The Devil's Tower Climbing History

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 22, 2012 - 12:16pm PT
I have been rooting around in Conn material lately and came across this September 1956 article about the Devil's Tower in Summit magazine. Since climbing magazines had barely been invented when this one came out it is a good place to start a history thread for this truly unique and spectacular climbing area.



hobo_dan

Social climber
Minnesota
Apr 22, 2012 - 12:36pm PT
Great idea. The Tower is the home of some of the longest, most sustained crack climbing in the world. Totally high quality rock and ease of access. I'm stoked to hear the stories of the first ascensionists.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 22, 2012 - 03:04pm PT
I never would have recognized Dave Rearick if his photo hadn't been labeled!
He was years older than that when I first met him in Eldorado.
Also, I had no idea that he began climbing with the Appalachian Club.

He'd be an interesting person to profile on ST if it hasn't been done already.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2012 - 03:39pm PT
From Appie to King of the Diamond in four years!

Pretty astounding but then Dave is all that and more with respect to talent and drive.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 22, 2012 - 03:40pm PT
An enormus Grizzly did the first ascent, you can still clearly see his claw marks.
lucander

Trad climber
Shawangunks, New York
Apr 23, 2012 - 12:30pm PT

[photoid=245442]
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Apr 23, 2012 - 12:45pm PT
Jim, Was it you that was chasing the grizzly that was chasing the maidens....??
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 23, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
Thanks for that Steve!

Too bad we don't still follow this tradition:

A strict system of screening qualified climbers has been worked out by the Park Service. All climbers must have proper equipment and experience, and a recommendation from a recognized climbing organiation.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Apr 23, 2012 - 02:20pm PT
Donini told me some pretty funny stories about the park service deciding who was qualified to climb back in the day. Steve you are always posting up great stuff about the hills. Did you live here at one time?
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Apr 23, 2012 - 02:58pm PT
Calling the master of Kludge...
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Apr 23, 2012 - 04:56pm PT
Two "facts" I have learned about the Tower are that it is over 4 football fields in height from the base. The above article mentions 800 feet but that's a different measurement, which excludes the approach, obviously. I have never been closer than Fallon NV but want to go just to see, not to climb. The other "fact" which surprise me, is that as of 2010 there over 150 climbing routes.
Can anyone reliably call the shots on these for me?

Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Apr 23, 2012 - 06:04pm PT
Sounds ballpark-ish, depending on where "the base" is. Bottom of the Bell Fourche? Moorcroft?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 23, 2012 - 08:36pm PT
I actually haven't spent time climbing around these parts but I would love to check it out, of course!

I bet the rangers gave Fritz the hairy eyeball when he whipped out his babyhead to show them! LOL

Fritz found a spot for it as the story goes when he was doing the first technical route on the Tower with William House in 1937.

A babyhead is a VERY large slung knotball that was considered legitimate protection in and around Dresden (where Fritz climbed extensively before arriving in the US) while any hammered pitons were right out.

The hammered alternative in 1937 was large wooden wedges but I'm not sure that Fritz had made that compromise yet.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2012 - 05:25pm PT
Tower bump...
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Apr 29, 2012 - 08:27pm PT
Steve if you ever make it out this way let me know I would love to rope up with you.

In recent years, climbing Devils Tower National Monument has increased in popularity. The first known ascent of Devils Tower by any method occurred on July 4, 1893, and is accredited to William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers in the area. They completed this first ascent after constructing a ladder of wooden pegs driven into cracks in the rock face. A few of these wooden pegs are still intact and are visible on the tower when hiking along the 1.3-mile (2.1 km) Tower Trail at Devils Tower National Monument. Over the following thirty years many climbs were made using this method before the ladder fell into disrepair. The man most famous for climbing the tower is Fritz Wiessner who summited with William P. House and Lawrence Coveney in 1937. This was the first ascent using modern climbing techniques. Wiessner led the entire climb free, placing only a single piece of fixed gear (piton) which he later regretted, deeming it unnecessary.

Apperently hundreds of people climbed the tower up the stake ladder before it deteriorated.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2012 - 11:10am PT
There had to be a summit register from those early days...I wonder where it ended up?
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Apr 30, 2012 - 01:28pm PT
Next time I am over there I will ask at the visitors center.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2012 - 02:53pm PT
Devilish bump...
Ralphy

Trad climber
Green Honda Element
Jun 25, 2012 - 01:14am PT
Devils Tower! Yeah!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 25, 2012 - 01:19am PT
lucander, you may have gone to Chicopee high school, but my mother was in Chicopee Ski Club, near Kitchener.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicopee_Ski_Club
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