Matt and Joanne’s Page

August 31, 2008

Devil’s Tower

Filed under: Climbing, Roadtrip — Tags: , — Matt Stamplis @ 6:44 am

Our last stop in Wyoming was Devil’s Tower. When we first moved to Oregon 4 years ago we didn’t stop because we were in a hurry and the tower is an hour or so off I-90. Of course, now that we’re rock climbers, it would be very hard to drive right by it without a stop!

Devil’s Tower, from the campground. The campground was shady and relatively uncrowded: each site has lots of room to spread out.

The first pitch of the Durrance route. This is the easiest way to the top of the tower and by far, the most popular climbing route. Our first day here we showed up fairly early and there was already a line for this route. We couldn’t believe it: there’s somewhere around 200 established climbs on Devil’s Tower yet everyone flocks to this route. And, to top it off, the climbing on this route is not particularly aesthetic (lots of awkward climbing): we had more fun on pretty much every other route we climbed.

Joanne starting up the Bon Homme route. Looks like a nasty offwidth above but we took the popular Horning variation, stepping left into a more friendly, though bizarre, crack system. The cracks are a little hard to describe but I’ll try: The tower consists of tall columns abutting one another. Over time, erosion has opened up gaps between these columns and formed the cracks that climbers love. When three of these columns meet in a corner, there tends to be a double crack system which is a bit unusual: it’s much more common to have a single crack in a corner. Anyway, I guess I found this to be a bit interesting! It also made me start thinking about what’s holding these columns together: from all the rock debris around the tower you can see that many of them have fallen in years past.

Here’s Joanne on the summit of Devil’s Tower. The top is big and flat: you could easily play a game of frisbee up here! So the worst thing about climbing at Devil’s Tower are the other tourists you have to walk by on your way back to the car. I’m not joking when I say at least 7-8 different people asked us questions like “How long did it take to get to the top?” and “How do you get your rope down?” and “What’s it like on top?”. It’s fun to chat with the first couple people but by the time we’re 100 yards from the car we try a different strategy: talk amongst ourselves and avoid eye contact. But even these methods did not keep us safe from the masses…

The tower is the largest but not the only attraction in the park. There is a large and active prairie dog community on the drive in to the visitor center. Prairie dogs were always one of my favorite zoo animals so I had fun watching them doing prairie dog things.

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