Rock Climbing at Devils Tower | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

Rock Climbing at Devils Tower

  • Rock Climbing at Devils Tower

Since 1893, people have been climbing the Devils Tower National Monument. That inaugural climb was accomplished by two local ranchers and a 350-foot stake ladder pounded into a crack. That ladder is still visible today, sitting 200 feet above the Tower Trail.

Today, climbers use specialized gear such as spring-loaded cams, ropes and rubberized shoes. Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into large hexagonal columns, making it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. The longest of these continuous cracks are almost 400 feet long and vary significantly in width. Technical difficulties range from 5.7 to 5.13, although many climbers consider the older traditional "trade" routes such as the Durrance and Wiessner harder than the original ratings imply. Most of the routes at Devils Tower are not bolt protected and therefore require an appropriate selection of stoppers and camming devices in order to safely protect them. The few bolted face climbs that exist were established during the 1980s and early 1990s and the conditions of some of the bolts reflect that era. Each year about 5,000 people climb at Devils Tower National Monument. Since that inaugural climb back in 1893, only five climbing deaths have occurred at Devils Tower.

All climbers must register for a free climbing permit before climbing, and immediately after climbing each day. Registration is used for climber safety and also becomes part of a historical database that has been maintained since 1937. Registration also provides documentation of the Tower as a climbing resource. It is in YOUR best interest to register. Registration is free. Climbers, please observe any posted route closures. Contact park staff for specific closure areas. Camping is only allowed in the designated campground. Camping and bivouacking are not permitted on the Tower. Leaving unattended ropes or gear on the Tower is not permitted. Leave the rock as you found it. Power drills, chipping holds, gluing holds, gardening and excessive route cleaning are prohibited. Do not install new bolts or fixed pitons. Existing anchors may be replaced with a permit. However, the use of hand drills is required.

A Climbing Management Plan was developed in 1995 and was updated again in 2006. The Plan seeks to maintain a balance of recreational and traditional use of the Tower. Resource issues addressed in the Climbing Management Plan update include access trails to the 200+ climbing routes, human waste management and climber education programs. Safety issues included in the plan are helmet use and professional certification of guides. The Plan also enacted a voluntary climbing closure during the month of June. The intent of the June voluntary closure is to promote a choice to respect American Indian cultural values during a month when many ceremonies are traditionally held. Six Indian Nations have at some time inhabited the Devils Tower region and 22 tribes have been identified as culturally affiliated with the Tower.

Some routes are annually closed in order to protect nesting Prairie Falcons. Routes are frequently closed between March and July. During this time nesting activity will be monitored by park staff. Routes will be reopened if no nesting activity is identified by early summer. Climbing near raptor nests stresses the birds and often leads to chick death. Defensive raptor behavior is also potentially dangerous for climbers.

Please check for route closures when you register to climb. Rangers will strictly enforce these closures.

Visit the official Devils Tower National Monument Climbing Page for information on current closures, climbing Devils Tower National Monument, the June voluntary closure, the climbing management plan and more.

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