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The Durrance route is listed as one of the 50 classic climbs in North America. A 4-6 pitch route that tops out at the summit. The climb is mainly off-width and hand-crack with a few spots of chimney. You also get the choice of working a small traverse. Don't forget to register at the Visitor's Center before and after the climb. This is a crowded route and a few minutes can mean the difference between success and failure. Either plan to arrive around 5:30 AM or, if your fast and have headlamps, try to start in the late afternoon.
Note: All directional references in this description are accurate if you are facing the rock.
Approach: You have two choices here. To walk to the base of the 1st pitch... hike up the trail from the Visitor's Center and head to the right at the Tower trail. Almost immediately head left on a faint trail that angles up toward the base of the tower. Continue up an easy ramp to the base of the leaning column and the start of the Durrance. To climb up to the base of the 1st pitch... Continue hiking on the concrete Tower trail to the South side of the tower. You will come to a clear path just past the leaning column as you look up. Take this path past the registration reminder sign for 5 minutes to the base of the tower and the 1st pitch of Wiessner's route. Climb this 5.4 crack to a couple of bolts about 100 feet off of the deck. Traverse left (if facing the wall) on easy 4th class to the base of the leaning column.
Pitch 1, Leaning Column (70 feet): Ascend 20 feet up a low angle crack that quickly turns vertical. Continue up another 25 feet of off-width to a horizontal crack with a piton. Enter the chimney behind the pillar and ascend another 25feet and exit onto the top of the column to a nice belay ledge with bolts.
Pitch 2, Durrance Crack (70 feet): A two crack system heads straight up for about 70 feet. The left crack is hand-width and accepts good pro for about 50 feet. The right crack is off-width and contains a large chockstone. Good pro can be found in the left hand crack until you get to the chockstone at about 55 feet. From the chockstone, depending on how tall you are, you must commit to the right crack and face the crux of the pitch. Save your #4 Camalot or equivalent to protect the crux. If you do not have anything this size, you will probably be climbing the last 15 or so feet of this crack high above your last piece. Exit to your right onto the belay ledge with bolts. 1 Piton available about 15 feet up.
Pitch 3, Cussin' Crack (30 feet): Climb a face and off-width combo to a small ledge 20 feet up. Protect this with a number #4 or #5 stopper or equivalent on the flake to the left of the crack. From the small ledge traverse right on a 1-foot ramp to an easy and well-protected hand crack. You also have the option of continuing straight up from the small ledge in an off-width... but the right side crack is far easier. Exit onto a nice belay ledge with bolts. Be sure to run some slings from your pro to reduce rope drag if you go to the right side crack.
Pitch 4, Flake Crack (40 feet): Ascend obvious crack system on right side of huge belay ledge. A number of flakes protruding from the crack (hence the name) and some face holds for the feet will make this quite enjoyable after the off-widths lower on the route. Exit via off-width (go figure) with bomber hands onto yet another great belay ledge with bolts. Watch for some loose rock on this pitch. 1 piton is available about 15 feet up.
Pitch 5, Chockstone Crack (40 feet): Head up into a large off-width or chimney, depending on how big you are. The first 20 feet are fairly basic. The top half of this pitch is a little harder and finishes with an overhanging boulder that you must clear to exit. It will get the blood flowing, but has some decent hands to keep it relatively tame. Exit to a large belay ledge. For the first time on the route... you may be able to find some shade in a large crack on your left. Belay your second from the bolts and prepare for the jump traverse. Note: you can look down and right to spot the bolts for the second rap that you may use for your descent, they are a little harder to spot when rappelling, as they will be below you after your first rap from the summit.
Pitch 6, Jump Traverse (15 foot traverse): From the belay ledge on top of Chockstone crack, down-climb 5 feet to a small ledge. Traverse under a small roof to a horizontal finger crack. Traverse finger crack and reach back for the ledge that marks the _landing zone_ for the _jump_. Very few, if any, people actually jump on this pitch and it is not recommended. Most use the piton just around the roof to hold onto and keep the rating 5.6. If you eschew the piton, you earn a 5.8 rating for this move and the climb. Continue through a small tunnel (a nice shady spot to rest if you need it) right of the jump traverse and across the meadows to the far right crack system and climb 100 or so feet to the top. Some rope up for this section and some parties don't. Enjoy the summit.
Pitch 6 Variation, Bailey's Direct (150 feet): From top of Chockstone crack ascend up 5.4 crack that goes back and forth between hands and off-width. Exit onto summit. This finish avoids the jump traverse and has the aesthetic appeal of climbing directly to the summit.
Rappel: From the summit head back towards the top of Bailey's direct and down-climb a few feet to a rappel station. Your first rap will put you back in the meadows near the jump traverse. Down-climb to your right to some bolts below and right of the jump traverse. Make three more raps down the Bowling Alley a few hundred feet right of the Durrance route and just right of Wiessner to the base and go get some water. All raps require 2 ropes. Be careful to always rap over the nose of each pillar and NOT in the crack or else your rope will be eaten and get stuck.
Be prepared to answer all manner of questions from tourists as you race for the water fountain.
Bring lots of water and conserve it.
A truly classic climb.
Standard Rack, #4 Camalot, 2 ropes, slings.
Jul 10, 2002
Your right about the pitons on P1. Bad memory I guess. Thanks.
|By Andrew Gram|
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 10, 2002
Durrance is not visible in the picture. It is about 30 cracks left of the left side. It is very distinctive from a distance - you can easily see the leaning column from the drive in.
The 4th class approach is desperate when icy in the winter - in those cases the 5.4 pitch is better, and it is probably better anyway to add more fun 5th class climbing to the route.
This route will feel very, very hard for 5.7 if you are not used to jamming. I hung all over the first pitch and bailed form the second when I had redpointed 5.10 sport climbs at Rushmore.
TAD is a good alternative for days when people are crawling all over Durrance - I think it is actually a little easier though much more sustained.
|By Scott Thompson|
Sep 4, 2002
couple of things:we did an approach pitch (we felt there was one 6 move) right where the last meadows rap ends. to get there: find trail off the paved path right next to the two fixed scopes that look at the old wooded ladder. follow obvious path up to base of slabs below leaning column. we picked a line which was nice hands at the bottom and a little wider at the top. this is the most obvious, continuous crack in this area. it terminates straight into an obvious torso-sized rock which is split nicely in two pieces, it should be obvious. 15 feet past this broked block, the pitch ends at the left-most bolt anchor (which can be used for the final meadows rap). this is a great warm-up pitch; someone with a different guidebook said it was 5.8, but theres no way. im not sure if this is the 5.4 pitch described by Andrew, or not, but regardless, its easy and fun. from bolt anchor you can easily scramble to the base of the leaning column. theres a few diffenent ways you could do this approach pitch, but this looked the most fun, and it was indeed enjoyable.
all of the pins i noticed looked terrible, especially on the first pitch, you'd have to be crazy to rely on them solely, luckily, gear was never really a problem.
i agree with Andrew, this climb will feel very hard if you are not used to jamming, you'll surely get worked on the first two pitches. the party behind us got halfway up the first pitch, and when the leader realized he couldnt jam, they had to bail.
gear: i was comfortable with my largest piece being a 4 friend, and i never wish i had anything larger. i disagree with crossadBH, the last 15-20 of the Durrance pitch are not runnout at all. lets see: medium stopper in chockstone, 3.5 friend in fist crack on the left, yellow alien to protect the last move before the top out. this crux is pretty damn awkward, switching from the solid jams in the left crack and being forced into the OW before the belay is gruntwork and not particularly secure. although larger cams (up to maybe 4.5 camalot?) would definately ease the timid, if youre solid at the grade, they arent neccessary.
pitch 3 and 4 should be mandatorily combined (whats with the 30 ft 3rd pitch, anyway?) and you can even combine 3, 4, and 5, but of course, you gotta use lots of long runners.
the jump traverse is way easier than it first looks. and the traverse accross the meadows is straightforward (climbers trail) and the 4th class gully/chimney is easy to find. for the first rap off the summit, look for two cairns and go right down in between them. you really gotta be careful on those raps--rope eating cracks are everywhere.
overall, this is a good way to get to the summit of this amazing formation if its at your level, but the climbing is pretty shitty. i had the most fun on the approach pitch and the first part of the leaning column (beautiful hands!), the rest was just gruntwork, and discontinuous through the last 4 pitches. it is a kick-ass historical route though, 1927 is pretty impressive!
jump and TAD if youre solid on 5.7 (or even solid 5.8) and you'll have a much better outing!
|By Barrett Cooper|
Sep 10, 2002
I would also recommend the 5.4 approach up the first pitch of Wiessner's Route for getting to Durrance. A better idea of where this begins is to walk along the path until you reach the viewing tubes for the old wooden ladder that was used to help climb the tower. The 5.4 first pitch of Wiessner's (that ends at two anchors 20' below and to the right of Durrance's first pitch) starts directly above the viewing tubes. Just take a b-line through the bushes and you will land directly on the start of the 5.4.
|By Elijah Flenner|
Jul 19, 2003
Good route, but a few comments. The first two pitches can be run together with a 60 meter rope. I had 15 feet left at the end, so my beleyer would have had to climb up a ways with a 50 meter rope. Bring a varied rack. I heard about all the offwidth, so brought alot of large gear only to end up at the belays with alot of large gear. The crux pitch will take anything from small aliens to a #5 Camalot.
Also, don't commit to the right crack on the Durrance Crack pitch to soon. It was easier to move to the left crack near the end.
The two pitches after the Durrance pitch are pretty easy to run together, and the climbing is much easier after the Durrance pitch, in my opinion.
|By Mark Watson|
Sep 14, 2004
After reaching the rock at 8:40 it was nearly 1 before we could start the 1st pitch. 6 pitches later we were on top and in trouble. Getting dark and no headlamps. THANK GOD for a full moon.
|By Just Another Anonymous User|
Oct 3, 2005
Did this climb in 3 pitches using double 60m ropes. This was only possible because there were no parties immediately ahead of us...got lucky with the timing. Linked pitches 1-2, 3-4-5, then the direct finish. Very little rope drag on the upper pitches using doubles.
On the 2nd pitch (Durrance crack), the left hand crack is somewhat polished in spots so it didn't feel all that secure when jamming hands and feet. Good off width technique in the right crack would go a long way in making this pitch easier, unfortunately I got worked because my lack thereof. Also, I was glad to have a #4 camalot along, but with all the options for pro in the left crack I'd say that bringing anything bigger is personal preference. As stated before, this pitch is not a trivial 5.7, I thought it was very sustained for the grade.
Cussin crack didn't seem that difficult after climbing the Durrance crack. I placed a #3 big bro midway (only because I'd hauled it up there), but a green or yellow alien placed in the flake will protect the awkward moves if you're feeling confident.
Some people had mentioned climbing with packs. After doing the route it doesn't seem like a great idea to me. Wearing or hauling a pack will only add to the time and difficulty on an already crowded route. That being said, my second did wear a camelback without too much trouble. I decided to just rack up in the parking lot and leave my pack in the car since you start and end in different spots when using the standard approach.
|By Cameron Luth|
Mar 26, 2006
This route is pretty cool. This is the first climb that I summited the tower. John Gunnels and Josh took me up (thanks guys, it was too fun). I enjoyed all the pitches but my favorite was the 3rd pitch. Great climb.
|By Wayne Juntunen|
Mar 31, 2006
Not only climbing Devils Tower for the first time but also to the summit on Durrance. John Gunnels lead the route while Josh cleaned. With five people going counting them it only took us 4 hours to climb. Just because there bad A**es. (Thanks)
|By Todd A|
Jun 20, 2006
I skipped the jump traverse and did Bailey's Direct finish, possibly the best pitch on the route, highly recommended
|By Peter Arndt|
Jun 26, 2006
Durrance is a bit of a GRUNT, however it is a true North American Classic and should be climbed by both veteran and neophyte climbers.
Aug 8, 2006
I loved this route, It would be a good idea to practice OW before you get on this climb because that's what 80% of durrace is. I would bring A full rack plus #4 #5 an #6 camalots. Or a couple of big bros. I would say this route goes at 5.8 not 5.7 all and all a great route.
|By Buff Johnson|
Sep 12, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Fun route but I didn't find it as a classic. Used a set of nuts & cams to handsized. OW technique/pro really not needed for P2 (linked P1-2 no problem), the rest is blocky chimney stuff. Good route to do if you want to do the the summit thing. Don't do the Durrance Approach, the direct approach (I believe is Weissner's) offers a good blocky handcrack start for 30M & is much easier to hike into. Bolt anchors are everywhere, good luck figuring out which ones to use for the descent, getting down sucks.
|By Sagar Gondalia|
Jan 9, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
I agree with Todd. Bailey direct is a FANTASTIC finish to the route. Long, varied and with good exposure, its a great way to summit.
Feb 5, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
I didn't find this climb to be a classic at all. Not worth the hype me thinks. Walt Bailey on the other hand, now there's a classic.
From: Rapid City, SD
Oct 18, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
I led the leaning column and Durrance crack as one combined pitch. Lindsay Stephens led the next three pitches as one pitch. Lindsay, Denise and Peter took the jump traverse to the top and Mark led the Bailey Direct.
Excellent day at the tower, only saw one other group out. I would suggest combining pitches to allow for greater speed.
|By Rich F.|
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 25, 2009
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Climbed with Dave G. and Dan F. on May 23rd. Great climb from start to finish. Surprisingly little traffic on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Took and used a #5 BD Camalot repeatedly on this route -- was nice to have the big cam. Finished with the Bailey Direct route and some enjoyable face climbing after a day filled with OW and chimneys. Fun trip!
Sep 5, 2009
With a 70m rope you can rap with a single rope (Meadows rappel and the 3 bowling alley rappels), but all are very close to 120 feet, and you may have to downclimb a few feet on the last bowling alley rappel. A single rack from green alien to #5 camalot seemed to protect the route perfectly.
|By Top Rope Hero|
From: Was Estes Park, now homeless
May 21, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
"Very few, if any, people actually jump on this pitch and it is not recommended."
We came, we saw, we jumped. And it was more awesome. I for one HIGHLY recommend following the first team's style. Not for nostalgia, mind you, but simply because that magic moment, floating across the void hundreds of feet off the deck--maybe sticking that landing, maybe pealing off and cracking your back--just fucking rocks, and is the reason I do this thing.
But, if you prefer, you could just stay at home, sleep in late, order in some Chinese, and watch Seinfeld reruns all day. Knowing all the while that glory goes only to those who embrace calculated risk, not cower from it. Not recommended indeed.
Whatever. We jumped, and it was a beautiful thing.
Also, as for the supposed circus-like crowds everyone keeps yapping about? We climbed mid May. On a weekday. In the afternoon. Under heavy clouds. And there wasn't a single other team in sight; we spent the entire afternoon into the early evening alone atop the tower.
Glory to us, then. TV for the rest of them...
From: Oakland Park, Florida
May 28, 2010
Just returned from Climbing the Durance Route for the 5th time. Originally done as a student in 1976 with Tory Stemph, classmate of Eric Richard, with hiking boots and body belays. I found the Durance crack is still burly. There is a new "no climbing beyond this point" sign at the top, which has been missing for years.
Frank Sanders was behind us on the climb with a client. That made things more fun. He is a character. We did the Bailey direct finish, which I love. This was my 34th anniversary ascent.
PS I have jumped the "jump traverse"
|By Rodger Raubach|
Jul 20, 2010
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
I climbed this in 1986 and my recollection is that the first pitch can also be completed by a few face moves on the leaning column and a mantle onto the top. That's how I led the first pitch. I also led pitch 2 with just a rack of a few stoppers and quickdraws; no cams. Anne led pitch 3, the Cussing Crack, and I led the Flake-Crack. We then alternated up the Bailey Direct finish with no problems. A true classic climb if done in an "old school" trad manner.
|By Shawn Heath|
From: Forchheim, Germany
Sep 23, 2010
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
The jump traverse might lead to easy 4th class climbing to the top, but it's totally worth it. I recommend it to everyone. It's thrilling!
|By Kevin Kent|
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 27, 2011
climbed it on january 14th 2011. we got a stern talking from the ranger in the parking lot who tried everything in the book to get us not to climb but there was pretty much no stopping us. (he even said something to the effect of: if you boys get in trouble i aint got no one to come get you till monday at the earliest,(it was friday AM) and by then itll be a body recovery)
never having done the route before, the approach ramp was quite difficult and slippery in the snow. not sure if we followed the best line up the sw shoulder, but there was one move that felt like 5.8.
The route went pretty well, tried to climb in ice boots to keep our toes warm but switched to rock shoes with thick socks after the first pitch. things went pretty well. lots of snow and ice in the cracks (bring warm mittens for the belays if doing it in winter) and on the ledges. it was nice for the leader to have the nut tool to scrape snow out of small spots for gear placements.
Didnt have a #4 either, but shoved a #3 deep into the left crack on p2 before commiting to the right crack where i quickly got a .5 or something in the right crack next to a chockstone. didnt think it was a big deal not to have a #4.
lots of pigeons and pigeon poo in the top cracks.
|By DJ Shalvey|
Jun 4, 2011
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
I was recently at Devils Tower and was on the Durrance route. We started in the bowling alley and made our way up to the start of the route. The first pitch is great except for the final chimney and jam section before you get on top of the leaning column...I went to place a fist jam in between the column and the wall as my last hold before topping out on the column when I noticed the column rocking back and forth, slightly crushing and uncrushing my left hand. SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. So, beware that the top chunk of the leaning column could go any day now. If you are on the route do your best to not push on it. It WILL NOT take much force to push that huge thing off the tower. I'd hate to see one of those tourists get crushed...
|By Lucas Kramer|
From: Duluth, MN
Apr 20, 2012
On average, how long does the season run on the tower? Specifically, how late in the year?
|By Nick Stayner|
From: The Magic City
Apr 20, 2012
You can get away climbing there (especially s facing stuff like the durrance, which is in the sun much of the day) pretty early and late in the season, including choice winter days.
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 24, 2012
Followed on this last weekend. Fun unless you're wearing a backpack! I had a daypack-sized thing on and couldn't put my body in the cracks, would have really enjoyed it if I could.
Note - my leader took up a #5 and #6 and was glad he had them. I was less glad to be collecting them. :)
From: Salt Lake City
Aug 10, 2012
It says all raps req 2 ropes. Will 1 70m rope be enough or do we still need 2 ropes?
Aug 14, 2012
one 70 m. will get you down el cracko or bon homme raps, easily accessed from the meadows. recommend bon homme
|By Eric Fjellanger|
Sep 18, 2012
A 70 also works great to rap the route from the top of the direct finish, if there's not too much congestion below you.
|By Will P.|
Nov 4, 2012
Not a bad route, but the rock is not very grippy after 50 years of climbers. That definitely made it more challenging.
|By jake marlow|
Feb 5, 2013
If you don't get there super early and are either first or second to climb it don't even bother trying, just come back tomorrow. We were 5th in line at 7:30am and it took us 5 hours to get it.
|By Will Stat|
Jun 17, 2013
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
A bunch of locals kept telling us not to bother with durance, "there are better routes up the tower". Lies. I loved every second of this. Beautiful jamming on the crux pitch, classic ledges for every belay and even the wide cracks were fun. The 5.7 rating is a sandbag, the crux pitch felt a little harder than valley 5.8 in my opinion, I think 5.8+ is accurate. Or maybe it was just the hot summer sun. Good footwork makes the crux crack stemming section more casual. Bring a couple 4s to make your life easier, even a 5 if you feel like it. I recommend the direct finish. Come on a weekday to avoid the crowds! A must do.
|By Mark Orsag|
Feb 21, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Wasn't wild about this one. Lots of awkward movement and the Cussin' Crack Pitch is much harder than its rating and has poor pro. TAD or Pseudo-Wiessner are more enjoyable ways to the top (though lots of crack climbers loathe TAD).
|By John Schroeder|
Jun 2, 2014
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
Loved it with my 13-year old son. We're both novices and were challenged on the pitches. For new climbers like us, make sure you're familiar with the basics of crack climbing. We'd at least had a little background and that made the climb doable. I think without that, it would have been a struggle, at least for beginners like us.
Also, per the other comments you're well served to arrive at first light to avoid the lines.
And enjoy the kamikaze birds at the top! I wasn't prepared to be buzzed by swallows but it was a nice surprise.