Stories from the GOS Crew 8/30/2018
From Great Outdoor Store
A few years back, I had the opportunity to climb Devil’s Tower and tick a climbing route off my bucket list. Like many people, when I first visited Devil’s Tower with my folks as a child I remember thinking that climbing it would be cool, but that was it. It was only a thought. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I was going to come back and climb it.
I arrived at a small bed and breakfast in the little town of Nemo on Labor Day weekend. A few climbing buddies and I were going to use this as a home base for this endeavor. That night after everyone had gotten there we sat around a campfire catching up, telling stories, and planning a day of warmup climbs before we embarked on our journey up the Tower. Since I had never climbed in the Black Hills, I suggested a trip to the Needles area of Custer State Park. The Needles area of the Black Hills is a well-known area in the climbing world and boasts some of the most classic U.S. climbs. One area of the needles is named Middle Earth and all the routes are named from The Lord of the Rings Series--before the movie was ever out.
The next day we all piled into 2 vehicles and went climbing around the Needles area, exploring what makes the Needles a unique climbing destination. We all arrived back at the bed and breakfast hungry and tired from the day’s climbing, but we were eager to get to the task at hand the next day.
My first glimpse of the tower as we approached it in our cars was as impressive as I remember it. This unique geologic formation looks like a giant tree stump in the middle of nowhere and sticks out like a sore thumb in a landscape of rolling hills and high plains desert. As we passed the entrance gate the Tower and its sheer monstrosity became more real. I still couldn’t believe we were going to climb this thing.
As we “racked” up in the parking lot and began to approach the climb the looks from passing visitors began to focus on us rather than the monument. People passing were asking us questions in regard to the climb. I’m not going to lie, I kind of felt like a rock-star.
It was 1:30pm when we began the climb. The climb that we did was called Durrance Route. This route is considered one of the 50 most classic climbs in North America and is a 5 pitch, meaning there are five different points on the climb where one section ends and another section begins. As we began to climb and make it up each pitch, the onlookers walking around the monument watching us began to look like ants and the surrounding landscape came into view. As we reached the summit, the pain and exhaustion that got us up there all went away. We all signed the registrar and enjoyed the view from the top.
It took us a lot less time to get down from the tower. We descended using 3 rappels and as the last person got off the rope the sun began to set. It was dark by the time we got back to the car, but the monument could still be seen as a black wall behind us. I felt very fortunate to have been given the chance to climb Devil’s Tower. It is one place every climber should put on their tick list.
Neil is a former Park Ranger/EMT with the National Park Service in Arizona and Utah for several years and has a Master's Degree in Recreation Administration, specifically Outdoor Recreational Programing. He has been in the outdoor industry for over a decade and is an avid rock climber, paddler, and a recently new father.