, and Renee Carrier, Devils Tower National History Association, 2004 (comprehensive guidebook)

    Teton Rock Climbs: A Select Guide To The Classic And Not-So-Classic Routes, Aaron Gams,
    Ground Up Press, 2012

    Rock Climbing Jackson Hole & Pinedale, Wyoming:  The Authoritative Day Climbing Guide, Wesley Gooch, Acroterra, 2011

    Lies And Propaganda From Ten Sleep Canyon, Aaron Huey, Extreme Angles Publishing, (unknown date, this is one of the most bizzare guidebooks in my collection)


    August 17, 2013

    I scrambled up the 3rd class east face of Beginner's Rock above Sylvan Lake.  I also free soloed the Conn route "Polly" (5.3) near Sylvan Lake.  I spent the two nights at the Sylvan Lake Campground which was within walking distance of the climbing routes.

    August 18, 2013

    I rope soloed the Conn route "Hermit Rock" (5.0) near Sylvan Lake.  Unfortunately someone, probably one of the local guiding companies, put in several bolted belays on the 4th and 5.0 lower face of this rock.  The upper portions of this route were very nice and varied.  I reversed the route since there are no anchors on the top.

    I then climbed the Conn route "Aquarian Rock" (5.5), which is probably the most popular Conn route.  It took me some time to find the correct start, but once I found the correct starting location, the route was easy to follow.  I went up the slanting crack for a full pitch to a belay ledge which looks out toward Sylvan Lake.  I led up the face on the next pitch to a poorly protected bottomless chimney.  There was one place for protection in the chimney, but I just kept climbing toward the top to another good ledge.  While the Conn route goes to the right from here, I went up a nice, but unprotectable (5.6-5.7) face slightly to the left of the belay.  I then climbed up very easy terrain to the top where there are large pools of water.  I rappelled down a slightly overhanging face from two chains.  This was a very nice climb.

    I also climbed the nearby Conn route "Side Issue" (5.4).  This is a short route and I enjoyed the crux climbing in a grungy chimney past a chockstone.  There are bolts and chains on the top of this route to rappel from.  I still had a bit of energy left, so I finished up the day with free-soloing "Walkee-Upee Rock" (5.0) which is not a Conn route.  The route's name describes the continuous climbing up an arete.  The top allows a fantastic view of Sylvan Lake and the surrounding areas.

    August 19, 2013

    I free-soloed the Conn route "Hitching Post" (5.2) in the Needle's Eye area before the tourists arrived.  This was a very fun and spectacular climb since it is right above the parking lot.  I then rope soloed "High Point (5.0 - 5.1).  Originally I was going to free-solo this longer route, but wet rock in the gully persuaded me to use a rope.  The highlight was finding the original rusting Conn paint can summit register (no longer used) attached to the top by a wire and a piton.  I signed the register in the glass jar.  The last time someone had climbed this route was over a year ago.  Another highlight was watching from the same level climbers on the nearby classic "Triconi Nail".

    Then I climbed the Conn route "Spire Six" (5.0) in the Cathedral Spires area.  This was a very fun multi-pitch climb that has bolted belay/rappel stations.  I thought the crux was making the exposed traverse move from a notch to the ledge at the top of the second pitch.  I also free-soloed an unnamed nearby small spire at the top of the ridge between Spire Six and Spire Seven.

    August 20, 2013

    The famous Conn route "The Thimble" (5.3 R) at the Needle's Eye area was really interesting to me.  I got the courage to lead (really free-solo since there is no protection on the entire route) this route.  It is on the backside away from the parking lot, but some tourists looked over the railings from the parking lot to watch me climb up.  I climbed up good knobs for about 40-50 feet to the two bolt anchor at the top.  There is no protection along the way, so I just trailed a rope for rappelling.  After taking some pictures and having pictures taken of me by the tourists below, I rappelled down.

    Then I drove to Horsethief Lake area and hiked into the Black Elk Wilderness area.  This area is near the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  I spent the entire afternoon looking for the start of the remote Conn route "Sultan's Tower" (5.4).  Later in the afternoon I found what I was pretty sure was the starting location, but it was too late to start this multi-pitch climb.  I then moved into a campsite at Horsethief Lake Campground.

    August 21, 2013

    I rope soloed the Conn route "Jinni" (5.1), which is near the start of "Sultan's Tower".  I climbed up a short hand crack to a large slanting ledge and then passed into a horizontal squeeze chimney.  After exiting the chimney I circled around to a large ledge just below the slender summit spire.  I made delicate moves up to the top of the very slender summit spire.  What a view from the top as I could see many rock formations in all directions, including Mt. Rushmore.  I waved to passengers in a sightseeing helicopter who flew over the area.

    While I found the actual start of "Sultan's Tower" (N 43.88701 W 103.46671), I could not find any area to build a solo belay anchor since there were no cracks, trees, or suitable rocks nearby.  Someday I will have to come back to climb this route with a partner.

    I then hiked out and drove to the South Seas Area in the Black Hills National Forest / Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.  While other climbing areas in the Black Hills have ground up ethics, this area allows for top down routes, thus, the routes have a very different character than other areas.  I rope-soloed the all natural protection jam crack "Birds Nest" (5.6).  This was an excellent climb up a crack ranging from perfect hands to full arms off-width.  I then rope-soled the sport routes "Full Speed Ahead" (5.6), "Damn The Torpedos" (5.8), and "Joy Boat" (5.7) on the Joy Boat Formation.  It was a real change to do sport climbing compared to the trad and sparsely bolted climbs I had been previously doing.  The South Seas area is like an outdoor climbing garden.

    (To Be Continued)
  • Thursday, January 16, 2014 10:06 PM
    Reply # 1476780 on 1476040
    Anonymous
    There are many other climbing routes in the South Seas area, which is a sport climbing area compared to the surrounding ground-up climbing areas.  There are also some quite hard climbs in this area.

    August 22, 2013

    After a nice two days stay at Horsethief Lake Campground, I drove to west through the Black Hills to Spearfish to climb in the Spearfish Canyon area.  This area has limestone sport climbing.  There are many very hard climbs throughout the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Area, but I chose the Skeletal Remains area, which is the closest to the city of Spearfish.  I felt today was a "low energy day" and also wanted to save my energy for climbing the next day at
  • Thursday, January 16, 2014 11:17 PM
    Reply # 1476836 on 1476040
    for climbing at Devils Tower.  So today I focused on some of the easier climbs.  I rope soloed the easy, but nice "Sewn Up" (5.5).  This short climb is well bolted, but I wished it was longer.  I also did an unknown climb just to the left of "Sewn Up", which was about 5.6.

    August 23, 2013

    I woke up very early, checked out of my hotel in Spearfish, and drive west into Wyoming to Devils Tower.  I met my guide Filipe from Devils Tower Lodge at the lodge and then we went to Devils Tower.  We first did the classic "Durrance" route (5.8).  I easily cruised up this route with my guide to the top in about an hour and a half.  The view from the top of Devils Tower of the surrounding area was fantastic.  I found the Jump Traverse confusing because I did not know where the hidden holder were.  Once they were pointed out, it was much easier.

    I then top roped "Second Thought" (5.7), "Bon Homme Variation" (5.8), and "Devil's Delight Direct" (5.7).  There are many cracks which can be led or top roped to work on your crack climbing technique, which was one of my goals while climbing with the guide.  Later, I top roped "Tintin Does Donuts" (5.9), "Coffin Corner" (aka "Tiny's New Shoes") (5.6), "Flight 714" (5.11a), and "Lakota" (5.11b) on the southwest corner.  I really enjoyed talking to Frank Sanders, who is the owner of Devils Tower Lodge and was guiding a client in the same area as us.  If you climb at Devils Tower and either need a guiding service and/or want a place to stay very close to the tower, even closer than the campground, please check out Devils Tower Lodge.  The next day I drove from Devils Tower to Cody, Wyoming.  On the following day, I decided to do a sightseeing day in Yellowstone National Park, although I did do some easy bouldering on limestone boulders near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

    August 26, 2013

    I stayed for five days at the American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers Ranch.  This place is really great to stay at even if you are not climbing.  I met many people staying there who were not climbers and also many climbers.  You almost do not need to bring anything except for a sleeping bag since there are many items that you can borrow, although the only item I had to borrow was an air mattress because my air mattress had developed a leak.

    The first full day of being in the Grand Teton / Jackson Hole area, I went to the Hoback Shield area south of Jackson Hole.  This is a limestone crack that has both bolted climbs as well as traditional-protection climbs.  I did "Block & Tackle" (5.8), "Gear Head" (5.8), "Hoist" (5.10d), and "Hoi Polloi" (5.8) rope solo.  I also attempted "Patti's Butt" first pitch (5.8), but gave up since it started raining.

    August 27, 2013

    The prior two days I met a German climber Marcus Spechmaier who lives in North Carolina.  He was also looking for a partner since he was traveling alone.  We decided to do the east face of Teewinot (12,325') (4th class) together.  We started climbing at 6:20 AM.  At one point we were following the suggested climb in the guidebook, but realized we were in a section that was not climbed regularly.  Later we found that the "normal route" had changed to a different route over a short section.  We did several roped pitches which really only needed protection at the belay points (I only brought five cams as the total protection rack).  We got up to the top at 12:30 PM.  While we were on the top, the clouds opened up to see all of the surrounding peaks and Jackson Hole valley.  Unfortunately, on the descent, it rained for almost two hours.  We both got completely soaked.

    August 28, 2013

    Marcus already had plans to go to Yellowstone National Park for the day and I wanted to dry out, so I went far south to get away from the dampness in the Jackson Hole area.  I went to Lizard Rock near Pinedale, Wyoming.  This is a nice climbing crag that has adequately bolted routes.  I rope soloed the first pitch of "Deceitful Business" (5.4), an unknown climb to the right of "Deceitful Business" (5.7-5.8), "Donkey Day" (5.7), and an unknown climb to the right of "Donkey Day" which was about 5.10b/c.

    August 29, 2013

    Marcus and I went to the Hoback Shield area south of Jackson Hole.  I led "Shady Grove" (5.7), which is a fun bolted climb.  I then led and completed the first pitch of "Patti's Butt" (5.7).  I had wanted to also lead the second pitch of this climb (5.9), but the first bolt on the second pitch that I could see was quite high and looked very runout with a crux between.  This did not appear very good, so I rappelled down.  Only after Marcus had rappelled down and I had rappelled partway down could I see that there were two bolts on the second pitch that are not visible from the belay.  Both Marcus and I led "Practice TR" 5.5) and "Hoi Polloi" (5.8).  I attempted to top rope "Bolt Face" (5.10b), but could not figure out the strenuous moves over the roof.  I also led "Block & Tackle" (5.8) and "Gear Head" (5.8) before it started raining.  We packed up and left just in time since it poured down rain on the drive back to Jackson Hole.

    Over the next day and a half, I drove from the Grand Teton area east to Ten Sleep, Wyoming.  I stayed at one of the small hotels (there are only two or three, none of them chain hotels) in Ten Sleep.  The few restaurants and bars in Ten Sleep are all within several blocks of the motels.

    August 31, 2013

    I spent the last day of climbing at Ten Sleep Canyon, which has steep limestone climbs.  I was not used to the style of climbing needed at this place (steep climbs with pockets), so I really was shut down (probably also I was tired from climbing so many days so far on the trip).  Also, the necessity of establishing a solo rope belay anchor at the bottom of the routes I wanted to climb really limited what climbs I could do at this destination.  I rope soloed "Limb From Limb" (5.6) and "Pooh Corner" (5.7) at the Pooh Corner Area.  I tried to rope solo "Short 1" (5.6) and "Short 2" (5.7) at the Lower Psychoactive Area, but really got shut down on these steep, pocketed climbs.  Despite not feeling up to it, I really enjoyed climbing at Ten Sleep Canyon and look forward to climbing there again.

    Over the next two days, I drove east across Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota and flew home on the next day.  I cannot wait to return to climb in these areas.  I am particularly interest in climbing again at the Needles, South Dakota area.


  • Friday, January 17, 2014 11:42 AM
    Reply # 1477173 on 1476040
    Deleted user
    This trip sounds like a bit of an epic.

    I'd love to get out to climb in some of these areas. Perhaps I will target the Grand Teton region this year...
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