Wiessner/ Extended Wiessner Route

Wiessner/ Extended Wiessner Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 44.59060°N / 104.715°W
Additional Information Route Type: Classic Crack-Free
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: 5.7/5.8
Sign the Climber's Log


You can take the South West Shoulder Approach, to the Durrance Route, then move down and right, over to the bottom(last) set of bolts on the Meadows Rappel.From there, continue traversing, with moderate climbing, about 40 ft right and 25 ft. up, to the upper set of the bottom(last)set of Meadows Rappel Bolts...or you can do a "warm-up pitch", climbing up the "Bowling Alley" which is the route of the last Meadows Rappel, to the upper set of bolts, which is 40 ft. right and 25 feet higher then the 1st set. Both routes start from there,

Route Description

This route was first climbed on June 28,1937 by Fritz Wiessner, William House and Lawrence Coveney. It marks the first ascent of Devils Tower by Traditional Climbing techniques. (In 1893, two local ranchers, Willard Ripley and William Rogers constructed a ladder, by pounding fence posts in a crack (3 cracks left of Walt Bailey Memorial). They ascended that ladder on the 4th of July of that same year, to become the 1st recorded humans to stand atop the Tower).The Wiessner route stands today as a Rock Solid Testimonial to the Bold and Adventurous Style of of that Era of Climbing and to the Brave Hearts that did it. THIS IS THE DEVILS TOWER ROUTE THAT SHOULD BE REPRESENTED IN THE "50 Classic Climbs" BOOK.!!!!!

Several accounts of Wiessners 1st ascent were recorded, including the one by Lawrence Coveney which appeared in the December, 1937 edition of APPALACHIA, which is a publication by the Appalachia Mountain Club. Reports are conflicting as to the exact location of the lower section of this party's ascent route. However all accounts agree about the infamous "Wiessner Crack"(chimney) and the route from there, upwards.

The most aesthetic and enjoyable approach to the Wiessner Crack is labeled as "Extended Wiessner" or "Wiessner Direct" in other guidebooks.Steve Roper and Chuck Pratt can receive the credit for being the first ones to climb this section, on their trip out from California in August of 1964. It is 5.8, it can be well protected and it all starts at the Upper Set of the Lower Bolts on the Meadows Rappel Route!!!

Pitch 1(5.8, 100ft.) Climb the most obvious wide crack, that starts a few feet left of the rappel bolts. It is a little hard getting started, but overhead protection can be afforded by a #4 cam. Procede upwards, over easier ground to a large ledge, in a "box". Catch your breath. The remainder of the pitch is afforded good protection in the left hand crack and can be climbed by jamming the left hand crack, stemming between the two cracks or some combination of both. The belay is on the column top to the left, which sports a secure, 2 Big-Bolt anchor.

Pitch 2 (5.7, 65 ft.) The Wiessner Crack. Step down and right a few feet from the belay station and stretch/lean/climb/fall into the offwidth crack to the right. With your left side in the offwidth and your back to the wall, you can wiggle your way up, 65 ft. and enjoy panoramic views of the Beautiful Belle Fourche River Valley. The lower portion of the crack is hard to protect, but the chimney is really quite secure. Several chockstones can be tied-off and the new larger cams can certainly help. Higher up, you will pass an original piton, in a horizontal crack, that was hammered in by Fritz. Decades later he was asked why he placed that piton, as the difficulties of the crack had eased by then. He replied that it was to "...help his friends...." Your chimney efforts will reward you with a Lovely column-top belay ledge and a 3 Big-Bolt anchor. Try to figure out what Fritz was thinking as he led THAT pitch !!!

Pitch 3 (5.4, 55 ft.) Continue up the now "way-wide" crack to the Meadows.

Finish.... From The Meadows you can go right and take the Standard 4th Class Thrash to the top....or go left, reverse the Jump Traverse Pitch and continue up the Bailey Direct Finish, of the Durrance Route, for a more Pleasant Last Pitch.

As a Historic Footnote, it is interesting to note that as Fritz Wiessner led every pitch on the way up, so Fritz Wiessner set every rappel anchor and led every rappel down. Lawrence Coveney noted, when they had reached the column top at the end of the Wiessner Crack, on their rappel route down, that Fritz set a SINGLE PITON to rap from. Coveney and House watched the piton closely, as Fritz rapped. They saw it bend and then move, causing them both to grab the rope and hold it until Fritz finished the rappel. They did take the liberty to set another piton,BEFORE THEY RAPPED, although Fritz assured them that his original one would hold !!!! I can hardly imagine how History would have been changed if the First Climbing Ascent of Devils Tower had led to the First Rappeling Death of Devils Tower.....

Essential Gear

Standard Rack, with several long runners to tie-off chockstones and be sure to take the opportunity to use all of those large and extra-large camming units that you've bought!!

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-1 of 1

scottkasten - May 5, 2003 7:10 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

To preface this commentary 5.8 is my limit on trad. lead an my offwidth technique basically sucks!

The first pitch is the best pitch on lead that I have ever done! Stemming for 60-80ft was a blast, especially with the great pro on the pitch.

Now the 2nd pitch was the scarriest lead I have ever done. I heard 2nd hand that you need really big pro to protect that pitch, then I heard 1st hand that it would be fine with out it. My comfort would have been served greatly had I been carring a #4.5 and a #5 camalot. I used my #4 to protect the traverse into the crack at the start, so I had nothing over a #3 at that point. I was able to get a couple pieces in before the piton but past the piton I had to run it out about 30ft - basically to the top. It was super scary. I would do it again in a minute but with a couple bigger pieces.

If you are at all stronger at leading than I am and have a couple big pieces of pro - then bypass the line at Durrance and get on Wiesner's! What a blast!

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