Devils Tower Voluntary June Closure: What are your thoughts?


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mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 12, 2017 - 05:46pm PT
Much smaller numbers than may and July.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 12, 2017 - 05:50pm PT
Ken it is voluntary. Should crags all over this country be closed to respect a certain culture. I bet every crag in this country was sacred to someone in the past why would this only happen in WY?

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 12, 2017 - 06:39pm PT
Ken, you would support a 100% ban?? Devil's Tower is one of America's premier climbing destinations. Your proposal is a bit reckless.

Grizzlyville, WY
May 12, 2017 - 06:55pm PT
There is very little, if any, evidence that Devils Tower was ever a religious pilgrimage site. A vast majority of tribes that historically used the area attach no significant meaning to the feature, other than as landmark.

The June voluntary closure is classic squeaky wheel politics. An extremely small, yet very vocal, group of Native Americans and the “white guilt”-types have made this policy. Singling out a single user group of the monument is simply a minimalist approach to placating the most vocal.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 12, 2017 - 09:27pm PT
Climb there a lot do you, Ken?

Grey Matter
May 12, 2017 - 09:58pm PT
Keep in mind that the other top example is Cave Rock, closed 100% of the time, due to "cultural resources"

Some other closures
Hueco Tanks
Twin Sisters near City of Rocks, some of Massacre Rocks
Castle Rocks was opened.

Of course, various others on sovereign reservations such as Navaho

It is odd if guides can successfully ignore the voluntary ban. You'd think there would be more conflict or protest.


Grizzlyville, WY
May 12, 2017 - 10:11pm PT
You'd think there would be more conflict or protest.

Every NA I've talked to at the tower want's to know:
1) How'd you get up there?
2) How do you get down?
3) Is it scary?
4) What's up there?

Sample size, probably 50. Mostly Lakota and Crow.
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
May 12, 2017 - 10:28pm PT
if you're Native American, and you climb the tower in June, do they still count you as a climber?
Q- Ball

Mountain climber
but to scared to climb them anymore
May 12, 2017 - 10:38pm PT
Ken, if you are against people climbing think about the flip side. I support the NPS but have had my home and property seized by the Feds. We fought in court for 20 years. Just two weeks ago they demolished my childhood home.

It is funny I'm on a board that created this GSMNP and this organization have fought for the preservation of it for since the get go. I hate that I now can't visit my old home without just crying.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 13, 2017 - 04:58am PT
Guides were the reason it's voluntary. They took the government to court. Also guides are not as surprising as rangers.

Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2017 - 12:39pm PT
Brandon asked: "What is the premise for the closure?"

The voluntary closure exists because some Native American groups perceive climbing on the tower as a direct conflict with its status as a sacred site. Many people ask why are climbers the only ones that are singled out. That is the reason. The average visitor that is walking the tower trail is not seen as being in conflict with the value of the Tower as a sacred site. The closure is a compromise that balances the validity of both the views of climbers and Native Americans.

I like the way that Nolan Huther, on the same thread I started on mountainproject put it:

"It is because rather than creating a law which people are forced to abide, it instead asks climbers to take into consideration the perspective of other people- it forces climbers to choose whether or not to respect the culture of the Native Americans. It hopes to build a relationship of understanding and acceptance."

Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2017 - 12:48pm PT
Here are a few graphs to show how the numbers of climbers in June have been increasing. The NPS keeps track of this through the mandatory registration cards.

The graph above shows the number of June climbers as a percentage of annual climbers. 1995 was the first year the Climbing Management Plan and the voluntary closure was enacted. If one climber climbs 30 days in a month they count as 30, not 1.

The total number of climbers at the tower has been staying roughly between 4000-6000 with a slight decrease since the early 90's.


Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2017 - 01:09pm PT
WyoRockMan says:

"There is very little, if any, evidence that Devils Tower was ever a religious pilgrimage site. A vast majority of tribes that historically used the area attach no significant meaning to the feature, other than as landmark."

In response, through the Climbing Management Plan, the NPS is protecting cultural resources, not closing Devils Tower for religious purposes.

Weather or not Devils Tower was historically a religious pilgrimage site it is considered sacred by more than one tribe and ceremonies take place at the tower throughout the year, weather you see them or not. Native Americans are very private about their ceremonies and they are usually not visible to the general public.

Cumberland Plateau
May 13, 2017 - 03:09pm PT
From what I understand the native people believe the tower was formed by a bear. This is not true. Devils Tower is a remnant of Yygdrasil. As an arborist I believe it must be climbed.
If you touch it in a friendly manner you will understand that it wants to be climbed.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
May 14, 2017 - 04:06am PT
There is no question that Devils tower is a special place for climbers.

However, given the importance of respecting Native American wishes, it seems reasonable to honor the June closure.

We have mandatory perigrine falcon closures at many areas for Petes sake.


Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
May 14, 2017 - 04:25am PT
I'm grateful that the NPS and Indian Nations allowed this to happen, and kept their side of the bargain over the decades.

This is so laughable coming from Ken M. His lack of knowledge and bigoted nature towards Native Americans is well known. Ken, you told us all last week you didn't recognize American Indian tribes as sovereign nations, even though many of them legally are and have been, not for decades but going on nearly two centuries.

And what bargain do ye speak of? Tell us. Do you even know anything of Devil's Tower?


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 14, 2017 - 04:43am PT
Yeah gotta roll eyes at the scource ( Ken M) but agree with the statement.
June is generally the best month at the tower. Before the ban that's when I climbed it the most. But I've never broken the ban since It's been in place.

But the Voluntary nature is key. It's done out of respect and not because it's a rule.

Contrarywise you have to respect the climbers for whom it means so much, as well as the native amticain coalition. Some, have no choice, and Jeff me is their window.
Live and let live.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Where Safety trumps Leaving No Trace
May 14, 2017 - 05:07am PT
We hear this again: Why doesn't the voluntary closure work?

Bottom line: Andy Petefish commercial guide took the original ruling of the NPS to federal court circa 1996? in Casper, WY. Judge Dowes ruled that the tower can never be closed to climbing due to religious reasons -- see ruling Badoni vs Higginson

complete text:

a version from

We had to drag their NPS asses to court before they would consider the meaning of the ruling Badoni v Higginson.

The voluntary closure does work. I decide what I want to do & when. I do not have to obey the lip service the NPS pays to 7 Indian Tribes that cannot agree on anything. The Park Service created in house the idea of a climbing closure back in 1992 as something to do for the Native Americans. It was not any form of a mandate from any of the Indian Tribes associated with Devils Tower historically or through their living representatives. It is another Park Service mess create by then Supt. Deb Ligget who could not comprehend the meaning of the 1st Amendment -- Devils Tower is not an Indian Reservation.

Seven Indian tribes that cannot agree on anything -- Danny Rosen and I guided about seven Indians from Minnesota up the Tower during the closure. These boys and girls could care less what the Sioux Indians think of climbing in June as they are still bitter enemies.

Climbing the Tower in June is no violation of the law. Nor does it constitute disrespect for Indians. It is just disrespect for a slight of hand ruling the Park Service has made.

The Tower cannot and will not be closed to climbing for any form of non compliance to the NPS voluntary ruling per Judge Dowes ruling based on Badoni v Higginson. So choose your climbing date as you please -- there will be no backlash. Again this is Federal Property open to the public. It is not an Indian Reservation.

The government is known for many bookkeeping tricks. If the NPS wants to see more compliance for the closure then move the closure from June to the period December 15 to Jan 15 of the next year.


Grizzlyville, WY
May 14, 2017 - 06:43am PT
The Lakota have been displaced from their claims for longer than they had occupied the area to begin with.

I'm sure they also gave consideration to the Cheyenne after they beat them down and took their land. Introducing the Lakota to the horse in 1730 will go down in Cheyenne history as a "bad move". The Cheyenne occupied the land after war with the Kiowa prior to that.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 14, 2017 - 07:15am PT
Dingus hit the nail on the head with as much clarity as anything he has said on here. I keep thinking of how all of North America was Native American lands so maybe, following the logic by some on this thread, all climbing areas should be closed in June. Why stop at climbing. How about no agriculture, no sports, no tourism, no anything on any land that was once Native American land just for one month though.
Messages 21 - 40 of total 175 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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