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By Garrett Soper
From Duluth, Minnesota
Jan 31, 2009
Leading at DL
A friend and I are going to camp and climb in Custer State Park in late may. What are some must-do climbs in the 5.8-5.11 range? Where is the best place to camp in the area? How far is it from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore climbing? Thanks in advance.

FLAG
By DaveB
Jan 31, 2009
Vitruvian Man (da Vinci)
Camp:
Sylvan Lake
Stockade Lake
Info: sdgfp.info/parks/Regions/Custe...

Many great routes...
Ten Pins/Switchbacks
Outlets
Middle Earth
Cathedral Spires
Info: mountainproject.com/v/south_da...

Approx 30-40 min drive from Sylvan Lake to Rushmore area.

FLAG
By Jon Miller on the WS
Jan 31, 2009
Agreed with what is said above. Just remember that the Needles are notoriously run out, don't be afraid to start a couple of grades lower to get used to the run outs and the rock.
Jon

FLAG
By R.Walters
Jan 31, 2009
Second the Sylvan Lake campground reccomendation. If your plans are set in stone, you may want to make reservations via the website mentioned by DaveB...it fills up faster than any other in the park.

Pick up the poorperson's guide from any local shop (Granite Sports in HIll City or Sylvan Lake Gen. Store)...it will point you in the direction of local classics for under ten dollars.

Rushmore is about 20-30 minutes from Sylvan. If you're planning on climbing at your limit, you may want to consider checking it out first to get acquainted with the rock if this is your first visit.

Have fun!

FLAG
By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jan 31, 2009
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard
Some things I'd recommend (*) are

5.8 Outlets: Outer Outlet West Buttress, Rob Knob's Spire.

5.8 Ten Pins: Phallus, Queenpin, Cerberus (Tricouni Nail).

5.8 Switchbacks: Totem Pole (for historic value---done in 1936 by Fritz Wiessner with a shoulder stand to get into the North Chimney.)

5.8 Cathedral Spires: East Gruesome East Face, Eye Tooth, Freak's Foot East Face to South Face (or stay on the East Face at 5.9).

5.8 Picket Fence: Wicked Picket, Incisor.

5.9 Needle's Eye Area: Sore Thumb.

5.9 Ten Pins: Queenpin.

5.9 Sylvan Lake: Aquarium Peak Four Little Fishies.

5.9 Cathedral Spires: Empire State Building Wavy Crack.

5.10 Outlets: Outer Outlet, Nick of Time (Maybe 5.9?)

5.10 Needle's Eye: Bell Tower, Kamps Crack.

5.10 Ten Pins: End Pin North Face.

5.10 Cathedral Spires: Freak's Fright, South Ridge.

A terrific link-up: East Face of the East Gruesome (one of the best 5.8's in the park and perhaps the Conn's finest achievement), rappel into notch between East Gruesome and do the South Tower of Spire 4 (5.7 and another great Conn effort), rappel back into the notch and do the North Face of Spire 4 (5.8).

None of these is badly run out, but some of these have bolts that, if they are the original ones, are forty years old. Inquire about current state!

Camping.
Sylvan Lake is the closest to the climbing, but I've always found it to be ugly, noisy, and overcrowded. Back in the day, we all used to stay at the Oreville campground, on US 16 and 385, nine miles from Custer. No amenities (pump water and outhouse) but nicely spaced camp sites with trees and brush separating them and a good supply of rasberries out back.

Maps.
You need 'em to find most climbs. Bill and Cori's Excellent Adventures has reproductions of the maps from Touch the Sky, maps orginally produced by Herb Conn and then redrawn by Kay Arnott for Bob Kamps' Needles guide. Orenczak-Lynn (see next topic) have some good local area maps, although confusion might result from the fact that if they didn't climb something, it might not appear in the map (for example, Phallus in the Switchbacks and the Sore Thumb in the Needle's Eye Area).

Guidebooks.
The definitive guidebook to the trad climbs in Custer State Park is Touch the Sky by Paul Piana, now out of print. Used book sellers are asking $80--$120. Maybe e-bay? Bill and Cori's site also mentions some other possibilities, not including The Needles by Zach Orenczak and Rachel Lynn, Extreme Angles Publishing. This deeply flawed book, written by people who don't know the area intimately and who have apparently selected the climbs that they happened to have done is, nonetheless, among the few options. Get ready for idiosyncratic route choices, over-grading, pages of irrelevant fluff, a three-star quality system that gives every climb three stars, and pages on the minor Moonlight Ridge locale while omitting major regions such as Sylvan Lake, the Outlets, Middle Earth, and the Picket Fence and providing substantially incomplete coverage of the Cathedral Spires (the only part covered is from Spire 1 to 4, and the map ends in blankness without even a suggestion that there is much more). Experience with the subsequent Gunks guide suggests there has been no error-checking. Still, it might be the only game in town and will point you towards some of the classics.

(*)Warning: Although I spent two weeks or so every year for 10-15 years in the Needles, that was 30 years ago and obviously much has changed.

FLAG
By Evan1984
Feb 1, 2009
Jon Miller on the WS wrote:
Agreed with what is said above. Just remember that the Needles are notoriously run out, don't be afraid to start a couple of grades lower to get used to the run outs and the rock. Jon


I really enjoyed bloodline(5.7): 2 pitches with two cool traverses and an awesome top out. We ran into the guidebook author who said something to the effect of it being "put up when 5.7 meant something." Just be careful around sturgis time because the Harley's can be deafening. ***edit, mp project has this listed as "bloody spire"***

The only other things we climbed during or drive through on a road trip were some unkown bolted lines in middle earth.

Custer is an amazing park, though.

FLAG
By Evan1984
Feb 1, 2009
rgold wrote:
S Guidebooks. The definitive guidebook to the trad climbs in Custer State Park is Touch the Sky by Paul Piana, now out of print. Used book sellers are asking $80--$120. Maybe e-bay? Bill and Cori's site also mentions some other possibilities, not including The Needles by Zach Orenczak and Rachel Lynn, Extreme Angles Publishing. This deeply flawed book, written by people who don't know the area intimately and who have apparently selected the climbs that they happened to have done is, nonetheless, among the few options. Get ready for idiosyncratic route choices, over-grading, pages of irrelevant fluff, a three-star quality system that gives every climb three stars, and pages on the minor Moonlight Ridge locale while omitting major regions such as Sylvan Lake, the Outlets, Middle Earth, and the Picket Fence and providing substantially incomplete coverage of the Cathedral Spires (the only part covered is from Spire 1 to 4, and the map ends in blankness without even a suggestion that there is much more). Experience with the subsequent Gunks guide suggests there has been no error-checking. Still, it might be the only game in town and will point you towards some of the classics. (*)Warning: Although I spent two weeks or so every year for 10-15 years in the Needles, that was 30 years ago and obviously much has changed.


When we were up there two years ago, we ran into a guy who wrote a new guidebook for the area. He was super nice and super informed. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember his name, but the book has a photo of two people on the front of it and is available at the local climbing shop. He was out climbing to celebrate the first day the book was in shops, so it should be current.

EVan

FLAG
By Garrett Soper
From Duluth, Minnesota
Feb 2, 2009
Leading at DL
It sounds like we're going to stay at Sylvan Lake. We'll make sure to try some of the suggested routes/areas, and will look for the new guide book. Thanks for all the help.

FLAG
 
By Travis Hibbard
Feb 2, 2009
El Matador
Garretts wrote:
A friend and I are going to camp and climb in Custer State Park in late may. What are some must-do climbs in the 5.8-5.11 range? Where is the best place to camp in the area? How far is it from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore climbing? Thanks in advance.


Whether you're looking for 5.8 to 5.11 or not, you should definitely climb the Conn Diagonal. It is hands down the best 5.7 i've ever climbed, awesome route!

FLAG
By Garrett Soper
From Duluth, Minnesota
Feb 3, 2009
Leading at DL
Travis Hibbard wrote:
Whether you're looking for 5.8 to 5.11 or not, you should definitely climb the Conn Diagonal. It is hands down the best 5.7 i've ever climbed, awesome route!



That climb looks awesome, we'll make sure to get on it.

FLAG
By Garrett Soper
From Duluth, Minnesota
Feb 3, 2009
Leading at DL
A last question: how far is it from Custer State Park to Spearfish Canyon?
Thanks

FLAG
By Tim Kline
From Littleton, co
Feb 3, 2009
Classic climb called Gossamer in the monster area of Rushmore
Garretts wrote:
A last question: how far is it from Custer State Park to Spearfish Canyon? Thanks


It's only about 67 Miles, not too bad. But you're not going to find a ton of things under 5.10 in the canyon. You can goto Skeletal remains for some decent moderate action, or up to Blue Sky. But the canyon is some pretty tough climbing. I have the old guide book for it and as far as I remember there were only a handful of climbs under 5.9. I love the canyon though, great climbing. I would recommend it, but bring a stick clip... a lot of the starts are over hung and the first bolt is typically placed just high enough to stick clip it.

Just a warning though, the canyon will typically be pretty wet and cold this time of year. I haven't been there this year so I don't know the conditions right now, but I grew up 5 miles from the canyon and I know Skeletal remains is probably going to be pretty snowy right now as it doesn't get a lot of sunshine. If you're into ice climbing and have the gear you could potentially do something at bridal vail or 11th hour gulch.

FLAG
By Tim Kline
From Littleton, co
Feb 3, 2009
Classic climb called Gossamer in the monster area of Rushmore
Oops failed to see you were going in May... it will be perfect in May. Are you in Denver? If so let me know when you're going in May, I'll be in SD a couple of weekends in May, maybe I can show you guys around my old stomping grounds and show you some good climbing. As for a campground, if you are going to stay near Sylvan lake my favorite place to stay is the horse thief campground, horsethief.com. Remember if your staying in Black Hills national forest you can't have a campfire, unless in a designated area, but since this is a private campground you should be able to, plus they have nice showers and stuff if you get really stinky from the climbs.

Garretts wrote:
A last question: how far is it from Custer State Park to Spearfish Canyon? Thanks

FLAG
By Mike Wysuph
From Broomfield, CO
Feb 3, 2009
Evan1984 wrote:
When we were up there two years ago, we ran into a guy who wrote a new guidebook for the area. He was super nice and super informed. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember his name, but the book has a photo of two people on the front of it and is available at the local climbing shop. He was out climbing to celebrate the first day the book was in shops, so it should be current. EVan


Vern Phinney?

On second thought, scratch that. His book has a picture of someone "kissing" Washington during a climb....pretty cool play on perspective.

I'm originally from the area (now in Co.) but wasn't into climbing when I was there. I got back this November and climbed a couple routes in the South Seas. Unreal!! Super short approach (but you didn't hear a lick of traffic), amazing summit views....and didn't see a soul the whole time.

I'm hooked and can't wait to get back!

FLAG
By Garrett Soper
From Duluth, Minnesota
Feb 3, 2009
Leading at DL
Tim Kline wrote:
Oops failed to see you were going in May... it will be perfect in May. Are you in Denver? If so let me know when you're going in May, I'll be in SD a couple of weekends in May, maybe I can show you guys around my old stomping grounds and show you some good climbing. As for a campground, if you are going to stay near Sylvan lake my favorite place to stay is the horse thief campground, horsethief.com. Remember if your staying in Black Hills national forest you can't have a campfire, unless in a designated area, but since this is a private campground you should be able to, plus they have nice showers and stuff if you get really stinky from the climbs.


We're actually from Wisconsin, but in the middle of June myself and the same friend will be in Colorado, so who knows. It would be awesome to meet up with some one who knows the area better than I do; I've only been there once. That looks like a nice place to stay. Thanks.

FLAG


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