Devil's Tower One Way Sunset (to the top) and other routes
Devil's Tower One Way Sunset (to the top) and other routes
Page Type: Trip Report
Wyoming, United States, North America
34.01360°N / 159.61311°W
Devil's Tower One Way Sunset (to the top) and other routes
Jul 29, 2014
Created/Edited: Aug 1, 2014 / Aug 4, 2014
Object ID: 907303
Page Score: 82.48%
- 15 Votes
Vote: Log in to vote
A recent week-long climbing trip to the Cirque of the Towers inspired me to want to climb in the nearby Deep Lake area, an area that is less crowded than the Cirque but apparently has just as good of climbing. So I made a post on mountainproject.com looking for a partner. Eric responded to my post, and we made plans to meet at the trailhead a few days later. But an unforeseen wave of never-ending thundershowers settled in over the Wind River Range and thwarted our plans (the dismal NOAA forecast
). So where to go? I tossed out the idea of Devil's Tower, a climbing destination I had always wanted to check out. Devil's Tower was about 7 hours drive further east, and the weather looked great there. A little hot perhaps, but we figured we could chase the shade around the Tower and be fine. So to Devil's Tower we went.
We hung out at Devil's Tower for 4 days, climbing 3 of these days and photographing prairie dogs on the other day. I was impressed with the quality of the climbing on the Tower. The cracks are splitter, the rock is textured, and the pitches are long and steep and the grades are by no means soft. Many of the routes go to the top (or at least close to the top) of the Tower, but the rock quality is best on the lower half of the routes. So after climbing to the top on our first day (via One Way Sunset, a great 5-pitch 5.10c route), we spent the rest of our days cragging on the lower pitches of various classic routes.
This page provides a trip report for our impromptu trip to Devil's Tower.
Some Random Cool Facts About Devil's Tower
• Geologic History: About 50 million years ago molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. As hot, molten lava cools and solidifies it shrinks in volume and fractures along vertical planes, with geometric considerations often orienting the fractures into five- or six-sided polygons. Over millions of years erosion exposed Devil's Tower.
• Size: The Tower rises 867 feet from its base. The diameter of its base is 1,000 feet. An interesting question is: How many vertical columns are there along the Tower's circumference? I could find no statistic that answered this question, but Eric and I estimated there are somewhere between 150-200 columns. I could do a photo analysis but it would be tedious.
• Climbing Routes: Devil's Tower crams a high concentration of great cracks into the smallest area possible. Essentially, there is a beautiful crack every 5 or 10 feet, and they mostly run perfectly up and down. The climbs are long and sustained; many pitches are 165-190 feet long. The rock quality is excellent up until the last 100 feet of the tower or so, so many routes are best done by climbing the first 2-3 pitches and then rappelling. Fixed anchors are numerous. The easiest / most popular route up Devil's Tower is Durrance, which is located on the South Face of the Tower and is rated at 5.6 (some guidebooks rate it at 5.8 in which case it is not the easiest route, but in either case it is the most popular route on the Tower). Climbing on the west and north faces tends to be steeper and harder, ranging from 5.8 all the way up to 5.13 and more. In general, climbs that are 5.8 and under tend to be offwidths, 5.9 are hand cracks, and 5.10 are finger cracks.• First Ascent: The first known ascent of Devil's Tower by any method took place 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 on the southeast side of the Tower (just right of the Bon Homme route). Devil's Tower was first free climbed to the top by Fritz Wiessner on June 28, 1937 during his yearly travels through the area; his route—also on the southeast side of the Tower—is now known as the Wiessner Route and is rated at 5.7.
Climbs We Did
CLIMB 1 - JULY 29 - One Way Sunset, Far Northwest Face (5.10c, 5 pitches) TO THE TOP!• Description
: This is apparently one of the best routes to the top, if you climb 10c and want something more challenging than the popular Durrance (5.8) route. Classic climbing, great fingers, great hands, great belays, solid and sustained climbing, a stately pleasure cruise. Also a good choice on a hot day since the route is north facing. Solid bolted belays the whole way up. Pitch 1: fingers, face; Pitch 2: hands; Pitches 3-5: wider. • History: This rather visionary and historic route was first free climbed on June 15, 1977 by Dennis Horning an Jim Slichter. This was the first free route done in this improbable looking area of the West Face. Dennis originally climbed what is now the first pitch as two shorter pitches, naming them "Warm-up Pitch" and "Feather-Fingers Pitch". • Gear: Standard rack, medium stoppers, large cams for Pitch 2.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. o. p. q. r. s. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Entering Devil's Tower National Monument. I see a tower and I have to get to the top.
b. "Please Do Not Take Registration Cards as Souvenirs". Climbers must register to climb at the booth in the parking lot; registration is free.
c. To get to the route, we hiked the Tower trail, a 1.3 mile trail which circles the entire base of the Tower.
d. We turned off the Tower trail around to the midway point, and then had to traverse to the far northwest side of the North Face. We had to go further around the North Face than we thought.
e. Looking up the base of One Way Sunset. We started a bit lower down than in the topo and climbed half a pitch of 5.7ish to get to the real base of the route.
f. The first pitch has a wonderful finger crack.
g. A piton on the first pitch.
h. The second pitch has a wonderful hand crack.
i. Looking down while climbing the second pitch.
j. The third pitch starts with a handcrack, goes over a bulge, and gets a bit wider. In general the route gets wider as it goes up. Notice the bolted belay in the photo. All the belays have two bolts on this particular route.
k. Eric leading up the chimney on the fourth pitch. The rock quality deteriorates higher on the Tower but it was still fun climbing.
l. Looking down from the nice belay perch at the top of Pitch 4. The birds obviously like this perch too.
m. Looking at the fifth pitch, blocky and licheny low 5th.
n. The view from the top!
o. Eric rappelling down the North Face Rappel Route. This required 1 single rope rappel followed by 3 double rope rappels.
p. A close up of the columnar form of Devil's Tower, formed by the fracturing of the granite as it cooled underground. The rock quality deteriorates towards the top so often climbers climb the first few pitches and then rap down the route. We wanted to summit with our first route so that is why we chose One Way Sunset.
q. A close up of bark on a tree on the trail.
r. The West Face of the Tower, on the hike back to the car at the end of the day. In this photo, One Way Sunset is on the left side of the Tower just left of the pillar that sticks out further than the rest (so has a large shade line just right of it). You can see the chimney pitch of One Way Sunset near the top.
s. We picked up some rocks alongside the trail and joked about walking around telling tourists: "Summit rocks, two for a dollar". (This is not as crazy as it sounds—I was actually asked by a woman a couple of days later if I had brought any rocks off the summit, and if she could have one!). I wonder if they'd notice that a couple of the chunks in my hand are asphalt.
CLIMB 2 - JULY 30 - Tulgey Wood, West Face South End (5.10a, Pitch 1)• Description
: Pitch 1: Fingers, stem, and liebacks; Pitch 2: Good hand-fist crack. • History
: The West Face was once deemed impossible terrain for free climbers. Mark Hesse and Dan McClure proved it was possible on June 2, 1972. They rated it 5.9+. The second, extremely long pitch only felt 5.9 probably because they climbed mostly in Vedauwoo.
a. b. c. |Photo descriptions:|
a. We stayed at the campground just inside the National Monument zone. $12/night is not bad for proximity to water, bathrooms, picnic tables, parking, and prairie dogs. Plus the campground is less than 5 minutes from the parking lot below the tower.
b. I threw my garbage right on top of this guy. I don't know which one of us was more surprised!
c. Eric playing his Native American flute at the base of Tulgey Wood.
CLIMB 3 - JULY 30 - El Matador, West Face South End (5.10d, Pitches 1-2)• Description
: Fingers, hands, and grueling stemming. Undoubtedly the signature Tower route. This route is a megaclassic. • History
: FA: This route was first spied by the legend himself, Fred Beckey, in September 1967. Fred was 44 at the time he did this route with Eric Bjornstad. FFA: Bob Yoho and Chuck Holtkamp, August 6, 1976.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Eric leading up the first pitch (5.8+) to get to the base of the ultra classic stembox of Pitch 2.
b. Eric nearing the top of the stembox. This pitch seems to go on forever. The topo says 130 feet.
c. Steph nearing the top of the stembox. This was quite memorable climbing!
d. We rapped (double rope rap) from the top of the stembox pitch. Watch out for the rope-eating crack at the top of the pillar....we got our knot firmly wedged in it as we pulled the rope.
e. After an hour of trying to flick and pull the rope free, we finally resorted to jugging...
f. A photo of the rope-eating crack in action.
g. Our audience during our 3-hour climb and rope rescue.
h. A view of the first two pitches of El Matador taken from the base of the Tower in the afternoon sun. The deep stembox is obvious.
CLIMB 4 - JULY 30 - Burning Daylight, North Face East Buttress (5.10b, Pitch 1)• Description
: Four bulges/roofs in a dihedral. Fingers, hands.History: FA: Dennis Horning and Mike Todd, October 30, 1977.
a. b. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Eric at the base of Burning Daylight. We had come to climb the left crack (Casper College) but ended up climbing the crack/roofs in the dihedral, which was a great route.
b. The view of the campground from the Tower. It's a pleasant campground, kind of a little oasis.
CLIMB 5 - JULY 30 - Belle Fourche Buttress, North Face East Buttress (5.10b, Pitches 1-2)• Description
: Bad ass, steep crack climbing. Big, almost rattly fingers to thin hands. Committing climbing on perfect rock. • History
: This route was originally done as an aid climb in 1961 by Don Ryan and Gary Cole. In the autumn of 1977, an inspired Dennis Horning talked Dave Rasmussen into holding the rope for him while he led it. It is impressive to consider that Dennis had EBs on this feet and only stoppers and hexes on his rack.
a. b. c. |Photo descriptions:|
a. We spotted this crack when we approached Burning Daylight / Casper College. We decided we had to climb it.
b. The shadow of the Tower on the plains below.
c. Alpenglow on the west side of the Tower, from a pullout on the road on the short drive back to the campground.
REST DAY - JULY 31 - Prairie Dogs, Prairie Dog Town at Devil's Tower National Monument
There is a Prairie Dog Town just outside the campground in the Devil's Tower National Monument zone. We took a day off from climbing, and I enjoyed a few hours photographing the prairie dogs. Eric and I had some fun discussing the social dynamics of the prairie dog field. The ones close to the road were definitely rounder and friendlier than the leaner and meaner prairie dogs at the outskirts of the field.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. o. p. q. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Morning light on Devil's Tower, from the campground area.
b. The roadside I-will-pose-for-cheetos prairie dog.
c-d. The roadside prairie dog eating his veggies to balance the cheetos.
e-f. The leaner, meaner, I'm-vegan-and-do-yoga types at the outskirts of the field.
f. A curious prairie dog.
g-j. I set up my camera with a wide angle lens on it about on the edge of a hole and waited for the prairie dog to pop up.
k-p. These photos show the old wooden ladders from the first known ascent of Devil's Tower on July 4, 1893, by 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. It took me a few days to spot these ladders, but they are about 6 cracks right of the Bon Homme route on the southeast side of the Tower. The ladders are difficult to see from the ground unless you know exactly where to look. I took these photos with my 400mm telephoto lens from the area near Prairie Dog Town (photo k) and from the Tower trail (photos l-p).
q. Climbers on the Durrance Route. I took this photo with my 400 mm telephoto lens from the area near Prairie Dog Town.
CLIMB 6 - AUG 1 - McCarthy's West Face Free Variation, West Face South End (5.9+, Pitch 1) FALCON CLOSURE!• Description
: Pitch 1: Climb up past broken arete to a shallow, right-facing corner. From the ledge, launch right into a steep finger crack and past a small roof (crux 5.9+). Continue up a left-facing corner, moving right past a small overhang into another right-facing corner. Delicate face and crack climbing lead you to the belay. Pitch 2:.... • History
: FA: Chris Ballinger, Dennis Horning, and Steve Gardiner, July 1, 1978. • Falcon Closure!
: When we were midway through the first pitch, a ranger yelled up that the route was closed due to peregrine falcon nesting (which we had not known, although we should have been more aware). We finished the pitch, rappelled off, and joined the ranger for a nice long reasonably-friendly chat in the ranger station. It's good they take the peregrine nesting seriously.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. |Photo descriptions:|
a. A sign on the approach to the West Face warning that climbers need to register. Registration is free and done at the booth at the parking lot.
b. Morning shadow of Devil's Tower.
c. Eric starting up Way Layed, an 11a which we ended up backing off. 11a means something at the Tower!
d. After backing off Way Layed, we decided to climb the route just right: McCarthy's West Face Free Variation, a popular five-pitch 5.10b route.
e. But midway through the first pitch of McCarthy's West Face Free Variation, we heard a voice yelling up to us that the route was closed. We finished the pitch, rappelled, and then joined the ranger for a nice long reasonably-friendly chat in the ranger office back near the visitor center. It turned out that the entire West Face was closed to climbing due to peregrine falcon nesting, which we had not been aware of. We had somehow gotten away with climbing on the West Face a couple of days previous without being noticed.
f. A sign below the West Face warning about the climbing closure. We had approached the West Face via a path slightly left of this sign, so we never saw it until the ranger led us by it on the way down. It would help if the sign warning about registration and the sign noting the closure were at the same spot rather than on different approach routes. I'm embarrassed and a bit angry at myself that we did not notice any of the climbing closure signs during our four days in the area, but the park suffers a bit of signage overload and I think we had tuned out to the signs by this point ("Don't disturb the prayer flags", "Don't take the climbing permits as souvenirs", "Don't feed the prairie dogs", "Climbers must register", "Climbers must park in the gravel lot",...).
g. The remains of a peregrine's lunch. This alone is a good reason to not climb around them. Plus, peregrines are a threatened species and lived on the Tower long before climbers came along, so they deserve their nesting space.
CLIMB 7 - AUG 1 - Back to Montana, North Face Left (5.10d, 2 pitches)• Description
: A must-do for aspiring Tower stemmers. Pitch 1: Approach by climbing the first pitch of Everlasting. Pitch 2: Traverse up and right from the belay and follow a rotten corner, eventually tending back left to gain the main corner system. Although a little dirty at the start, this climb is a classic. • History
: FA: Frank Sanders and Chris Engle, September 5, 1981. FFA: Dennis Horning and Monte Cooper, June 27, 1982.
a. b. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Looking up the corner of Pitch 2.
b. A piton in Pitch 2.
CLIMB 8 - AUG 1 - Buckspeck, North Face Left (5.10c, 1 pitch)• Description
: Arete, sport. 15 bolts + anchor. This is one of the few pure face climbs on the Tower. • History
: FA: Dennis Horning and Hollis Marriott, 1991.
a. b. |Photo descriptions:|
a. Looking up the arete.
b. Triple chocolate turns out to be a bad flavor for trail mix in the heat of Devil's Tower.
CLIMBING STOPS ON THE DRIVE TO AND FROM DEVIL'S TOWER - JULY 28 and AUG 2 & 3 & 4 - Fremont Canyon and Ten Sleep and Vedauwoo
On the drive to Devil's Tower (from the Pinedale area) we stopped to climb a few routes at Fremont Canyon. On the drive from Devil's Tower to Rocky Mountain National Park (our next climbing destination) we stopped to climb a few sport routes on the limestone crags of Ten Sleep and stopped for a couple of days to climb the famous offwidths at Vedauwoo. • Fremont Canyon
: From http://www.fremontcanyon.com
: "Fremont Canyon, located between Casper and Lander, Wyoming, contains hundreds of high quality routes on solid, steep granite. Routes range from 40 to 400+ feet in length, and 5.6 to 5.13d in difficulty. Though known for it's steep crack climbs, many sport climbs and some bouldering problems have been developed." • Ten Sleep
: From mountainproject.com
: "Located just East of the town of Ten Sleep on HIghway 16, Wyoming (population - less than 300), Ten Sleep may now be the premier limestone climbing area in Wyoming. There are dozens of mini-crags up and down the canyon offering nearly 1000 routes. Routes range in grade from 5.7 to 5.14. Almost all the climbing is sport." • Vedauwoo
: From http://www.vedauwoo.org
: "The precambrian granite is laced with huge feldspar crystals with scalpel like edges that can impart much more than just friction to a climbers body parts. It has been stated that this attribute tends to 'filter out the weak, the soft and the spineless, which leaves better company for you'. Also be forewarned, the climbs are notoriously stiff. Solid 5.11 leaders have been sandbagged by many routes of lesser grade. Whatever the case, its a good idea to 'tape up' when climbing here and, for those who can get past these things, absolutely world class climbing experiences can be found."
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. o. |Photo descriptions:|
a. The steep granite walls of Fremont Canyon.
b. To climb in Fremont Canyon, you set an anchor and rappel and then climb up. Pretty unique!
c. Eric climbing in Fremont Canyon.
d. The limestone crags along highway 16 just east of the town of Ten Sleep.
e. We stopped for a few hours and climbed at the popular roadside area called Home Alone. Even though I am not really much of a fan of sport climbing or cragging, it was a fun stop. I've not climbed on limestone much before this.
f. The view from the crag at Ten Sleep.
g. "Warning: Rock climbing and bouldering are extremely dangerous activities that can result in broken bones, paralysis, permanent injury, and even death...."
i. Eric "climbing" a Vedauwoo 11a classic offwidth called Horn's Mother. He did start to lead it but backed off. 11a is stiff at Vedauwoo!
j. We climbed Currey's Diagonal, a popular 10b diagonal crack on the Holdout formation.
k. We also climbed Beefeater, a popular 10b hand crack on the Holdout formation.
l. A precarious boulder on top of the Holdout formation. I would guess these formed when erosion left remnants of the upper layers as boulders.
m. A rock mushroom near the Nautilus formation.
n. We toproped Max Factor (11c) at Nautilus. I loved this route (stellar textured finger crack!) and did it three times.
o. A thundershower hit just after noon. Eric wanted a couple of rest days and the weather didn't look great, so we planned to meet up in Estes Park just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park a few days later.
More on my websiteThis trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: www.stephabegg.com.